Tag Archives: US EPA

Why Shell Violates the Law: Arctic Pollution

shell stock

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) agreed to pay $1.1 million for violating permits regulating air pollution from its oil-exploration fleet in the Arctic Ocean last year.  The settlement announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency said that vessels scouting for oil in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas for two months in 2012 didn’t use all mandated pollution-control or monitoring equipment. The EPA had set the requirements as a condition for issuing a permit for Shell’s Arctic exploration.

“Based on EPA’s inspections and Shell’s excess emission reports, EPA documented numerous air permit violations for Shell’s Discoverer and Kulluk drill ship fleets,” the agency’s Seattle office said in a statement late yesterday. Shell suspended its Arctic operations after a series of mishaps in 2012 as it sought oil off Alaska’s North Coast. In December, the drill ship Kulluk broke free of a tow boat in a storm and was stranded on an uninhabited Alaska island. In September, a containment dome designed to cap spills had difficulty getting certified and was damaged during tests.

The air permit violations are a separate from the failed tow and containment device. The fines are $710,000 related to the Discoverer and $390,000 for the Kulluk, the EPA said.

Excerpt, Mark Drajem, Shell to Pay U.S. $1.1 Million for Arctic Air Pollution, Bloomberg, Sept 6, 2013

See also The Arctic Challenger

Polluting Low-Income, Minority Neighborhoods: Union Pacific Railroad, United States

Union Pacific Railroad Co. will pay $1.5 million to settle alleged violations of the US Clean Water Act and US Oil Pollution Act.  The settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency resolves a Clean Water Act enforcement action against Union Pacific that involves operations at 20 rail yards and spills of oil and coal in 2003 and 2004 along railroad lines in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Most of the rail yards are in low-income areas with minority populations, according to the EPA.

About $1.4 million of the settlement will be deposited into a fund used by federal agencies to respond to oil spills. The remaining $100,000 will be deposited in U.S. Treasurys for coal spills and storm-water violations.   The settlement requires the company to develop a management and reporting system to ensure compliance with various regulations.  Union Pacific also must perform installations to safely store oil and prevent spills from leaving its properties. The company must designate an environmental vice president tasked with following oil spill prevention and storm water control requirements at the 20 rail yards.  The complaint stemmed from six oil spills in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming and three coal spills in Colorado.

Union Pacific to pay $1.5M settlement in oil spills, Northern Colorado Business Report, February 10, 2012

Shell in Alaska, the jobs vs. environment game

Royal Dutch Shell  won a final U.S. air-pollution permit to operate an oil-exploration rig in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea beginning in 2012.  Shell is authorized to use its Kulluk rig and supporting icebreakers and oil-spill response vessels for 120 days each year in the Arctic waters, the Environmental Protection Agency said today in an e-mailed statement.  “This air permit is one of several federal authorizations Shell needs to explore for oil and gas” off Alaska “starting in July 2012,” the agency said. “EPA’s final permit significantly reduces the potential air pollution from Shell’s drilling operations.”

Shell, which has invested about $4 billion in the Arctic leases since 2005, hasn’t drilled any wells in the region while opponents won delays with appeals and lawsuits. Environmental organizations and Alaskan native groups said it would take too long for equipment to reach the remote and icy region during an oil spill.  The company, based in The Hague, received approval from the EPA in September for the Discoverer ship to drill and station icebreakers and spill-response vessels in the Beaufort waters and the neighboring Chukchi Sea. Discoverer is owned by Noble Corp., based in Baar, Switzerland.

Pete Slaiby, vice president of Shell Alaska, said in a May 2 interview that having two rigs in the Arctic would enable faster drilling of relief wells.  “We will continue to advance our drilling plans and evaluate investment decisions that would allow us to commence with a 2012 drilling season,” Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said today in an e-mailed statement.  Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, still needs Interior Department approval of its Chukchi Sea exploration plan and a permit from U.S. offshore-oil regulators for each of 10 planned wells. The company won the Interior Department’s approval for an exploration plan for the Beaufort Sea, near the North Slope towns of Deadhorse and Kaktovik, in August.

The Beaufort and Chukchi seas hold about 25 billion barrels of oil, Shell says, citing government estimates. A study commissioned by the company said developing these resources would lead to 54,700 new jobs across the U.S.

Katarzyna Klimasinska, Shell Wins U.S. Air Permit for Oil Exploration Off Alaska, Bloomberg, Oct. 21, 2011