Today, Shell Oil Co. filed its exploration plan to drill offshore oil and gas wells in the U.S. Arctic’s Chukchi Sea with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). This action potentially opens up drilling exploration in the region for a 2015 season. Offshore oil exploration has not been conducted in Alaska’s Arctic since 2012, when Shell had a highly publicized series of blunders during its exploration activity. Without actually being allowed to hit oil, the company received multiple fines for violating air and water quality permits. The company nearly grounded one rig—the Discoverer—and beached the other—the Kulluk—on a remote island near Kodiak, AK on New Year’s Day. Despite these failures, Shell has already spent in excess of $5 billion, as reported in Frozen Future—a report published by Oceana and its partners—and continues its pursuit of extracting Arctic oil offshore Alaska.
In response to Shell’s announcement, Oceana’s Deputy Vice President, Pacific, Susan Murray, released the following statement:
“Shell, is no more prepared to conduct offshore oil and gas exploration activity in Alaska’s remote Arctic Ocean than it was in 2012. We have yet to see proven examples of how to clean up oil in the ice-riddled, windy, foggy, and rough conditions of the U.S. Arctic and entering this pristine region without effective technology and rapid response capability is simply irresponsible. The Arctic is more than just potential oil and gas below a seabed, it is home to a vibrant and complex ecosystem of globally important species, such as beluga whales, bowhead whales, ice seals, walrus, seabirds, polar bears, and fish species.
The government should take this time to fully evaluate Shell’s exploration plan and uphold the highest standards for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. The Arctic Ocean’s oil is not going anywhere, and rushing to extract it is a mistake. We urge the government to stop pursuing offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean until and unless oil companies can prove their ability to operate in the region’s remote and extreme conditions without harming its marine ecosystem and subsistence way of life. Shell’s near disasters during its 2012 exploration season were a wakeup call that even one of the largest and most successful oil companies in the world is not immune to Alaska’s unforgiving and majestic seas.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.