Royal Dutch Shell’s long awaited U.S. Arctic campaign may have hit another regulatory snag on Tuesday after environmentalist groups argued the company’s exploration plan runs afoul of marine wildlife protections.
The groups have asked the U.S. Department of Interior to overturn its conditional approval of Shell’s 2015 Arctic exploration plan.
The groups are arguing that the plan violates a 2013 Fish and Wildlife Service rule designed to protect walruses and other marine life, Reuters said.
The rule prohibits companies that are operating in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea from drilling simultaneous wells within 15 miles of each other.
In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, a group that included Oceana, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace said Shell’s plan violates the 15 mile rule.
“There does not appear to be any way that the federal government can allow Shell to proceed as the company has planned,” Oceana lawyer Michael LeVine told Reuters.
Shell said it is consulting with regulators about the matter.
The Interior Department said the Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing Shell’s plan to ensure that “measures are in place to minimize potential disturbances to walrus and other marine mammals.”
Shell’s revamped Arctic drilling plan won conditional approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in May after two years of legal battles.
The plan calls for up to six wells to be drilled at the Burger Prospect in water depths of 140 feet about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.
Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard arrested a Seattle city councilman along with two dozen other protesters after they attempted to block Shell’s Polar Pioneer rig from leaving the Port of Seattle.
Earlier this month, a U.S. federal appeals court said that the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement properly approved Shell’s Arctic spill response plan after a group of environmentalist challenged the decision.