Shell Proves It’s No Match for the Arctic “Shell hasn’t even faced the worst weather conditions
of thwarted attempts to drill in Alaska’s Polar
the Arctic has to offer,” says Clusen, alluding to
Bear Seas, Royal Dutch Shell lost control of
gale-force winds, subzero temperatures, 20-foot
an enormous drill rig
surging seas and
being towed near
winter pack ice.
Kodiak Island on
“If one of the
New Year’s Eve.
The rig, more than
in the world can’t
260 feet in diameter
buy its way to safety
and carrying some
in the Arctic, it
150,000 gallons of
proves what we’ve
diesel fuel and other
been saying all
along: This is no
ran aground in rough
place to drill.”
seas after all four
engines on its tow
vessel failed. “Shell’s
litany of mishaps and blunders is outrageous,
Shell lost control of its Kulluk drill rig, which ran aground.
pended Shell’s offshore Arctic drilling
each one worse than the last,” says Chuck Clusen,
operations in the wake of the latest accident, but it
director of NRDC’s Alaska Project.
has not ended oil exploration there. Oil giant
The company’s efforts to drill in the Chukchi and
ConocoPhillips has proposed sinking its own wells
Beaufort Seas — home to more than half our nation’s
in the Arctic Ocean. For its part, Shell is intent on
polar bears and critical habitat for endangered whales
returning to the Polar Bear Seas, with plans to drill
and other marine mammals — have been plagued
off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
from the outset. Last July one of Shell’s drill ships
and in other sensitive waters.
slipped anchor and nearly ran aground; in August the Coast Guard refused to certify as seaworthy the linchpin of Shell’s emergency plan: a spill-response barge that suffered 400 separate safety-related problems. A month later, a 30-mile-long iceberg forced Shell’s drill rig to flee one day after it started operations. Meanwhile, the containment dome Shell planned to use in the event of a blowout to capture spewing oil was, according to media sources, “crushed like a beer can” during pre-deployment testing in placid Puget Sound.
As NRDC and Earthjustice press ahead with courtroom action to stop Shell from drilling, more than 50,000 NRDC Members and online activists recently petitioned President Obama to call off the rigs and undertake a critical review of all offshore drilling in the Arctic, taking into full account Shell’s failures. “What have we learned from Shell’s bumbling misadventure?” asks Clusen. “Only that it’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen.” Take action at: www.stopshell.org
Drill rig © Jonathan Klingenberg/U.S. Coast Guard
apping a string of dismal failures in a year