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Arctic

All too aware of the oil spill disaster playing out in the Gulf, Native Alaskans are in court today, determined to keep the same thing from happening in Arctic waters they call home.

Timing is critical, as Shell Oil is poised to start drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as early as July. Represented by Earthjustice, the 13 Native Alaskan and conservation groups are hoping to convince a federal court that the federal government illegally granted Shell a permit to drill.

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.

The latest casualty of the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill is... offshore oil drilling. At least in California. The state's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, today withdrew his own proposal to resume oil drilling off California. Swayed by images of the gulf spill, Schwarzenneger said:

"I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fisherman out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California, and this is why I am withdrawing my support."

One can only hope that President Barack Obama sees the same images in the same light and reverses his support of renewed offshore drilling—especially in fragile areas like the Arctic Ocean, where Shell Oil is poised to sink exploratory wells as early as July 1... with Obama's blessing.

In the wake of the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Earthjustice is calling for a halt to further exploratory oil drilling off America's coasts -- especially in fragile Arctic waters. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen issued the following statement:

The tragic explosion and loss of life on the exploratory drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us that offshore oil drilling comes with continued risks to workers and the environment.

(Earthjustice Media Director John McManus remembers what it was like covering the Exxon Valdez oil spill as a CNN journalist)

The oil now washing up on the Gulf Coast reminds me of the last big oil spill America lived through, the Exxon Valdez spill 21 years ago.

On March 24, 1989 a supertanker that had just topped with oil left the port of Valdez and crashed into a submerged rock reef in Alaska's Prince Williams Sound. Eleven million gallons of north slope crude oil gushed from the side of the ship into the Sound.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Einstein, who had a particular knack for coming up with enduring and timeless ideas, may find application in our country's energy landscape today.

The latest news reports suggest the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that sunk earlier this month is much worse than anticipated. The oil slick, which is now the size of West Virginia and getting bigger by the day, could hit Louisiana's coastline by this weekend. Experts say the oil continues to leak at a rate of about 5,000 barrels per day, more than five times original estimates.

Today, the Obama administration sent a mixed signal on offshore oil drilling, a move guaranteed to raise concerns from native groups, environmentalists, and communities living near some of the most sensitive and biologically diverse coastal areas. Obama and Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to halt oil and gas leasing in Bristol Bay off Alaska's southwestern coast and to postpone future lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, off Alaska's northern coast, while needed missing information is gathered.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.