Secretary Salazar heard from Alaskans about the devastating effects of oil spills on our marine environment. In fact, as even the Bush administration Interior Department was forced to admit, there is a 40 percent chance of a large oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if leasing goes forward as Bush had planned. And as everyone admits, there is no technology that exists to clean up such a spill in the Arctic’s icy waters. What’s more, there is not enough scientific data to truly assess the impacts of drilling on the Arctic environment. As the Bush administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service said in 2006, there must be an “initiation of a comprehensive research program” before any leasing plans move forward.
…The air in America’s Arctic today is filled with excitement. The Inupiat people, as they have for thousands of years, are getting ready for spring whaling, and for the first time in years can do so without fear of indiscriminate and insensitive oil and gas leasing.
Secretary Salazar has the opportunity to use science and the traditional knowledge of the people who understand the Arctic ecosystem to come up with a leasing program that maintains, as the law and common sense require, “a proper balance between the potential for environmental damage, the potential for the discovery of oil and gas, and the potential for adverse impact on the coastal zone.” The court’s opinion shows that careful reasoning of the law is behind him — and that, in the end, in a lawful and rational society, informed decision-making is still important.