Environmentalists call on Obama admin to end arctic oil drilling

Environmentalists are calling on the Obama administration to end arctic oil exploration, citing the recent beaching of a Royal Dutch Shell oil drilling rig on the shore of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska.

“This series of mishaps by Shell makes it crystal clear we are not ready to drill in the Arctic,” Chuck Clusen, the director of National Parks and Alaska Projects at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told reporters in a conference call.

“America’s Arctic – whether offshore or in the Arctic Refuge – is the last place we should be drilling for oil and gas,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a statement. “If we are serious about fighting climate disruption and protecting our wild places, the President should immediately cancel Shell’s drilling permits before it is too late, and ensure the Arctic is off-limits for new oil and gas leasing and drilling this year and every year.”

Environmental groups say this is the latest in a long line of problems in arctic drilling operations. Shell’s Kulluk drilling rig ran ashore on Monday night near Kodiak Island after five days of being towed through fierce weather, including 70 mph winds. The rig was carrying about 140,000 gallons of fuel, and, so far, officials have found no evidence of a spill.

On Thursday, the NRDC and the Wilderness Society have joined forces to ask the Obama administration to block any attempt by Shell to resume oil exploration and drilling in the arctic, arguing that the recent grounding of Shell’s drilling rig shows that companies aren’t ready to safely operate in the harsh arctic environment.

The group will send a letter to the Interior Department, asking the agency to stop issuing permits and stop Arctic drilling and only allow it when it’s determined the environment can be protected.

“We have lost all faith in Shell,” said Clusen. “If Shell, one of the most profitable companies on earth, can’t buy its way to safety, no one can.”

The environmental activist group Greenpeace has also come out criticizing Shell’s oil drilling operations in the wake of the oil rig grounding.

“Were the pristine environment of the frozen north not at risk of an oil spill it would be almost comical,” according to the group. “Instead it’s tragic. Rather than opening up the high north to oil firms we need to keep this fragile place off-limits to reckless industrialisation.”