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n a stunning victory for one of America’s last and embarrassing blunders during the 2012 drilling pristine ocean habitats and half the nation’s season, including emergency response equipment threatened polar bears, a federal appeals court that was “crushed like a beer can” during routine has effectively blocked the oil and gas industry from testing and the grounding of a 260-foot drill rig, drilling off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea. sent the company into retreat in 2013. Now, Shell The ruling marks a major win in an ongoing has abandoned its exploratory drilling plans for campaign by NRDC and our allies to keep Big this year as well. “This time-out gives the Obama Oil’s rigs — and the Administration a risk of a catastrophic golden opportunity spill — out of the Polar to finally break with Bear Seas. Just two the failed policy of weeks after the court the Bush years,” says decision, Shell reversed Lawrence. “We’re course and announced calling on President that it would not Obama and Interior attempt to drill in the Secretary Jewell to Arctic this summer. chart a new, more The court found that responsible course in approving the sale Walrus and other Arctic wildlife have been spared the threat of an oil spill — for now. of some 30 million by putting the Arctic completely off-limits acres of drilling leases in the Chukchi Sea in 2008, to the oil giants.” That long-overdue move would the Bush Administration wildly underestimated not only preserve our spectacular natural heritage the potential for oil spills and other hazards. The but also spare the earth’s embattled climate more Interior Department now will have to go back to the disruption by keeping the Arctic’s vast store of fossil drawing board and undertake a thorough environmental fuels safely in the ground. review of the dangers posed by drilling in the Arctic’s treacherous waters. “The court basically said the government has no idea what the real conse­quences of drilling will be,” says Niel Lawrence, an NRDC senior attorney. “And until it knows those impacts, it has no business letting Shell continue to operate in the Arctic Ocean.” This milestone courtroom victory would not have been possible without the generous support of hundreds of thousands of NRDC Members who have helped fund a tough battle against two admini­ strations and Big Oil that has raged in and out of the courtroom for five years. As a direct result, the polar bears, whales, dolphins and countless other Shell Oil has been extremely aggressive in its attempts animals that depend on the Arctic Ocean for survival to drill in the Polar Bear Seas — and it has met with will be spared the threat of a devastating oil spill one ominous failure after another. A litany of serious — at least for now. Walrus © Steven Kazlowski/ I Shell Forced to Retreat in Arctic 3

Nature's Voice Spring 2014

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