ConocoPhillips Suspends Alaska Oil Drilling

Environmentalists call for end to Arctic drilling altogether

    Waves crash over the Shell drilling unit the Kulluk as it sits aground on an island south of Anchorage. (U.S. COAST GUARD PETTY OFFICER 3rd CLASS JONATHAN KLINGENBERG)

    No oil company is ready to drill in the harsh and unpredictable environment of the Arctic Ocean.

    Cindy Shogan executive director, Alaska Wilderness League

    WASHINGTON—Oil and gas giant ConocoPhillips has become the second major oil company to suspend drilling off Alaska’s Arctic coast, boosting calls by environmentalists to end drilling in the Arctic altogether.

    “Drilling in the Arctic will propel us toward catastrophic climate change, so it needs to end now,” said Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace USA, in a statement.

    Greenpeace is organizing supporters around the world to create events on April 20 using human banners to form ‘I Love Arctic’ symbols, and is calling on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to raise their concerns with members of the Arctic Council at a meeting in Sweden in May.

    ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s largest oil producer announced April 10, that it was suspending its 2014 exploration drilling program in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s Arctic coast, citing high costs and an uncertain regulatory environment.

    “We believe that more time is needed to ensure that all regulatory stakeholders are aligned,” said Trond-Erik Johansen, head of ConocoPhillips Alaska in a press release.

    The announcement followed a similar decision by Royal Dutch Shell, which declared in February that it would not proceed with its 2013 Arctic drilling program after a season of drilling mishaps and accidents.

    The Alaska Wilderness League says the risks associated with Arctic exploration are too great to be treated lightly.

    “Today’s announcement from ConocoPhillips is further proof that no oil company is ready to drill in the harsh and unpredictable environment of the Arctic Ocean,” said executive director, Cindy Shogan.

    [b]Shell Oil Blunders[/b]

    Shogan pointed to Shell Oil as an example.

    “With no infrastructure or ability to clean up an oil spill in ice and Shell’s extensive laundry lists of mishaps and failures, it is a no-brainer to suspend drilling,” she said in a statement.

    Shell Oil, which has spent nearly $5 billion on its Arctic campaign, came under harsh criticism from the Obama administration after a series of accidents last year—including the near grounding of a rig, a rig fire, leaks, and the trashing of its oil spill containment dome.

    The final straw was when the company’s drill rig, the Kulluk broke free from a tow and ran aground in heavy seas near Kodiak, south of Anchorage, on New Year’s Eve.

    “Shell screwed up in 2012 and we are not going to let them screw up after their pause is removed,” outgoing Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said according to the Guardian.

    In a 60-page review, the department found Shell had failed to plan for a shorter Arctic drilling season and extreme weather conditions, noting in particular inadequate equipment.

    “Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan put in place,” Salazar said. He stopped short of banning drilling altogether.

    Exploration in the Arctic is considered a key component of President Obama’s “all-of-the-above energy strategy.” A new exploratory activity in the Alaskan Arctic has been included in the Department of Interior budget request for 2014.



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