An Incredible Day: Shell Drops Arctic Drilling

by Annie Leonard

September 28, 2015

My phone rang this morning at 5.30am. I’m not really a morning person, but I couldn’t have been happier to take this call when I heard the words “Shell is leaving the Arctic, and won’t be going back.”

© Steve Dipaola / Greenpeace

Here’s the short version of what’s happened: earlier today, Shell announced that it will “cease further exploration activity” in the Alaskan Arctic “for the foreseeable future.” This news comes after results from a test well the company had drilled in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

Apparently, Shell blamed three factors for the decision to walk away from Alaska: poor results from the actual well, high costs of drilling in the Arctic and “the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in the United States.”

I can confidently say, for the record, that each and every person that spoke up in some way to say “Shell No” this summer was a factor in today’s incredible news. Whether you shared the message of the Arctic with your friends and family, took to kayaks or  canoes, or even rappelled from bridges, your actions have made a difference against Arctic drilling. Shell had a budget of billions, but we had a movement of millions. You have made history.

We’ve said it before, but it’s important to remember today: what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. This victory is critical for many, many people: the indigenous people of Alaska whose livelihoods would be destroyed by an oil spill, the small island nations in the South Pacific who live just two miles above sea level and are literally facing a sink or swim fate thanks to global warming, cities like New Orleans that have felt the terrifying effects of hurricanes and superstorms and many more.

Today, Shell has admitted defeat because drilling in the Arctic is clearly — and has always been — madness. So it’s time to draw a line in the ice and make sure there’s never, ever any attempt to drill there again.

President Obama can rise to the challenge at this critical moment by cancelling any future drilling leases and declaring the U.S. Arctic Ocean off limits to oil companies. There is no better time to keep fossil fuels like Arctic oil in the ground, bringing us one step closer to an energy revolution and sustainable future.

Greenpeace’s campaign to save the Arctic will continue with passion and increased strength. We are campaigning for a protected sanctuary in international waters around the North Pole, and we are one step closer to that vision today.  We’ll be calling on you again to help us. But today we celebrate.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the co-Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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