The United States Department of Interior Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) approved the Royal Dutch Shell Application for Permit to Modify (APM) request to begin exploratory drilling in oil bearing zones of offshore Alaska Monday. “Now that the required well control system is in place and can be deployed, Shell will be allowed to explore into oil bearing zones for Burger J,” stated BSEE Director Brian Salerno. “We will continue to monitor their work around the clock to ensure the utmost safety and environmental stewardship,” he said. According to Salerno, activities conducted in offshore Alaska are being held to the highest safety, environmental and emergency response standards. BSEE sets forth numerous safety requirements for Shell stemming from the 2012 accidents that sidelined the conglomerates’ Arctic Alaskan drilling operations for several years. The requirements include a shortened drilling season, a tested deployable subsea containment system and the departure of drilling units and vessels from the Chukchi Sea at each season ending.
The August 6th Application for Permit to Drill (APD) submitted by Shell was approved by BSEE, and the modification conditions set forth in the APD have now been met. Shell is now able to drill beneath the top level well surface of the Burger Prospect, Burger J well in the Chukchi Sea. The APM does not allow for simultaneous drilling at the Shell Burger V well. The arrival of the controversial M/V Fennica icebreaker vessel that holds the essential capping stack system required by BSEE for Shell to begin deep well oil drilling enabled the expected BSEE approval.
For activists, Monday’s approval is the beginning of a long ongoing fight against an industry with seemingly limitless resources and a race against time. Shell has invested a reported $7 billion into Monday’s milestone nod from BSEE. Activists’ all out efforts to interrupt, intervene and block the progress of the M/V Fennica from Portland, Oregon to the Alaskan Arctic Chukchi Sea succumbed valiantly. Their work has been acknowledged as a warning sign of possible environmental threats to the fragile balance of the Alaskan Arctic. The activists are not only a reminder to the Department of Interior, but they represent the resounding sentiment of many Shell consumers longing for a resolution to the glacier damaging turmoil at the heart of the Arctic conflict. Whether, they take note of the Native Inupiat concessions made for drilling or they prepare for the arrival of the President in Alaska for the Department of State GLACIER conference, millions of people are carefully pondering Shell’s plans for oil exploration in the Arctic. The issue is of bipartisan concern and the care taken by Shell to ensure safety, environmental protection and accident prevention is now a priority for many Americans.