WWF: Offshore drilling in Beaufort Sea ‘a huge risk’

Conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned against offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea, following BOEM’s call for nominations for a proposed lease sale off Alaska.

The WWF said on Wednesday that any step to open the Arctic Ocean to offshore drilling would be a huge risk to the ecological future of the Arctic itself.

This latest statement by the WWF comes as a response to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) call for information and nominations covering a proposed lease sale in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea.

Namely, BOEM said that the proposed lease sale in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea Planning Area in 2019 was listed in the proposed 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program announced in January.

The call will appear in the Federal Register on Friday, March 30, after which a 30-day comment period will be initiated, ending on April 30.

During this time, BOEM seeks comments from the industry on interest in the areas proposed for leasing, including nominations or indications of interest in specific lease blocks within the area.

BOEM also seeks comments from any interested party regarding geological, environmental, biological, archaeological, and socioeconomic conditions, use conflicts, etc.

Once the call is complete and the comments analyzed, BOEM will proceed to area identification.

Following BOEM’s announcement, Margaret Williams, WWF’s managing director of U.S. Arctic programs, said: “Any step to open America’s Arctic Ocean to dangerous offshore drilling not only threatens the region’s marine wildlife and coastal communities, it also risks the ecological future of the Arctic itself.

“At a time when the world is embracing clean, renewable energy like never before, the last thing we need to do is intensify exploration for fossil fuels – especially in the unforgiving waters of the Arctic Ocean.”

It is worth noting that, since the 2019-2024 National OCS Program is still in draft form, the issuance of the call does not mean that a final decision has been made to hold the Beaufort Sea sales.

Offshore Energy Today Staff