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Washington's Governor Is Concerned About Arctic Drilling

In a recent letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee expressed his concerns surrounding Arctic oil and gas drilling.

Department of Defense tug boats pull Shell's stranded Kulluk oil rig off of the Alaska coast.

Department of Defense tug boats pull Shell's stranded Kulluk oil rig off of the Alaska coast.

DOD Photo by PO1 Sara Francis, USCG / Flickr

In a recent letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee expressed his concerns surrounding Arctic oil and gas drilling. The letter has been gaining momentum since being released to the public and coincidentally was sent the same day the U.S. Department of the Interior opened the gate for risky oil drilling in the remote and iconic Arctic Ocean.

The letter highlights Inslee’s concerns with the Obama administration’s move to open up the Arctic Ocean to new leasing. Inslee, known as the “green governor,” wrote of years of spoken concern on offshore drilling in the Arctic, citing ecological dangers, harsh weather conditions and climate issues. Inslee asks Jewell to reconsider the impacts and “withhold from issuing any further lease sales for drilling operations in these areas,” a sentiment that resonates with sustainably-minded communities like Seattle.

Inslee’s state has become a focal point in the Arctic drilling fight after the Port of Seattle agreed to a $13 million dollar, 2-year minimum lease with Foss Maritime to host Shell’s Arctic fleet. The fleet includes the Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer. Both have a history of issues. Earthjustice is representing Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council and Seattle Audubon Society in a lawsuit that alleges a circumvention of public process by the port and the Port of Seattle’s violation of the State Environmental Policy Act, in addition to the Shoretime Management Act in the lease. The coalition is asking that the court vacate the Port of Seattle’s lease. Seattle residents have called for transparency in the port’s activities and several environmental groups have been building advocacy campaigns to raise awareness for the fight against Arctic drilling.

Seattle groups involved in the litigation have cited concerns for local waters and environmental impacts as well as those farther reaching effects.

Shell Oil intends to begin exploration, upon approval of its drilling plans and permitting, this summer in the Arctic Ocean. Earthjustice is pushing back in the public permitting processes, advocating to the agencies and looking at options to protect the Arctic waters and the fragile Arctic eco-system.

For more information, visit Earthjustice’s Port of Seattle case page: http://earthjustice.org/cases/2015/challenging-the-port-of-seattle-s-decision-to-make-seattle-a-homeport-for-shell-s-arctic-drilling-fleet

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