Groups Push EPA Over Clean Air Waiver for Shell

It was a typical summer day in Washington, with the humidity on full blast and the temperature rushing toward the nineties before noon. And much like any other summer day in Washington, this one came with a protest, albeit a small, muted one.

A few more than a dozen activists gathered at the national headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency to present EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with 360,000 letters; letters that urge her to make sure Shell “plays by the rules,” as environmental groups are phrasing it.

“I think E-P-A needs to do a full comment period on allowing them not to meet their permits,” said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

A public comment period could take months to complete, throwing Shell off schedule.

Shell requested the compliance order for the Discoverer a few weeks ago. The company conceded it could not meet emissions requirements for its main generator under the Clean Air Act.

In a statement, the EPA said it’s working with Shell to grant the approval, and it remains confident the company will begin as planned this year.

That’s maddening to Travis Nichols. A spokesman with Greenpeace, he says if EPA grants the waiver, it could set precedent for off-shore drilling everywhere.

“It says that Big Oil can change the rules, and that Big Oil can move the goal posts before the game begins. And there are no consequences,” he said Monday afternoon.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said he’ll make a final decision on whether Shell can proceed by August 15th. He told The New York Times last week nothing is guaranteed at this point. The Department could ultimately not grant its final permit.

Though some people could read the tea-leaves from the news of the day:

The environmental groups delivered their letters of opposition on the same day the Obama Administration announced its plan to hold a lease sale off of Texas for 20 millions acres of un-leased waters in the Western Gulf of Mexico.