Obama Admin Allows Arctic Drilling, Based on Politics, Not Science

alaska arctic

The Obama administration opened up huge areas of Wyoming for coal mining earlier this year. Now, it has also opened up the Arctic to oil drilling. I’ll excerpt a piece of Jeremy Bloom’s wonderful story over on Red, Green, and Blue to set the stage:

You’ll be relieved to know that there will be no environmental impact from the planned exploitation of 30 million acres of stormy, icy, dangerous waters off the coast of Alaska.

What could possibly go wrong?

There’s still one final line of defense: U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline of Anchorage, who has yet to review the administration’s report.

Environmental and Alaska native groups had sued to block the sale, since it basically shrugged at important issues such as: What impact would this have on wildlife (the major food source for the natives), and how on earth would you stop an oil leak in stormy artic waters?

The initial evaluation said those issues “weren’t relevant” to approving the sale (and moving forward with drilling). And that doesn’t seem to have changed, despite Beistline’s ruling last year that the the feds had to properly evaluate the risks and dangers before anything could move forward.


Jeremy’s whole piece is worth a read. Check it out at the link above.

Earthjustice also has a great piece on the story, though, pointing out quite clearly that this decision was based on politics, not science. Well, the piece is actually by numerous organizations. I’ll excerpt at length again here:

The following statement is made on behalf of Earthjustice, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Eyak Preservation Council, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Native Village of Point Hope, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, The Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund:

“The Obama administration’s decision to affirm Chukchi Lease Sale 193 in America’s Arctic Ocean is a clear case of politics trumping science. The Obama administration inherited the deeply flawed 2008 lease sale from the Bush administration.  But in July 2010, a federal district court in Alaska ruled that the federal government had unlawfully failed to address the absence of basic scientific data in the Arctic Ocean in the lease sale’s environmental analyses.  The court directed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to revise the analyses and reconsider the lease sale decision.

“Today’s decision to affirm the lease sale—instead of requiring that important scientific information be gathered and proven methods for cleaning up an Arctic oil spill be developed before opening the Chukchi Sea to oil and gas companies—shows that the Obama administration has backed away from its stated commitment to make decisions ‘based on sound science and the public interest, and not on the special interests.

“The decision today is not consistent with a recent report from top scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, which confirmed that there is enough important missing information about the Arctic’s unique marine environment that it presents a ‘major constraint to a defensible science framework for critical Arctic decision making.’ Despite the fact that this report was specifically commissioned by the Secretary of the Interior to guide offshore oil drilling decisions in the Arctic Ocean, BOEMRE dismissed the report as largely ‘beyond the scope of the BOEMRE mission’ and determined that no missing information is essential to the decision to open the Chukchi Sea to oil drilling….”

The letter went on, discussing the lack of a plan if an oil spill happened there and the unique wildlife in the region.

Obama is really disappointing me on the environment. He hasn’t stood up for climate change nearly as much as anyone hoped. He has let massive coal and oil efforts go forward that threaten our planet. And he backed away from trying to push a climate and clean energy bill through Congress when Democrats had the majority.

Next decision, on the Tar Sands XL Pipeline? I don’t have my hopes up, but I do hope that, if he drops the ball on this one, his former supporters hold him accountable.

Image Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Travis S.


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