A consortium of advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, were represented by Earthjustice in a lawsuit filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Their case challenges an air pollution discharge permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Shell's plans to work in the Beaufort Sea.
"As early as this summer, the Kulluk drilling unit and other vessels in Shell's fleet could be in the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean where they will pump tens of thousands of tons of pollution into pristine Arctic skies," they said in a statement.
Shell in May announced it received authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service for its planned 2012 exploration program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas near Alaska.
The supermajor said the permit was specific for seals and whales. It authorizes Shell's planned exploration plan as long as those species won't be affected. It requires a mitigation plan should damage occur.
The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has approved Shell's 450-page oil-spill response plan for work in the arctic.
Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has protested Shell's plans for arctic waters off the coast of Alaska. It said it's received nearly 500,000 letters in opposition to Shell's planned exploration campaign.