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EPA Oil, Gas Exploration Arctic NPDES General Permit - Notices of Intent: public review: April 18 - May 18

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has received multiple Notices of Intent (NOIs) from oil and gas operators requesting coverage under the existing Arctic National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit.  The NOIs meet the requirements of the Arctic General Permit and EPA proposes to authorize the discharges under the permit.

EPA is accepting public input on these NOIs from April 18, 2011 to May 18, 2011.
Review the NOIs at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/water.nsf/npdes permits/arctic-gp

Please direct all questions and input to:

Hanh Shaw
Team Lead
NPDES Permits Unit, OWW-130
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Sixth Avenue, Suite 900
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 553-0171   shaw.hanh@epa.gov

The current Arctic General Permit will expire on June 26, 2011.  Operators with coverage under the current Arctic General Permit have the option to extend administratively their coverage until the exploration general permits for the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are reissued; at which time, operators are required to apply for coverage under the reissued permits.  EPA is in the process of reissuing the Arctic General Permit as two general permits and expects to release the draft Beaufort and Chukchi Exploration General Permits in 2011 for public review.  We plan to reissue those permits prior to the 2012 drilling season.  However, if the general permits are not reissued and effective before the 2012 drilling season, authorization to discharge under the current Arctic General Permit would remain effective.  

The NOIs submitted to EPA reflect the anticipated drilling locations for multiple operators for the 2012 drilling season and beyond.  However, the NOIs do not represent the number of wells anticipated to be drilled in any given year; rather, the NOIs reflect the operators' desire to ensure permit coverage in the event EPA fails to reissue the exploration general permits in a timely manner.  The numbers of NOIs submitted also reflect the companies' wish for maximum operational flexibility in order to manage potential drilling limitations, such as ice conditions and the presence of marine mammals.  In addition to EPA's permit for discharges to marine waters, each operator must also obtain all other required permits, including air quality permits from EPA, and satisfy all other stipulations and agreements before drilling in the Arctic.  

It is EPA's understanding that Shell Oil is the only operator planning to conduct exploration drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in 2012.  Other companies, with the exception of one request by ENI Petroleum for discharges within the nearshore Beaufort Sea, are submitting NOIs now to ensure coverage under an administratively extended Arctic General Permit for 2013 and beyond.  EPA's NOI approvals providing coverage under the current Arctic General Permit do not provide authorization to drill.  EPA's approval applies only to discharge wastewater, when and if drilling commences.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is the Federal Agency that provides authorization to drill.

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