White House clears Arctic drilling rules

White House clears Arctic drilling rules
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The White House has approved a plan to overhaul regulations for oil and natural gas drilling in the United States’ portion of the Arctic Ocean.

The rules would, for the first time, set drilling standards specific to the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, taking into account the unique circumstances that make the Arctic different from other offshore drilling areas in the country.

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The White House Office of Management and Budget said Friday that it approved the rules Thursday, but the Obama administration has not revealed details of the proposal.

The approval is the final step before the proposal can be released publicly, which is likely to happen within days.

The effort, being undertaken by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, was spurred largely by a bungled attempt in late 2012 by Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic.

After trying to drill an exploratory well, a rig ran aground near Alaska, and a containment dome was damaged during a test.

Regulators are likely to consider a requirement that drillers keep a relief rig nearby while drilling, seasonal limits on drilling during winter ice and that drillers demonstrate that they could contain spills mechanically with the equipment they have on site, according to an analysis Shell prepared for the Interior Department last year, which the agency released publicly.

Oil companies including Shell and ConocoPhillips Co. lobbied the White House on the rules last year, telling officials that many of the rules they’re considering would have little environmental or safety benefit but cost billions of dollars.