Court Decision: Victory for the Arctic, Blow for Shell, Opportunity for President Obama

January 23, 2014

Greenpeace is welcoming today’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it opened almost 30 million acres of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling.

A young polar bear (Ursus maritimus) wanders on ice, seen from the Greenpeace ship during an expedition to document the lowest sea ice level on record.

© Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

The court today concluded the Department’s estimate of one billion barrels of recoverable oil under the frozen Arctic ocean was “chosen arbitrarily” and that the Interior Department “based its decision on inadequate information about the amount of oil to be produced pursuant to the lease sale.”

A coalition of more than fifteen Alaska Native and environmental groups took the case following the George W. Bush administration’s 2008 sale, only to have it struck down in federal court. In 2011, the Obama administration moved it forward again, but the coalition swiftly challenged it through the courts.

Today’s verdict will hamper Shell’s plans in the Arctic, and come just a week after the company issued a  profit warning variously described as “disastrous” and “dreadful” in the financial press.

“Shell - one of the world’s largest companies - has so far spent $5 billion dollars on this perilous Arctic folly. As the whole world watched, their bold Arctic expedition in 2012 became a global laughing stock, as giant rigs broke free from their moorings and beached on Alaskan shores, dire storm warnings were ignored, and multiple health, safety and environmental regulations were breached,” says Greenpeace Arctic Campaign Leader Gustavo Ampugnani.

“Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea poses an enormous risk to the region’s people and wildlife. It locks us into a dangerous and dirty fossil fuel future, and it pushes us far closer to global climate catastrophe and the imminent hazards of extreme weather,” Mr Ampugnani said.

“We applaud the hard work and dedication of the many groups who have pushed this case through the courts, and congratulate them on today’s vindication,” Mr Ampugnani said. “This decision should give President Obama pause to reconsider the dangerous path he’s heading down opening up the precious Arctic to rapacious oil giants. If he wants to live up to his inspiring words on tackling climate change and protecting America’s stunning natural environment for future generations, he should put an end to this dangerous oil rush to the ends of the earth,” Mr Ampugnani says.

The coalition of groups included the Native Village of Point Hope, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund. Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, represented the groups.

For further comment or information: Keiller MacDuff 202 679 2236

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