Environmentalists aren’t too pleased but petroleum companies are: President Obama and his administration will permit Shell to begin drilling this summer off the Alaskan coast, in the Arctic Ocean.
Earlier this year, Obama permitted offshore drilling in an area of the Atlantic Coast. But throughout his presidency, Obama has continued to introduce restrictive measures on carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Now he’s trying to appease both sides by allowing Shell to set up shop in the Arctic Ocean — specifically in the Chukchi Sea — but with some limitations. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will be highly attentive to preserving the Arctic ecosystem and Alaska Native ethnic practices; Shell will be held to strict safety guidelines.
Environmentalists are more nervous than ever, dreading that drilling in the Arctic Ocean will lead to another oil spill, worse than the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, where millions of cylinders of oil poured into the Gulf and killed 11 workers. Yet, Shell was drilling into an area of the Gulf of Mexico that was almost 5,000 feet deep — the Chukchi Sea is only 140 feet deep, which will present fewer difficulties.
Experts from both sides contend that drilling in the Chukchi Sea is very risky: the area is isolated, without access to roads, cities, or ports for many, many miles. These circumstances don’t exactly lend themselves to speedy cleanup and relief if another oil spill were to occur. In order for the Interior Department to authorize the drilling, Shell had to apply for all the necessary state and federal drilling permits. Previously, Shell was given approval to drill in the Arctic Ocean during the summer of 2012. Shell hadn’t crossed all its T’s and dotted all its I’s though: the company suffered from many safety and operational issues, and even had an oil rig run ashore.
The Interior Department has strived to rectify US drilling regulations, particularly by only approving drilling during the summer and in shallow water. With this plan moving forward, it’s certain that Obama is trying to balance the scales and maintain harmony between environmentalists, and energy and petroleum companies. It is our hope that Shell covers all its bases and we don’t have another BP oil disaster on our hands.
Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan June 12, 2015
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