EPA Releases Two More Draft Air Permits for Alaska Drilling & Public Comment
July 22, 2011
Today’s news comes just a day after the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee approved a bill that includes Sen. Begich’s legislative language creating an Arctic OCS coordinator who would work to streamline and promote permitting of oil and gas development in federal waters off Alaska’s Arctic.
Regarding the news, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) is pleased with the progress. Begich said in a prepared statement, “Just two weeks after the EPA issued permits for Shell Oil’s Frontier Discoverer, this is a sign of further progress toward oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic.
Begich said, “I’ve repeatedly asked the Obama Administration to put words into action when the President has stated he supports further oil and gas exploration in Alaska. I believe the EPA moving multiple permits forward for public comment in a short amount of time shows that support is real, and there is a recognition Alaska is key to more domestic oil and gas production."
“Shell’s Kulluk oil and gas exploration work in the Beaufort Sea next year, and ConocoPhillips proposed exploration in the Chukchi in 2013, would both be enormous steps forward in terms of securing our country’s energy future, in addition to creating thousands of jobs in Alaska," said Begich.
Begich said he is looking forward to the public comment period for these permits and to continuing to work with the Administration and the industry to develop Alaska’s oil and gas.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expects Shell, ConocoPhillips' plans to move forward. “Permitting has been the greatest obstacle to our being able to discover and develop new oil prospects in Alaska, so any progress on that front is welcomed,” Murkowski said. “Far too often, however, we have seen the permitting process breakdown at the last moment over environmental challenges. It is my hope that the final approval of these permits will proceed in a fair, timely manner, and that the EPA’s work will stand up to the inevitable challenges from environmental activists.”
“Increasing offshore production in Alaska will replenish the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, create thousands of jobs, increase revenues to the federal government and increase our country’s energy security,” Murkowski said. “I will continue to work with all parties to ensure these projects come to fruition without further unnecessary delays.”
Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is pursuing legislation to provide Alaska with 37.5 percent of the federal revenues from offshore energy production, as well as legislation to expedite the EPA permitting process in the Alaska OCS.
On Thursday, the Energy Committee, under Murkowski, approved legislation that would grant a right-of-way through Denali National Park for an in-state natural gas pipeline project.
Shell and ConocoPhillips have proposed exploration drilling operations that would emit more than 100 tons of air pollutants a year and therefore, must have federal Clean Air Act Title V Permits. Both operations would emit less than 250 tons per year and therefore, do not need Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permits. These permits limit air pollution from the drill rigs and supporting fleet of vessels and will ensure the operations meet national ambient air quality standards.
Shell plans to begin exploration drilling with the vessel Kulluk in the Beaufort Sea beginning in the 2012 drilling season. ConocoPhillips plans to begin exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea beginning in 2013.
Under its proposed Title V permit, Shell can operate only one vessel in the Beaufort Sea in any drilling season – either the Kulluk or the Discoverer, not both. The Discoverer and its support fleet are the subject of a separate EPA draft air quality permit currently undergoing public review and comment.
The Kulluk drilling rig arrived in Seattle’s Elliott Bay this week where its emissions reduction equipment will be retrofitted in order to comply with the draft Title V permit.
The draft Title V permits are subject to 45-day public comment periods as well as public hearings before EPA issues final permits.
EPA will accept public comments on the revised draft permits through September 6 and at public hearings in Barrow, Alaska on August 23 and 24, and in Anchorage on August 26. Final permits will be issued after public comments are reviewed and considered.
Comments must be postmarked or emailed to EPA Region 10 by September 6, 2011. The draft permits and supporting information as well as details about the public hearings are available on the web at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/AIRPAGE.NSF/Permits/ocsap/.
On July 1, EPA also proposed revised draft air quality permits for Shell to operate the Discoverer drillship for oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea starting in 2012. Those permits are available for public comment through August 5. The public hearing on these permits will be held on August 4 in Barrow.
EPA air permits ensure compliance with air quality regulations when and if drilling commences, but on their own do not authorize drilling. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is the federal agency that provides authorization to drill in offshore federal waters. ( http://www.boemre.gov/ )
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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