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Chevron Halts Arctic Drilling Plans 'Indefinitely'

Decision 'further proof that technical challenges of drilling in icy waters, where a spill is all but inevitable.'—Farrah Khan, Greenpeace Canada

"Polar bear on sea ice. Alaska, Beaufort Sea." (Photo: NOAA Photo Library)

In a move cheered by environmental groups, Chevron has put its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic "on hold indefinitely," the energy company said Wednesday.

It had planned on drilling by 2020 in the Beaufort Sea, but in a letter to Canada's National Energy Board (NEB), Chevron cited "the level of economic uncertainty in the industry" for its decision, Reuters reports.

CBC News reports that Chevron has already spent over $100 million on exploration in the Beaufort Sea.

NEB policy is that companies engaged in drilling must be able to drill a "same season relief well" in the case of an out-of-control well—an ability, according to the Financial Times, Chevron said was "not feasible." Chevron was in the process of creating an alternate to such a relief well and have it meet approval of the regulatory body.

The Natural Resources Defense Council warned that such an alternative would set "a dangerous precedent for the Arctic," adding that there is a "lack of evidence and testing, especially in Arctic environments" that an equivalent safety measure was possible.

The suspension of the drilling plans is good news for the Arctic, Greenpeace Canada Arctic Campaigner Farrah Khan stated.

"Chevron's decision to indefinitely halt its Arctic oil drilling plans is further proof that technical challenges of drilling in icy waters, where a spill is all but inevitable, push costs far too high to be viable, especially with volatile oil prices," Khan stated.

Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director with the Center for Biological Diversity, welcomed the news as well, stating: "The Arctic should be off limits to oil drilling. It's too hazardous to drill in the frozen, stormy waters—and an oil spill would destroy pristine habitat for bowhead whales, polar bears, and ice seals."

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