The devastation from the Deepwater Horizon disaster is still being cleaned up along the Gulf coast. The oil industry is looking to stretch its tentacles into new territory – America's Arctic Ocean – without the technology or know-how to clean up a spill in the Arctic's extreme conditions. Yet Shell Oil continues to claim that drilling in America's Arctic Ocean is safe, boldly suggesting that they could clean up more oil than in the temperate Gulf Coast waters.
As the oil industry pushes to drill in America's Arctic Ocean, we must remind the Obama administration that we can no longer rely on the oil industry's "mop and bucket" brigades to protect our irreplaceable natural treasures. Tell the Obama administration to prevent dangerous new drilling.
- Secretary of the Department of Interior
The Honorable Ken Salazar
The undersigned are writing today to encourage you to proceed with utmost caution when making decisions about offshore development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas that make up America's Arctic Ocean.
America's Arctic Ocean is a national treasure. Home to many of our nation's most beloved wildlife species - polar bears, walrus, ice seals, bowhead whales, beluga whales and more - these Arctic waters are the "garden" for the Inupiat people of Alaska's Arctic coast. This fragile and abundant marine environment is under great stress from the impacts of climate change - the Arctic is projected to be free of summer sea-ice by 2030. With so much at stake, the federal government must not allow a headlong rush into risky drilling in America's Arctic Ocean.
Currently, there is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic's extreme conditions. The Arctic is known for extreme cold, extended periods of darkness, hurricane-strength storms and pervasive fog - which impact everything from working conditions to getting around the region. For eight to nine months of the year, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are covered by ice. "Oil spills under ice or in ice-covered waters are the most challenging to deal with, simply because they cannot be contained or recovered effectively with current technology," National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration experts stated recently. There also is virtually no supporting infrastructure in the region - the nearest Coast Guard station, which would provide federal emergency response capabilities, is 1,000 miles away.
In addition, there is a serious lack of scientific data on the Arctic, which is often called "the least understood area in the world." The National Oil Spill Commission recently recommended "an immediate, comprehensive federal research effort to provide a foundation of scientific information on the Arctic."
Until issues such as the lack of science and the inability to clean up an oil spill in Arctic waters are addressed, the federal government cannot make informed decisions about drilling in the Arctic's Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
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