Government Again Commits to Controversial Arctic Ocean Lease Sale | Oceana

Government Again Commits to Controversial Arctic Ocean Lease Sale

Press Release Date: March 31, 2015

Location: Juneau, Alaska


Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

Juneau, AK—Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior has again reconfirmed Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193.  This Record of Decision is the third committing to the 2008 sale of oil and gas leases in the U.S. Arctic’s Chukchi Sea. The previous two decisions to move forward with the massive sale have been deemed illegal by courts. In its latest analysis, the government estimates that there is a 75 percent chance of a major spill resulting from activities on the 2.8 million acres of leases Shell and other companies purchased in Lease Sale 193. A spill would be nearly impossible to contain or clean up and could have significant impacts to the subsistence resources and other wildlife that depend on the Chukchi Sea. 

Today’s decision opens the door for the government to consider Shell’s proposal to begin exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea this summer. The company has not returned to the Arctic Ocean since its failed 2012 efforts that resulted in the grounding, and ultimate scrapping, of the Kulluk, a series of violations and investigations, and, ultimately, the clearest demonstration yet that the company is not prepared for Alaska’s waters. 

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

“Today’s announcement is both expected and disappointing.  The Obama administration has steadfastly refused to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of selling leases in the Chukchi Sea and, instead, treats the leases sold in 2008 as if they’re set in stone. As courts have twice shown, the government violated the law when it decided to hold Lease Sale 193.  The government’s subsequent reasons to stand by the sale are no more persuasive. Rather than once again committing to a risky, poorly justified decision to sell leases in the Chukchi Sea, the government should wipe the slate clean and start over.

As Shell’s failed 2012 season shows, companies simply are not ready to operate in the Arctic Ocean. There is no proven way to clean up spilled oil in icy, remote Arctic waters, and Shell has repeatedly failed to assess or mitigate risk appropriately. The government should not have recommitted to Lease Sale 193 and should not now approve Shell’s exploration plan.”