Interior Dept. Releases Disappointing Review of Arctic Ocean Drilling Operations

Additional evaluation needed before allowing Big Oil into the Arctic Ocean


Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that Shell’s long line of problems and accidents during the summer of 2012 “have raised serious questions regarding its ability to operate safely and responsibly in the challenging and unpredictable conditions offshore Alaska." Yet, the Department of Interior offered essentially a handful of recommendations that it hopes the company will follow before any future activities take place.

Shell’s Noble Discoverer came dangerously close to running aground near Dutch Harbor, AK,
in July 2012.  (Kristjan Laxfoss)

The Department of Interior also accepted no responsibility for its own role in creating the environment that allowed Shell to rush ahead in the Arctic Ocean without adequate preparation and management oversight.

Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen issued this statement in reaction to the findings of the Department of Interior’s 60-day investigation into Shell’s 2012 Arctic Ocean operations:

“It took a season full of mishaps and near misses for the Administration to comprehend the uniqueness of the Arctic region and the conditions the oil industry will have to be able to endure. The report highlights that the industry is not ready to drill in the Arctic Oean but offers little more than ‘recommended undertakings’ to address those problems. The report also fails to turn the lens on the Department’s own failings in authorizing such an ill-prepared venture.

“Ultimately, we believe this report should be a first step in a much broader effort to revisit the administration’s position on drilling in the dangerous and sensitive waters of the Arctic Ocean. DOI should not make new decisions about whether and under what conditions to allow offshore drilling until it has completed a more thorough review.

“Our country’s Arctic offshore oil and gas program was premature and it is imperative that the Administration re-evaluate important development decisions about the Arctic Ocean and the standards that govern those decisions. The initial operations were unprepared and unimpressive. The Arctic Ocean remains one of the most pristine and least understood portions of the planet. Alaska Native communities depend on the Arctic to meet their substantial subsistence food needs. A major oil spill would devastate Arctic marine and coastal resources as the vast majority of the oil could not be recovered.”

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