Gulf of Mexico oil spill prompts worries about Arctic drilling

May 11, 2010

RUSSIAWith the spotlight shining on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the executives sizzling in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, environmental advocates are looking north.

They’re worried that Shell Oil will start drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska before the U.S. government reports on BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig disaster. And the environmental groups are not comforted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s reassurances that no new drilling will take place until the government report is completed by May 28.

“The May 28 report deadline still leaves ample time should the Department of the Interior choose to allow this ill-advised drilling to move forward in extreme Arctic conditions, where spill response faces additional challenges of sea ice, seas of up to 20 feet, darkness and a virtual lack of infrastructure from which to stage a response,” the environmental groups — Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society — said in a statement.

OIL-RIG/LEAKThe Chukchi Sea is home to polar bears, which are already under pressure due to melting summer sea ice in the Arctic. The big white bears are listed as a U.S. threatened species due to the expected continued effects of climate change in the area.

Shell plans to move into the area around July 1, and get to the places where it wants to drill exploratory wells by July 4 if ice permits. They plan to leave for the year by October 31.

An analysis of Shell’s exploration drilling plan by the Pew Environment Group says that provisions for cleanup in the event of a Chukchi Sea oil spill are inadequate and too distant from the prospective drill site. Marilyn Heiman, the former director of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Commission and now with the  Pew group’s U.S. Arctic program, quoted the Shell exploration drilling plan as saying that “a large oil spill, such as a crude oil release from a blowout, is extremely rare and not considered a reasonably foreseeable impact.”  Heiman said the U.S. Minerals Management Service’s environmental assessment also dismissed the probability of this kind of blowout and spill as “insignificant.” A blowout at BP’s well off the Louisiana coast is the source of the oil spill there.

Since the BP spill in the Gulf, the Minerals Management Service has asked Shell for additional safety information by May 18, but that may not be enough to allay the environmental groups’ fears. They want the Obama administration to cancel this summer’s plans for Arctic oil exploration.

Photo credits: REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk (Twin six-month-old polar bear cubs play in the city zoo in St. Petersburg, Russia, March 25, 2010)

REUTERS/Jason Reed (President and Chairman of BP America Inc. Lamar McKay in front of protesters before a Senate hearing on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Washington, May 11, 2010)


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What impact would an oil spill have on the albedo of the Arctic if a BP-scale oil blow-out were to occur there? i.e., How much more heat would the Arctic absorb as a result of an BP-sized or Exxon Valdez oil spill? What impact would this have on the rate of acceleration of global warming (see p )? Based on the oil spill rate and record of the past 40 years, how many oil spills and blow-outs are projected for, say, the year 2030 or 2050 if we fully implemented the Palin “Drill, baby, drill” wish list?

Posted by Metro-Ethernet | Report as abusive

yeah—-not to mention that bp had absolutely NO PLAN for cleaning up since ‘it was virtually impossible’ —–
WELL, HOW ABOUT NOW?????????? the gulf spill will impact the area for at least 50 years–and it’s just getting started–and they can’t figure out how to stop it–and this is in an area that’s EASY to get to–what will happen in the arctic??? will we just let it go ‘all winter’ since the ice will be covering it???????? and that’s without mentioning the METHANE that’s ALREADY BUBBLING UP because of the warming going on–how long before there’s a blow out because of that??? COME ON PEOPLE!!! put the R&D into fixing the problems that we can cause–not just into ‘safe drilling’–that’s an oxymoron if i ever heard one–

Posted by ffotoragg | Report as abusive

Hello there is a great company called planet resource to fix the problem there is a frrat animation of correcting this Vw

Posted by annphilip | Report as abusive

[…] handed out since this accident occurred. And unbelievably, he hasn’t halted plans for Shell to drill in the Arctic this summer, where there’s absolutely no doubt that an accident would be […]

Posted by Now is not the time to research oil cleanup | Distant-Help | Report as abusive