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Shell's 'Latest Calamity' Proves Folly of Arctic Oil Drilling: Environmental Experts

Greenpeace: 'It is now patently clear that it is impossible to drill for oil safely in the Arctic'

Beth Brogan, staff writer

The Shell conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska. (Photograph: Greenpeace)

Shell's latest blunder shows that safely drilling for oil in the Arctic is impossible, environmental experts say, as three government agencies launch investigations into Shell's grounding of the oil rig Kulluk.

Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe said the Kulluk incident raised many safety issues, with "one glaring operational blunder after another."

"Shell continues to assert that the company knows what it is doing offshore in the Arctic, and clearly, it doesn’t," retired University of Alaska Professor Rick Steiner told Edward Teller of Firedoglake. "Essentially Shell says: 'Don’t worry, be happy…trust us.' Well, we don’t."

Ayliffe continued:

The battered rig may finally be free (but) ... the time has come for the US government to act. It is now patently clear that it is impossible to drill for oil safely in the Arctic. President Obama must step in and rewrite his policy on the frozen north to stop one of these near misses becoming a major environmental disaster in one of the planet’s most delicate ecosystems.

Even as the Department of the Interior, Senate Commerce subcommittee and Coast Guard launch formal investigations into the oil giant's offshore drilling practices, the Coast Guard has undertaken a separate criminal investigation into another ship, operated by the Noble Corporation and contracted by Royal Dutch Shell to search for oil in the Arctic, Teller reports.

Steiner adds:

The Kulluk grounding is the most recent in a long line of calamities from Shell’s 2012 Arctic drilling program: the last-minute scramble to retrofit the two rigs, the countless problems with the Arctic Challenger response barge, the failed containment dome test, the near-grounding of the Noble Discoverer in Dutch Harbor, the cursory testing (for about 1 hour only) of the crucial capping stack that would be used to stem a blowout, the stack fire in the Discoverer, the propulsion issues in the Discoverer requiring it to be towed into Seward, the serious safety violations on the Discoverer causing the Coast Guard to detain it in port, and so on.

 Greenpeace and others are calling on President Obama to halt the Arctic drilling program altogether.

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