Oceana Applauds Shell’s Decision to Scale Back Drilling Plans in Chukchi Sea; Calls on Department of the Interior to Reject Flawed Plans for Beaufort | Oceana

Oceana Applauds Shell’s Decision to Scale Back Drilling Plans in Chukchi Sea; Calls on Department of the Interior to Reject Flawed Plans for Beaufort

Press Release Date: October 7, 2010

Location: Juneau, AK


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

Oceana calls on the Department of the Interior to reject Shell Oil’s application for permission to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea in 2011.  This request comes not even six months after the devastating blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and without the benefit of findings about the causes of that spill or the changes necessary in light of it. While Shell’s proposal is again scaled back, it still does not include containment or response technologies that have been shown to be effective in harsh Arctic conditions.

“Even in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, Shell is still pushing to drill in Alaska’s Arctic Ocean,” said Dr. Chris Krenz, Arctic Project Manager for Oceana.  “While Oceana acknowledges and applauds Shell for scaling back their proposal and improving their spill response plans, the plan is still fundamentally flawed.  Putting lipstick on a pig does not stop it from being a pig.”

The inability to respond and contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill made clear that the U.S. is not prepared to drill offshore in the Arctic. The U.S. currently lacks basic science, response and rescue capability in the Arctic. Even though the Arctic offshore drilling is proposed for shallower water, it would occur in very extreme conditions, including heavy ice flow, subzero wind, and complete darkness for most of the year.

The public supports science and precaution before drilling, especially in the Arctic.  A nationwide poll conducted by David Binder Research shows that 88 percent of the American public think it is important for there to be a science-based approach to decision-making and for response capabilities to be in place before any drilling occurs, even if it slows the timeframe for oil drilling.  When asked about drilling in the Arctic, more than 70 percent were concerned about the risks.

“As Alaskan’s we understand the need for oil in the pipeline, but we should not be asked to take Shell’s word for the fact that we can respond to an accident,” said Michael LeVine, Oceana’s Pacific Senior Counsel.  “The Department of the Interior should reject this attempt to avoid the lessons learned from the Gulf of Mexico tragedy and should require new plans based on those lessons, sound science, and precaution.”

Shell Oil appears to have dropped plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea, where approvals at the Leasing Program and Lease Sale stages have been invalidated by federal courts.  “A delay in exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea is a step in the right direction,” Krenz said, “The government should take advantage of this opportunity to gather the necessary science and ensure that any industrial activities allowed to proceed do not harm the marine ecosystem or opportunities for the subsistence way of life.”


Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world’s oceans. Our teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America (Anchorage, AK; Juneau, AK; Portland, OR; Monterey, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC), Europe (Madrid, Spain; Brussels, Belgium) and South America (Santiago, Chile).  More than 450,000 members and e-activists in over 150 countries have already joined Oceana.