arctic drilling

Threat of Arctic Drilling Looms Large

Posted Wed, Oct 5, 2011 by Meghan Bartels to arctic drilling, chukchi sea, polar bears, seals, whales

polar bear photo

A polar bear in Alaska. [Image via Wikimedia Commons.]

Troubling news for the Arctic: This week the government decided to uphold its 2008 decision to lease parts of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea for oil and natural gas drilling.

The decision comes despite an environmental impact statement, released in August, which stated that the approval of Chukchi Sea development will harm subsistence activities, air and water quality, threatened and endangered species, wetlands, and a multitude of mammal, bird and fish species.

We are continuing to fight against unsafe Arctic drilling by filing litigation, raising grassroots support, and conducting further research into the possible effects of oil drilling and spills in the Arctic. You can help by donating now.

Another recent study, conducted by the US Geological Survey for the Department of the Interior, found serious gaps in the scientific knowledge about the possible consequences of Arctic drilling.

Dr. Chris Krenz, Arctic Project Manager for Oceana, said of the decision:

“If corporate oil giants will get to make trillions of dollars from the nation’s oil in the Chukchi Sea, we can afford to spend a few million dollars on science to understand how the Arctic Ocean functions and make sure development is done right.

We know the Arctic is home to such iconic species as polar bears, walrus and beluga whales. We know the bounty of the Arctic seas supports the subsistence way of life for coastal communities. Yet we know very little about how the different components of this ecosystem fit together. With receding sea ice, the Arctic is becoming more accessible.

 Just because we can now reach this place doesn’t mean we should develop it. The science simply is not yet there to determine if this kind of industrial activity is feasible without destroying the remote and fragile offshore Arctic.”

Just over a week ago, we delivered nearly 33,000 signatures from our dedicated activists, asking the government to delay Chukchi lease sales until more detailed research can determine whether and how Arctic oil drilling can be accomplished safely. 

Please donate now to help save the people and marine life of the Arctic from dangerous drilling!


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CEO Note: The Arctic Still Isn’t Safe From Oil Spills

Posted Tue, Aug 16, 2011 by Andy Sharpless to arctic drilling, gulf of mexico oil spill, shell

Less than a year after the Deepwater Horizon gusher was finally sealed, oil companies are claiming they can drill safely in the Arctic Ocean, an even more fragile and forbidding environment than the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, our government seems to be suffering from amnesia, too.

This month, Shell Oil received a conditional approval from the federal government to drill four exploratory wells next summer in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. The company claims that it can end a gushing spill like the Deepwater Horizon in just 43 days and clean up 90 percent of oil lost.

These claims aren’t based in historic experience and have little scientific evidence to back them up. Crews were only able to recover 10 percent of the oil escaping the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, and only 8 percent of oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.

The most recent oil spill drill in the Beaufort Sea was in 2000 and was described as a “failure.” Mechanical systems like skimmers and booms in calm but icy conditions simply didn’t work. The technology has not improved since then.

Watch the video of the failed cleanup test here.

Furthermore, the Arctic is an incredibly harsh place. The Gulf of Mexico was surrounded by thousands of first-responders within a few hours’ travel, and it has year-round temperate weather. The nearest Coast Guard response facility is 1000 air miles from the Beaufort Sea. The Arctic is only a hospitable working environment for a few months in summer. Ice and weather could easily make rescue working conditions far too dangerous for crews, leaving a nearly-pristine ecosystem that is home to Inuit people destroyed during an uncapped oil spill.

We’ve won major victories against offshore drilling, especially last year when President Obama announced that the new five-year plan for offshore drilling removed thousands of miles of U.S. ocean from consideration, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

But the Interior Department’s approval of Shell’s plan shows that we still face an uphill battle, even when the facts show that increased drilling won’t reduce gas prices at the pump.

We have campaigners and scientists at work in Washington, D.C. as well as in Alaska who are closely monitoring the oil companies’ plans to drill in one of the last great ocean ecosystems. With your support, we hope to win more protections to keep our coasts safe from oil spills.


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