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Groups Challenge Shell’s Latest Attempt to Keep Door Open to Drill in Arctic Ocean

Future drilling attempts could devastate fragile region, lead to dire climate consequences
Shell's drilling rig Polar Pioneer will no longer be exploring off of Alaska's coast.

Shell's drilling rigs, including the Polar Pioneer (above), will no longer be involved in oil exploration off of Alaska's coast.

davelogan/iStock Photo
January 13, 2016
Anchorage, AK —

Earthjustice on behalf of eight conservation groups today filed to intervene in a case before the Interior Board of Land Appeals to defend the Department of Interior’s decision to deny Shell Oil’s request for an extension of the terms of its oil drilling leases in the Arctic Ocean. Without an extension, the leases are due to expire in 2017 and 2020 in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, respectively. Interior denied Shell’s request for an extension of the leases in October 2015, and Shell has now appealed that decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. 

Location of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

Earthjustice is representing Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, National Audubon Society, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.

Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe released the following statement on behalf of the organizations:

“The Arctic Ocean is ground zero for climate change, and drilling in such a sensitive region threatens the whales, seals and countless other wildlife that call it home. So last fall, we welcomed the news that Shell was leaving the Arctic Ocean, at least for now. This appeal, however, is the oil company’s latest attempt to keep the door open for drilling. The agency was right to reject Shell’s extension request, and we look forward to helping it defend that decision. The government has concluded there is a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill if oil companies develop the region, and experts agree that there is no way effectively to contain and clean up a spill in the Arctic Ocean. Developing and burning Arctic Ocean oil is incompatible with efforts to combat climate change. To help stave off the worst effects of climate change, the Arctic Ocean must be off limits to future drilling.”

Read the legal document.