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EPA seeks public comments on revised air quality permits for Shell Arctic oil exploration activities

(Seattle - July 1, 2011) Today, EPA released draft air quality permits for Shell Oil Company exploratory oil drilling operations in Alaska Arctic Outer Continental Shelf consistent with the work schedule that EPA has been pursuing for several months. This process will allow the public and other key stakeholders to provide important input and feedback on permits needed for the Discover drillship and supporting fleet of icebreakers, oil spill response vessels, and supply ships operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas beginning in the 2012 drilling season. Shells proposed exploration drilling operations would emit more than 250 tons of air pollutants a year and therefore, under existing law, must have federal Clean Air Act Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permits. The permits would set limits on air pollution from these vessels. 

EPA previously issued the two permits to Shell in March and April of 2010. These permits were then appealed by outside groups to EPAs independent Environmental Appeals Board, which overturned them in December 2010. EPA Region 10 has since revised the draft permits to address the issues raised by the Appeals Board in light of the outside groups complaints. Among other changes, the revised permits have reduced emissions of most key air pollutants by more than 50 percent from the levels allowed in the 2010 permits. These reductions are largely due to the new NO2 standard that went into effect after the permits were issued last year.

The draft permits are subject to a 30 day public comment period as well as a public hearing before EPA issues final permits.

EPAs air permits ensure compliance with air quality regulations when and if drilling commences, but on their own do not authorize drilling. BOEMRE is the federal agency that provides authorization to drill in offshore federal waters. Find out more about BOEMRE at: http://www.boemre.gov/

EPA will accept public comments on the revised draft permits through August 5 and at a public hearing in Barrow, Alaska on August 4. Final permits will be issued after comments from the public and key stakeholders are reviewed and considered.

The comment period officially begins on July 6. Public comments must be postmarked or emailed to EPA Region 10 by August 5, 2011.  The revised draft permits and supporting information as well as details about the public hearing are available on the web at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/AIRPAGE.NSF/Permits/ocsap/.
EPA Region 10 is currently working on two additional Clean Air Act permits for oil and gas exploration beginning in the 2012 and 2013 drilling seasons. Shell has also applied for a permit to operate its vessel, Kulluk, in the Beaufort Sea starting in 2012 and ConocoPhillips has applied for a permit for oil and gas exploration activities in the Chukchi Sea starting in 2013.

More information about the Environmental Appeals Board can be found at:
http://www.epa.gov/eab/ Public Notice appearing in July 1 Anchorage Daily News: Revised Draft Air Permits Proposed For Shell Oil and Gas Exploration Drilling In Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea, Alaska, Public Comment July 6 through August 5 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 seeks public comment from July 6 to August 5, 2011 on revised draft Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Prevention of Significant Deterioration Clean Air Act permits for Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. and Shell Offshore Inc., 3601C St., Ste. 1000, Anchorage, AK 99503. The revised draft permits authorize air emissions from Shell oil and gas exploration drilling operations in the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea. Shell plans to operate the Discoverer drillship and support fleet for oil and gas exploration drilling beginning in 2012 on the Beaufort Sea OCS, within and beyond 25 miles of Alaska seaward boundary and on the Chukchi Sea OCS, 25 miles beyond Alaska seaward boundary, as authorized by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management and Regulatory Enforcement. EPA Region 10 issued the previous permits in 2010. The 2011 draft permits, 2011 supplemental statement of basis, and 2011 supplemental application are available at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/AIRPAGE.NSF/Permits/ocsap/. PUBLIC COMMENT: Comments must be postmarked or emailed to EPA Region 10 at the addresses below by August 5, 2011. Email: r10ocsairpermits@epa.gov Mail: Shell Discoverer Air Permits, EPA Region 10, 1200 6th Ave, Ste. 900, AWT 107, Seattle, WA 98101   Fax: 206 553 0110 PUBLIC HEARING: August 4, 2011: Informational Meeting 5:00pm to 6:30pm, Public Hearing 7:00pm to 9:00pm at the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow, Alaska. Telephone participation available at North Slope Borough teleconference centers. The purpose of the public comment period and public hearing is to receive comments on the 2011 revised draft air permits. Written and oral comments can be given at the public hearing in Barrow, Alaska.   Written comments can be submitted by mail or email. Oral comments can also be recorded on tape, disk, or digital audio and submitted by mail or email. North Slope communities outside of Barrow can participate in the public hearing by telephone at North Slope Borough teleconference centers. The Environmental Appeals Board remanded the 2010 permits to EPA Region 10 for further consideration. EPA Region 10 has proposed revised draft air permits to address the remand issues. The 2011 revised draft permits are based on the Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Response Experiment meteorological modeling algorithm and the Plume Volume Molar Ratio Method nitrogen dioxide modeling algorithm to predict air pollutant concentrations.  These modeling algorithms have not been approved by EPA for general use, but have been approved under EPA guidelines case by case alternative modeling provisions and EPA Region 10 also requests public comment on the suitability of these modeling algorithms for these permits. The Supplemental Statement of Basis supplements the Statement of Basis for the 2010 permits, and addresses the remand issues, but generally does not address other aspects of the 2010 permits that are unchanged in the 2011 revised draft permits. Only those parts of the 2011 revised draft permits proposed for revision and the information and analyses supporting those revisions are open for public comment. If you believe any provisions of the 2011 revised draft permits proposed for revision or the information or analyses supporting those revisions are inappropriate, you may comment on the permits and must raise and submit all reasonably ascertainable issues and arguments supporting your position by the end of the comment period. Supporting documents must be included in full, not by reference, unless they are already in the permit record, are state or federal statutes or regulations, EPA documents of general applicability, or other generally available referenced materials. Please identify if your comments relate to the Shell Chukchi permit, the Shell Beaufort permit, or both. PERMIT DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE: The permit record includes Shells 2010 applications and 2011 supplemental application, the 2010 permits records, the 2011 revised draft permits and 2011 supplemental statement of basis, and all other materials relied on by EPA. The permit record is available for public review at EPA Region 10, 1200 6th Ave, Seattle, Washington, 9am to 5pm Mon. through Fri. (206 553 1200). The 2011 draft permits, 2011 supplemental statement of basis, and 2011 supplemental application are available at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/AIRPAGE.NSF/Permits/ocsap/. The 2011 draft permits, 2011 supplemental statement of basis, and 2011 supplemental application will also be available at these locations in Alaska: EPA Alaska Office, Federal Building, 222 West 7th Ave, Anchorage (907 271 5083); Barrow City Office, 2022 Ahkovak Street, Barrow (907 852 4050); Nuiqsut City Office, 2230 2nd Avenue, Nuiqsut (907 480 6727); Kaktovik City Office, 2051 Barter Avenue, Kaktovik (907 640 6313); Wainwright City Office, 1217 Airport Road, Wainwright (907 763 2815); Kali School Library, 1029 Ugrak Ave, Point Lay (907 833 2312); Point Hope City Office, 530 Natchiq Street, Point Hope (907 368 2537); Atqasuk City Office, 5010 Ekosik Street, Atqasuk (907 633 6811); Anaktuvuk Pass City Office, 3031 Main St, Anaktuvuk Pass (907 661 3612). For more information about the public meeting, to request a copy of the permit documents, or to join the EPA arctic permits mailing list, please contact Suzanne Skadowski, 206 553 6689, skadowski.suzanne@epa.gov.

 

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