Offshore Oil Drilling: The U.S. Arctic Ocean - Oceana USA

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.

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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