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Shell fights to keep Arctic drilling leases

Royal Dutch Shell is fighting the Obama administration’s decision not to extend its drilling rights leases in the Arctic Ocean.

Shell filed an administrative appeal of the decisions Tuesday with the Interior Department, which in October rejected the company’s pleas to pause its leases that are due to expire in 2017 and 2020.

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“We believe suspensions are warranted for reasons outlined in our original request,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said, referring to the July 2014 applications the company filed to pause the leases.

Offshore drilling leases in the Arctic north of Alaska generally last 10 years, unless the leaseholder shows progress in its drilling.

Smith said the appeal does not change the fact that Shell does not plan on drilling in the lease areas for the foreseeable future.

Shell returned to the Arctic this summer for the first offshore drilling there by any company in years. It has spent nine years and more than $7 billion in the quest for oil and natural gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

When the drilling season ended, Shell declared that it did not find sufficient hydrocarbons to continue its exploration.

Interior used that decision to justify its rejection of Shell’s request to extend the leases, along with another request by Statoil for its own Arctic lease.