Shell’s Inadequate Oil Spill Response Plans Threaten America’s Arctic

The Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of conservation organizations have filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s approval of Shell Oil’s spill response plans for Arctic drilling.

The Center and Alaskan allies have successfully blocked offshore oil development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas since the Bush administration first tried to open the Arctic to development through a series of lawsuits over poor environmental review and failure to consider environmental sensitivity and air quality. As a result, Shell Oil — slated to drill in the Arctic every year since 2007 — has not yet stuck its drills in the water.

Until now. At this moment, Shell’s drill rigs are headed for the Arctic and could be in place in a matter of weeks.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) rubber-stamped plans that rely on unbelievable assumptions, include equipment that has never been tested in Arctic conditions, and ignore the very real possibility that a spill could continue through the winter. The agency has failed to ensure Shell’s plans could be effective and that Shell has sufficient boats, resources and spill responders to remove a “worst-case” oil spill in the Arctic Ocean to the “maximum extent practicable.”  Even after Deepwater Horizon, Interior Secretary Salazar brushed aside concerns about Shell’s spill response capabilities, stating recently that “there is not going to be an oil spill.”

The American people deserve more. There have been no tests of spill response equipment in US Arctic waters since 2000 and those equipment tests were “a failure.”  Today, Shell relies on much of that same equipment, and bases its plans on the assumption that it will clean up more than 90 percent of any spilled oil. Even in relatively favorable conditions, less than 10 percent of spilled oil was recovered after the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez spills. In the Arctic, sea ice, harsh weather, high seas, darkness and wind may render even that level of cleanup impossible.

The Center will continue to fight drilling in the Arctic, a place teeming with species found in few other places, including polar bears, caribou, Pacific walrus, bowhead whales, and numerous species of seal. Learn more about the Arctic and the threats Arctic drilling poses here.

Polar bears, the first species to receive Endangered Species Act protections due to threats from global warming, are especially at risk. Not only would polar bears be devastated by an oil spill, but burning that oil will only accelerate global warming and speed their journey to extinction.

Related Stories:

More Than 1 Million People Urge White House to Stop Shell’s Arctic Drilling

Drill, Baby, Drill: Shells Arctic Madness

Breaking: Shell Sues the Center for Biological Diversity… Again

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons/ShanePapaDiesel


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

change twentytwelve

THEY will Kill the Arctic sea, and there fore kill all life in the Oceans of the World, and with that We will become Extinct by our choices,apathy, greed, and an insatiable lust for power and control. This deal was 'done' before, and despite all the petitions, e-mails and phone calls to our representatives, and others.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch5 years ago

Big Business = 1
Environment = 0


Yvette S.
Yvette S5 years ago

If we all ask and used more green energy there are less oil drill/spill incidents!!!!!

Yvette S.
Yvette S5 years ago

There are not oil spill incidents enough so they go on and on and on So what if something go wrong there is always a new place they can do it again as long they make big money they don't care!!!!

Elena Tulina
Elena Poensgen5 years ago


Sandi C.
Sandi C5 years ago

Sorry to say I used to work at a Shell Station. Can't comment!

aj E.
aj E5 years ago

here we go again.

Rebecca F.
Rebecca F5 years ago

It isn't only Americans who deserve more it is a poluting the world issue and there's a big world outside of America! We have big oil companies who try to get permission to drill for oil in New Zealand too as in so many other countries around the world. What stunned many of us here in New Zealand a while back was our government was considering letting one company do that near a marine reserve. A poorly devised plan with lack of concern for the natural habbitat in the area and for the far reaching consequences. But also, we need to give a thought to our own use of fuel for our cars, heating and how we get our electricity because if it was not for the demand there wouldn't be such a push for supply ie, drilling.