After a four-day struggle involving multiple vessels and aircraft and requiring Coast Guard rescue of its crew, Shell’s drill rig, the Kulluk, ran aground near Kodiak, Alaska on New Year’s Eve. The rig was pulled from the shore and is now on its way to a safer harbor. Thankfully, the incident appears close to resolution without loss of life or substantial harm to the sensitive habitat. This latest accident comes after a drilling season full of problems and near disasters.
In response to the latest developments, Oceana’s deputy vice president for the Pacific Susan Murray released the following statement:
“Today is a good day for Alaskans and our oceans. Through the courage, perseverance and ingenuity of rescue and salvage crews, the Kulluk is off the rocks without loss of life or substantial harm to our ocean resources. The Kulluk grounding is the culmination of Shell’s ‘Keystone Cops’ year. Now that Shell’s accident-prone 2012 drilling season has ended, it is time for our government to stand up to Big Oil and do what’s best for the American people. Companies simply cannot drill safely in the Arctic Ocean, and our government should not let them.
We were lucky to avoid a major catastrophe. We were lucky the accident happened close to Coast Guard facilities. We were lucky the weather allowed for salvage. We were lucky an accident like this did not happen while the Kulluk was drilling. However, Alaskan waters demand more than luck.
Alaskans, unfortunately, know all about ‘transit incidents’ associated with oil and gas activities. In 1989, millions of gallons of oil spilled into pristine Prince William Sound after a ‘transit incident.’ One moment of negligence led to one of the world’s largest oil spills. Over and over again, Shell has not paid attention to details, has not been prepared for Alaska’s conditions and has tried to cut corners–these are the same failings that led to the Exxon Valdez tragedy and, twenty years later, to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Kiluida Bay, the destination for the Kulluk, is important for fisheries. We can only hope that Shell is more careful there than it has been anywhere else. There simply is no place for the Kulluk in Alaskan waters.
Shell is obviously not prepared for Alaskan waters. The Kulluk accident began in weather conditions for which any reasonable operator should have been ready. As the reported criminal investigation into Shell’s other drilling vessel, the Noble Discoverer, shows, Shell is incapable of protecting its own employees’ safety or our oceans.
Shell’s choices put lives and our oceans at risk. Our government is complicit in Shell’s failures. Regulators allowed operations that prioritized profit over common sense. Moving forward from this latest near-miss and Shell’s string of failures in 2012, government agencies must provide better oversight and must eliminate corporate influence from the decision-making process. The small amount of oil that might be produced from the Arctic Ocean is not worth the great risk to our oceans.”