(Updates with groups filing petitions in third paragraph.)
June 9 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. approval of a Royal Dutch Shell Plc oil exploration plan for the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico is illegal and should be withdrawn, environmental groups led by the Natural Resources Defense Council said in petitions.
The NRDC and Oakland, California-based Earthjustice, in filings today in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, said the May 10 action by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement violates environmental laws.
Earthjustice’s petition included Gulf Restoration Network, Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club Inc. The New York- based NRDC was joined by Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity, the group said in an e-mailed statement.
Shell was first to win approval for its deep-water drilling plans after passing U.S. environmental reviews adopted following the BP Plc oil spill, triggered by an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The Hague-based Shell was cleared to drill five exploratory wells in waters as deep as 7,259 feet (2,213 meters), 72 miles off the Louisiana coast.
“It’s unsafe to resume drilling in the Gulf given what we’ve learned from the Deepwater Horizon incident,” David Pettit, senior attorney at the NRDC, said in a phone interview.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had no comment, said Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman.
“We will fully assist the government in defending this plan,” Bill Tanner, a Shell spokesman, said in an e-mail.
BP’s well exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people, destroying the rig, and spewing crude for 87 days.
“After decades of responsible offshore drilling operations in environments around the globe, this approval is further evidence of Shell’s expertise and confidence in the offshore,” Marvin Odum, the president of Shell’s U.S. operations, said on May 11, following the approval of the plan NRDC is now disputing.
--With assistance from Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta and Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit. Editors: Steve Geimann, Michael Hytha
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