Score one for the environment – at least temporarily. Shell Oil announced that it will not be drilling off the Alaskan coast in the Beaufort Sea in 2009 as planned. This decision comes after a November court ruling which determined that Shell had erroneously been given permission to drill without properly assessing the environmental impact drilling would have on the fragile region.
The Arctic, already vulnerable and suffering from the effects of Global Warming, has been spared this blow by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals following a formal objection by Pacific Environment. The organization, along with a coalition of conservation groups, formally challenged the granting of Shell’s permit with an aim towards blocking the oil giant from drilling in this fragile ecosystem.
According to Pacific Environment, the area Shell had planned to drill in is home to several endangered species including the bowhead whale, the embattled polar bear, and several other marine animals that live in waters adjacent to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Alaska Program Director for Pacific Environment, Whit Sheard, expressed hope that the Obama administration would usher in changes to the way such drilling permits are issued in future and lambasted the Bush administration’s antiquated energy policies.
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressed dismay over the court’s decision, citing the loss of hundreds of potential jobs. While jobs and industry are often cited as justification for exploiting the environment and damaging the ecosystem, that shouldn’t make it acceptable practice. Hundreds, for example, are employed by the annual slaughter of thousands of seals in Canada, a barbaric practice that represents a thriving industry sustaining the eastern provinces. Job creation and national revenue doesn’t make it right.
A line has to be drawn at some point in the name of the greater good and the bigger picture. We cannot continue killing animals and plundering the Earth’s natural resources to satisfy our appetite for fossil fuels, nor can we continue to hide such abhorrent behavior under the guise of industry.
Shell plans to appeal the court’s decision.