Kicking Off 2014 With a Bang

Kevin Harun
Date: January 24, 2014

For more than seven years, Pacific Environment and allies have single-handedly been stopping Shell Oil from drilling in fragile Arctic seas.

Now, Shell is busy preparing to return to the Arctic in time to drill during the summer season. But this week a federal court threw a wrench into the oil giant’s plans when it ruled against our government’s decision to open up America’s Arctic to international oil corporations. In fact, this is the second time a court ruled against oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska.

The Chukchi Sea is part of America’s Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska, and home to many iconic wildlife species like the beluga whale above.

Together with our allies, we went to court (again) because the Bush administration violated the law when it sold oil and gas leases to Big Oil. The court agreed, and now the Department of the Interior must conduct a careful and honest analysis of the harm oil drilling may inflict on iconic wildlife like polar bears, walrus, whales, and seals, as well as on the food security of indigenous peoples.

This is an historic opportunity for President Obama to prove that he is committed to fighting climate change. Instead of allowing Big Oil to extract more dirty fossil fuels that will only worsen Arctic ice melt, the President should halt all drilling and cancel the ill-conceived Chukchi leases.

Remember when Shell tried to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska in 2012? 

It was a complete fiasco—and demonstrated that no oil company on earth is currently prepared to safely drill in extreme Arctic conditions. One of Shell’s drill rigs ran aground and together with another malfunctioning rig incurred over a million dollars in fines for air pollution violations, while the Coast Guard and the Department of Justice opened investigations for marine pollution and safety violations.

We’re running out of time. The Arctic is warming twice as fast than the rest of the world, and the Arctic ice that helps regulate the planet’s climate is melting at record speed.

Let’s hope the President and his administration will seize this historic opportunity to cancel America’s Arctic oil drilling program and get back on the path toward a clean energy future.