Shell Cancels Plans to Drill Exploratory Oil Wells in the Arctic

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Shell Cancels Plans to Drill Exploratory Oil Wells in the Arctic

From Oceana
February 2011

We hope this decision by Shell will also bring a commitment from them and others in the oil industry to fully review the mistakes that led to the Deepwater Horizon blowout with local communities, the public and the government.

In a huge triumph for the U.S. Arctic today, Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Peter Voser announced that Shell's 2011 plans to drill exploratory wells offshore in Alaska are canceled due to continued uncertainty over whether it would receive federal permits.

Shell had hoped to drill exploratory wells in 2010 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but its plans were put on hold by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Susan Murray, Oceana’s Pacific Director, said of the announcement, “We hope this decision by Shell will also bring a commitment from them and others in the oil industry to fully review the mistakes that led to the Deepwater Horizon blowout with local communities, the public and the government. We need a truly open discussion about how to determine if we should move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, and if so, when, where and how.”

Oceana has been instrumental in monitoring the permitting process and holding policymakers accountable for upholding the law. The slew of faulty environmental analyses and permit applications make it clear that we are not ready to move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, especially in light of last summer’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of the world's most extraordinary animals call the Arctic home, including more than 25 species of marine mammals, dozens of species of birds and hundreds of different fishes. Meanwhile, Arctic hunters and subsistence gatherers depend on a healthy marine environment for their survival.

The bottom line is that there is currently no proven method of cleaning up an oil spill in Arctic conditions. There are no trained personnel or equipment in the region capable of carrying out an effective response plan, and there is a clear lack of basic scientific information about the ocean ecosystem.

Oceana will continue to work towards ensuring productive and sustainable Arctic ecosystems and vibrant coastal communities.