Shell Oil Company announced that it will not attempt to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2013. This announcement comes in the wake of Shell’s disastrous 2012 drilling season, which left both of its drilling vessels disabled in Alaskan waters awaiting transport to Asia for repairs. The company also faces investigation by the Coast Guard, notices of violation of the Clean Air Act from the Environmental Protection Agency, and a 60-day review by the Department of the Interior. Oceana has called on the Department of the Interior to suspend activities in the Arctic Ocean and to fundamentally reconsider how it makes decisions about Arctic Ocean resources.
In a huge triumph for the U.S. Arctic, Shell announced it would cancel plans to drill exploratory wells offshore in Alaska due to continued uncertainty over whether it would receive federal permits. Shell had hoped to drill exploratory wells in 2010 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but its plans were put on hold by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Oceana has been instrumental in monitoring the permitting process and holding policymakers accountable for upholding the law.
Offshore Drilling Halted in Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic and Pacific Coasts
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that in the new five-year drilling plan, no new offshore drilling would be allowed in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico will be protected from offshore oil and gas exploration for the next seven years. These areas were being considered for oil and gas development, and the Administration had previously indicated support for exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. The decision follows years of campaign work by Oceana to stop expanded offshore drilling.
U.S. Protects America’s Arctic from Industrial Fishing
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) voted to prevent the expansion of industrial fishing into all U.S. waters north of the Bering Strait for the foreseeable future to limit stress on ocean ecosystems in light of the dramatic impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. With no large-scale commercial fishing in the U.S. Arctic at present, this decision establishes one of the largest preventative and precautionary measures in fisheries management history.