Nearly a year after the catastrophic BP Macondo exploratory well finally stopped spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the US Coast Guard affirmed before a U.S. Senate panel what many organizations, including The Wilderness Society, already knew: cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean would be next to impossible.
Despite the clear lack of cleanup ability, Shell continues to press to drill exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean as soon as next summer. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and other federal agencies are proceeding to issue permits for Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean but there has not been a final decision. Left out of the conversation is the fact that there is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in the ice-filled waters of the Arctic Ocean. A video from Oceana shows that, in tests, containment boom were unable to withstand even small ice floes, and no new cleanup technology has appeared since those tests were performed in 2000.
Rushing to drill the Arctic Ocean wasn’t a good idea in 2010 in the aftermath of the BP tragedy, and it isn’t a good idea now. Without a solid scientific understanding of the marine resources – the whales, walruses, seals, polar bears, and other wildlife – of the Arctic Ocean, proven methods for cleaning up oil spills, and improved governmental oversight by BOEMRE (including adequate funding for oversight by Congress), these drilling proposals need to be shelved.