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Greens to challenge Arctic Ocean drilling in court

Greens to challenge Arctic Ocean drilling in court
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Twelve environmental groups are planning to challenge in federal court the lease sale that is allowing Royal Dutch Shell to drill for oil and natural gas in the Arctic Ocean.

Greens have twice prevailed in federal court against the Interior Department’s 2008 lease sale under the George W. Bush administration to Shell, in which it gave drilling rights for nearly 30 million acres in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska.

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Shell is planning to drill exploratory wells this summer following the Obama administration’s decision last month to approve its drilling plan.

The environmentalists cite the risks of spills in the harsh Arctic weather and the harm to the climate caused by the oil and gas in challenging the lease. They also cite various problems Shell encountered the last time it tried to drill in 2012.

“Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean only will hasten climate change at what is already ground zero for global warming,” Erik Grafe, an attorney with Earthjustice who is representing the 12 groups, said in a statement.

“Interior ignored recent science that identifies Arctic oil as incompatible with meeting basic international commitments to curb the worst effects of climate change, putting the region, wildlife, and our communities further at risk,” he said.

“Drilling in the Arctic has never made sense from a risk perspective, and Shell proved that in 2012 when its drillship ran aground,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The groups also cite an analysis from Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that found that if the United States’ Arctic Ocean territory is fully developed for oil and gas drilling, there is a 75 percent chance that an oil spill will happen one day.

Interior declined to comment on the legal action.