The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) announced on last Monday that they would be granting Shell Offshore Inc. conditional approval to start drilling four shallow water exploration wells in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea, beginning in July of 2012.
Unsurprisingly, conservation groups have exploded in outrage.
The conditional approval of the Exploration Plan will require Shell to acquire all necessary permints from other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“We base our decisions regarding energy exploration and development in the Arctic on the best scientific information available,” said BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich. “We will closely review and monitor Shell’s proposed activities to ensure that any activities that take place under this plan will be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”
In a statement on their website — which is currently unavailable except through archived caches made available by Google — Earthjustice described the US Department of the Interior’s decision as “dangerous and disappointing” before nothing that “Shell’s drilling risks a major oil spill.”
Earthjustice noted that “Commandant Admiral Robert Papp admitted to members of Congress last week, the federal government currently has ‘zero’ spill response capability in the Arctic.”
“This is a disaster waiting to happen, but still BOEMRE is moving forward with Arctic Ocean drilling,” said Earthjustice attorney Holly Harris. “Scientific integrity and government accountability took their familiar back seat to oil company profits and power today. BOEMRE’s decision to disregard science and gamble with a region that is crucial to endangered bowhead whales, seals, polar bears and other marine wildlife and that Native subsistence communities rely upon so heavily is inexcusable. Today’s decision is nothing more than the administration’s decision to roll the dice with the Arctic.”