A coalition of Alaska Native and conservation groups today challenged the Obama administration’s decision to allow offshore oil drilling by Shell Oil in the Beaufort Sea in America’s Arctic Ocean.
After the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill, the Obama administration wisely delayed plans by Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic Ocean. But this August, the administration reversed course and approved the first part of the most aggressive Arctic drilling proposal in the history of the country by approving Shell’s plans to start drilling in the Beaufort Sea as early as the summer of 2012.
A spill in the Arctic Ocean would devastate polar bears, bowhead whales and other marine mammals and would severely affect Native subsistence communities which have thrived in this region for generations.
The most recent oil spill drill in the Beaufort Sea (which took place more than 10 years ago) described mechanical cleanup in icy conditions as a “failure.” Nothing has changed since that drill. A recent report to the Canadian government concluded cleanup would be impossible 44 to 84 percent of the time during the short summer drilling season and completely impossible the other seven to eight months of the year.
“Pretending there’s no risk associated with drilling, especially in the fragile waters of the Arctic, is not only irresponsible, it’s unacceptable.”
U.S. Coast Guard officials have repeatedly explained that the resources to clean up an oil spill in the waters of the Arctic Ocean simply don’t exist. This summer, Commandant Admiral Robert Papp told Congress that the federal government has “zero” spill response capability in the Arctic.
Defenders’ Sierra Weaver said, “Both Shell and the federal government are proceeding as if the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster – the worst environmental catastrophe this country has ever seen – simply didn’t happen. Pretending there’s no risk associated with drilling, especially in the fragile waters of the Arctic, is not only irresponsible, it’s unacceptable.”
Defenders is among a broad coalition of Alaska Native and conservation groups represented by Earthjustice who are challenging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement’s (BOEMRE) decision to allow oil drilling in the Beaufort Sea. Click here to read the full press release and see what other groups are saying about this risky and shortsighted move.