Protect polar bears and endangered whales: keep Big Oil out of the Chukchi Sea
Barely one year since our nation's worst environmental tragedy to date, Big Oil is intent on pushing forward with a risky drilling proposal in America's Arctic Ocean and Washington is poised to let them, unless we act.
The Department of Interior is making decisions this summer about whether to allow Shell Oil to drill ten wells in America’s Arctic over the next 2 years.
Tell Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BOEMRE Alaska OCS Regional Director Dr. James Kendall to protect one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures – a vast, pristine place at the top of the world that polar bears, whales, walrus, seals and Alaska Native communities all call home!
Please make a difference for endangered and threatened ocean species this World Oceans Day.
- U.S. Department of Interior Secretary
The Honorable Ken Salazar
The future of America’s Arctic Ocean may be decided this summer. I’m writing to ask that no decisions about drilling in Arctic waters are made before a plan is in place to gather basic essential information and there is proven technology to clean up a spill in the Arctic’s unique conditions. The Presidential commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster specifically concluded that there are “serious concerns” and “special considerations” regarding Arctic drilling and oil spill response.
The Arctic’s rich marine environment is the least understood area in the world. There is a lack of basic science – from simple species counts of marine mammals such as the threatened polar bear and the endangered bowhead whale to information about currents and tidal systems. The Department of Interior (DOI) must not move forward with decisions about drilling before it has critical missing information.
DOI must fill missing data gaps before moving forward with any leasing decisions. The National Marine Fisheries Service has told the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) that it should obtain more information about the effects of oil and gas activities, especially seismic testing, on fish before proceeding with decisions about drilling. This information is an essential part of creating a plan to manage America’s Arctic Ocean.
As part of the revised draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Chukchi Lease Sale 193, BOEMRE conducted an analysis that shows that very large oil spills could occur from drilling in the Chukchi Sea. This analysis shows that such a spill could have catastrophic effects on the region’s species, such as the iconic polar bear as well as birds and whales. Before BOEMRE considers any drilling in the Arctic Ocean, such as Shell Oil’s plans in the Chukchi for 2012 and 2013, more environmental analysis must be completed, including the impacts from a potential blowout oil spill during the proposed drilling.
Furthermore, BOEMRE’s predecessor agency, the Minerals Management Service previously stated that no technology exists to clean up a spill in the Arctic’s volatile sea ice environment. As you consider all proposed activities in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, I urge you to ensure that there is more to the oil industry’s response plans than just glorified mops and buckets.
As a people who have lived off the bounty of the Arctic Ocean for thousands of years, the Inupiat traditionally spend weeks at a time on the water, hunting to feed their families and their communities. The Arctic Ocean is their garden and we must protect it for future generations.
Please do not allow the oil industry to move forward with aggressive, risky plans to drill in these one-of-a-kind waters, until important information is gathered and a plan is in place to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic’s extreme conditions. There is too much at stake.
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