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Shell's Promise To Protect Arctic Lost At Sea


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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
13 July 2012, 9:54 PM
Drilling proposals foreshadow larger struggle over Arctic

(Trip Van Noppen is President of Earthjustice)

Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling plans are premised on a growing legacy of broken promises regarding the company’s ability to protect the fragile Arctic from drilling impacts. And, as in the past, Shell is again asking the federal government to be lenient, accept more empty promises, and let the drilling begin.

This isn’t surprising. It’s a trend we’ve experienced during the last five years of successful legal and public advocacy efforts aimed at keeping Shell out of the Arctic until it proves that it can drill without grievously wounding this magnificent ecosystem.

The latest Shell failure happened a few days ago when Shell announced that one of its two main drilling ships – already in Alaska – couldn’t meet the standards in its air permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. Meanwhile, Shell also is reneging on its commitments to meet Coast Guard standards for its oil spill containment barge. Shell expects the EPA and the Coast Guard to ignore the problems, so Shell can drill this summer.

No matter what the EPA and the Coast Guard decide, Shell hasn’t convinced us it is ready to drill safely in the Arctic Ocean.

Despite many years of promises and assurances, the oil industry remains woefully unprepared to adequately respond to a major oil spill caused by exploration drilling. The nearest Coast Guard station is more than 1,000 miles away. The infrastructure to clean up an oil spill doesn’t exist. And government scientists admit that we have much to learn about the basic ecology of the region as well as the impacts that oil drilling will have on the Arctic environment.

So far, these concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears in the Obama administration, which seems content to rely on the hope that no spills occur on its watch. The administration appears to be on track to allow some exploration drilling to proceed this year, despite Shell’s broken promises.

So until the Obama administration enforces our laws and protects the Arctic, we turn to the courts.

Our work dates back to the early 1970s when Congress was pushing through legislation enabling construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline. Two decades ago, Earthjustice helped keep oil drillers out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an effort that has succeeded to this day. And when the Bush/Cheney administration turned its sights on developing oil in the environmentally sensitive and wildlife-rich area known as the National Petroleum Reserve, Earthjustice succeeded in getting key habitat like Teshekpuk Lake put off limits.

And for many years, Earthjustice and our allies also have kept the oil industry from drilling in the Arctic’s fragile offshore waters. We are in court right now, challenging air quality permits issued to Shell and many of the oil leases the government has issued in the Arctic Ocean. Last week, we continued this decades-long fight by challenging Shell’s inadequate oil spill preparedness plan for the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Despite the lessons that the Obama administration and oil industry claim to have learned from the Gulf oil spill—a mere two years ago—the government has failed to ensure that the oil company is prepared to confront the harsh realities of cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic.

Since 2000, there have been zero tests of spill response equipment in U.S. Arctic waters. And the tests that were completed before 2000 were deemed a “failure.” Today, Shell relies on much of that same equipment to remove oil from the water, but bases its plans for nearshore and coastline cleanup on the assumption that it will recover more than 90 percent of any spilled oil. Even in relatively favorable conditions, less than 10 percent of spilled oil was recovered using booms and skimmers after the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez spills. In the Arctic, sea ice, harsh weather, high seas, darkness and wind may render even that level of cleanup impossible.

Ultimately, our focus needs to be broader than one company as nations, including ours, prepare to extract the Arctic’s energy resources. In fact, other companies have already submitted their own plans to drill in America’s Arctic Ocean. Longer term, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has made clear that the Obama administration plans to lease more of the Arctic Ocean to oil companies.

So, even if government watchdogs ignore Shell’s pattern of broken promises and allow it to move forward on Arctic drilling, the battlelines are being drawn for an even larger fight over one of the world’s last wild places.

**Learn more about how record-breaking ice melt in the Arctic is affecting low-lying communities like the Palmyra Atoll in May's Down to Earth podcast: On Thin Ice.

 

Am I the only person who thinks letting Shell go in without a permit would be like granting Jerry Sandusky early release so he could start a boys' club?

That's less bad. In both cases that's a step too far.addicting games

As so many of you have said--Do Not Let Shell or Any Other Oil Company drill in the
Artic Ocean. They would not be able to clean up a spill, Plus it is an extremely
dangerous place to drill. Many of you agree that our politians are for themselves, not
the "will of the people". Not Obama, not Romney, then maybe, a write-in canidate such
as Jill Reed, sponsered by the Twelve Vision Party. At least, she is for a well planet
and the people. Whoever said the countries need to work together to save our planet is
right in my book. Also, think more of re-newable energy-solar and wind- as they will be
around forever and they do not damage the planet as they are harnassed to our use. Obtaining them does not remove mountaintops and fill nearby rivers and valleys with
toxic waste. It does not leave gaping scars on the earth, nor, as fracking does,use
tons of good water to which toxic chemicals are added to release the natural gas but
poisons the peoples water causing death to animal and people. This ix progress? More lile
greed!
Betty Hilt
Chicago

It's not so much that Shell, the EPA or anyone else is breaking the law, it's that the law doesn't make it illegal to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean. You can get an oil company to follow all the regulations you want, but drilling still has risks, and you'll end up with some (or a lot) of oil in the water. And no one will ever devise an effective way to clean up a big oil spill. If American's don't want to take the risk, they've got to get Congress to set the Arctic aside as a preserve, or cut use of fossil fuels enough to make the price drop until it's not worth Shell's investment. Or both. Here are some details on Shell's plans (with links to original sources): http://bit.ly/O9kzUT

Shell can promise whatever they want but all they seem to do is get oil, leave messes, hurt people and laugh all the way to the bank. SHELL YOU ARE BOYCOTTED. And as for the EPA, they are a butt of a joke. I read where they are supporting the oil companies with FRANKING, loopholes that put chemicals in the water of innocent residents. This is global warming people, corporations causing pollution in record amounts and the EPA will probably look the other way like the lackies they are!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These oil companies always have a way of finding loopholes, or bribing someone to get their way. They leave filth and destruction of environments in their wake. Ask the residents of Nigeria about the mess they left and take no responsibility to clean up. And now they want PERMISSION TO POLLUTE THE ARTIC!!!! Think about it EPA, either you are a force for Good or BAD!

Shell, you would do better to use your phenomenal profits to find alternative sourses of energy that don't involve using the atmosphere as a dumping ground for carbon dioxide.

I'm not sure how to help get this idea into the rt hands but after reading more today on trying to stop Shell from Arctic drilling and seeing the plan for a movement called "SHELL NO!' it was easy for me for to get the idea that a shirt should be made with BOLD ARCTIC WHITE LETTERS ON AN OIL BLACK T-SHIRT with the words, "SHELL NO!", with all proceeds going to stopping this Arctic drilling madness! Whoever can help me get this simple but perfect idea into the correct representatives hands, I'd appreciate it!
MICHAEL AMES (aka MICHAEL FIERCE)

These "energy companies" are unconcerned about eco-systems or even whether the entire planet remains habitable. The only green movement they associate with is the dollars that move into their bank account. We clearly know these entities have no moral compass, yet we allow them to manipulate, or buy off people to get their way. What I find most galling is that we subsidize these destructive evil parasites with our tax dollars, on top of all the hell they bring to the only planet we know. This industry is comprised of sociopaths, and WE ARE LETTING THEM GET AWAY WITH MURDER.

History is being made today. Shell Oil is asking EPA approval to by pass pollution standards. EPA you need to follow the law and not allow violation of our US Clean Air Act.

Hi, I have not bought Shell gas since I heard they were suing 11 environmental organizations for losing profits in the arctic, and since I heard they were going to go into the arctic despite protest. If noone buys Shell, maybe they will give up! Cheryn English

This is the most affective strategy to fight big oil. Hit them in their pocketbooks.

Mikey BC

Check out this documentary to understand Shell Oil has had the patents for advanced 100mpg automobiles since the late 1940's and has bought and otherwise suppressed this technology since the days gasoline was five cents a gallon. Unite and spread the awareness globally now.

Please tell us what documentary about Shell suppressing technology on "advanced" automobiles since the times when gas cost 5 cents a gallon. There is no link or name of the documentary. Thanks if you will do this.

Thanks a lot its a beautiful post.I would like to comment on these beautiful and knowledgeable post.Thanks once again.With a great love and regards.........

i am an australian citizen and even i am disgusted at the way that Mitt Romney will destroy the artic if he is elected this year. nobody has the right to destroy this magnificent part of the world AT ALL GO OBAMA.

Did you not read the line, set out in its own paragraph, "So until the Obama administration enforces our laws and protects the Arctic, we turn to the courts?" We have no protector in the government. We're on our own. God help us!

Obama is just as willing to destroy the Arctic as Romney. They're both corporate kleptocrats.

And the animals and the voiceless, the just, those who live in accordance to natures ways - greed must stop, sense must prevail thus stop people having children because they are being born into a hopeless future and the responsible will have to watch, weep and suffer as their ancestors can not live on an earth that is hostile and unfertile because of our actions. We should stand united against the guilty and use our collective brains to find better ways. There is so much waste and thoughlessness just being poured down the drain. Turn off the lights of every city, Vegas and in every home, complete power downs by law and let the earth recover. Give the greedy a room full of cash and no food, no air, no water to consume for even two seconds and makje them see how stupid their ways are.

I'm having my first cup of coffee after a 9 min mile on the beach and 11 mins back while picking up a full plastic bag of garbage and then reading your comments, felt that I just wrote them. Thanks!!!

It is wonderful more are now realizing golbal warming is real but unless we address the root of it all: OVERPOPULATION, by teaching familyl planning, all the talk is for naught.

G Kaplan, MD, President
www.lifewatchgroup.org

join Bill and Melinda Gates' handing out rubbers to the third world and write to the Pope telling him he's a Dope. sb

Please leave one pristine patch of ocean, undrilled. The long time consequences are not worth the short term gains for your corporation. We don`t need that oil that badly when we have the capability to grow hemp for ou oil needs.

I see a lot of squabblng here and displays of ego. This issue isn't about us. It's ultmately about the survival of our species... and many others. Shell Oil Co. has the worst environmental record of all the Big Oil companies. They are spilling more oil in the Niger Delta EVERY YEAR than BP slung into our gulf. It doesn't get public attention because it doesn't immediately impact our lives. We MUST NOT allow them to pollute our Arctic Ocean.

How's this for another line of argument: Shell has a truly dismal history in the Niger Delta. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-del... Why can't EarthJustice et al. demand that no oil company with a record as dismal as Shell be allowed to drill in the Arctic? This is just prudent management. Would you hire a contractor to build your house who had destroyed the house and property of his last client? You'd have to be insane to believe that Shell will behave any differently in the Arctic. They can make all the promises they want, but the evidence doesn't lie. Not only should Shell be required to restore the Niger Delta and make the local population whole before it is ever allowed to set sail for the Arctic, it should also provide a performance bond of $100 billion. To do any less is abject negligence and a clear indication that the Obama Administration just doesn't give a crap about the environment.

It's all about money. Shell needs to stop thinking about itself and think of our planet. The Arctic is already in trouble and can't take much more. We should be protecting it not setting it up for disaster. Our government needs to listen to the thinking people not the greedy ones. Is no place off-limits for drilling?

Why? Afraid to be recognized for speaking out for your environment?
Sorry.

Tod Young,
Granite, Utah

Sometimes people just don't pay attention to leaving a name, they're just interested in posting their thoughts -- many sites either fill it in for you automatically or have software that demands your identity.

Heather G
Massachusetts

President O Bama ran on a pro enviromental stance,where is the leadership of the President now,I still remember his hesitance on the BP disaster.Wont get my vote this time around.Change where is it !!

If Obama wont get your vote, who will? Romney??? hahha you think he will do better at protecting anything? He will sell out the environment anywhere anytime for a buck.

Romney will be out there cheerleading for the Keystone, he already said that, and there will be no place untouched. We are talking national parks, fracking, killing off everything essential to sustain life. I'm tired of all this anti-Obama talk...You may think you are voting against Obama, however, that means you are voting For Romney, FOR complete destruction of precious resources, FOR the rich taking away OUR money through their constant scams..For no Dept of Education, FOR, No protections of food, air, water, ....and who profits from this? Not us, Only them, the Overlords they shall be.And if we beg enough, they may toss a few crumbs....

As my wife said of your comment...."I could not have said it better myself"!! If Romney gets the job, I am afraid most of what is remaining of beauty and nature might as well surrender to his "anything for profits" buddies!! A really sad day for our country if this happens....maybe time to become an ex-pat!!

As my wife said of your comment...."I could not have said it better myself"!! If Romney gets the job, I am afraid most of what is remaining of beauty and nature might as well surrender to his "anything for profits" buddies!! A really sad day for our country if this happens....maybe time to become an ex-pat!!

What goo will becoming an ex-pat do? Get up and dance!

Seriously think that Romney would be more environmental? Considering the millions he's getting in corporate investments is it possible to think he won't be paying back some of his "investors". Obama has done as well as he could given the push back the senate and congress has given him these last four years. Plus trying recover and stablize economically. People seem blinded by that problem and sadly don't see protecting our environment as practical. I don't think the republican platform is environmental at all and won't vote that way.
Ange
Seattle

just commenting that I agree with you! I think Obama is a whole lot better for the environment than any republican who is running!

Michelle
Durham

Yes good idea, why don't you abstain from voting because Obama isn't doing enough for the environment so you can hand the election to a shameless capitalist idiot who DEFINITELY doesn't care about the environment. Why don't you just get your ego out of the way.

Where are our choices for leadership in Washington? Invisible. There are no 'leaders.' There are only $$$$$$$$$$$

Tod Young,
Granite, Utah

We must protect the Arctic and prevent Arctic drilling. We must do everything we can to get the Obama administration to protect the Arctic. We must protect the planet!

To the US government, the courts, and the EPA: For heaven's sake -- meaning for the sake of the planet and ALL its living creatures -- and especially those directly affected by the Arctic ecosystem -- please do NOT allow ANY oil companies to drill in Arctic waters, under ANY conditions, now or at any time. It would be one of the worst DISASTERS yet!!! Promises for reparation of spills are empty EMPTY. There are other ways to fuel the greedy consumers of the so-called 'developed' world. And the greed of the oil companies does not need to be either fueled or satisfied.

Obama? Enforcing Environmental laws? Yeah, right! Just like he's doing on Immigration laws.Which is a travesty that he should be impeached for in failing to uphold his Oath of Office in seeing that all the laws be FAITHFULLY Executed!

Not to mention the response from the White House and their extremely tardy action to get the wells capped during the Gulf of Mexico Oil spill disaster. This guy deserves unemployment a lot more than many other Americans who have been waiting for jobs since he took office, in my opinion.

Are you serious? Do you realize we have net ZERO immigration right now? And do you realize we do not have a king, who can just decree this or that? We have Congress who refuses to do their jobs, at least the republicons flat out tell us they aren't going to do anything. So to hell with us, they want what they want, because they don't want to give up their cushy money sources to help the people in this country. Obama has created more than 4 million jobs in the last 2 1/2 years. HE was tardy in action over the Oil? Get real. he was down there asap to try to assess the damages and nobody had a clue at first how bad it was. You act like he was supposed to go down and cap them himself.

