Report: Offshore Drilling in U.S. Waters Could Cost Society $179 Billion

June 9, 2016

Just as more oil companies abandon existing leases in US Arctic waters, the Obama Administration is preparing a new Five-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program to auction off public resources without accounting for the social costs of climate change.

Report by Greenpeace and Oil Change International.

San Francisco, 9 June 2016— Greenpeace USA and Oil Change International published The Climate Change Cost of Offshore Drilling report today, showing that the consumption of oil extracted under the Obama Administration’s proposed Five-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program would be responsible for 850 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2). The harm caused by those “downstream” emissions, including risks to health, property, and business due to climate change, would cost society between $58.6 billion and $179.2 billion.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which is responsible for regulating offshore oil and gas development, does not consider these costs, or the emissions that cause them, in its environmental impact analysis of the proposed plan for drilling in U.S. waters.

Building off an earlier report by the Stockholm Environment Institute, Greenpeace’s findings come just as the Spanish oil company Repsol announced that it has relinquished 93 leases in the Chukchi Sea, a region of the Arctic Ocean within American waters. Repsol joins a mass industry exodus from the Chukchi Sea, leaving Shell the sole leaseholder there. Given Shell’s high-profile and costly failure to find oil in the Arctic last year, it is unclear what the company will do in the Arctic, especially if the price of oil remains low.

“The Obama Administration has advanced a number of commendable policies to mitigate climate change. However, leasing federally-owned lands and waters to fossil fuel companies threatens to counteract that progress, including the expected results of the Clean Power Plan and US commitments in the framework of the Paris Climate Agreement. Not accounting for the social cost of carbon in federal leasing decisions is a negligent disregard for the public safety. All Federal energy policy should be held to a climate test, requiring decisions be contingent upon preventing the worst impacts of climate change,” said Tim Donaghy, Greenpeace Senior Research Specialist and author of the report.

The Obama Administration can end all new leases in federal lands and waters, including the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico, in the near term. The public comment period for BOEM’s Five-Year Program ends on June 16, and Greenpeace has joined allies in collecting hundreds of thousands of comments. The administration has already removed Atlantic waters from the draft program, responding to strong opposition from frontline communities in that region and showing that the process is responsive to public opinion.


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For inquiries contact Jason Schwartz, 347.452.3752, [email protected]

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