As Senate Looks into Gulf Oil Spill, Similar Drilling Looms in America's Arctic Ocean

Offshore exploratory drilling could occur in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as early as July; oil spill in the Arctic Ocean would devastate pristine waters


Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 213

Two key committees in the U.S. Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, will hear testimony today from various industries about the environmental and economic impacts of the spill that continues to spew at least 200,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico daily. The following statement is from Jessica Ennis, Legislative Associate for Earthjustice:


"The corporate drillers responsible for the environmental disaster that continues to destroy thousands of square miles in the Gulf of Mexico are making their first appearance before the U.S. Senate. As they testify, oil will continue to gush from a deep underwater well, increasing the size and scope of this tragic disaster.

"Minerals Management Service (MMS) granted a categorical exclusion and failed to require a thorough environmental review before allowing BP to proceed with this exploration well. MMS also made a similar misstep by approving Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer without a rigorous environmental impact statement.

"While Congress looks for answers about why this tragedy occurred, new exploratory drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean could begin as early as this July. We cannot forget that more drilling in the Arctic could lead to oil spills, and a spill in these pristine waters would be absolutely devastating. What we need immediately is a time out on drilling in the Arctic Ocean until better science and technology can be developed to ensure an oil spill does not occur in the remote and harsh waters of the Arctic Ocean.

"This remote region is the least understood area of the world, and a disastrous oil spill could leave oil in the waters off Alaska for decades, killing whales, seals, fish, and birds, and destroying feeding grounds. Rather than drilling in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding coasts to solve America’s energy problems, we can embrace responsible measures and real 21st Century sustainable energy solutions that make cars go farther, promote conservation, invest in clean, renewable energy, and protect our natural heritage.

"While we encourage Congress to continue asking the important questions about the Gulf spill and seek answers from the companies responsible for this disaster, we also need the Obama administration to support a time out on offshore oil drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean and surrounding coasts. Rather than giving in to lobbyists for the oil industry, the Obama administration should take a cautious, science-based approach to development and let science determine how best to proceed in this fragile, complex ecosystem. We have a responsibility to save, not exploit, the pristine beauty of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding coasts."

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