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Rig runs aground in Alaska, reviving arctic drilling fears

WASHINGTON — One of Shell Oil's two arctic drilling rigs is beached on an island in the Gulf of Alaska, threatening environmental damage from a fuel spill and calling into question Shell's plans to resume drilling in the treacherous waters north of Alaska in the summer.

The condition of the rig, the Kulluk, which broke free from a tow ship in stormy seas and ran aground Monday night, was unknown late Tuesday. The Coast Guard was leading an effort to stabilize the vessel, 266 feet in diameter, to prevent further damage and keep its more than 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricants from spilling onto the rocky shoreline.

At a news conference in Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon, Capt. Paul Mehler, the federal on-scene coordinator, said a reconnaissance flight showed the Kulluk was upright and stable, with no significant motion.

"The results are showing us that the Kulluk is sound," Mehler said. "No sign of breach of hull, no sign of release of any product." He said the response team hoped to get salvage experts aboard the ship to get a better picture of damage.

Steven Russell of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said that, so far, there was no sign of harm to the environment or wildlife.

The Kulluk's 18 crew members had been evacuated by Coast Guard helicopters on Saturday after the rig first went adrift in high winds and rough seas.

Rig runs aground in Alaska, reviving arctic drilling fears 01/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 9:35pm]

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