The Obama administration made another historic move to decrease America’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels, this time protecting the Arctic Ocean from offshore drilling. In the newly released final five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) removed the Chukchi and Beaufort seas for leasing from 2017 to 2022. This announcement follows a similar decision in March where BOEM removed the Atlantic Ocean from the five-year program following widespread opposition along the East Coast.
The Obama administration made a historic move to protect the East Coast from offshore drilling. In the newly proposed five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management removed the Atlantic Ocean for leasing from 2017 to 2022. While Oceana applauded the Obama administration for listening to widespread opposition along the East Coast, it continues to urge the government to stop seismic airgun use in the Atlantic and not to hold new lease sales in the remote and unforgiving Arctic Ocean.
Following years of campaigning by Oceana and its allies, Shell Oil announced that it will cease further oil exploration in the U.S. Arctic Ocean for the foreseeable future. The move comes after a series of failed exploration attempts in the Arctic, costing the company billions of dollars. Shell’s efforts to operate in the remote and unforgiving Arctic in 2012 led to a series of mishaps, fines, government investigations and the grounding of the drill rig Kulluk. This year Shell faced new challenges and was unable to find oil in the prospect where the company drilled. Oceana’s campaigners successfully used law, economics, lobbying, science, and the press to clearly make the case that Shell’s plan was neither economically viable nor environmentally safe. Today’s decision is propelled by more than eight years of campaigning by Oceana and its allies whose work charted new ways to stop one of the largest and most powerful companies on the planet from putting the U.S. Arctic Ocean at risk. This is an enormous victory for the oceans, Oceana and the entire conservation community.
Senate Finance Committee Clears Way for Extension of Critically Important Investment Tax Credit for Offshore Wind
The United States Senate Committee on Finance cleared the way for a two-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) for offshore wind projects. Construction began before the end of 2015. The credit was allowed to expire on December 31, 2013.
Belize’s Supreme Court declared offshore drilling contracts issued by the government of Belize null and void, effectively ending the government’s immediate effort to allow offshore oil drilling in the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Oceana has campaigned against offshore drilling in Belize for more than two years.
The Court's decision was in response to a lawsuit brought by Oceana, COLA, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. In 2011, after collecting the 20,000+ signatures required to trigger a national referendum that would allow the public to vote on whether or not to allow offshore oil drilling in Belize’s reef, the government disqualified over 8,000 of these signatures effectively on the basis of poor penmanship - stopping the possibility of a vote. Oceana answered by organizing the nation’s first ever “People’s Referendum” in 2012 in which more than 29,000 people from all around the country cast their votes. In this historic vote, 96% voted against offshore exploration and drilling.
Shell Oil Company announced that it will not attempt to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2013. This announcement comes in the wake of Shell’s disastrous 2012 drilling season, which left both of its drilling vessels disabled in Alaskan waters awaiting transport to Asia for repairs. The company also faces investigation by the Coast Guard, notices of violation of the Clean Air Act from the Environmental Protection Agency, and a 60-day review by the Department of the Interior. Oceana has called on the Department of the Interior to suspend activities in the Arctic Ocean and to fundamentally reconsider how it makes decisions about Arctic Ocean resources.
Investment Tax Credit for Offshore Wind Saved
Thanks to tireless campaigning by Oceana, Congress passed legislation crucial to the future of the country’s clean energy future. As part of the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal, the U.S. Congress voted to extend the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a financing tool for offshore wind that makes investment in the clean energy industry much more attractive. The ITC technically expired at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and, if left expired, could have jeopardized a new industry with the potential to generate tens of thousands of jobs and enough electricity to power the country four times over. Fortunately, the tax credit was extended at the eleventh hour.
For the second time in less than a year, Oceana helped defeat a coal-fired power plant on the coast of Northern Chile. The CAP company announced that it was withdrawing its plans to construct the Cruz Grande thermoelectric power plant. Cruz Grande was slated to be a 300-megawatt thermoelectric power plant in the region of La Higuera in Northern Chile, a few miles from the Choros-Damas and Chañaral island marine reserves, and near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, which is home to the world’s largest population of Humboldt penguins. The region also hosts communities of bottlenose dolphins, marine otters and many marine birds and mammals, including blue whales.
In a huge triumph for the U.S. Arctic, Shell announced it would cancel plans to drill exploratory wells offshore in Alaska due to continued uncertainty over whether it would receive federal permits. Shell had hoped to drill exploratory wells in 2010 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but its plans were put on hold by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Oceana has been instrumental in monitoring the permitting process and holding policymakers accountable for upholding the law.
The Olin Corporation announced that it will convert its mercury-based chlor-alkali manufacturing plant in Charleston, TN to modern, mercury free technology and eliminate mercury from its plant operation in Augusta, GA. Oceana has been pushing for these actions since 2005. Olin’s plant in Tennessee is the largest remaining mercury-based chlorine plant of the four plants in the U.S. that had refused to make the switch to safer, more efficient technology.