For Immediate Release
Shell Oil Proposes New Arctic Ocean Drilling Plan
Court order stops prior drilling effort
conservation groups today cheered the end of a successful legal
challenge that stopped Shell Oil from hastily drilling for oil in the
Arctic Ocean. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
dismissed the case
after Shell Offshore, Inc., withdrew the drilling plan. The court had
earlier issued a preliminary injunction stopping oil drilling in the
Beaufort Sea for the past two summers. The Bush administration approved
the drilling plan without a full environmental
industrial activities threatened Native subsistence users and
endangered bowhead whales, polar bears, and other marine animals in
coastal waters just off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
proposed a new, expanded plan to drill in 2010 not only in the Beaufort
Sea, but also in the neighboring Chukchi Sea. Both are important
habitat for the endangered bowhead whale. The new
drilling plan poses the same threats to important arctic animals and
habitats and would put wells just offshore of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge. Native and conservation groups are hopeful that the
Obama administration will conduct a rigorous environmental
review, including a full environmental impact statement, before
permitting any drilling in the Arctic and will use this process to
balance competing concerns.
bowhead’s migration corridor and important Alaska Native subsistence
hunting areas. The industrial activity is proposed when mothers and
calf whales, some of the most sensitive members of the
population, are present.
with the subsistence hunt, scare whales away from important feeding
areas, and potentially separate dependant calves from their mothers,”
said Deirdre McDonnell of Earthjustice.
without knowing the potential consequences,” said David Dickson,
Director of the Oceans Program for the Alaska Wilderness League. “We
hope the Obama administration takes this opportunity to
base development decisions in the Arctic on sound science. We urge them
to conduct a thorough scientific review of Shell’s new drilling plans.”
arctic waters and ice,” said Whit Sheard “The new drilling plan for
the Arctic Ocean poses the same unacceptable risk of oil spills.”
Summer sea ice is retreating rapidly—reaching record low levels during
the past two summers. The changes raise major concerns about the
survival of wildlife—such as the polar bear—that call the
Arctic home. Now the Obama administration will have a chance to revisit
million acres offered in the Arctic, to pass for an energy
policy—especially in an area where our addiction to fossil fuels is
already endangering wildlife and threatening traditional communities.”
Said Trish Rolfe of the Sierra Club in Alaska.
the Arctic melts in the face of global warming, we need to protect
their critical habitat, not turn it into an industrial zone,” said
Rebecca Noblin of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Environment,
Center for Biological Diversity, and Resisting Environmental
Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), all represented
by Earthjustice. The North Slope Borough and Alaska Eskimo Whaling
Commission also challenged the drilling plan.
drilling activity since July 2007, when it entered a preliminary order
stopping the three-year plan. Alaska Native organizations and
conservation groups had sued to halt drilling in the face of
rushed approval by the Bush administration.
likely to succeed in their challenge, and issued a preliminary
injunction stopping the drilling pending its decision on the merits of
the case. After considering the merits, the court issued
a decision striking down the plan. The court later withdrew its
opinion, indicating it would replace it with a new opinion and leaving
the initial order stopping the drilling in place. Then last month,
Shell withdrew its controversial plan before the court
could enter a new opinion on the merits.
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