E2 Round-up: Spill could be far bigger than estimated, federal court rejects challenge to Alaska drilling plan, BP tries new methods to stem gushing oil, and offshore regulators under fire on endangered species

* Court allows Shell’s Alaska drilling plan to proceed

A federal appeals court has rejected an effort by environmental and Native American groups to block Shell Oil’s plan to begin exploratory drilling off Alaska’s coast as soon as this summer, the New York Times and other outlets report.

“The decision, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, rejected several claims by the groups, including that the United States Minerals Management Service did not adequately consider the possibility that the project could cause a large oil spill in the remote Arctic,” the Times reports.

However, the story notes that the project could still face delays stemming from an Interior Department review of offshore safety that President Barack Obama ordered after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began.

“As part of the review, the minerals service asked Shell to explain ways it could improve its ability to prevent and respond to a spill. Shell is supposed to respond by Tuesday,” the Times piece states.

* BP trying to insert tube into gushing pipe to control spill

“Undersea robots were trying to thread a small tube into the jagged pipe that is pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico in BP's latest attempt to cut down on the spill from a blown-out well that has pumped out more than 4 million gallons of crude,” the Associated Press reports.

“The company planned to move the 6-inch tube into the leaking 21-inch pipe — known as the riser — on Thursday night. The smaller tube will be surrounded by a stopper to keep oil from leaking into the sea, which could be in place by Friday, BP said. The plan is for the tube to siphon the oil to a tanker at the surface,” their story adds.

* Claims of lax federal offshore drilling controls continue

The New York Times also reports that the beleaguered U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) failed to address potential effects of oil spills on endangered species.

Their story Friday notes that MMS gave “permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.”