Federal Government Again Backs Risky Offshore Oil Leasing in the Arctic | Oceana

Federal Government Again Backs Risky Offshore Oil Leasing in the Arctic

Press Release Date: October 31, 2014

Location: Juneau, AK


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

Today, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193.  The supplement was prepared in response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in January invalidating, for the second time, the EIS underlying the decision to hold Lease Sale 193.  The Ninth Circuit found that BOEM had drastically underestimated the possible development and resulting impacts to the ocean that could result from the sale.  That decision followed a 2010 district court decision also finding that the agency failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act in evaluating potential impacts of the nearly 30 million acre offering. 

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of new information that companies are seeking to have the leases they purchased in Lease Sale 193 extended and are arguing that safety and prevention rules are unnecessary and too costly.  It also follows Shell’s failed attempts to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2012.

Susan Murray, Oceana’s Deputy Vice President, Pacific, issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“The third time is not the charm.  The government made a poorly planned and poorly justified decision to hold Lease Sale 193.  That decision was invalidated by courts in 2010 and again in 2014.  Today’s renewed commitment to the sale is no better.  The American people deserve more than business as usual.  We all bear the risk from the government’s bad choices in the Arctic Ocean while oil companies reap the benefits.  The Deepwater Horizon tragedy unfortunately showed that this equation clearly does not work.  We need a new course for the Arctic Ocean based on science and precaution.  If the government were to fully and fairly evaluate the risks and benefits, it would decide to not offer leases now in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell has failed repeatedly in efforts to explore in the Arctic Ocean.  Yet the company is unwilling or unable to accept any of the blame for its failures or bad decisions to invest heavily in efforts to explore in this remote and harsh environment.  If Shell won’t stop, it is up to the government to say ‘enough is enough.’

Companies are not prepared to operate in unforgiving Arctic waters.  There is no proven way to respond to an oil spill in icy conditions and almost no infrastructure from which to launch a response to any kind of accident.  For the sake of the communities and wildlife in the region, and for all of us who care about oceans, energy, and good governance, we encourage the Administration to forego Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193. 



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.