Shell Arctic Drilling Plan Approved: One Step Closer to 2012 Drilling | Oceana

Shell Arctic Drilling Plan Approved: One Step Closer to 2012 Drilling

Press Release Date: August 4, 2011

Location: Juneau, AK


Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

Juneau, AK- Today the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) rubber stamped a big OK on Shell oil’s proposed plan to drill 4 experimental oil wells of the coast off the Alaska’s Arctic in the Beaufort Sea. Oceana is appalled by the careless decision to put the Arctic at risk of serious environmental impacts.

“Rather than continuing the rush to drill, it is time to take a step back and look at the information and spill response gaps identified recently by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), learn from it, and take the appropriate time to develop an Arctic plan,” said Susan Murray, Oceana Pacific Senior Director. “We should do what is best for the Arctic Ocean and those who depend on it, not what is best for an international big oil company’s bottom line.”

The most recent oil spill drill in the Beaufort Sea was in 2000 and was described as a “failure”. All mechanical systems (skimmers and booms) in icy conditions did not function properly. Nothing has changed since that drill.

The nearest Coast Guard facility is nearly 1000 miles away, and last week Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp stated, “If [an oil spill] were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska we’d have nothing. We’re starting from ground zero today…We have zero to operate with at present.”

Despite having to triple their discharge scenarios for the Beaufort to 16,000 barrels of oil per day, Shell continues to state they will recover 95 percent of the oil spilled using mechanical recovery tools in the water that has been noted to fail in the past drills. The recovery rates for the Exxon Valdez was closer to 8 percent and the Deepwater Horizon was around 10 percent.

“It is time for the Obama administration to commit to the truth,” Murray said. “The American public should no longer be given misinformation, if a spill will be impossible to clean up, that needs to be stated.”

Currently there is no proven method of cleaning up an oil spill in most Arctic conditions; there are inadequate facilities or equipment in the region capable of carrying out an effective response plan; and there is a clear lack of basic scientific information about the ocean ecosystem. The vibrancy and biodiversity of the Arctic ecosystem depend on how we manage development.  Oceana will continue to work towards ensuring that development will not harm ecosystem health or subsistence