More lease sales detailed in 5-year plan
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Facing political pressure to step up domestic energy production, the Obama administration last week announced plans to expand offshore oil drilling, in the Arctic and the the Gulf of Mexico, which is still suffering the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil.
The five-year plan schedules 15 lease sales in six offshore areas, including the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas, despite concerns about the ability to cleanup spills in the remote Arctic.
New lease sales are also proposed in parts of the Gulf of Mexico that have been off limits up to now.
According to conservation groups, the five-year energy development plan is a step in the wrong direction because it increases reliance on oil and threatens species already stressed by the impacts of climate change.
“President Obama is doubling down on risky offshore oil development when he should be investing in clean energy,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This plan is a one-two punch to vulnerable wildlife like polar bears. They’re already being killed off by climate change, and now they’re facing dangerous, dirty drilling right where they live.”
The Obama plan represents a long-term commitment to offshore oil drilling at a time when Arctic monitoring stations have reported carbon dioxide levels in the region have reached 400 parts per million — a milestone that underscores the risks of greenhouse gas pollution. Leading climate scientists say CO2 concentrations should be reduced to 350 ppm to avoid potentially catastrophic changes.
The Chukchi and Beaufort lease sales take place in critical habitat for polar bears, which were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2008. Scientific studies show that, because of the rapid melting of their Arctic habitat, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears, including all those in Alaska, are likely to be extinct within the next 40 years unless greenhouse gas pollution is significantly reduced.
“Polar bears are already teetering on the brink of extinction. Policies that worsen climate change and raise the risk of disastrous oil spills in their habitat will push them over the edge,” said Sakashita.