Today, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a 60-day review of Shell’s drilling season of mishaps and accidents. This announcement comes after yet another mishap by Shell Oil’s offshore Arctic program. After a four-day struggle involving multiple vessels and aircraft and requiring Coast Guard rescue of its crew, Shell’s drill rig the Kulluk, which ran aground near Kodiak, Alaska on New Year’s Eve, was pulled from shore nearly a week later to a place of safer refuge for evaluation. This latest accident follows a drilling season full of problems and near disasters. For additional information on the Kulluk accident and Shell’s drilling season, please click here.
In response to this announcement, Oceana’s deputy vice president for the Pacific Susan Murray released the following statement:
“Recognizing the severity of the problems encountered by Shell and the need for broad review is an important step in the right direction. President Obama has an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership we hoped for when he was elected. Now is the time to stand up to Big Oil and stand with the American people, our oceans and our public resources. The government must reassess its commitment to exploration in difficult places like the Arctic and how it makes decisions about our ocean resources.
Shell has proven again and again that it is not prepared for Alaskan waters. The grounding of the Kulluk was much more than just a ‘transit incident.’ It was the culmination of a series of mishaps and problems that put peoples’ lives at risk, threatened important ocean resources and proved, beyond any doubt, that Shell cannot operate safely in Alaska.
The federal government is complicit in those failures because it provided the permits and approvals that allowed Shell to operate in Alaskan waters. If the approvals granted to Shell comply with the applicable standards, then those standards are clearly insufficient. Greater oversight of decisions made by corporations and additional scrutiny of agency decision-makers is needed. Clearly, we need some form of adaptive management when it is apparent that intent on paper does not match what happens in reality in remote and unforgiving Alaskan waters.
A full investigation of Shell’s season of mishaps should include not only DOI and Coast Guard, but also NOAA and other agencies. It should also include an independent review of the decisions and oversight by DOI. Protecting lives and our ocean resources is more important than completing a review in an expedited manner. The government should do this right, not just quickly.
DOI must suspend current activities and not allow any further exploration in the Arctic Ocean until and unless companies prove it can be conducted safely. The small amount of oil that might be produced from the Arctic is not worth the great risk to our oceans.”