Environmental Groups Taking Shell’s Arctic Plans to Court

  • Business & Finance

Twelve environmental groups have joined forces in their intent to bring a new challenge to the Bush-era Lease Sale, which sold nearly 30 million acres of the Chukchi Sea’s outer continental shelf for oil and gas drilling and which the courts have twice sent back to the US Department of Interior.

Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law organization, filed a report on Monday informing the Alaska federal district court that the Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Pacific Environment, REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands), Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and World Wildlife Fund intend to challenge Interior’s decision to reaffirm the Chukchi Sea lease sale.

“The Department of the Interior’s decision to affirm the lease sale poses unacceptable risks to the Arctic and the planet. In reassessing the environmental effects of the lease sale, Interior disclosed that there is a 75 percent chance of one or more major oil spills if the leases are developed in the Chukchi Sea. There is no way to contain or clean an oil spill in Arctic Ocean conditions, and a spill could have catastrophic consequences for the people and wildlife of the region,” said Earthjustice.

According to the association, drilling activities under the lease sale threaten essential habitat for walruses and other wildlife in and around the rich and fragile Hanna Shoal.

“Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean only will hasten climate change at what is already ground zero for global warming,” said Earthjustice Staff Attorney Erik Grafe, who is representing the 12 groups.

“Interior ignored recent science that identifies Arctic oil as incompatible with meeting basic international commitments to curb the worst effects of climate change, putting the region, wildlife, and our communities further at risk. Gone should be the days of catering to Shell and big oil, rather it is time for the Obama administration to protect these waters from the dramatic and long-lasting effects drilling will have here and around the world.”

“Letting Shell or any Big Oil company into America’s Arctic Ocean is risky and reckless. President Obama has made a commitment to address climate change and drilling in the Arctic Ocean is inconsistent with this goal. We know that this ‘extreme oil’ cannot be burned if we are to leave our kids a climate safe world. It’s time for President Obama and his administration to take the Arctic Ocean off the table for good,” said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director, Alaska Wilderness League.

“Drilling in the Arctic has never made sense from a risk perspective, and Shell proved that in 2012 when its drillship ran aground,” added Center for Biological Diversity Alaska director Rebecca Noblin.

In January 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals ruled that the Chukchi Lease Sale 193 was held unlawfully. This was the second time the massive offshore oil and gas sale was sent back by the courts.

Earthjustice believes that the sale, originally rushed through in 2008 by the Bush administration and unsuccessfully justified once in 2011 by the Obama administration, was based on poor science and arbitrary economic assumptions. After examining all of the impacts of Lease Sale 193 via the revised environmental impact statement, the Interior should have concluded that no leasing should proceed in the Chukchi Sea.

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