Company seeks extension from appeals board
*Read more Summit Voice stories on Shell’s ill-fated Arctic drilling program here.
It was big news when Shell Oil in September announced it was shutting down its contested Arctic drilling program, but the company apparently doesn’t want give up completely. Just a couple of months after the big news, Shell sought at least extend the life of its leases in the region.
Without an extension, the company’s Beaufort Sea leases are set to expire in 2017, and its Chukchi Sea leases in 2020. The U.S. Interior Department has already denied the extension, but company is now challenging that decision with the Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals.
Watchdog groups say they will request formal legal status in the appeal to defend the Interior Department’s earlier decision. Earthjustice is representing Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, National Audubon Society, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.
Environmental organizations took a lot of credit — deserved or not — for pushing Shell out of the Arctic, so they have a lot at stake to make sure the decision sticks. And Shell probably wants to keep its options open, if for no other reason than to be fiscally responsible to its shareholders.
“The Arctic Ocean is ground zero for climate change, and drilling in such a sensitive region threatens the whales, seals and countless other wildlife that call it home,” said Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe. “So last fall, we welcomed the news that Shell was leaving the Arctic Ocean, at least for now. This appeal, however, is the oil company’s latest attempt to keep the door open for drilling,” Grafe said.
The agency was right to reject Shell’s extension request, and we look forward to helping it defend that decision. The government has concluded there is a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill if oil companies develop the region, and experts agree that there is no way effectively to contain and clean up a spill in the Arctic Ocean. Developing and burning Arctic Ocean oil is incompatible with efforts to combat climate change. To help stave off the worst effects of climate change, the Arctic Ocean must be off limits to future drilling,” he concluded.