The following statement is made on behalf of Earthjustice, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Eyak Preservation Council, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Native Village of Point Hope, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, The Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund:
“The Obama administration’s decision to affirm Chukchi Lease Sale 193 in America’s Arctic Ocean is a clear case of politics trumping science. The Obama administration inherited the deeply flawed 2008 lease sale from the Bush administration. But in July 2010, a federal district court in Alaska ruled that the federal government had unlawfully failed to address the absence of basic scientific data in the Arctic Ocean in the lease sale’s environmental analyses. The court directed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to revise the analyses and reconsider the lease sale decision.
"Today’s decision to affirm the lease sale—instead of requiring that important scientific information be gathered and proven methods for cleaning up an Arctic oil spill be developed before opening the Chukchi Sea to oil and gas companies—shows that the Obama administration has backed away from its stated commitment to make decisions ‘based on sound science and the public interest, and not on the special interests.
"The decision today is not consistent with a recent report from top scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, which confirmed that there is enough important missing information about the Arctic’s unique marine environment that it presents a ‘major constraint to a defensible science framework for critical Arctic decision making.’ Despite the fact that this report was specifically commissioned by the Secretary of the Interior to guide offshore oil drilling decisions in the Arctic Ocean, BOEMRE dismissed the report as largely ‘beyond the scope of the BOEMRE mission’ and determined that no missing information is essential to the decision to open the Chukchi Sea to oil drilling.
"What’s more, if an oil spill were to happen in the Arctic’s extreme, remote conditions, there is no proven method and almost no resources available to clean it up. This fact has been affirmed by administration officials themselves. To quote BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich, ‘spill response is a question.’ Similarly, Admiral Robert Papp, the top officer at the U.S. Coast Guard, recently told Congress that if the Deepwater Horizon disaster ‘were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing. We’re starting from ground zero today.'
"America’s Arctic Ocean is home to many of our nation’s most beloved species of wildlife including polar bears, ice seals, walrus, beluga whales and more. It is also known as the ‘garden’ to the Inupiat people of Alaska’s Arctic coast. Royal Dutch Shell hopes to proceed with risky, aggressive plans to drill six wells in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea beginning next summer. As the Obama administration reviews Shell’s drilling proposal, which includes woefully inadequate spill response plans, the question we pose is this: Are you willing to spoil our Arctic Ocean for political gain?”
Chukchi Lease Sale 193 Timeline: