April 20, 2012 - Statement from Cindy Shogan, Executive Director, Alaska Wilderness League:
It's been two years since 11 men lost their lives and the abundant ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico were changed forever. As we remember the day the Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded, we can only hope that the lessons we learned from that disaster will change the way drilling will be done in our offshore waters. Unfortunately, in a matter of weeks, we could instead see history repeat itself.
Right now, Shell Oil's drill ships are on their way to America's Arctic to launch the most aggressive Arctic drilling plan in history. Shell could drill 10 wells in waters covered in sea ice up to 25-feet thick, in a place known for hurricane-strength storms, sub-zero temperatures and months of darkness. Shell plans to drill with no viable way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic's extreme conditions – and without the necessary infrastructure to launch an effective response. Shell will drill unless President Barack Obama remembers the lessons of the past and acts now.
But President Obama shouldn't just listen to us. He should read a report card put out this week by the National Oil Spill Commission he appointed after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which notes that in the Arctic there remain ‘many unanswered questions and much work to be done.'
The National Oil Spill Commission isn't the only entity that is skeptical about Shell's ability to clean up a spill in our Arctic Ocean. Congress' investigative body, the General Accountability Office (GAO), came out with its own report that questions what Shell plans to do if there's a blowout in the Arctic. And, analysts at Lloyds of London, one of the world's largest insurance markets, issued a stunning warning that offshore drilling in the Arctic would "constitute a unique and hard-to-manage risk" and urged companies to "think carefully about the consequences of action."
This all in the past few weeks alone.
Most of all, President Obama must hear the words of 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Caroline Cannon, an Inupiat tribal leader who has spent much of her time in recent years going back and forth between her home on the Arctic coast and Washington, D.C. to ensure that her people and her way of life are not forgotten: ‘When I met with President Obama a couple years ago, he told me that he knew what it felt to be treated as a second-class citizen. He made a promise to work with the Inupiat people and to protect our way of life. That gave me hope. Now is the time to hold him to that promise.'
President Obama, don't play political roulette with America's Arctic Ocean. There is still time to stop the next Deepwater Horizon disaster before it happens. Tell Shell to turn its ships around.
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