Offshore oil-leasing plan protects Alaska’s coast, communities

Nov 18, 2016

By removing the Arctic Ocean from the federal government's 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas leasing program, the Obama administration took an important step toward protecting species such as polar bears and bowhead whales, as well as Alaska’s remote coastal villages.

Kathryn Hansen/NASA

Today the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released its final 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas leasing program, which includes no plans for lease sales in the Arctic Ocean. In response, Lois Epstein, an Alaska-licensed engineer and Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society, issues the following statement:
“This is a great announcement for the American people and the Arctic Ocean,” Epstein said. “The removal of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas from the leasing program shows that the Obama administration learned from Shell’s disastrous record in Alaska, and recognizes that industry is incapable of safely mobilizing and drilling in such a remote and extreme environment.
“Arctic Ocean oil is among the riskiest and most costly in the world and producing it will worsen the effects of climate change. Additionally this oil is not needed because there likely will be ample world oil supply available for many years, and the trans-Alaska pipeline system has enough oil throughput to operate for the next half-century.
“We are extremely grateful the administration has taken this important step to remove the risk of drilling-related spills in the near-term from species such as polar bears and bowhead whales and from Alaska’s remote coastal villages that depend on the ocean for their survival,” Epstein added.
BOEM estimated that oil production from its 2008 lease sale for the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea had a 75 percent chance of at least one spill of more than 42,000 gallons.