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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

EPA Seeks Comments on Drilling Air Quality

- EPA Seeks Comments on Drilling Air Quality

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.
by Ali Helgoth

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting public comment on an air quality permit sought by a company that plans to conduct exploratory oil drilling 200 miles off the coast of Panama Cit Beach.

Shell Offshore applied for an Outer Continental Shelf air permit for mobilization and operation of deepwater drilling vessels and support vessels in two area lease blocks in the Gulf of Mexico, DeSoto Canyon and Lloyd Ridge.

Drilling would last about 150 days per year for five to 10 years, according to a preliminary determination issued by the EPA, which has proposed approval of the permit. Shell does not have plans to establish permanent production platforms, and if the exploration project leads to resource discoveries, additional permits would be required, according to information from the EPA.

The project is southwest of Bay County, about 160 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

A representative from Shell, which initially filed the permit in April 2010, could not be reached Monday for comment.

Public comment is being accepted through Sept. 19 and is limited to air quality issues. Other concerns, like those with drilling safety, the leasing process or discharge, should be directed to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which is the lead permitting agency for the project.

Air pollution emissions generated from the project "are primarily released from the combustion of diesel fuel in the drillships' main engines, as well as in engines that supply power for operating drilling equipment and support vessels," according to the EPA's preliminary determination.

The document states "since the project is located well away from land, the project's emissions impacts will be dispersed over a wide area with no elevated concentration levels affecting any onshore populated area."

The project isn't expected to result in job growth. According to the EPA, "the potential growth of industrial, commercial and residential sources as a result of the proposed DeSoto Canyon and Lloyd Ridge drilling exploration activities in the area just west of the proposed drilling activities is well developed. It is expected that the current infrastructure is more than adequate to support the proposed drilling activities, and no additional growth is expected."

(c)2011 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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