Today, Shell Oil Company announced that it will not attempt to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2013. This announcement comes as Shell’s disastrous 2012 drilling season has 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.
“Shell made the right decision to stand down,” said Susan Murray, Deputy Vice-President for Oceana, “The company is clearly not prepared to operate in Arctic conditions. Shell’s retreat gives the Department of the Interior the perfect opportunity to reassess its commitment to allowing exploration drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
The results of the Department of the Interior’s 60-day review should be made public next week. This review results from Shell’s series of mishaps that include the grounding of the Kulluk¸ losing control of the Noble Discover, violating the terms of its permits, and having its containment dome fail spectacularly when being tested in calm waters in Puget Sound, WA.
“The 60-day review is just a starting point,” said Michael LeVine, Pacific Senior Counsel for Oceana. “Our government officials must figure out how and why they granted approvals to a demonstrably unprepared company and make the necessary changes to ensure that this never happens again.
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, the adequacy of standards that govern those decisions, and the oversight afforded to companies like Shell. Companies should not be allowed to operate in the Arctic Ocean until and unless they prove it can be done safely and in a manner that does not threaten the marine environment. Science, preparedness, and a transparent public process should guide future decisions about whether to allow industrial activities in the Arctic and, if so, under what conditions.