Obama greenlights Shell’s Arctic drilling plans casting doubt over his climate legacy

Intro

President Barack Obama’s reputation as a climate leader took a hit on Monday when his administration gave its blessing for Shell to begin drilling exploratory oil wells in the Arctic. The move contradicts recent positive actions the US has made on climate, including last year’s  historic emissions reductions deal it with China. The move also flies in the face of recent peer reviewed findings that there is absolutely “no climate-friendly scenario in which any oil or gas is drilled in the Arctic.” Now, the Obama administration’s willingness to allow oil and gas drilling operations to begin in one of the most sensitive parts of the planet,  where there is a 75% change drilling operations will result in a spill, weakens Obama’s claims that climate change will be one of his “legacy” issues. While the Obama administration failed to stand up to Shell, the company still faces a number obstacles before drilling can begin in the waters north of Alaska. Shell still needs to secure seven other outstanding permits and deal with a fight over the oil giant’s plans to moor rigs near Seattle. Seattle’s mayor remains a vocal critic of Shell’s plans to have its Arctic drilling rigs dock at the Port of Seattle and a number of citizens plan on blocking the rig’s entrance to the port by arranging a kayak flotilla this weekend.

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RT @BillMcKibben Impossible to overstate how lame WH ok for Arctic drilling is. Nature study said any Arctic oil nixes safe climate

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Key Points

  • Allowing any oil and gas drilling in the Arctic is a failure of the United States to protect the world from the worst consequences of climate change. According to a peer-reviewed scientific study published in Nature, the world must choose between drilling for Arctic oil and maintaining a safe, liveable climate. The study found “no climate-friendly scenario in which any oil or gas is drilled in the Arctic.”
  • Greenlighting Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic puts the President Obama’s climate legacy in peril. While actions like the historic emissions deal reached with China last year and the veto of the Keystone XL pipeline this year have legitimized Obama’s strong words on climate change, keeping Shell from drilling in the Arctic fails to build on the momentum leading up to this year’s highly anticipated Paris climate meetings.
  • The big risks associated with Arctic drilling are fueling public outcry against Shell. A recently released Interior Department study found that drilling in the Arctic comes with a 75% chance oil spills. Activists in Washington state and elsewhere have been mobilizing to draw attention to the severe risks associated with Arctic drilling for some time. In a matter of days citizens plan to risk their lives by joining in a kayak flotilla that seeks to block Shell’s drilling equipment from docking in the Port of Seattle before it sets out for the Arctic.

 

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Quotes

  • “Once again, our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth” – Susan Murray  vice president of Oceana
  • “Shell’s need to validate its poorly planned investment in the U.S. Arctic Ocean is not a good reason for the government to allow the company to put our ocean resources at risk. Shell has not shown that it is prepared to operate responsibly in the Arctic Ocean, and neither the company nor our government has been willing to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of Shell’s proposal.” – Susan Murray  vice president of Oceana
  • “This decision places big oil before people, putting the Arctic’s iconic wildlife and the health of our planet on the line. The agency should not be approving such threatening plans based on a rushed and incomplete environmental and safety review. Ultimately, Arctic Ocean drilling is far too risky and undermines the administration’s efforts to address climate change and transition to a clean energy future. These fossil fuels need to remain in the ground.” – Erik Grafe, Earthjustice staff attorney

  • “Shell helped melt the Arctic and now they want to drill in the thawing waters; it beggars belief that the Obama administration is willing to abet what amounts to one of the greatest acts of corporate irresponsibility in the planet’s history. Arctic oil, like tar sands, is exactly the sort of carbon we need to leave underground if we’re going to have any chance of avoiding catastrophe.” – Bill McKibben Co-founder 350.org
  • “Some ideas are just non-starters, like drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Spills under ice sheets can’t be controlled, and America doesn’t need the oil in order to maintain its energy independence. So this is just cynical partisan politics, a public relations bone that the Obama administration is throwing to Shell. This way, the Obama team gets to pretend that ‘all of the above’ (including risky offshore drilling) is a legitimate energy strategy as a way to deflect criticism from a much-needed global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions controls. It’s a phony deal, but worse, issuing this first permit is a slippery slope that could lead to environmental catastrophe for birds, other wildlife and people. Is today’s ruling just bad policy, cynical or politically motivated? How about all of the above?” – Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold
  • “This wrong-headed decision also will expose the Arctic to the likelihood of catastrophic spills in ice-choked waters more than 1,000 miles from a Coast Guard base and other critical clean-up infrastructure. Any major Arctic Ocean spill would be impossible to clean up.” – Franz Matzner, Director of the Beyond Oil Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council

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