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Governor Parnell Disappointed with Air Permit Decision

January 4, 2011, Juneau, Alaska - Governor Sean Parnell expressed great disappointment today that the Environmental Appeals Board remanded key air permits for Shell's offshore oil and gas exploration activities back to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for further work.

"It is extremely disheartening that Shell has been unsuccessful in trying to get this critical permit for almost four years," Governor Parnell said. "They have invested tens of millions of dollars in pollution control equipment, and met or exceeded every request made of them, yet they still can't get a permit to drill a single exploration well off the coast of Alaska.

"This decision comes on top of the continuous challenges and delays caused by other federal agencies. Nothing can replace the jobs that Alaska and America lose when one resource project after another is delayed by endless appeals. The federal permitting system is broken and we are paying the price. These appeals are not all about protecting the environment or the health of Alaskans. They are primarily about outside groups opposed to development and a federal administration in Washington, D.C. all too willing to accommodate them. 

"I intend to work with members of Congress, fellow governors and others to bring attention to these concerns and to seek legislative or administrative solutions. We must find a way to allow this and other responsible resource development."

The Environmental Appeals Board is a body within EPA that reviews administrative appeals of permits. The permits apply to air emissions from the vessel Shell planned to use to drill oil and gas exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean beginning in 2011. Three environmental and Native organizations appealed the permits. The board rendered its decision on December 30, 2010. This appeal follows an appeal in 2007 that had led to EPA withdrawing an earlier permit it had prepared for Shell. 

While the Environmental Appeals Board denied some of the petitioners' arguments, it concluded EPA erred in regard to two aspects of the permits. The permits were remanded to EPA to correct the errors. The board also decided not to answer other questions and directed EPA to do more work in these other areas.

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