Statement from The Wilderness Society on Shell Oil’s decision to halt offshore exploration in the Arctic Ocean

Feb 3, 2011

The following statement from Lois Epstein, a licensed engineer and Arctic Program Director for the Wilderness Society, on Shell Oil’s decision not to pursue exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean in 2011.

“We are very pleased that Shell has decided not to drill in the Arctic Ocean this upcoming summer. The federal government needs more time to improve its regulatory oversight, to understand the baseline ecology of the Arctic Ocean, and to improve oil spill cleanup strategies following the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“The Arctic Ocean is a valuable resource, especially for Alaska Native coastal communities. The new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement can show its commitment to change from MMS, its predecessor agency, by using this extra time to require that Shell’s drilling plans undergo all needed environmental analyses. There are no short-cuts to ensuring safety and environmental protection when drilling in this harsh but tremendously productive marine environment.

“Rushing to drill the Arctic Ocean off of Alaska, still a frontier in oil exploration, could have disastrous results. Taking the time to fully explore and address the risks associated with drilling is the right thing to do.