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article imageShell’s Arctic oil response plan approved by Obama administration

By Lynn Herrmann     Feb 18, 2012 in Politics
Washington - Shell Oil won a major consideration on Friday when the Obama administration approved the oil giant’s oil spill response plan for drilling in the waters of the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, now opening up a drilling process set to begin as early as this summer
One of the last roadblocks for Shell’s planned offshore drilling in the Arctic was cleared this week when the U.S. government, citing the “strongest oversight” plan ever developed, approved the oil company’s controversial oil response plan.
“In the Arctic frontier, cautious exploration — under the strongest oversight, safety requirements, and emergency response plans ever established — can help us expand our understanding of the area and its resources, and support our goal of continuing to increase safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Boston Globe reports.
According to government estimates, 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil, along with 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, is located in the fragile waters of the Arctic ecosystem. These totals include the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska and the Beaufort Sea off its north coast.
In a statement earlier this month, Shell CEO Peter Voser noted, “Shell’s strategy is innovative and competitive. Our improving financial position creates an opportunity to increase both our dividends and investment levels. With ramp up now well in hand for near-term growth, I want to move our agenda forward today, with new targets for the company.”
With the Arctic Sea clearly one of its targets, and with the Obama White House continuing its pace of approval for offshore exploration, opponents continue expressing dismay. In response to Friday’s announcement approving the oil spill response plan, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “We are deeply disappointed in the decision to approve Shell's oil spill response plan. The risk to fragile natural systems and native communities is clear. There remain significant questions about whether spill prevention, containment and response systems are equipped to work in challenging Arctic conditions. There also remain huge knowledge gaps in scientific understanding about life in the Arctic waters and the potential impacts of drilling.”
Others point to the rampant uncertainties over BP’s Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon debacle. “The Gulf of Mexico is perhaps the most well-equipped region on the planet to deal with a massive oil spill, and we had a really hard time dealing with that,” said Lisa Speer of the National Resource Defense Council, Foreign Policy in Focus states.
Of noted concern among opponents of Arctic oil exploration in the remote area is the lack of safety infrastructure, including roads and airports, limited communications facilities, extreme weather conditions, and the nearest Coast Guard station in Alaska being more than 1,000 miles for drilling sites.
“Big Oil's dismal spill record belies their continued assurance of safety. The unproven technology proposed in Shell's plan will not protect the irreplaceable scenery and wildlife of the Polar Bear Seas. Shell and other oil companies should not be allowed to move forward with risky, dangerous plans to drill in this pristine area,” Brune added in the Sierra Club statement.
More about Big oil, Shell oil, oil response plan, of the arctic, Sensitive
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