Shell’s Polar Pioneer drill rig docked in Port Angeles, Washington aboard Dockwise’s Blue Marlin on April 17, 2015. Photo adapted from Backbone Campaign/Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.
Yesterday, the Obama administration conditionally approved Shell’s exploration plans this summer in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s decision is available here. Many environmentalists lambasted the president’s decision. The Guardian quoted a representative of Oceana, an oceans advocacy non-profit, as saying that an Arctic oil spill could have “catastrophic effects on the area’s wildlife and devastate one of the last intact marine ecosystems in the world.”
Environmentalists are right to worry about drilling in the Arctic. Oil spill response plans are lacking in readiness, for there’s hardly any infrastructure around (more on that later). Oil breaks down slowly in the Arctic’s cool waters, and Shell already has a worrisome record so far in the Alaskan offshore as profiled by the New…
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