Beginning July 1, we’ll all take that gamble.
That’s when the Shell Oil Company plans to drill exploration wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas — home to polar bears, bowhead whales and a host of other iconic wildlife.
A spill in the Arctic could be catastrophic and nearly impossible to clean. Burning the spilled oil, a tactic used in the Gulf, won’t work in sea ice. Eight-foot high Gulf of Mexico seas temporarily halted BP’s clean-up; the Arctic is home to high winds, extreme storms, waves up to 20 feet at times, heavy fog and sub-zero temperatures.
The Gulf spill is close to land, where cleanup resources are easily accessible; Shell will be drilling in remote locations, hundreds of miles from help. In the Gulf, BP had access to more than 400,000 feet of containment boom and was prepared to skim more than 170,000 barrels of oil a day from the water in the first 24 hours; in the Arctic, Shell says it would have only 6,000 feet of boom available in the immediate aftermath of a spill and be able to skim just 24,000 barrels.
Drilling should be halted until federal investigations can determine what went wrong in the Gulf and what’s needed to drill safely in the Arctic.
As the Gulf tragedy grows worse by the day, it’s clear there is no room to gamble in the Arctic.
For more information, visit http://www.oceansnorth.org