Climate Action

Summer Plans for Shell: Drilling in the Arctic

This afternoon, the Obama administration gave conditional approval for Shell to begin drilling in for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean this coming summer. Approval by the Department of the Interior was dependent on Shell receiving a series of remaining drilling permits for the project. A victory for Shell—along with the rest of the petroleum industry—this decision is a blow to environmentalists everywhere, who state that a drilling accident in the Arctic waters could have far worse consequences than 2010’s Gulf of Mexico Oil spill, which took over 4 years and $14 billion of funding for response and clean-up in the area. Without adequate proof that Shell can dig safely in the Chukchi Sea, one of the most treacherous areas of the Arctic Ocean, environmentalists condemn the project. With the closest Coast Guard station with equipment to respond to a spill over 1,000 miles away and only remote land with no roads, clean up and rescue for a potential spill could be disastrous. The Chukchi Sea is also a major migration route and feeding area for marine mammals, including bowhead and gray whales which migrate up the Pacific Coast during summer months. Additionally, an estimated 2,000 polar bears claim home to the ice floes in the Chukchi Sea; polar bears are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups and Seattle officials, aiming to prevent Shell from using the city’s port to keep its drill ships, hope to impede Shell’s plans and delay their exploration. Shell still must receive approval from another U.S. agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and obtain permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Attiya Sayyed, Communications Associate