Success! Shell Backs Away From Arctic Drilling
Good news for the arctic today! Shell Oil has announced that it has called off plans to drill for oil and gas off Alaska this year after a spill containment system crucial to the company’s efforts to explore in the icy Arctic waters was damaged during a test. Commonly referred to as the “Polar Bear Seas,” the Arctic Beaufort and Chukchi Seas were in imminent danger from Shell's proposed drilling projects that had the potential to devastate the Arctic ecosystems.
Shell had spent $4.5 billion over the span of seven years avoiding environmental lawsuits and investing in environmental protections. But safety precautions proved too difficult against the Arctic’s unpredictable environment. According to Shell's spokesperson, Kelly op de Weegh, the company had successfully completed a series of tests of the first-ever Arctic Containment System, but the containment dome on board the company’s Arctic Challenger barge was damaged during a final test.
De Weegh was quoted as saying, “The time required to repair the dome, along with steps we have taken to protect local whaling operations and to ensure the safety of operations from ice-flow movement, have led us to revise our plans for the 2012-2013 exploration program.”
Environmental groups were very happy with the announcement though and agreed that the latest problem just shows the company is ill-prepared to deal with the harsh Arctic climate. According to Niel Lawrence, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “If you can’t even test your safety systems in calm waters without damaging them, you’ve got no business drilling for oil in the Arctic."
Some of the environmental concerns about Shell's drilling for oil are irreversible damage to endangered species, irreparable oil spills and draining the resources of native communities. These are just a few of the injustices that signers of a Care2 petition hoped to avoid with almost 64,000 signatures against the drilling.
This is a huge victory for environmentalists, but the fight is far from over. This is only a postponement by Shell Oil ,not an end to their plans to continue to drill. Shell is driven by a potential 400,000 barrels of oil a day and an eventual 10 billion in profits to continue. However, Shell must now wait until its equipment is repaired and the harsh Arctic’s winter ends before resuming drilling. The company hopes to finish the multi-billion dollar project it started by next summer and before its expensive permits expire. But for now the Arctic can breathe a little easier.