Climate

Clinton Says She Opposes Arctic Drilling One Day After Obama Approves Arctic Drilling

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a news conference during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is making a firm commitment to oppose offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean, her campaign confirmed to ThinkProgress on Tuesday.

Her announcement comes just one day after the Obama administration gave final approval to oil company Royal Dutch Shell to begin exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska, a decision environmentalists have sharply criticized. The Arctic’s environment is too fragile and remote to justify the high risk of an oil spill there, activists say.

Clinton seemed to resonate with those concerns on Tuesday. On Twitter, she called the Arctic a “unique treasure,” and said offshore drilling would pose an unacceptable risk.


Clinton’s announcement will likely improve her standing with environmentalists, who have so far been lukewarm about her candidacy. Compared to other Democratic presidential candidates, Clinton has the least aggressive environmental agenda. That’s saying something, considering Clinton has a detailed plan to fight climate change and boost renewable energy production.

Still, Clinton has refrained from making commitments on key environmental issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and — until Tuesday — offshore Arctic drilling. Her silence on those issues may have cost her at least one national environmental group’s endorsement, as Friends of the Earth endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) earlier this month.

Prior to her Tuesday announcement, Clinton had indicated she might oppose offshore drilling, saying she was “skeptical” about the Obama administration’s approval of Shell’s leases in the Chukchi Sea.

According to an analysis from the Department of Interior, there is a 75 percent chance of a spill greater than 1,000 barrels should an oil company like Shell discover and fully produce oil in the Chukchi leases. In addition, some studies have asserted that all oil and gas from the Arctic must remain in the ground if global temperature rise is to be kept under 2 degrees Celsius.