Joe Nocera’s piece in The New York Times today, “The Moral of the Kulluk,” should be read by anyone seeking a fair and insightful consideration of the merits of drilling for oil in the American Arctic Ocean. Nocera wrote this article in response to McKenzie Funk’s New York Times Magazine article (January 4, 2014), “The Wreck of the Kulluk”—a cover story that provided an impressive play-by-play of Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic history, and of its oil rig, the Kulluk, that ran aground in 2012 after encountering severe, but not unexpected, winter storms in the Gulf of Alaska.
Oceana Pacific Senior Counsel Mike LeVine spoke with Nocera for the piece, describing three main setbacks that make Arctic drilling especially tricky: extreme weather, lack of government oversight and environmental issues. Offshore drilling is dicey to begin with—carrying the risk of oil spills and impacts to local communities and marine life—but in the remote Arctic, the risks amplify. There is no proven technology to clean up an oil spill in sea ice.
The oil industry showed us in the Gulf of Mexico, a place where they have more than forty years of experience in at- sea drilling, that they do not know how to do it safely. It is difficult to understand why the U.S. government is allowing them to pursue the even more risky task of drilling in the Arctic. The Arctic version of Deepwater Horizon is not a prospect sensible policy-makers should permit.
Shell has been trying unsuccessfully to drill in U.S. Arctic Ocean since 2007, and now seeks to have its leases extended. If you want to have an impact on this policy, please write Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and ask her to neither extend Shell’s leases in the Arctic Ocean nor approve Shell’s drilling plan for 2015.
For the oceans,
Chief Executive Officer