On Monday, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) approved Shell to drill oil exploration wells in two leases they hold in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. The leases were obtained in 2005 and 2007 and are 16 and 23 miles from Point Thompson, Alaska. When the drilling occurs next July-October it will be the first time in over a decade that any drilling has taken place in the region.
The MMS did approve the leases with some conditions attached: the drilling must cease during the fall bowhead whale hunt by native tribes and must also comply with water and air quality rules by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These conditions, however, don't change the fact that there is no clean way to drill in the Beaufort Sea. Cleaning up an oil spill in the ice-choked waters of the Arctic is an impossible task. And where there is oil drilling, there will always be oil spills. This is especially true in seas that are infamous for their storms, rough waters, and dangerous icebergs. The leases were granted during the Drill Anywhere Bush administration and the plan has been roundly condemned by the global scientific community, fishermen, and many traditional indigenous communities. This is a dangerous precedent to set for an administration committed to moving us toward a clean energy future and away from the dirty legacy of the previous administration.
Read the environmental community's press release here.