October 17, 2015
CEO Note: Government denies extension of leases to drill in the Arctic
BY: Andy Sharpless
The Arctic is even safer today thanks to your support.
The United States government has announced that it denied requests made by Shell and Statoil for five-year extensions of Arctic Ocean leases and that it will cancel the planned sale of more such leases in the region. This is fantastic news coming just after news that Shell has abandoned plans to drill in these inhospitable waters.
In 2014, Shell and Statoil submitted requests for “suspensions of operations” for their Arctic Ocean leases. If granted, the requests would have extended the expiration of those leases by five years. The US Department of the Interior, which regulates these leases, previously denied a similar request made by ConocoPhillips. Most of the leases held in the Beaufort Sea will expire in 2017, and leases held in the Chukchi Sea will expire in 2020. A map of leases currently held in the U.S. Arctic Ocean is available here.
This is a major victory for Oceana and our allies. Oceana played a critical role in uncovering the fact that Shell was applying for an extension of its leases, which brought critical transparency to and pressure on the government’s decision about whether or not to extend these leases. The company’s Arctic exploration program cost billions of dollars and led to controversy and a series of mishaps culminating in the grounding of the drill rig Kulluk. Shell is currently taking the last of its vessels out of Alaskan waters.
The Arctic Ocean is infamously unforgiving, and its icy and unpredictable nature means that an oil spill would be impossible to clean up. And, with climate change looming, we simply cannot risk drilling in this unique and important area. We commend President Obama for acting swiftly in removing the Arctic from his proposed drilling plan and that the US now leads the world in providing lasting protection for the U.S. Arctic.
We hope the President will now take longer term action to spare both the Arctic Ocean and the east coast of the United States from the danger of oil spills by reinstating the moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and removing the Arctic Ocean from all future drilling plans.
For the oceans,
Chief Executive Officer