Ultimately, Shell’s ineptitude forced it to call off drilling in the Polar Bear Seas for this summer. But despite the company’s shocking record of accidents and harrowing near-misses, Shell has vowed to try again — and the Obama Administration appears all too willing to give them a green light.
These two seas, the Beaufort and the Chukchi, are home to more than half of our nation’s polar bears — including those that den in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Their populations are already in decline due to global warming. The last thing they need is a catastrophic oil spill.
That’s why NRDC is mobilizing nationwide pressure on President Obama’s nominee for Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, to put a permanent halt to all offshore drilling in the Polar Bear Seas. At the same time, NRDC is fighting four separate battles in federal court to stop Shell before it can drill again.
A spill in this fragile environment could coat polar bears in a deadly slick of black crude … suffocate endangered bowhead whales and other marine mammals … kill thousands of migratory birds … and poison one of the earth’s most fragile ecosystems for decades to come.
Shell’s mishaps have amply demonstrated that Big Oil is woefully unprepared to ever drill safely in the harsh conditions of the Arctic, amidst 20-foot seas, gale-force winds, protracted darkness, subzero temperatures and eight months of solid pack ice. And the oil industry still has no proven method of cleaning up oil in the Arctic.
No amount of delay, further study by the Interior Department or technological fixes by Shell will ever change the Arctic’s impossible-to-handle conditions or the inevitable tragedy of human error.
Right now we have a chance to change the Obama Administration’s pro-oil stance in the Arctic. Secretary Jewell could win Senate confirmation at any time. It’s vital that she hear from as many concerned citizens as possible who will not tolerate handing over the polar bear’s home to Big Oil.
Please join me in calling on Secretary Jewell to put the Polar Bear Seas permanently off-limits to oil operations. NRDC will deliver your message, along with tens of thousands of others, on Secretary Jewell’s first day in office.
We cannot afford to wait until Shell’s next blunder becomes an environmental catastrophe. Take action now to protect polar bears and keep Shell out of the Arctic!
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg