By Kiley Kroh and Michael Conathan
As the decision looms whether to allow Shell Oil to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer, the Center for American Progress released a new video today examining our lack of preparedness to respond to an oil spill in the remote and untested region. Whether the Department of the Interior approves offshore drilling activity in the Arctic Ocean this year or next, the Arctic is still dangerously deficient in infrastructure and scientific knowledge. In “Oil and Ice: The Risks of Drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Ocean,” U.S. Coast Guard Captain Gregory Saniel, Chief of Response says the thought of mustering a response to a major incident like an oil spill “keeps me up at night.”
As Shell waits for heavy sea ice to clear and the Coast Guard to certify its containment barge, the fact remains that this region has far fewer resources to contain an oil spill than did the Gulf of Mexico. Even with the Gulf’s warm water and weather, large population centers, and decades of research and drilling experience, oil flowed unabated for three months in 2010, wreaking economic havoc and devastating the environment. If drilling in the Arctic starts next year, these fundamental infrastructure challenges still must be addressed. This video highlights the perspectives of those who depend on the Arctic Ocean for their livelihood, the concerns and challenges facing the Coast Guard charged with its protection, and the grave doubts of the scientific community about the lack of knowledge in this area.
Kiley Kroh is the Associate Director for Ocean Communications and Michael Conathan is the Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress.