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08 January 2013, 5:04 PM
Salazar announces 60-day investigation
Kulluk, grounded off the coast of Alaska on Jan. 3, 2012.  (U.S. Coast Guard)

Today, the Department of the Interior announced a 60-day assessment of the 2012 drilling program in the Arctic Ocean.

Earthjustice legislative representative Jessica Ennis issued this statement:

A review of Arctic Ocean drilling is the only reasonable option, given the continuous parade of mistakes in Shell’s operations. However, that review must be thorough, independent and cannot pre-judge the outcome.

Critically, the outcome of the investigation should not be pre-ordained. We are troubled by the administration’s statement announcing the review alongside their commitment to drilling in frontier areas when Shell’s exploration for oil in Arctic federal waters continues on a parade of errors. The 2012 Arctic drilling season was characterized by mistakes. Just about everything that could go wrong, short of an oil spill, has gone wrong during Shell’s program.

Among the mistakes, Shell lost control of its drillship the Noble Discoverer, the same ship that is now under investigation by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Its other drillship, the Kulluk, began 2013 grounded near a remote Alaskan island after losing its tow lines. Previously, its oil spill containment dome failed its sea trial “crushed like a beer can” in placid waters off Washington state.

These failures are the subject of the investigation just announced.

The secretary should not place an arbitrary 60-day time limit on the review. A robust investigation should begin, without a deadline, and not be complete until the cause of each problem is found. And Arctic Ocean drilling should be halted in the meantime. The administration must take a step back and take a hard look at 2012 operations before making any decisions regarding not only how but whether drilling in the Arctic Ocean should proceed.

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