Shell questioned on Kulluk response

Jan. 4, 2013 at 8:57 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The grounding of a Shell drill ship off the western coast of Alaska raises serious questions about arctic drilling, a U.S. lawmaker said.

Shell said this week that extreme weather conditions that prevented salvage operations had subsided to the point that the Coast Guard was able to ferry a five-member team to the grounded Kulluk drill ship, considered to be in a stable state.

Kulluk broke free from a tow to Seattle for routine maintenance early this week. The ship contains petroleum product, but no release was reported from the grounding.

Shell last year was granted approval from the U.S. government to explore for oil and natural gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Equipment issues and weather delays hampered Shell's developments in the northern arctic waters.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, questioned Shell on how it would handle fuel removal, what plans it had to cope with severe weather and how it would've responded to a similar incident in the remote northern Alaskan seas.

"This is just the most recent incident in Shell's attempt to drill offshore in the arctic and it raises serious questions about its ability to conduct these operations safely and in a way that protects the environment," Markey said in a statement.

Shell said more than 600 workers are responding to the incident through a coordinated effort with the U.S. Coast Guard and state authorities. There were no significant injuries associated with the transit accident.

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