Offshore Oil Drilling: The U.S. Arctic Ocean
According to government documents Oceana obtained pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, companies are leaving the Arctic Ocean. ConocoPhillips, Eni, and Iona Energy have relinquished all of their leases in the Chukchi Sea. The documents show that Shell has relinquished more than 150 of its leases, and public statements from the company confirm that it plans to relinquish all of its remaining leases except one. Together, the four companies will give up more than 350 leases, encompassing more than 2 million acres. The single lease Shell plans to retain is the one on which it drilled an unsuccessful well in 2015. Shell also will retain partial ownership of several other leases operated by Eni in the Beaufort Sea.
Conservationist, actor, and Oceana board member, Sam Waterston describes the risks of drilling in the Arctic Ocean. We need your help to ensure that good decisions are made for the future of the Arctic Ocean.
- This petition is now closed. Click here to find out other ways you can help Oceana protect the world’s oceans.
Oceana and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School submitted a request to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seeking to have the agency open a formal investigation into Royal Dutch Shell’s disclosures of risk related to the company’s activities in the U.S. Arctic Ocean
- The SEC petition
- The cover letter
- Letter to the SEC from Representatives Lowenthal, Girjalva, and Waters, ranking members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committees on Natural Resources and Financial Services seeking a review of disclosures by oil and gas companies related to their offshore operations
- Letter to the SEC from Senators Cardin, Whitehouse, Durbin, Merkley, Warren, Boxer, Menendez, Leahy, Blumenthal, Schatz, Sanders, and Booker, seeking a review of disclosures by oil and gas companies related to their offshore operations
Leases in the Arctic Ocean are sold for initial terms of ten years, after which the leases expire and would revert back to the federal government. At that point new decisions can be made about whether to sell leases in those areas again. Under certain circumstances, the expiration of the leases can be suspended by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Statoil have requested that the expiration of their leases—which expire in 2017 or 2020—be extended by five years. These requests do not comport with the law and should not be granted. Nor should Congress circumvent the normal process by authorizing extensions.
- Letters to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) from ConocoPhillip, Statoil, and Shell requesting suspensions of operations for leases purchased in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea
- Oceana’s letter to the BSEE opposing Shell’s request for suspensions
- A letter from Oceana and 18 other conservation organizations to Congress opposing a legislative proposal to extend the initial terms of Arctic Ocean leases
- A graphic showing that leases are being allowed to expire in the Beaufort Sea
- Frozen Future: Shell’s ongoing gamble in the U.S. Arctic
- U.S. Coast Guard report on the grounding of the Kulluk (April 3, 2014)
- Government Accountability Office report explaining the substantial infrastructure needs in the U.S. Arctic (April 18, 2014)
- National Research Commission report detailing the inability to respond to or clean up an oil spill in Arctic waters (April 23, 2014)
- National Research Commission report on climate change in the Arctic (April 29, 2014)
- Chemical Safety Board report on the Deepwater Horizon accident identifying deficiencies in safety rules that could come into play in the Arctic (June 6, 2014)
- Seattle University Law Review article, “Oil and Gas in America’s Arctic Ocean: Past Experience Counsels Precaution,” detailing the history of efforts to drill in the U.S. Arctic Ocean and providing context for the current controversy (November 6, 2014)
- Alaska Law Review Article, “What About BOEM? The Need to Reform the Regulations Governing Offshore Oil and Gas Planning and Leasing” (2014)
- Scientist Letter to President Barack Obama: Protect U.S. Arctic Important Marine Areas (June, 2016)
- “Obama can still prevent an Arctic catastrophe”, Alexandra Cousteau, Op-ed for the Seattle Times
- “The Moral of the Kulluk”, Joe Nocera, The New York Times
- “The Wreck of the Kulluk”, McKenzie Funk, The New York Times