Thursday, May 14, 2015

Interior Approves Shell Plan To Drill Arctic Starting In July

Servicing the Public
for Over 100 Years
In what can only be called an ill-considered but well-hidden hand‑job for Shell, the Department of the Interior announced on Monday its approval of Shell's plan to drill in Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean, beginning almost immediately: July. The approval is conditional on Shell's obtaining all legally required permits to drill (a virtual certainty), authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (surely already a done deal) and all required Biological Opinions under the Endangered Species Act (I'm afraid I don't know what this means, but I do know it is surely no obstacle to what one of the world's largest megacorp's wants to do). The precipitousness of implementation deals a blow to all organized efforts to prevent the drilling or mitigate the inevitable damage both to the environment in the Arctic and, perhaps more significantly, to the global climate. (Do you think they even noted your signature on an online petition opposing this action? Me either.)

The Earthjustice article linked above has a good summary of the damage such drilling could easily cause:

... The project Interior approved today is bigger, dirtier, and louder than any previous plan, calling for more sound disturbances and harassment of whales and seals, more water and air pollution, and more vessels and helicopters. It also runs the risk of a catastrophic oil spill that could not be cleaned in Arctic waters.

The company’s accident-filled efforts to drill in 2012 demonstrate that neither Shell nor any other company is ready to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Shell proved that again just last month when its Discoverer drillship was held in port due to pollution control failures. Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean also takes us in the wrong direction on combating climate change.

I have done contract IT work for Shell (more than a decade ago; I would not accept such work today) and I knew some of the people involved in designing the more ambitious drilling projects. Those at Shell are neither better nor worse than typical in the industry, but it is the nature of things that they appear to be self-assured to the point of arrogance about the outcomes of their work, in deep water and/or extreme weather. What could possibly go wrong? (*cough* BP Deepwater Horizon *cough*) Apart from that,  as of a couple years ago, it looked as if all the big oil companies, including Shell, were partnering with one of two Russian companies, both of which have bad track records regarding safety and environment.

Shell Kulluk Rig Damaged, Mar. 2013
(credit: National Geographic)

I'll let you know if I find any letter-writing campaigns or petitions to sign, but I suspect it's a done deal.


  1. Obama greenlights Shell’s Arctic drilling, tarnishing his climate legacy

    1. Enfant, if all those fossil fuels are extracted and burned, the damage to Obama's climate legacy is going to be the least of our problems... hell, it will be the least of his problems!

      A great majority of scientists whose specialties mean they should know the consequences of adding all that carbon and energy to the atmosphere have done their calculations and announced that we are past the tipping point, and global climate change of some degree will happen, for certain. The extractive industries are busy lying about it, and I know some otherwise intelligent members of the American voting public who believe their lies. IOW, they believe statements from those who stand to profit most (in the short term, of course) from continuing the extraction and burning, over statements from those who have the knowledge and the research skills to talk about what's really going to happen. Yes, the damned fools among the American electorate could indeed send the entire Earth straight to hell. Can we confine climate change to the amount currently forecast, and prevent a runaway disaster that endangers all life on Earth? I don't know. I just don't know.

  2. All this is so sadly short-sighted ---- and unfortunately that short-sightedness seems to be a fixture in politics these days. =(

    1. c, within the industry, there are two assumptions accepted by almost every employee (contractors may differ somewhat):

      1. The energy industry == the fossil fuels industries;
      2. Only petroleum engineers know enough about energy technology to make the ultimate decisions.

      As I asked above: given an attitude like that, what could possibly go wrong?

      As to politics, you know where I used to stand on that; the only real change is that now I tend to believe Dems are almost as reprehensible as GOPers on environmental issues. I continue to vote D for their firmness on women's issues, civil liberties (though Obama has been less than admirable in that arena) and resistance to introducing religion directly into government. I no longer attend Dem meetings or give them any money. :-(



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