- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Reaction from political leaders and environmentalists over Royal Dutch Shell’s announcement Thursday that it will suspend operations off Alaska’s Arctic shores in 2014 and possibly withdraw for good.

Shell said part of the decision came after a federal appeals court last week ruled in favor of environmental groups that claimed the federal government conducted a flawed environmental review before selling $2.7 billion in petroleum leases off Alaska’s northwest coast in 2008. A three-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the case back to federal District Court, where a trial judge could order the correction of the environmental review.

“Today’s news is extremely disappointing for Alaska, but certainly understandable given the recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling. Multiple years of federal regulatory delay, litigation delay, and one year of operational issues have created barriers to Alaskans’ near-term economic prospects. Still, offshore energy development will play an enormous role in Alaska’s economic future. … As we move forward, I am confident Shell can be part of Alaska’s bright future.” - Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell.

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Arctic offshore drilling is fraught with dangers that defy rational economic development. Shell’s decision to abandon efforts to drill in this remote and extreme environment in 2014 means that (Alaska) communities and wildlife will be able to go at least another year without the added threat of spills from exploratory drilling.” - Margaret Williams, managing director of Arctic programs for World Wildlife Fund.

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“It is simply unacceptable that judicial overreach is getting in the way of letting Alaskans develop our own natural resources. Development in the Arctic has already been subjected to unprecedented safety standards - far more than domestic production anywhere else.” - U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

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“Shell’s decision today means America’s Arctic waters are safe from big oil for another summer. The Department of the Interior now needs to take a hard look at whether the Chukchi Sea should be open for oil drilling at all, beginning with a full and public environmental impact statement process that addresses the Ninth Circuit decision and does not minimize the risks of oil drilling in this vibrant but vulnerable sea.” - Erik Grafe, Earthjustice attorney.

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“I am disappointed that Shell will not be able to move forward with exploration this summer, but am not surprised given the 9th Circuit’s decision and the administration’s failure to provide regulatory and permitting certainty for oil development in the Arctic. We can’t expect Shell to continue spend billions of dollars on this project when the rules keep changing.” - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

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