Judge upholds approval of Arctic oil spill plans

JUNEAU, Alaska — A federal judge has upheld Interior Department approval of oil spill response plans for an Arctic drilling program off the Alaska coast.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline (BYST’-line) found the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s approval of Shell Oil response plans for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas were in line with environmental laws and policies.

The case was brought by a coalition of conservation groups, which argued the approvals violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Holly Harris is an attorney for Earthjustice, which represented the groups. She says that while a decision on whether to appeal Beistline’s ruling has not yet been made, one is likely.

Shell’s offshore drilling program was suspended for 2013 following problems before and after drilling last year.

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