President Obama Approves Shell’s Final Drilling Permit, Right After Announcing Trip to Alaska to Discuss Climate Change

by April Glaser

August 17, 2015

Today the Obama administration granted Shell the final approval for the company’s plans to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic—one of the most ecologically important places in the world.

© Steve Morgan / Greenpeace

Today the Obama administration granted Shell the final approval for the company’s plans to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic – one of the most ecologically important places in the world.

This news comes just days after the President announced that he’s going to Alaska to discuss the impact of climate change on the region, stating that Alaska is on “front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century.” He’s right, but unfortunately, the President’s words don’t line up with his actions. Drilling in the Arctic is the exact wrong response to climate change.

According to the Obama Administration’s own estimation, if Shell starts drilling in the icy and unpredictable Arctic waters, there’s a 75 percent chance the drilling will lead to a major oil spill—a risk that the seven million people who have spoken out against Shell this year aren’t willing to take.

To stop Shell, we have to run out the clock. The permits require Shell must halt drilling no later than September 28, 2015.

That means that now, more than ever, we must demand President Obama rescind Shell’s permits to drill in the Arctic, before it’s too late.

He’s used his executive power to show climate leadership before. Earlier this year, the President vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline in response to a nationwide public outcry demanding the US no longer champion policies and projects that accelerate climate change.

The Arctic acts as the planet’s refrigerator by reflecting light off the sea ice. But when the sea ice melts, more ocean is exposed that absorbs the light—one of the reasons why the region is warming almost twice as fast as the rest of the world. In fact, the only reason Shell is able to drill in the Arctic is because climate change has caused the sea ice to receded enough for them to reach where they hope to drill.

The world is watching Shell right now. Just weeks ago, Greenpeace activists rappelled from a bridge in Portland in an aerial blockade in front of one of Shell’s ships that was sent to Portland for repairs after ripping a three-foot gash in its hull.

And Shell has a history of ineffective equipment. In 2012, one of Shell’s Arctic rigs ran aground and became stuck in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The technology does not exist to effectively clean up an oil spill in the Arctic’s icy and unpredictable waters. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

We need to keep the pressure on President Obama to do the right thing and rescind Shell’s permits to drill in the Alaskan Arctic. The millions of people around the world who have stood up to Shell this year have shown us the way to a clean energy future, and that extreme fossil fuel companies like Shell are the past.

This fight doesn’t begin and end with the drilling window, but we can’t ignore this news. There are plenty of ways to join us in demanding accountability from President Obama to stop risky oil exploration and prevent future oil spills. Join the growing team of activists on Greenwire organizing to stop Shell.

The future of the planet is our future, and we are going to fight to protect it. Act now.

April Glaser

By April Glaser

April is a mobilization specialist for Greenpeace USA's online team, focusing on the Arctic campaign. Prior to Greenpeace, April was an organizer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where she worked on a wide range of digital rights issues; her writing has appeared in Slate and Wired, to name a few.

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