Shell’s Latest Arctic Failure Finally Prompts Action in Washington

Written by Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Shell’s rush to drill off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge produced another blunder this month, when its Kulluk oil rig, carrying 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and petroleum products on board, ran aground near Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

In the wake of this latest incident, the Interior Department announced last week that it will conduct an expedited assessment of all Arctic offshore drilling operations to determine Shell’s ability to operate safely in the Arctic’s challenging environment.

Interior Secretary Salazar is right that we need to reassess Arctic Ocean drilling. But he’s got to look beyond Shell to whether anyone can safely drill in such a harsh, remote, glorious and fragile place. The lesson from Shell’s debacle this year is that when it comes to the Arctic, human error is commonplace, the environment unforgiving and the industry’s ability to avoid disaster wholly inadequate.

That’s why NRDC and our partners are calling on President Obama to direct his Interior Department to immediately suspend, re-evaluate and then end all oil and gas operations in the Arctic Ocean.

The grounding of Shell’s drilling rig is not an isolated incident. It is part of a larger pattern of risk and failure in which Shell has proven no match for the frigid temperatures, churning seas, punishing winds and prolonged darkness of the fragile Arctic region.

This video, narrated by Robert Redford, reveals some of the other wonders put at risk by Shell’s Arctic drilling plans:

In July, one of Shell’s drill ships nearly ran aground in the Aleutian Islands. That same month, Shell conceded that it would not, as the government understood, collect 90 percent of any oil spill, but only “encounter” that much of it.

The next month, Shell’s spill response barge remained in Bellingham, Wash., because it was plagued with dozens of wiring and other safety problems. Then, just a day after the company started preliminary drilling without the spill response barge on location, its rig the Noble Discoverer was forced to turn and flee from a 30-mile long iceberg.

And in September, Shell’s containment dome was badly damaged during pre-deployment testing in the relatively placid waters of Puget Sound, after which the company announced it was putting its Arctic drilling plans on hold.

The region can’t afford any more of these kinds of mishaps. We must not sacrifice one of our remaining untamed places in reckless pursuit of oil. We know we have to leave oil in the ground or destructive climate change will become unstoppable. It’s time to ask, if we can’t leave it in the dangerous, pristine and vulnerable Arctic Ocean, then where?

Take Action Now: Tell the Obama Administration to stop Shell’s rush to drill in America’s Arctic!


Related Stories:

Success! Shell Backs Away From Arctic Drilling

8 Reasons Why Shell Can’t Be Trusted in the Arctic

Louisiana Oil Rig Explodes, Killing at Least Two Workers



Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado5 years ago


Carrie Anne Brown

already signed, but thanks for sharing :)

paul m.
paul m6 years ago


paul m.
paul m6 years ago


Ram Reddy
Ram Reddy6 years ago


Georgia G.
Georgia a6 years ago

I am almost 67 years old and over the years have developed a great love for Polar Bears. I enjoy watching them cavort with sled dogs, having originally found it almost impossible to believe they would play with them, rather than eat them. I watch videos of their interacting, wishing I could be there and just chuckle at their interactions. I know I will never see this in person but enjoy it on video nonetheless and wish them well. Now the thoughts of any oil company thinking they can drill in the extreme weather of the Arctic makes me irate, no, damned mad. Look at how pitiful they were attempting to handle the spill in the Gulf. They had no idea what they were doing. How in the hell do they think they would do any better with severe cold, huge waves, ice floes, and total inexperience in that section of the world? And I don't want them experimenting in a section of the world so pristine, with such beautiful animals, that has never experienced the brutal hand of man. They haven't even begun yet and are already experiencing problems that make me shudder. If President Obama doesn't stop them, then he is even less a President than I have always said he is. Keep the evil hand of mankind away from the Arctic and leave it in Peace. My Polar Bears deserve no less.

Yvette T.
Past Member 6 years ago

Why are our tax dollars subsidizing manufacturing of arms, int'l arms sales, animals as food with all of the disastrous consequence to health of human, planet, life forms, all that sustains life here, GMO crops to feed the animals with, dirty fuels, things that KILL on Earth, instead of building up the health, diet, sustainable energies that will promote life on Earth continuing?

katarzyna phillips

the video said it all to be honest. disgusting activity, especially so close to a national wildlife refuge!

Jaime  Alexande Alves
Jaime Alves6 years ago


Karen R.
Karen R6 years ago

signed the petition