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‘Climate Denial, Plain and Simple’: Feds Approve Shell’s Arctic Drilling Plan

“Not only does it put the Arctic’s pristine landscapes at a huge risk for oil spills and industrial development but it’s utterly incompatible with President Obama’s rhetoric to address the climate crisis.”

By Nadia Prupis

The Obama administration has given conditional approval to Shell to start drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic this summer, dealing a major blow to environmentalists who have sought to protect the vulnerable Beaufort and Chuchki Seas from fossil fuel exploration.

“Arctic drilling is climate denial, plain and simple,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of climate activist organization, tweeted after the announcement. “Shameful decision by [President Barack Obama] to allow Shell to drill.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said in a statement on Monday, “As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards.”

However, environmental activists have long warned that there is no way to fully protect against the dangers of offshore drilling, particularly in areas that are hard to reach by emergency vessels. Not only does fossil fuel exploration harm endangered species which rely on the Arctic’s pristine ecosystems to survive, but an accident in those remote waters could be more devastating than the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill which killed 11 workers and poured millions of barrels of oil into the Atlantic Ocean, activists say.

Furthermore, green groups point out that the only way to avoid climate catastrophe is to leave untapped reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas unexploited.

Calling Shell’s drilling scheme “the largest, loudest and dirtiest exploration plan ever proposed in the American Arctic Ocean,” Friends of the Earth said the Interior Department’s approval “is unconscionable given that the latest science says Arctic oil must be kept in the ground in order to have a chance at keeping the planet safe.”

The White House first granted drilling approval to Shell in the summer of 2012, but that project was derailed by numerous safety and operational problems. According to the New York Times, the Interior Department’s new approval (pdf) of the plan “was conditional on Shell’s receiving approval of a series of remaining drilling permits for the project.”

That was of little comfort to environmental groups which say that the oil giant has not demonstrated it can drill safely in the ecologically delicate region.

“Once again, our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth,” Susan Murray, a vice president of Oceana, told the Times. “Shell’s need to validate its poorly planned investment in the U.S. Arctic Ocean is not a good reason for the government to allow the company to put our ocean resources at risk. Shell has not shown that it is prepared to operate responsibly in the Arctic Ocean, and neither the company nor our government has been willing to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of Shell’s proposal.”

Henn later tweeted, “Giving Shell ‘conditional’ permission to drill in the Arctic is like giving a drunk keys to your car and asking them to please drive safe.”

“It’s deeply troubling to see the Obama administration give the oil industry the green light to drill in the Arctic,” Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement on Monday. “Not only does it put the Arctic’s pristine landscapes at a huge risk for oil spills and industrial development but it’s utterly incompatible with President Obama’s rhetoric to address the climate crisis.”

Noblin continued:

The Interior Department bent over backward to rush Shell’s permit through the regulatory process so it could move its drillships into the Arctic this summer. Considering Shell ran its drillship aground in Alaska in 2012, it’s hard to fathom how the federal government can rationalize rubber-stamping Shell’s second try at Arctic drilling.

Arctic drilling is a step in the exact wrong direction. Scientists tell us that if we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to keep Arctic oil in the ground. Arctic drilling gives us a 75 percent chance of an oil spill and a 100 percent chance of climate catastrophe. Interior should send Shell packing.

Erik Grafe, a staff attorney with environmental legal nonprofit Earthjustice, added, “This decision places big oil before people, putting the Arctic’s iconic wildlife and the health of our planet on the line. The agency should not be approving such threatening plans based on a rushed and incomplete environmental and safety review. Ultimately, Arctic Ocean drilling is far too risky and undermines the administration’s efforts to address climate change and transition to a clean energy future. These fossil fuels need to remain in the ground.”


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  1. bsbafflesbrains
    May 11, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    If you like your planet you can keep your planet Obama/Matthew 7:15

  2. mulp
    May 11, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    We the People who vote in all elections, and those who chose not to vote in all elections, have clearly spoken in favor of climate pillage and plunder, and clearly expressed a strong will for giving the big corporation what they want of public land.

