Shell shelves plan to drill Alaskan Arctic in 2014

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Good news today as Shell Oil announced they would not be attempting to drill for oil in the icy Alaskan Arctic this summer.

We’ve written previously about the threats to polar bears and other wildlife that would be caused by Arctic drilling, and the company has done a sadly remarkable job of demonstrating that they are not up to the task. Two of their drilling ships, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk, were involved in accidents while in transit to or from the Arctic, and the United States Coast Guard found “serious discrepancies” in the Noble Discoverer’s safety and pollution discharge equipment.

Compounding Shell’s problems,  the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it sold offshore oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska.

The Chukchi and the Beaufort Seas–or the Polar Bear Seas as they are also known-– are no place for drilling and the area is already in danger: America’s Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the nation. Polar bears faced with their icy habitat melting beneath them must swim miles for food just to survive.

Hurricane-force winds, extended periods of darkness, extreme cold, and the highly remote location would make a clean-up of the magnitude that would be required should there be a spill exceedingly difficult. The nearest coast guard station is hundreds of miles away and the communities in the region lack the infrastructure required to support a disaster response.

We welcome the news that Shell will not be drilling in America’s Arctic this year and hope that the future continues to  see the Arctic Shell-free.

Image credit Greenpeace USA
Image credit Greenpeace USA

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