Areas proposed for drilling are rich with sea life, including numerous types of whales.
BOEM's 2017-2022 leasing plan would allow drilling for oil and gas in other areas of this fragile region, however.
A recent Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement estimated that there is a 75 percent chance of one or more major oil spills happening over the lifetime of drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea. But the Chukchi and Beaufort seas have no U.S Coast Guard facilities to support a response to a major oil spill.
Shell’s series of blunders during its exploratory drilling and mobilization/demobilization operations in 2012 demonstrated numerous challenging obstacles for operating in Arctic waters.
Additionally, the federal government has not made essential changes to prevent deaths and major spills as recommended by expert committees established after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. Those recommendations include increasing liability limits substantially, protecting whistleblowers, and issuing critical Arctic-specific and blowout preventer standards.
“Depending on the location and conditions in place at the time of a major spill, coastal communities and the sensitive coastlines of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska could be greatly harmed,” said Lois Epstein, an Alaska-licensed engineer and arctic program director for The Wilderness Society.
“Without fixing the oversight problems since the BP Gulf tragedy, it’s unconscionable to drill in Arctic waters,” Epstein said.
The Arctic Ocean thrives with sea life and is home to polar bears, walruses, seals, fish and thousands of finback, humpback and beluga whales. Native communities depend on these species to sustain their way of life.