Environmental groups sue Shell over 7,000-foot well plans
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06/15/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Environmental group Earth Justice has filed suit against oil giant Shell and the federal government over the company’s plans to drill a deep water oil well off the Alabama coast. The new well would reportedly be two thousand feet deeper than Deepwater Horizon. It filed suit last week on behalf of several environmental groups, including the Gulf Restoration Network. Darden Rice is Florida Director for that organization.

"We are concerned with Shell Oil Company's assertions of their ability to address a worse case spill scenario. This is an application for a permit to drill in deep water yet most of their risk assessment data is based on shallow well data. Shallow wells are a little bit safer, they're easier to contain than the deep water wells are and clearly we don't see this as sufficient to grant the permit."

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement reportedly concluded that an accidental spill will not likely occur. Rice said this shows federal regulators are going about business as usual despite the trauma that occurred in the wake of the well blowout at BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig.

"Certainly the disaster of the BP oil spill last summer certainly shines a light on the fact that we can no longer allow such weak oversight of the oil industry and we can no longer just accept their own statements as gospel that their practices are safe or that their data is sufficient."

Shell Spokesperson Kelly Op De Weegh (Opdivay) said she didn’t want to comment on an ongoing lawsuit, but she read a statement outlining the company’s position.

"We are disappointed with the filings which failed to take into account our comprehensive nature of our exploration plans. This plan for a field which we call Appomattox. It was approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation Enforcement. It reflects numerous improvements, enhanced safety and protect the environment. Shell has a rigorous global safety standard and that underpins our approach to deep water exploration and production. We will fully assist the government in defending this exploration plan."

Rice said oil-drilling proponents in Florida are engaging in the worst form of intellectual dishonesty when they say opening up state waters to drilling will relieve high gas prices and create jobs.

"The oil drilling proponents have paid for economists for hire to come up with good sounding numbers but when you start to peel back the layers and look closely at their assertions you find that they're '...' people and so the oil industry is desperate to cloud the public's perceptions about what would be gained from drilling off of our coast when the truth is that we have everything at risk. Florida depends on their $65 billion a year tourism economy and the threat of pollution, much less a catastrophic accident but even just the daily pollution and oil tanker traffic and oil pollution from oil tankers would be enough to put a threat to our Florida tourism economy."

Gulf Restoration Network’s Darden Rice said the suit aims to draw attention to the ongoing practice of deepwater oil drilling, and help spark changes to the permitting process.

Previous WMNF news coverage of Darden Rice

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