    If that were not true, at least 300 Republican Senators and Representatives would not be in Congress.

    And no nonsense about gerrymandering – the last time any State border was redrawn was when Virginia was split up.

    The simple way to end the drilling, fracking, pipelines, is to have people run for Congress in Republican majority areas promising to impose a carbon tax that would quickly hit the top end of the Laffer curve and generate zero tax revenue because everyone would dodge the taxes by investing in wind and solar harvesting and storage capital and replace oil power devices with electric, and then get everyone out to vote for the higher taxes.

    The idea that we elect dictators and the Congress is irrelevant is the downfall of the planet. The POWER is granted to Congress, not the president. To say “It’s deeply troubling to see the Obama administration give the oil industry the green light to drill in the Arctic,” is to say that Obama upholding the Supreme Law of the Land is “troubling”.

    After all, Shell paid for the oil lease in the Arctic when Bush held the auction, so Shell owns it. If you argue that Obama can and should confiscate Shell’s property, why not confiscate all your oil powered cars which are polluting the planet and causing climate change, or your houses heated with fossil fuels?

  3. JamesJoyce
    May 12, 2015 at 5:58 am

    “Shell’s property, why not confiscate all your oil powered cars which are polluting the planet and causing climate change, or your houses heated with fossil fuels?”

    Mulp! You made a great point about property! I wonder how much life was stripped or “confiscated” from humans deemed property by a judge, based on skin color in 1857, protecting energy monopoly of a 1%?

    The proper term is “involuntarily servitude,” to the modern energy monopoly…

    SO how much “liberty” has been wasted in 20 years of driving to and from work like slave in servitude to a master?

    “Saudi Aramco’s origins trace to the oil shortages of World War I and the exclusion of American companies from Mesopotamia by Great Britain and France under the San Remo Petroleum Agreement of 1920.[11]
    The US Republican administration had popular support for an “Open Door policy”, which Herbert Hoover, secretary of commerce, initiated in 1921.
    Standard Oil of California(SoCal) was among those US companies seeking new sources of oil from abroad.”

    “SoCal through its subsidiary company, the Bahrain Petroleum Co. (BAPCO), struck oil on Bahrain in May 1932. This event heightened interest in the oil prospects of the Arabian mainland. On 29 May 1933, the Saudi Arabian government granted a concession to SoCal in preference to a rival bid from the Iraq Petroleum Co..[13]

    “The concession allowed Socal to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia. SoCal assigned this concession to a wholly owned subsidiary, California-Arabian Standard Oil (CASOC). In 1936, with the company having had no success at locating oil, the Texas Oil Co. (Texaco) purchased a 50% stake of the concession.[14]”

    In a monarchy, everybody is property of a king and his business interests….
    This link above is not showing up, the way it is being pasted… It is Saudi Aramco. nice monopoly here… i will try to copy and paste again…

  4. JamesJoyce
    May 12, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Corporate media working hard this morning to hold the corporate line….

    What garbage

  5. John Massie
    May 12, 2015 at 8:26 am

    Barack and cronies just setting up their payday for Jan 21, 2017…nothing to see here. Business as usual.

  6. Me Who
    May 12, 2015 at 9:20 am

    And, anyone who tries to organize to prevent this will have all of their communications (email, phone convos, texts), online use, whereabouts (embedded rfid, nfc, bluetooth, liscense plate readers, etc.), illegally intercepted to prevent them from succeeding.

  7. Me Who
    May 12, 2015 at 9:23 am

    You give a fantastic defense for the oil industry!

  8. jawbone3
    May 12, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Obama is a Corporatist and like his owners has no need for internal or external consistency, only looking and sounding “sincere” enough to fool enough of the people to reap more rewards, aka money and power.

  9. JamesJoyce
    May 12, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    YES….. He sure did! A very Faustian position….