Over the past five years, the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies have successfully blocked offshore oil development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. In 2009, a federal court threw out a Bush-era five-year plan for offshore development because it ignored the Arctic’s environmental sensitivity; in 2010 we won a court order stopping drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea due to poor environmental review; and in 2011 we successfully challenged Shell’s air permits. As a result, Shell Oil — slated to drill in the Arctic every year since 2007 — has not yet stuck its drills in the water.
In the wake of the BP Gulf disaster, we put pressure on the government to reject BP’s plans to drill the world’s longest horizontal well in the Arctic Ocean via a project it dubbed “Liberty.” Thanks in large part to our pressure, BP has postponed Liberty. Also in the wake of the BP disaster, we challenged the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency for authorizing an inadequate oil-spill response plan for Alaska, including rubberstamping the use of toxic oil dispersants harmful to wildlife. The government agencies heeded the warning and have begun the necessary environmental review.
On land, we’ve been working to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge since 2001, when we forced the Bush administration to release information about the impacts of Arctic Refuge oil drilling on polar bears. Lobbyists and government agencies continue to push for destructive drilling. The Obama administration is in the process of comprehensive planning for the Arctic Refuge, and we’re working to secure full wilderness protection for the entire refuge, including the biologically rich coastal plain and the Center continues to press for a permanent halt on offshore drilling in all U.S. waters, starting in Alaska.
Now, Shell Oil is suing the Center for Biological Diversity and 12 other environmental groups in an attempt to intimidate us with threats so that it can push through dangerous new drilling in the fragile Arctic ecosystem.
Why is Shell Oil suing the Center? Because we’ve stopped every offshore drilling proposal in the Arctic since 2007. Shell knows we’re effective, so it’s trying to take us out with its preemptive attack.
But we’re not leaving. We’re fighting back, because the Arctic is simply too important to turn our backs on. It’s home to polar bears, walruses, bowhead whales and other endangered and highly sensitive wildlife. Drilling for oil in its remote, ice-choked waters would carry unacceptably high risks to wildlife and the region’s pristine landscapes.
Cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic would be next to impossible. If there were a blowout, oil could spill for months into the Arctic’s icy waters.
Shell, though, is bound and determined to start drilling in the Arctic this summer. First, though, it’s filed suit against environmental groups – and is asking us to pay its legal fees.
It’s time to stand up to Shell and tell this oil giant we won’t be intimidated. The Arctic – and all its wild inhabitants – is an incredible treasure that deserves protection, not drilling rigs and industrial operations.
Arctic Fox photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/ThePitcher