U.S. stands by Shell offshore Alaska plan

Sept. 19, 2012 at 7:59 AM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. government will work with Royal Dutch Shell as it operates in the remaining drilling season in Alaska's arctic waters, an official said.

Shell announced this week it was abandoning parts of its drilling program in the Chukchi Sea after a containment dome designed for a potential oil spill in arctic waters was damaged. The company recently scaled back its ambitions in part because of the threat of encroaching sea ice.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar applauded Shell for its commitment to what he said were "rigorous safety, environmental protection and emergency response standards" established for work offshore Alaska.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Shell to maximize the remaining opportunities this drilling season provides," said Salazar in a statement.

Shell, in a statement on the containment dome, said it had pledged to work in the region only if safety assurances were guaranteed. The company added it would begin an exploratory drilling campaign further north in the Beaufort Sea in the coming days.

Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace described Shell's delays offshore Alaska as a victory. Groups like Greenpeace say oil and natural gas exploration in arctic waters could cause irreparable harm.

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