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North Slope Community Update on EPA Permits in the Alaska Arctic

UPDATE: On Sept. 7, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a compliance order to Shell regarding its activities in the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf off Alaska’s North Slope. The Order sets interim air pollution emissions limits for the company’s activities, and ensures that Shell’s operations will meet congressionally mandated air quality standards under the Clean Air Act until the agency completes a full review of Shell’s application to revise the permit. EPA expects the Discoverer's overall emissions for this drilling season to be lower under the compliance order than the original permit allowed. The Compliance Order expires in one year and does not waive any of Shell’s permit requirements or any air quality standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final Prevention of Significant Deterioration Clean Air Act permit to Shell for the Discoverer drillship and support fleet of icebreakers, oil-spill-response vessels, and supply ships on Jan. 27, 2012. The permit set strict limits on nitrogen oxides and particulates emissions based in part on installation of “best available” state-of-the-art pollution reduction controls required by the Clean Air Act.

On June 29, 2012, Shell submitted an application to revise the air permit. Shell’s application requests adjustments in the permit emissions limits based on actual equipment performance on the Discoverer drillship and, in the case of the Nanuq, corrections to an error in assumptions underlying the emission limits.

Until the Environmental Protection Agency acts on Shell’s application to revise the air permit, the existing permit and permit limits remain legally in place. Any proposed revisions to the permit will be subject to full public review and comment.

Environmental Protection Agency compliance order: http://www.epa.gov/region10/pdf/permits/ocs/shell/discoverer_air_permit_compliance_order_9-7-2012.pdf

Shell’s application to revise the air permit: http://www.epa.gov/region10/pdf/permits/ocs/shell/Shell_Application_to_Revise_Discoverer_Chukchi_Permit.pdf

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