C'mon, get your head out of your bum! You think Romney would be better for the environment?? Bwhahahahha! The republicans are in bed with the big polluters. They could care less if there was a polar bear left on earth or whether their grandchildren have fresh air.. are you kidding me? Obama had to clean up a mess that took 8yrs for Bush to create. Does anyone honestly think it will happen in a few years?? Especially when the republicans try and block everything he does. Can anyone tell me... when was the last time we had a good republican president? Past history... learn from it.

Stop destroying the planet, take the same investment and people,
and see to it that every new house built for Americans to live in is
powered by Geo-thermal. With the 1/3 cost government subsidy, it costs little more
than a good heat pump. I also works better and has no breakable underground parts.

Costs less than half as much to heat the house (or cool the house) to a much more comfortable temperature, is a fully working and off-the-shelf technology,
and new houses always have land under them, as well as possibly front, back, and/or side.

All of Iceland runs on Geo-Thermal. Have you notice the SHORTness of their financial troubles? They actually do what needs done, well and ASAP.
Copy them, and save the easier to get oil for non- heating purposes.

Stop destroying the planet, take the same investment and people,
and see to it that every new house built for Americans to live in is
powered by Geo-thermal. With the 1/3 cost government subsidy, it costs little more
than a good heat pump. I also works better and has no breakable underground parts.

Costs less than half as much to heat the house (or cool the house) to a much more comfortable temperature, is a fully working and off-the-shelf technology,
and new houses always have land under them, as well as possibly front, back, and/or side.

All of Iceland runs on Geo-Thermal. Have you notice the SHORTness of their financial troubles? They actually do what needs done, well and ASAP.
Copy them, and save the easier to get oil for non- heating purposes.

Your lies about your not ruining the Arctic is based on untruths as every lie you told in the past. You have ruined enough with your oil spills. Stop the lies and stop the insanity and work to reserve our natural resources and put your money into research for other ways to provide the energy we need. We are all tired of the lies, the politicians who sell their votes to the highest bidder and the overall criminality of the government. It is not for the people as it should be it is for the corporations and individuals who have access to unlimited funds. It is sick.

I agree that too many lies are told by parties interested in selling our country's resources out of pure greed. We should be reserving ALL of the irreplaceable natural resources we can. If all of the financial resources that are being used to buy the politicians were to be used to pay for research, like you said, especially if combined with similar interests from around the world, it wouldn't take that long for the entire world to be over the "Energy Problem" and be working together to ensure the future of this planet and ALL of it's inhabitants, their habitats, and climates. Politicians must stop selling US out.

Your lies about your not ruining the Arctic is based on untruths as every lie you told in the past. You have ruined enough with your oil spills. Stop the lies and stop the insanity and work to reserve our natural resources and put your money into research for other ways to provide the energy we need. We are all tired of the lies, the politicians who sell their votes to the highest bidder and the overall criminality of the government. It is not for the people as it should be it is for the corporations and individuals who have access to unlimited funds. It is sick.

Scientists have predicted at least one large oil spill in an article before
so I wouldn't let them near it. NO!

Unfortunately, it is very hard to convince policy makers and politicians of the dangers of drilling for oil in the Arctic because unless they have actually been there, they have no idea of how fragile the area is. Or how cold. Thank you Sierra Club and Earthjustice for carrying on the fight to protect this area.

The decision makers need to have lots of money to fund their campaigns for election or re-election. Remember that. Environmentalists and common people don't have the kind of money needed to influence elections and decisions, thus we have no power to affect the decisions regarding the future of the planet.

You can still see the damage from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound years ago. I am sure the Gulf Oil Spill will be a constant reminder for many years of how insidious the oil companies will be toward any spills in the Arctic.

For the next few years, most of us will still be able to vote, so vote for people who care about the environment and the planet. Don't let corporate America or global corporations destroy our precious wilderness.

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