Yesterday, Michael LeVine, Pacific Senior Council, Oceana, testified on the “Offshore Energy and Jobs Act” (H.R. 2231) in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the Committee on Natural Resources. H.R. 2231 would force the Secretary of the Interior to offer lease sales in vast areas of U.S. ocean waters, including the U.S. Arctic Ocean, where Shell’s 2012 exploration attempt resulted in a season of mishaps and near-disasters.
The following is from Mr. LeVine’s written statement (emphasis added):
As companies seek to explore for oil in more remote and difficult places, the government must think carefully about how it balances anticipated benefits with increased risks and how it can ensure that decisions are based on good science, preparedness, and planning. Indeed, both the Deepwater Horizon accident and Shell’s ill-fated efforts to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean unfortunately demonstrated that decisions to prioritize expediency and profit often create significant and unnecessary risk to important ocean resources on which we depend for economic wellbeing, cultural connection, food security, and many other important uses. They also evidence a disturbing lack of government oversight and substantial problems in the manner in which government agencies have made decisions to allow offshore oil and gas activities. Change, clearly, is needed, and that change should include requirements for better science, demonstrated response capacity, and equitable balancing of risks and benefits to the American people.
Unfortunately, HR 2231, the “Offshore Energy and Jobs Act,” would prioritize oil and gas leasing above all other uses of our oceans. This “leap before you look” approach would preclude the science-based planning needed to ensure the long term health of the Arctic Ocean. Rather than forcing the Department of the Interior to hold lease sales and limiting environmental review, we should focus on crafting a plan for Arctic region that allows for healthy ocean ecosystems and affordable, clean energy. Such a plan should provide stewardship and oversight based on understanding the Arctic Ocean, including identifying and protecting Important Ecological Areas, requiring demonstrated response capabilities, and more fully and fairly balancing costs and benefits.