US appeals court considers new Gulf drilling plans

ATLANTA (AP) - The federal appeals court in Atlanta is considering a challenge from environmental groups seeking to block Shell from drilling 10 new deepwater wells off the coast of Alabama, one of the first drilling approvals since the disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.

Attorneys from the Southern Environmental Law Center and other groups Wednesday told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that federal regulators "rubber-stamped" Shell's plans.

They said the risky operations could result in an oil spill far greater than the 2010 disaster at a BP PLC well that sent millions of gallons of oil into the ocean over three months.

Shell argued that the company's drilling plans are environmentally sound, and the company's lawyers said new government safety regulations have led to "enormous improvements" in the permitting process.

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