Royal Dutch Shell has begun drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is planning a three-day trip to Alaska. Salazar is preparing to decide whether to issue final drilling permits to Shell Oil, which hopes to drill exploratory wells this summer in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
The Coast Guard is relaxing certification standards for Shell’s oil spill containment barge. The company convinced regulators the Arctic Challenger should be considered a mobile unit. Among other things, that means its mooring system only needs to be able to weather a 10-year storm, as opposed to the more rigorous 100-year standard for fixed platforms.
A few more than a dozen activists gathered at the national headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency protesting Shell's request for a waiver from the Clean Air Act.
Shell Oil has run into a number of problems with its Arctic drilling plans over the last week.
Shell Oil is seeking to changes to the air permit for one of its drill ships after a spokesman says generator engines tested slightly above permit levels for ammonia and nitrous oxide.
A drilling rig slated for use off Alaska’s North Slope is facing some serious scrutiny in Washington state. The Arctic Challenger is designed to stop oil spills from two other rigs. But officials say it needs a stronger design.
Environmental groups are suing the federal government, arguing that Shell Oil does not have an adequate plan to deal with a spill. The coalition says the goal is not to delay drilling this summer.
Shell is now training hundreds of workers to confront oil in icy waters. But for now, the training is taking place in the calm, ice-free waters far to the south, near the port of Valdez.