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On December 31, 2012, the Kulluk, a Shell drilling vessel, drifted aground off Sitkalidak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. (Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis/U.S. Coast Guard)

Shell Renews Quest to Plunder Arctic in Search of Oil

Greenpeace responds with promise to escalate its campaign to 'Save the Arctic' from the dangers of oil and gas exploration in fragile region

Jon Queally

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday indicated its continued desire to drill in the Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska by submitting new plans for exploratory operations to federal agencies.

"Shell’s preparations are a red flag for the millions of people around the world who want to save the Arctic from catastrophe." —John Deans, GreenpeaceDespite previously failed attempts to perform such drilling and a global campaign—spearheaded by environmental campaigners at Greenpeace—that has vowed to stop Shell at all costs, the company appears committed to pushing forward.

As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

The oil giant says it is keeping its options open [for operations in 2015] and has proposed putting two drilling rigs to work in the Chukchi Sea. The proposal came in a filing with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a division of the U.S. Interior Department.

Shell has been absent from the Chukchi Sea, located off northwest Alaska, for the past two summers. The company has already spent an estimated $6 billion on leases and equipment, but has yet to drill a single well.

Nor will it drill if environmental groups have any say in the matter.  They have sued, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that the federal government did not adequately assess environmental impacts when the Bush Administration put oil leases up for sale in 2008.

Greenpeace was swift with its condemnation. In a statement, John Deans, a member of the the group's Save the Arctic campaign, said:

Shell clearly believes the approval process is a formality and that it will be able to do whatever it wants in the Arctic next summer. The company is lurching forward despite the flood of reports from government agencies and environmental groups that Arctic drilling is too risky, that the Arctic is too vulnerable, and that Shell itself is too incompetent to proceed. If the Obama Administration is serious about climate change, it needs to prove it by keeping Shell out of the Arctic.

Shell’s preparations are a red flag for the millions of people around the world who want to save the Arctic from catastrophe. Shell clearly hasn't learned anything from its last Alaskan misadventure, which would have been funny had it not put lives, local communities, and a delicate ecosystem in grave peril. Shell is putting the pieces in place for next summer so it will at least appear competent to the administration, but anyone who has been paying attention knows that Shell is simply hoping the public and the US government will confuse their commitment for competency.

The Dutch oil giant has bungled its way through its Arctic operations and squandered nearly $6 billion so far-- and all they have to show for it is a containment dome crushed like a beer can, a grounded drill rig, and a PR disaster. Even with all of the money they've spent, Shell hasn't been able to prove they can operate in the Arctic.

Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the New York Times: “Drilling in the Arctic makes no more sense in 2015 than it did when it was first proposed."

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