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Shell Targets Prime Polar Bear Habitat “Shell’s oil-spill response plans for the Arctic have

premier polar bear habitat is again facing

always read like a fairy tale; they utterly fail to take

imminent danger: Oil giant Shell has

into account the extreme conditions,” says Lawrence.

announced new plans to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi

“The nearest Coast Guard base to Shell’s Arctic

Sea — home to more than half the nation’s polar

operations is 1,000 miles away. Fundamentally nothing

bears — and the

has changed: The

company is teaming

Arctic remains just

up on the project

as unsafe for drilling

with one of the key

now as it was in 2012,

culprits behind

and it’s not going to

2010’s cata­strophic

get any safer.”

Deepwater Horizon

Also unchanged:

oil spill. Scientists

NRDC’s resolve to

say a major oil

keep Shell out of the

spill in the Arctic

Polar Bear Seas —

Ocean could be

the Chukchi as well

an unprecedented environmental

The Chukchi is home to more than half of America’s polar bears.

disaster, one made that much worse by the harsh

as the Beaufort, which borders the

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We continue to

weather, heavy seas and massive ice floes of the Arctic.

fight in federal court against the lease sales that

“You’d think Shell would have learned its lesson by

and we’re fully prepared to challenge the oil giant

opened the door to potential drilling in the region,

now,” says Niel Lawrence, legal director of NRDC’s

and the Obama Administration on new legal fronts

Arctic protection campaign. Indeed, the oil giant’s

if their plans violate our laws and endanger our

last foray into the area, in 2012, was an unmitigated

environment. Shell will need permits to pollute the

failure, a series of embar­rassing blunders and

Arctic air, discharge wastewater into the Arctic Ocean

harrowing close calls that included the malfunction

and harass and harm marine mammals during drilling.

of critical safety equipment, pollution resulting in

So far, the administration seems all too willing to

$1.1 million in fines, a near miss with a 30-mile-

accommodate the company’s Arctic ambitions. “The

long iceberg, and the grounding of a 260-foot drill

American public needs to understand that there is

rig. Yet the company appears unbowed, determined

no proven method — none whatsoever — for cleaning

to return to the Chukchi and drill as early as this

up a major oil spill in Arctic waters,” says Lawrence.

summer. Alarmingly, Shell plans to lease its drill rig from Transocean, the company whose Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in 2010, spewing millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

“And it’s not just one company we have to worry about. If Shell proceeds with drilling in the Chukchi, you can bet that the rest of Big Oil will want to follow.” Take action at:

Polar bears © Steven J. Kazlowski/


fter being spared in 2013, America’s


Nature's Voice Winter 2014  

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