Sadly, the Obama Administration is once again moving toward allowing Shell to drill in the Arctic.
"The Arctic is an important component of the Administration’s national energy strategy, and we remain committed to taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to oil and gas leasing and exploration offshore Alaska," says Sally Jewell, Secretary of Interior, which made the decision.
The decision to lease 30 million acres of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea coincides with the 26th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Decades later, the area has still not recovered, and the company continues to get away without paying reparations.
Last year, a court ruled against Interior’s lease sale because of its poor environmental impact analysis. But Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved it again, ignoring its own environmental review.
Based on "considerable historical data" BOEM says there is a 75% chance of at least one major oil spill if leasing and drilling proceeds over the projected 77 years!
BOEM also says the most likely outcome from Shell’s exploration for oil is "limited and unsuccessful exploration of leases, and nothing more."
But the agency still approved the lease sale. The next step is an environmental analysis of Shell’s exploration plan.
In a "play it again Sam" scenario, Shell has hired Noble Drilling to do the work, after pleading guilty to eight felonies and fined $12.2 million for its botched attempts in 2012. Felonies include improperly discharging oily water into the ocean and covering up or neglecting to report a litany of engine and other system failures that it knew about before it arrived in the Arctic Ocean.
In 2012 Shell became a global laughing stock, as giant rigs broke free from their moorings and beached on Alaskan shores, dire storm warnings were ignored, and multiple health, safety and environmental regulations were breached.
Worst of all, Shell didn’t even have a plan to clean up the inevitable disastrous spill. US Coast Guard officials repeatedly said the resources for cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean don’t exist.
Here we go again.
Ironically, DOI made this announcement on the same day the Obama Administration delivered the US climate pledge to the UN.
Shell is so confident it will begin drilling this summer that its giant oil rig, Polar Pioneer, is on its way to Alaska right now.
Greenpeace’s ship Esperanza – with six courageous volunteers on board – is following it as it makes its way to the home of polar bears and migrating whales in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.
Read our article, Protecting the Arctic While Promoting Offshore Drilling.