Finnish icebreaker Fennica in the Bay of Botnia. 2004. Marcusroos WIkimedia Commons

This blog comes to Making Waves from Greenpeace USA:

If you ever find yourself wondering if Shell’s Arctic drilling program is still going forward despite the laundry list of mishaps and flops, all you have to do is face North and cup a hand around your ear. What’s that sound you hear?

Ah, yes. Shell’s comedy of errors is indeed in Alaska again! In 2012, of course, the company and its contractors totalled one rig, lost control of another, committed at least eight felonies, and became a cautionary tale for maritime incompetence. And yet this year they’re back, failing Coast Guard inspections, spilling toxic fluids into local waterways, and behaving like cretinous dullards. Why, just yesterday, you may have heard the sax ayakketyin’ loud and clear because Shell discovered one of the icebreakers crucial to this summer’s drilling program has sprung a leak.

Let’s let Rachel Maddow explain:

One Blunder After Another

Yeah. This hole in the hull comes hot on the heels of a revelation earlier this month that the company can’t do basic math. Late last month, a coalition of environmental groups sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell pointing out that the law mandates Shell’s Arctic wells be at least 15 miles apart to protect threatened walrus habitat. But in the company’s Exploration Plan for this summer, its wells are only nine miles apart. Nine being less than 15, it seems to clear to me Shell’s plan should be rejected. But just to be sure, I asked my second grade math teacher. Mrs. Sunderman confirmed that nine is less than 15.

Here’s Kate Sheppard on the matter:

The Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service issued Shell a letter of authorization on Tuesday allowing the company to have a small number of what are known as "incidental takes" of polar bears and Pacific walruses—or harm caused to the animals or their habitats unintentionally in the course of permitted activities.

But the letter lists precautions the company must take to avoid contact with the walruses, which includes a directive to maintain a minimum of 15 miles between drilling sites in compliance with provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The act requires this distance between drilling operations to avoid impacts on foraging or migrating walruses, and as a number of environmental groups pointed out last week, Shell's two proposed drill sites are only 9 miles apart—a violation of that law.

Clearly, if Shell were your Uber driver, you’d cancel the trip. But oddly, President Obama seems determined to ride with Shell. He has had multiple opportunities to stop Shell—along with any other company—from beginning Arctic drilling, but he insists that his administration is holding Shell to “the highest possible standard.” Which is frightening for anyone concerned with lesser projects (because imagine what THEY’RE getting away with!). 

The real tragedy of the situation is that even if Shell proved competent in Alaska, it would still be a disaster. A recent Nature study concluded that Arctic oil is the exact type of project that cannot go forward if we’re to stop the worst effects of climate change. We’re already living with droughts, superstorms, and wildfires made worse by global warming, and now Shell wants to go further down the path of destruction.

What Do We Do About All This?

Shell still needs one permit from the Obama administration to go forward. You can tell the President “Shell No” by asking President Obama to rescind Shell’s Arctic drilling lease. There are also protests and solidarity actions taking place all over the world, with people from Finland to Dutch Harbor vowing to protect the Arctic. 

Let’s stop this yakkety sax before it, you know, destroys the planet. 

Take action today. Tell President Obama to say #ShellNo to Arctic drilling. 

Travis Nichols is the Arctic Communications Manager at Greenpeace USA.