A Shell oil spill response training exercise in Alaska. Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell/Flickr.

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) properly approved Shell’s Arctic spill response plan after a group of environmentalist challenged the decision.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the BSEE does not have the power to reject the company’s plan because it is in line with federal oil pollution laws, Reuters said.

The legal challenge was mounted by several environmentalist groups including the Sierra Club, the National Audobon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, writing for the majority, said that Shell did not make unfounded assumptions about its spill response plan as environmentalist claimed, nor did the BSEE rely on such assumptions when it approved the plan.

“We look forward to receiving the remaining permits necessary to commence exploration activities offshore Alaska in the weeks to come,” a Shell spokesperson told Reuters.

Shell’s revised U.S. Arctic drilling plan won conditional approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last month.

The exploration plan calls for up to six wells to be drilled in water depths of 140 feet  at the Burger Prospect in offshore Alaska, located about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

The company will conduct its operations using the drillship M/V Noble Discoverer and the semi-submersible drilling unit Transocean Polar Pioneer, with each vessel providing relief-well capability for the other.


Leave a Reply