US approves Shell plan to drill in Gulf of Mexico —again

The US on May 11 approved a Royal Dutch Shell plan to drill for oil in five locations deep under the Gulf of Mexico. The proposal, for drilling in the so-called Appomattox discovery, was the second exploration plan submitted by Shell to win approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) since the agency introduced stricter criteria for new drilling following last year’s Macondo disaster. The company’s Cardamom discovery in the Garden Banks area of the Gulf was approved in March. At least six other deep-water plans are now pending for the Gulf. Companies apply for permits to actually exploit oil after receiving approval for an exploration plan. The government lifted a moratorium on deep-water Gulf drilling in October. Shell runs the Appomattox venture and holds an 80% stake, with Nexen Inc. holding the remaining 20%. (WSJ, Upstream Online, May 11)

See our last post on the Gulf of Mexico disaster

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  1. Court allows challenges to Gulf oil leases to proceed
    From the Southern Environmental Law Center, May 24:

    ATLANTA – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama late yesterday ruled that Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center may pursue their claims that the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act in approving at least 221 oil drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill. The groups claim that the leases were approved without any environmental review that considered the disaster.

    The approvals were issued after April 20, 2010 as part of Lease Sale Number 213 in the Central Gulf of Mexico.

    The groups contend that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (“BOEMRE,” formerly MMS) failed to complete a supplemental environmental impact statement after the oil spill and before approving the leases, and failed to ensure its actions in approving the leases do not jeopardize threatened and endangered species prior to approving the leases following the blowout and oil spill.

    BOEMRE, the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the U.S. Oil & Gas Association, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. sought to dismiss these claims.

    Defenders is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center in the case.

  2. BP gets new Gulf of Mexico leases
    BP won $27 million worth of leases to conduct new oil-and-gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico on Dec. 14. The awards from the Interior Department came in the first Gulf lease sale since the BP spill last year, with all winning bids bringing $337.6 million into government coffers. (National Journal, Dec. 14)