The federal government has approved Shell Oil’s emergency plan for responding to an oil spill in the Beaufort Sea near Alaska. The decision by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is a major milestone in the company’s pursuit to begin exploratory drilling later this year. However, the decision is raising significant concerns given the likely challenges with responding to an oil spill disaster in the Arctic. The Surfrider Foundation is one of many groups that has questioned how the industry will be able to contain and respond to spills in such a remote (and pristine) location, especially given the harsh environment that includes major storms, massive swells, freezing temperatures, and extended periods of darkness. The industry already has a poor record in responding to spills in places where conditions are more favorable - both with respect to environmental conditions and the presence of supporting infrastructure. For Shell’s proposed drilling to move forward in the Arctic, the response plans will need to survive any legal challenges and the company will still need to secure individual drilling permits for specific planned wells. (Photo: NOAA Photo Library).
The Surfrider Foundation today submitted comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the Draft 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Programmatic EIS. These comments were based on Surfrider’s Policy on Offshore Drilling, as well as the engagement/ perspective of our U.S. chapters in this issue. Click here to read the full comment letter to BOEM. Some highlights of Surfrider’s comment letter include:
- The Surfrider Foundation strongly supports the Department’s decision to exclude the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from the proposed 2012-2017 leasing plan
- Surfrider agrees with BOEM’s approach to focus the majority of lease sales in areas with current active leases (e.g., Western and Central Gulf of Mexico); however, we oppose issuing lease sales in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico
- Surfrider has strong concerns about plans to potentially lease off Alaska, given the likely challenges with spill prevention and response in the harsh and remote ocean environment
- The Draft PEIS does not sufficiently describe and analyze the impacts of oil spills
- The PEIS needs to better consider the role that renewable energy and conservation can play
Surfrider Foundation’s full comments to BOEM