Over the past few decades—with the help of Congress—Big Oil and Gas successfully chipped away at our bedrock environmental laws, carving out special exemptions for the fossil fuel drilling industry. In 1987, when Congress decided to implement new standards to control stormwater runoff pollution under the Clean Water Act, oil and gas companies got a pass. And in 1990 when the Clean Air Act was expanded to allow for control of more toxic air pollutants, the same industry got another pass.
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Shell announced that the company is hitting the pause button on oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic. Mother Nature graphically demonstrated this summer what conservation groups have been saying for more than a decade—the extreme weather and conditions of the Arctic, with its stormy, frozen seas make the Arctic environmentally treacherous for oil drilling.
With the fracking boom building, natural gas is touted as a clean energy source. But the hard truth is that the gas drilling sector—which includes the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or fracking—has worsened air quality in many areas. In some parts of the country undergoing such a boom, air quality has fallen below levels the EPA determined to be safe.
Even in today’s divided political climate, taking a stance against mercury and arsenic in our air does not seem like it should be controversial. The gasses, along with other known toxics like chromium, cadmium and selenium are among 84 known air pollutants emitted every year by coal and oil fired power plants.
Thanks to a recent federal court decision, visitors to Utah’s public wild lands can continue to raft the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument without seeing oil derricks around the river’s bends.
They can continue to enjoy the outlook from Canyonlands National Park’s Grand View Point without drill rigs littering the landscape.
And they won’t be forced to see the formations at Arches National Park as gateways to increased carbon emissions and environmental disruption.
As Royal Dutch Shell continues to make perfectly clear, industry is not prepared to safely explore for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic. Shell’s Arctic operations have been called the “gold standard” of the oil industry and if this is the best they’ve got, the industry is not Arctic ready.
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.
With one Arctic drill rig shipwrecked on an Alaskan island and the other reportedly under criminal investigation for possibly “operating with serious safety and pollution control problems,” oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is doing a pretty thorough job at proving the quest for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic is just too dangerous, too dirty, and too damaging. The week’s events also prove once again that the U.S. Department of Interior should not have approved drilling in the most remote, dangerous place on the planet.