As we watch the unfolding tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, I am writing to share great news on a related front:
President Obama announced yesterday that he will NOT allow Shell to drill for oil off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — and elsewhere in the Arctic Ocean — this summer.
Just this week, NRDC Trustee Robert Redford asked you to make your voice heard in opposition to Shell’s dangerous plans. Tens of thousands of you wrote President Obama, urging him to learn the lessons of the BP spill and to put Shell’s plans on hold.
Our voices have been heard! The President’s change of policy is an important acknowledgment that the oil industry cannot be trusted to drill in one of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems: the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas which are home to one-fifth of the world’s polar bears, as well as seals, endangered whales, walrus and other threatened marine life.
President Obama also canceled planned lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia, and he imposed new safeguards to protect our fragile coastal environments.
Over the past month, oil company claims about drilling being environmentally safe have been revealed for what they really are: corporate propaganda.
If the oil industry can’t clean up a spill in the temperate Gulf of Mexico — the world’s most developed offshore drilling region — how on earth will it clean up a spill in a remote corner of the Arctic Ocean in frigid waters and 20-foot seas?
Fortunately, the Obama Administration is no longer willing to risk the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and threatened polar bear populations on the say-so of Big Oil. You deserve credit for helping persuade the Administration to do the right thing.
But make no mistake: this is only a reprieve for Arctic wildlife, not the end of our fight.
The policy President Obama announced yesterday will only put the Arctic Ocean off-limits for six months before his Administration once again considers whether to allow drilling to proceed.
That six-month delay gets us past the all-important summer drilling season, but it’s hardly a long-term answer for protecting the Arctic Refuge and other natural treasures. As long as oil companies lack the know-how to drill safely in the daunting conditions of the Arctic, such drilling should be suspended indefinitely.
In the weeks ahead, NRDC will be ramping up the pressure for that kind of long-term moratorium on Arctic drilling. And I’ll be calling on you to make your voice heard again.
As we witness the mounting toll in the Gulf of Mexico, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that such a catastrophe never happens again — not in the Gulf, not in the Arctic, not anywhere.
The President’s latest announcement is an important step forward toward meeting that goal. Thank you again for helping to change his policy on offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean!
Natural Resources Defense Council