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Woo-Hoo! Shell Ditches Its Arctic Drilling Plans

'Victory for grassroots activism' as energy giant says its 2014 Alaska exploration plans are shelved

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A demonstration in the shadow of the World Economic Forum gathering in 2013. (Photo: Greenpeace Switzerland/cc/flickr)To the cheers of environmental groups, fossil fuel giant Shell announced Thursday that it is shelving its plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2014.

The company cited a court decision from last week that found that the U.S. Department of the Interior did not accurately assess the potential environmental impacts from a spill in the region.

A statement issued by Shell says that "The landscape the company had expected has changed," and that the court decision that ruled in favor of the environmental coalition "raises substantial obstacles to Shell’s plans for drilling in offshore Alaska. As a result, Shell has decided to stop its exploration program for Alaska in 2014."

"While van Beurden isn’t willing to 'commit further resources,' the activists must now 'commit further resources' to strengthen the resistance movement and educate the public about the dangers of drilling in the Arctic Ocean."
—Subhankar Banerjee
"This is a disappointing outcome, but the lack of a clear path forward means that I am not prepared to commit further resources for drilling in Alaska in 2014," said CEO Ben van Beurden, who took the helm of Shell at the start of the year. "We will look to relevant agencies and the Court to resolve their open legal issues as quickly as possible."

According to reporting by the Associated Press, van Beurden indicated to reporters in London that the project could be totally finished depending on the outcome of the ongoing lawsuit.

Photographer, writer and voice of Arctic conservation Subhankar Banerjee told Common Dreams via email that the good news comes following years of committed efforts by native and environmental groups.

"In the summer of 2006 when the first Shell ship came to the Beaufort and Chukchi seas to conduct seismic surveys of the seafloor, I was there. Ever since then, the Inupiat communities in partnership with environmental organizations have filed numerous legal suits to challenge Shell’s drilling plan," Banerjee said, and welcomed the news as "a victory for grassroots activism."

Ocean advocacy group Oceana applauded the company's decision as well, stating that the "announcement that it will back away in 2014 confirms once again that the company's proposed exploration is neither prudent nor feasible. There is no proven technology to clean up oil spilled in icy Arctic conditions, and drilling will not help move our country toward responsible and clean renewable energy."

Yet the battle to save the Arctic isn't over.

"While van Beurden isn’t willing to 'commit further resources,'" Banerjee adds "the activists must now 'commit further resources' to strengthen the resistance movement and educate the public about the dangers of drilling in the Arctic Ocean. A damaged Arctic would threaten not only the human and nonhuman life in the far North, but all over the Earth."

"Let us celebrate the victory for sure, but keep in mind that Shell will try to be back and we will have to stop them, year, after year, after year."

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Greenpeace USA welcomed the news with this tweet:

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