Despite press accounts that new offshore drilling is on hold, Shell Oil is moving forward with plans to start exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean this July—even before we know what caused the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Obama administration should officially withdraw approval of Shell's summer drilling plans and conduct a complete reassessment in light of the ongoing Gulf oil spill.
For far too long, government regulatory agencies have accepted the oil industry’s assurances about its ability to prevent and respond to oil spills. In the case of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the industry convinced government regulators that the chance of a large spill was too small to justify a detailed analysis of environmental impacts.
When questioned on the impacts from a large spill in the Arctic Ocean, Shell states: “a large oil spill, such as a crude oil release from a blowout, is extremely rare and not considered a reasonably foreseeable impact.” The Department of the Interior has accepted these assurances from Shell Oil and has not analyzed the impacts of a large spill in the Arctic Ocean—a fragile environment that is home to polar bears, whales, walruses, and a wide variety of migratory birds.
The Gulf spill tragically shows that the industry’s “fail-safe” technologies can fail. In the Arctic Ocean, extreme weather, 20-foot ocean swells, and broken ice make oil spill cleanup nearly impossible. In fact, no technology currently exists that can contain or clean up an oil spill in the shifting ice of the Arctic Ocean.
Tell President Obama he should insist on knowing what caused the BP blowout before allowing new drilling in the Arctic Ocean where there is no realistic capability to clean up oil spills.
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