For Immediate Release
Obama Plan Will Open Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to Dangers of Drilling
Obama Sacrifices Climate for Industry Profit
The Obama administration announced plans today to open up the Atlantic Ocean to drilling and offer more lease sales in the sensitive Arctic waters off Alaska. Both announcements move these areas that have largely been off-limits to offshore drilling closer to becoming industrial oil operations. Ramping up offshore drilling raises the risk of disastrous spills, puts wildlife in harm’s way, and deepens U.S. dependence on the fossil fuels driving the global climate crisis.
The new five-year plan schedules 14 lease sales in eight planning areas between 2017 and 2022: 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one in the Atlantic Ocean. President Obama is using executive action to put some of the most sensitive areas in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas off limits, which is a step in the right direction. However, all leasing should be halted in the Arctic where an oil spill in remote areas would be impossible to clean up, and the Atlantic, where development has so far been off-limits. The plan encourages further reliance on oil and threatens species already in danger because of climate change.
“The Deepwater Horizon disaster and Shell’s embarrassing 2012 Arctic drilling fiasco should have been wakeup calls to the Obama administration,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead the president appears to be sleepwalking his way right into the next big offshore-oil nightmare.”
The Obama plan represents a long-term commitment to offshore oil drilling at a time when experts are sounding the alarm on further fossil fuel development. Leading climate scientists say atmospheric CO2 concentrations should be reduced to 350 parts per million to avoid catastrophic, irreversible impacts. And in order to reach this goal the vast majority of fossil fuels must stay in the ground.
Arctic Ocean oil and gas pose a major climate threat. Producing and burning projected technically recoverable oil and gas reserves in the Arctic Ocean has the potential to release 15.8 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the emissions from all forms of transportation in the United States over a nine-year period, or burning 90 years’ worth of oil flowing through the Keystone XL pipeline at maximum capacity.
“The window of opportunity to avert dangerous climate change is rapidly shrinking and President Obama’s new offshore oil drilling plan will help slam it shut,” said Sakashita. “He’s is blowing his chance to put us on a path to a livable planet.”
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.