Stopping Offshore Drilling

Help us stop oil giants like Shell from plundering the Arctic

As sea ice melts, open water in the Arctic makes oil extraction even easier. For corporations that have profited off of fossil fuels, that’s great news, but for the rest of us it’s devastating.

Polar Pioneer Arrives in Seattle

Seattle activists in kayaks raise a banner to protest Shell's Polar Pioneer drilling rig.

© N. Scott Trimble / Greenpeace

In September 2015, Shell retreated from its Arctic Ocean drilling operations, and in October 2015 the Obama Administration announced plans to remove the Arctic from leasing opportunities for the next two years. But the Arctic Ocean still isn’t off limits for Shell or another oil company to move in and try to drill at a later date, a move that would be nothing short of disastrous for the future of the climate. Now is the time to demand world leaders close the door on offshore Arctic oil extraction — for good.

This year, Arctic sea ice reached its fourth-lowest extent on record, continuing a stark downward trend. The lowest extent of Arctic sea ice on record was in 2012 and for the past eight years ice has continuously been melting at record rates.

If you ask the corporations that have profited off of fossil fuels, Arctic warming is great news. As sea ice melts, open water in the Arctic makes oil extraction possible where it wasn’t previously. There is a new oil rush, and it is happening at the top of the world. Yet President Obama has the power to close the Arctic Ocean to oil drilling — something he must do if he wants to be a real leader on climate change.

An Arctic Ocean oil rush would be nothing short of disastrous. Not only would more oil unleash even more global warming, it would put fragile ecosystems at greater risk from oil spills. And in a place where conditions are harsh and forbidding, chances of cleaning up a spill are slim to none.

Make no mistake, Shell might have pulled out, the entire global oil industry is chomping at the bit to get its drills into the Arctic Ocean, too. The Russian giant Gazprom is already drilling in Russian waters. Exxon Mobil is looking to follow suit. Shell’s departure leaves room for the Obama Administration to do the right thing and protect the Arctic, before it’s too late.

That’s why we’re continuing to keep the pressure on, demanding the U.S. take swift action to keep all Arctic offshore oil in the ground, not just for the next two years, but forever.

Six Reasons Not to Let Shell Anywhere Near the Arctic

Despite sinking $7 billion into its Arctic schemes, three years of activism and seven million people helped convince Shell that Arctic oil is the wrong move. With such a horrendous track record, Shell had a lot of reason to be nervous.

  • As public pressure has mounted, presidential candidates have been coming out firmly against Arctic Ocean oil, meaning that Shell faces serious regulatory uncertainty depending on who gets elected in 2016.
  • In January 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Department of the Interior violated U.S. law when it opened the Chukchi Sea to oil drilling.
  • In 2013, Shell tried to bring an outdated drill rig called the Kulluk out of retirement to use in the Arctic. While being towed, the Kulluk broke free and ran aground near Kodiak Island. The crew had to be airlifted. In 2014, a U.S. Coast Guard investigation into the accident determined that Shell had been ill-prepared, its crew negligent, and its equipment full of design flaws.
  • In 2012, a gigantic ice floe temporarily canceled Shell’s Arctic oil plans after 36 hours of drilling. That same year, there were revelations that Shell was using substandard safety and cleanup equipment that it barely tested, a gamble that proved Shell had learned nothing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout just two years earlier.
  • Shell finally canceled its 2012 Arctic drilling after a test caused an oil containment dome on one of its ships to be crushed like a beer can.
  • In a sign of things to come, Shell tried for years to dump its North Sea drilling platform, the Brent Spar. Finally, after immense public pressure capped by a tense occupation of the platform by Greenpeace activists, Shell caved in 1995, agreeing to dismantle the Brent Spar on land and recycle it.

Join the Fight to Save the Arctic

Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea was one of Shell’s most prized projects; the company’s $7 billion in sunk costs is testament to that. But the stakes are even higher for the environment and people of the Arctic.

Now the U.S. government is closing the door on Arctic drilling for at least the next two years. While that’s wonderful news, it’s ultimately a shallow fix. We need the U.S. to slam the door shut on all Arctic offshore drilling now and forever.

Stopping ALL Arctic Ocean drilling is surprisingly simple.

The Obama Administration needs to finish the job of protecting the Arctic and remove the region from ALL future offshore lease sales and planning for potential oil drilling operations, beyond the next two years.

The Obama Administration has the power to stop all oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, yet the President is not fulfilling his responsibility to the nation and future generations. Instead the U.S. is only promising to close the door on Arctic ocean drilling for two years, continuing to leave the door open for companies like Shell to pursue drilling in this vitally important ecosystem without adequate regulation or oversight at a later date.

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