US EPA opens Shell Arctic permits to public input
* Public comment period to run July 6-Aug 5
* Previous EPA permits for Shell were revoked
* Release of permits a "positive step"-Sen. Murkowski
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, July 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it would begin collecting public comments on draft permits for Royal Dutch Shell's (RDSa.L) planned oil exploration off Alaska's coast.
Shell has been working to revive its long-delayed Arctic oil program, submitting plans to begin drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas next year. [ID:nN1297919]
The EPA had approved permits for Shell to drill at least one Beaufort Sea well this year, but those permits were revoked by an agency appeals boards.
The public comment period on the revised permits, which set limits on air pollution from the drilling operations, will run from July 6 through Aug. 5. The EPA will issue the final permits after considering the public's input.
To address concerns raised by the appeals boards, the agency revised the permits, reducing the emissions of most key air pollutants by more than 50 percent from the levels in the earlier permits.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, from Alaska, said the release of the revised permits represents "a positive step in what has been a long and frustrating process."
"While we must ensure development is done responsibly, we must also have a regulatory process that provides companies willing to invest in our economy assurance that their applications will be processed in a timely manner," said Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee.
The House of Representatives passed legislation last month that would speed up approvals for drilling in the Arctic by requiring the EPA to approve or deny applications within six months. [ID:nN1E75L2B1] (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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