Today, 388 scientists and natural resource managers sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he “remove the two Arctic planning areas, which together comprise nearly the entire U.S. Chukchi and Beaufort seas, from the 2017–2022 Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program” and that he “consult with indigenous communities and tribes, who have extensive traditional knowledge relevant to decision-making, and with Arctic scientists” to identify and protect important marine areas. The scientists commended the President for his 2015 action permanently withdrawing 9.8 million acres of important Arctic Ocean areas from oil and gas leasing and called for additional safeguards to promote marine abundance and preserve subsistence hunting and fishing practiced by its indigenous peoples.
The letter comes shortly after it was revealed that companies have walked away from the oil and gas leases in the Arctic Ocean. According to documents made public by Oceana, only one of the 487 leases sold in the Chukchi Sea remains, and Shell has no current plans to develop that lease. More than 70% of the leases in the Beaufort Sea have been given up. Despite these relinquishments, the Department of the Interior has proposed to offer a lease sale each in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas during the next Five-Year Leasing Program.
More information about current company ownership of Arctic Ocean oil and gas leases can be found here: http://usa.oceana.org/companies-give-arctic-ocean-leases
Susan Murray, Oceana Deputy Vice President, Pacific issued the following statement supporting the scientists’ letter:
“We thank the 388 scientists for highlighting the importance of the Arctic Ocean and for voicing their concerns about its future. As this letter shows, there is broad scientific consensus that additional oil and gas leasing is not necessary or wise in the Arctic Ocean at this time and additional steps are needed to protect important areas. Especially in light of companies walking away from their investments in Arctic Ocean leases, there is no compelling reason to schedule new sales in the Chukchi or Beaufort seas. Rather than continue failed policies of the past, President Obama can continue his leadership on Arctic issues by removing the Arctic Ocean planning areas from the 2017-2022 Five-Year Program.”