Polar bear family in the Arctic Ocean
Help save the Arctic from oil drilling! As you read this, big oil corporations are just a few steps away from drilling in sensitive Arctic waters, and possibly even under — and eventually in — the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, if all goes their way.
Time is critical because several decisions affecting the fate of these extraordinary Arctic lands and waters could be made any day.
Arctic waters: The U.S. Interior Department already has given a conditional green light to Shell to begin drilling in the Arctic Ocean next summer.
Shell still needs approval of its spill-response plan; we are doing all that we can to ensure that the Obama Administration rejects the plan, because effective spill response in the Arctic using current technologies is, essentially, impossible.
Shell plans to drill in sensitive waters of the Beaufort Sea, where an astonishing variety of animals thrive in this delicate ecosystem. Seals, sea lions, walruses, polar bears and numerous varieties of whales are among the beloved wildlife that could be affected if an oil spill were to occur.
Not only would these animals be hurt by a major oil spill, but so too could the wildlife and ecosystems of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because Shell’s drilling would take place in waters as little as 16 miles from the refuge’s fragile and pristine shoreline and coastal lagoons.
An oil spill here could be catastrophic. There is no existing technology to clean up a spill under broken ice conditions, particularly in a foggy, windy area.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: As if drilling in Arctic waters weren’t enough, oil interests are back at the steps of Congress asking, yet again, for access to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — this time through the ploy of extended-reach — also known as directional — drilling. In fact, later this month Congress is scheduled to hold a hearing that could ultimately allow such drilling under the Arctic Refuge. The oil companies promote extended-reach drilling as a way to reach oil from drill sites outside the refuge’s boundaries, but it would involve destructive seismic tests in the refuge itself. The Arctic Refuge is where epic migrations of caribou herds occur, and the feeding, mating and birthing patterns of other large populations of animals from grizzlies to polar bears and migratory birds could be disturbed.
As we know, any type of drilling near the refuge could lead to industrial development of the remarkably fragile coastal plain. Drilling also inevitably leads to spills — 6,000 on the North Slope alone in the last 15 years, according to data from the state of Alaska, and many of those spills were significant in size. Drill pads, roads, pipelines, airplane runways, gravel mining, and seismic exploration would leave tundra damaged for decades.
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