The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Emilie Surrusco, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 544-5205 Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 274-1110 Caitlin Leutwiler, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3226 Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500 x213 Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club, (206) 378-0114 Neil Shader, The Wilderness Society, (202) 429-3941

Offshore Arctic Drilling Still Scheduled in Less Than 60 Days

Drilling must be suspended immediately until spill response is addressed


The following is a statement from the above listed organizations:

"Recent statements by the Obama administration that no new drilling will
take place until a government report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster
is completed and evaluated does not preclude drilling this summer in
Alaska's Chukchi Sea as planned by Shell Oil on July 1. In fact, Shell
has said that they are still moving forward with plans to have drill
bits in place in less than 60 days. The May 28 report deadline still
leaves ample time should the Department of the Interior (DOI) choose to
allow this ill-advised drilling to move forward in extreme Arctic
conditions where spill response faces additional challenges of sea ice,
seas of up to 20 feet, darkness and a virtual lack of infrastructure
from which to stage a response.

Suspending Arctic offshore drilling this summer is the first real
test of whether this administration is going to be serious about
addressing oil spill response capacity and learning something from the
Gulf spill. DOI needs to suspend its approval of Shell's drilling plans
pending a meaningful and complete re-assessment of its decision in light
of the Gulf spill.

As we have said since before the Deepwater Horizon rig sunk into the
Gulf, Shell's drilling was approved in violation of environmental laws
without adequate analysis of the activities' potential effects on people
and wildlife of the region and without any analysis whatsoever of the
impacts of a major oil spill. The Gulf spill shows that spills can and
do happen during exploration drilling and severely undermines the
government's decision not to analyze the impacts of such spills from
Shell's planned drilling.

While we appreciate the fact that the Minerals Management Service
(MMS) has asked Shell for additional safety information by May 18 in
light of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, we urge MMS to make any information
that Shell shares with them public right away. The public has a right
to know about any proposed changes and safety considerations - and a
right to provide input on how to proceed. No one knows more about the
Arctic Ocean than the Alaska Native communities who have lived off its
bounty for thousands of years, and MMS must be sure that these Arctic
experts are able to provide direction on any new plans.

With no way to clean up a spill in the Arctic's harsh and icy
conditions and limited capacity to respond to a major spill, the risk is
too high in the Arctic - especially since the lessons from the Gulf
have yet to be learned. The Obama administration must act now to cancel
this summer's plans for offshore drilling in the Arctic before we
sacrifice another one of our precious coasts."

more about what Defenders is doing to halt new offshore drilling
operations in the U.S.