Green Groups: If Courts Won't Protect Arctic from Oil Drilling, We Will

Alaska court green-light for Shell's Arctic drilling plans is dangerous act of 'wild-eyed optimism,' say campaigners

Despite a series of accidents and mishaps last year off the coast of Alaska, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell will be allowed to resume its drilling exploration in the Arctic after a U.S. federal court on Monday deemed Shell's spill clean up plans in compliance with legal guidelines.

The ruling follows a complaint lodged by several green groups including Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Oceana and the Natural Resources Defense Council who said that the inevitable oil spills in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi Seas would be very difficult to clean up and that Shell did not have a sufficient plan or the technology for such an emergency.

The court decision "allows Big Oil to put this remarkable landscape at risk to oil spills and industrialization."

"The ruling doesn't change the fact that, as Shell's misadventures last year showed, the Arctic Ocean is no place for rosy-eyed optimism," Earthjustice, the environmental nonprofit law firm who represented the groups, said in a statement.

Judge Ralph Beistline in the Alaska U.S. District Court said the Interior Department didn't violate the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act or National Environmental Policy Act in approving Shell's spill plans, as the groups had argued.

"Last summer when the veneer of empty promises and fanciful reassurances was peeled back, the dirty reality of Arctic oil drilling appeared: harsh weather, equipment failures, human error and legal violations all characterized Shell's 2012 drilling season," said Rebecca Noblin, the Center for Biological Diversity's Alaska director. "Despite this court's decision, we will continue to do everything we can to protect the Arctic from unsafe drilling."

"The first court in the country said these spill plans were sufficient, but this is only the beginning of the effort to define the obligations to address oil spill prevention and response, especially in remote, isolated areas like the Arctic Ocean," Holly Harris, an attorney for Earthjustice, told Boomberg.

"Climate change already threatens the Arctic's rich array of wildlife, as well as the traditional practices of Alaska Natives who have lived there for millennia. Yesterday's decision by the Court allows Big Oil to pile on to those threats by allowing Big Oil to put this remarkable landscape at risk to oil spills and industrialization as well," added Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club's Alaska Program Director. "We should not allow dirty and dangerous oil drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas to pile yet more risk onto this vibrant but fragile region."

"Shell's plans are based on unrealistic assumptions and unproven technologies....Particularly after the disastrous 2012 season, the government cannot simply take Shell's word that the company is prepared," said Susan Murray, Oceana's Deputy Vice President, Pacific.


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