Arctic Beats Back Shell Oil

Alex Levinson
Date: February 28, 2013
Shell's drill barge Kulluk drifted aground off Sitkalidak Island in the Gulf of Alaska on December 31, 2012.

When Shell announced yesterday that it was giving up on its plans to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic this year, I was elated—but not exactly surprised. A chain of embarrassing accidents in 2012 clearly demonstrated Shell’s inability to drill safely in the Arctic. These fiascoes prompted a review of Shell’s drilling program by the government, and Shell did not even wait for the Department of the Interior to come to the obvious conclusion that the company was ill-prepared to drill safely in the Arctic’s harsh conditions.

When I say safely, I mean drilling operations that protect indigenous communities and natural wildlife who depend on the Arctic coastal ecosystems. An oil spill disaster would be extremely difficult to clean up, kill marine mammals, and devastate the ability of Native peoples to maintain their traditional ways of life.

Pacific Environment, our indigenous partners, and our coalition allies used an arsenal of advocacy tools, including lawsuits, to stop Shell’s drilling plans for more than half a decade. And our fight is far from over. We will continue to campaign for more permanent protection of our Alaskan Arctic from ill-conceived plans to treat one of the last wild places on earth as an oil pump.