Despite 'Enormous Risk' White House Reaffirms Commitment to Arctic Drilling

Celebrating news of the moratorium, Greenpeace now calls for "total ban of drilling" in Arctic waters. (Photo: Jiri Rezac/ Greenpeace)

Despite 'Enormous Risk' White House Reaffirms Commitment to Arctic Drilling

As US renews pledge to drill in Arctic waters, Greenland places moratorium on new leases

A White House official reaffirmed Wednesday the Obama administration's commitment to the Arctic offshore drilling program despite the "dangerous risk" of catastrophic consequences for the pristine marine ecosystem.

Speaking via video conference before a Alaskan Senate hearing in Anchorage regarding the recent grounding of Shell's Kulluk drilling rig, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau said, "The administration is committed to supporting safe and responsible exploration of potential energy resources in frontier areas such as the Arctic."

Beaudreau's statement came as the US Coast Guard made a plea to the Justice Department to consider "taking action" against Shell for marine pollution violations--referring to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships--committed in the operations of the Kulluk drillship, said head of the Alaskan Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo.

Environmental groups, who have long campaigned against the Arctic offshore drilling program citing an assuredly "catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on earth," are calling on the Administration to completely shut down operations there.

Other governments are gradually beginning to acknowledge these risks. On Thursday, the Guardianreports that the Greenlandic government has placed a moratorium on issuing new licenses to oil companies hoping to drill in their waters.

According to oil industry experts, the new licensing round which would have opened up waters off the north east of Greenland would now no longer take place.

"This is yet another blow to the oil industry's crumbling attempt to destroy the Arctic," said Greenpeace blogger Ben Ayeliffe, celebrating to the news. "The challenge for us now is to make sure that the Arctic is kept off-limits to the rest of the oil industry."

And Jon Burgwald, Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace in Denmark, added:

Until now, the people of Greenland have been kept in the dark about the enormous risks taken by the politicians and companies in the search for Arctic oil. Now it seems that the new government will start taking these risks seriously. The logical conclusion must be a total ban on offshore oil drilling in Greenland.


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