Government Awards Shell Final Approvals for Chukchi Sea Exploration Drilling
Oceana calls approvals “a dangerous mistake”and asks government to stop “bending rules” for Shell
Press Release Date: July 22, 2015
Location: WASHINGTON, DC
Today, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) approved Shell’s Applications for Permit to Drill. These approvals allow Shell to begin drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea offshore of Alaska. Shell’s drilling and associated support activities will occur in and near important habitat for walrus and other marine life. The company has already begun moving its fleet of vessels to the Chukchi Sea.
Today’s approvals come despite ongoing problems with Shell’s plans. Most recently, one of Shell’s two icebreakers, the MSV Fennica, was damaged when the vessel repeatedly transited a shallow, rocky shoal despite a safer route being readily available. Shell will not be allowed to drill into oil-bearing zones until the Fennica is back in the Chukchi Sea. Shell’s last efforts to operate in the Arctic in 2012 led to a series of mishaps, fines, government investigations, and, most famously, the grounding of the drill rig Kulluk.
Andrew Sharpless, Oceana CEO, issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement:
“Neither Shell nor the oil industry as a whole has learned the lessons of 2010 or 2012. As its ongoing missteps show, Shell is not prepared to operate safely in the Arctic Ocean where bad weather, darkness and floating ice increase the risks of an accident, and there is no proven way to clean up spilled oil. The government’s approvals for Shell’s drilling fly in the face of common sense. The Arctic Ocean is too important to trust to Shell, and our government must stop bending rules to accommodate the company.
This perilous treasure hunt for oil is not the solution to our nation’s long-term energy needs. Given Shell’s track record and the government’s apparent willingness to ignore it, those of us who care about the oceans are in a scary and unfortunate situation. Until companies prove they can operate safely, allowing them in the Arctic Ocean is a dangerous mistake. The risks are too great and benefits much too small to justify offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean now. We simply should not be pursuing oil in remote and dangerous places.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. We run science-based campaigns and seek to win policy victories that can restore ocean biodiversity and ensure that the oceans are abundant and can feed hundreds of millions of people. Oceana victories have already helped to create policies that could increase fish populations in its countries by as much as 40 percent and that have protected more than 1 million square miles of ocean. We have campaign offices in the countries that control close to 40 percent of the world’s wild fish catch, including in North, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.