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unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Arctic Faces Offshore Oil Danger in July


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04 May 2010, 12:42 PM
In wake of gulf oil spill, Obama must protect Arctic seas from drilling

In just two months, Shell Oil could do in America's Arctic Ocean what British Petroleum has done in the Gulf of Mexico—drill an environmental time bomb without being able to defuse it or deal with the consequences of it going off.

In both cases, we're talking about exploratory offshore oil drilling under conditions so extreme that the risks are unreasonable and the consequences severe.

For gulf coast residents, the impact of BP's exploratory oil drilling explosion is tragic: 11 drill workers lost their lives, fishermen are losing their livelihoods, and the impacts are increasing daily. Two weeks later, the environmental consequences are building offshore in an oil mass the size of Puerto Rico. Growing daily by more than 200,000 gallons, the oil is killing sea birds and attacking the habitat of more than 400 animal species. It threatens four coastal states and could become—in the words of President Barack Obama—an unprecedented environmental and economic disaster.

We can't afford to witness another such disaster in the Arctic, where exploratory drilling has been greenlighted by the Obama administration and could begin as early as July 1.

Other than a court order - which we are seeking - only President Obama can stop Shell at this point, and he should base his re-consideration on the chilling parallels between these two drilling scenarios.

Shell convinced the federal Minerals Management Service that any risk associated with exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas is small and can be dealt with. Sound familiar? It's what BP told authorities just a year before the Gulf blowout - that "the probability of a large spill occurring during exploration is insignificant." The company didn't even have a contingency plan for a blowout.

MMS said it did not consider the possible impacts of a "large" or "very large" oil spill when it approved Shell's drilling permit. MMS quantifies a large spill as being between 1,000 and 149,999 barrels of oil; they quantify a very large spill as being greater than 150,000 barrels of oil. By comparison, the BP spill is pouring out at least 5,000 barrels a day, which many sources believe is an underestimate, and some predict it will eclipse the 11-million-gallon Exxon-Valdez spill.

MMS' unreasonable—and we think illegal—failure to consider the potential of a major spill, and the inability of Shell, or any oil company, to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean's icy waters is why we are going to the 9th Circuit Court in Portland on Thursday. We are defending 13 conservation groups and Alaska Natives who would be devastated by an oil spill in these fragile waters.

Just as the Gulf is home to hundreds of animal species—including endangered turtles and tuna—the Arctic waters where Shell aims to drill are also home to endangered and threatened species, including bowhead whales, polar bears and spectacled and Steller's eiders. Similar to the Gulf Coast where generations of residents have depended on its riches for their livelihood and subsistence, Native communities across Alaska's North Slope rely heavily on fish and wildlife from the Arctic Ocean for their survival.

This remote region is the least understood area of our oceans. It presents challenges not faced in the Gulf, including frigid temperatures and ice-clogged seas. President Obama should direct his administration to hold off on drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer and instead take a cautious, science-based approach to determine how best to proceed in this fragile, complex ecosystem.

Ultimately, the only way to keep oil spills from harming our nation's people and wildlife is to end our dependence on oil itself. We need to depend on our own American ingenuity—to develop clean, alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, hydrogen, and biofuels.

 

They are going around the world and distroying our planet for pure greed. Who knows what they do in Africa. No one keeps them responsible and they don't have reason to be one either. Greed has given them a free ticket to destroy our planet.

Sadly you are right. Greed covers all colours. When will they understand? When it is too late? Isn't a crime against humanity?

what happens if the bad guys blow up the rigs offshore---bottom line big big money to those idots inDC

Thankyou to all who are trying to help our creatures, our enviroment, and ultimately ourselves from greeds' consequenses. It is unbelievable that the oceans; so unpredictable, uncontrollable, and irreplacable, are being experimented with to feed the oil addiction. How large an ego is it that can dictate actions pregnant with deadly risks on their quest for the almighty oil fix? Everyone everywhere should pray hard and do all they can to stop the wreckless practice of raping the earth today and leaving a legacy of loss for towmorrow. I mean everyone-- all religions, all political parties, all economic classes-- all people in all countries. We only have one earth to call home, no matter what language you speak. All of your voices matter- more than you realize. Cherish the life we were given. As the "superior creatures", I am confident humans can achieve a solution to live comfortably with our enviroment. We must, otherwise we are digging a mass grave for all mankind.

Thank you for these words of wisdom. We shall overcome somehow....If only we were united!

Drilling here in Alaska is a completely different proposition than deep water drilling in the Gulf. Your biased article doesn't acknowledge this.

Our drilling rigs typically are in 150 feet of water, not 5000 feet of depth. That makes all the difference in dealing with accidents like the Deepwater Horizon. In short, we can cap that spill here much easier in our shallow waters than it can be done at the dark, crushing depths in the Gulf. Even better, we build artificial islands in the shallow waters to keep the drilling rig safe from arctic ice flows and use spill containment dikes for potential blowout situations.

This is also a strong reason to maximize land based drilling in Alaska and around the US. In fact, we have the technology to drill ANWR without even setting foot inside ANWR, with diagonal drillling from outside the boundary of the reserve. But, as with all things political, ignorant people band together to enforce naive values while all the while using the very resources they object to. Hypocrisy is alive and well.

If offshore drilling were ended, people would die from privation or complain about the price of gasoline. It's that simple. If the MSM were on the side of big oil, then we'd be hearing about how evil Liberals want people to die. The biases and spin are out of control in this country.

This, like many unfortunate "accidents" is another wake up call for all of us to pay attention to. We are fueling the greed behind fossil fuels and ignoring the reusable,cleaner resources that we already have. We have to get our government to listen and support the efforts that environmentalist have relentlessly tried to demonstrate over the past 30 years. Americans have the intelligence to engineer recyclable energy such as solar and wind power, as well as bio-fuels and hydrogen fuel cells. I want to articulate that our use of oil and the costly prices we pay can decrease significantly if we switch to other means of energy and fuel. We need to rise up and show not only our legislators, senators, and President but also those in other countries that we are resilient and should not depend upon the nipple of oil producers.

Everything around us, it happens for a reason. This is the foundation, the true and real foundation, in my opinion, of a complete and total start for a going- green that we have never seen before. On the other hand, it could simply be over-looked, and quickly forgotten as many things are. I hope that any who think of drilling in the beds of the ocean may never see the day it is allowed. I pray that this is all stopped.

They aren't the ones who are going to have to live with the problem, they are all half-way into their grave, anyhow. So why shouldn't we, those who will have to deal with it (a disaster, such as the one in the Gulf, or even Alaska) have the largest say in the matter? Is it because we aren't backed by pathetic paper notes, we aren't all gentry?

It's an outrage that nothing was prepared prior to an incident of this level to clean up such a mess ASAP. An outrage.

Our Earth is dying, and we're the ones killing it.

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