Shell Plans to Drill in The Arctic in 2014

Moves ahead despite past failures, warnings and a wrecked rig.

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Shell Oil told investors this week that—after an embarrassing set of failures last year—it plans to go back into the icy Arctic waters in 2014. The announcement comes as a surprise given that CEOs of other Big Oil companies have been urging caution for month about returning to the area. And in fact, Shell has abandoned efforts to drill in the Beaufort Sea next summer.

At the same time, Shell says, it is seriously considering scrapping the drill rig Kulluk, which sits in a Singapore dry dock nursing battle wounds from a grounding off the coast of Alaska last year.

Last year, Shell attempted to explore for oil in both the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, but the federal government refused because of the company’s equipment failures, mishaps and news-making snafus. The multinational company said this week that although it will not venture back into the Beaufort Sea next season, it will be submitting a new exploration plan for the Chukchi soon, with hopes of drilling next summer using the same drill rig that caught fire in 2012.

Earthjustice attorney Holly Harris said:

Before Shell starts boasting about its new plans for the drilling in the Arctic Ocean, the company should explain why it couldn’t safely conduct its operations under last year’s plans. We’ve already watched Shell lose control of two different drill rigs in less than a year, with one of them catching fire and the other running one running aground off the coast of Alaska. The federal government chastised Shell earlier this year that it needed to answer ‘serious questions regarding its ability to operate safely and responsibly in the challenging and unpredictable conditions’ of the Arctic Ocean. We’re still waiting for those answers. Drilling in the Arctic Ocean is just too risky and no company has figured out how to respond to an oil spill in icy waters.

Drilling in the Arctic Ocean would also take us in the wrong direction when it comes to addressing the challenges of climate change. This is a unique opportunity for President Obama to reduce our country’s dependence on dirty fuels and embrace his legacy as a global leader in the effort to combat climate change. The president can make a generational commitment to take action against the devastating effects of climate change by leaving the oil in the ground and preventing oil drilling in the pristine waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Shell has reportedly spent more than $4 million on lobbying our politicians in D.C. this year alone. Earthjustice remains in the courts challenging Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea, Shell’s flawed oil spill response plans, and the lack of transparency on the administration’s decision-making processes when approving offshore drilling in the region.

Earthjustice remains committed to protecting America’s Arctic, which is ground zero for climate change. It’s warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Offshore drilling in this region would even further accelerate climate change. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is asking for comments as it considers another lease sale for oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

Send in your comment today and let the Obama administration know that selling oil leases in the Chukchi Sea is a move away from a clean energy economy and towards a deeper reliance on dirty fossil fuels that cause climate change.

Kari Birdseye worked at Earthjustice from 2011–2016, as a national press secretary and on advocacy campaigns protecting our health and the environment from the impacts of pesticides and toxic chemicals.

Opened in 1978, our Alaska regional office works to safeguard public lands, waters, and wildlife from destructive oil and gas drilling, mining, and logging, and to protect the region's marine and coastal ecosystems.