Salazar On Arctic Drilling: ‘It May Be That Shell Isn’t Even Ready To Move Forward In 2013′

Last summer, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressed his faith in Shell’s ability to handle drilling in Arctic waters.

“I believe there’s not going to be an oil spill,” said Salazar.

But after Shell lost control of two drilling rigs, crushed its oil-response equipment, and received more than 30 safety and environmental warnings that forced regulators to dock one of its ships, Salazar seems ready to re-consider the implications of offshore drilling in the region six months later.

Yesterday, the Interior Department said it would conduct a two-month review of Shell’s drilling plans. This morning, Salazar elaborated on concerns at the department about Shell’s recent “troubling…series of mishaps.”

Bloomberg reported on his comments:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said a 60-day assessment of drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas will be used in considering future permits for Arctic exploration. Environmental advocates said the review should lead to tighter government rules, or even force Shell to suspend its efforts.

“It’s troubling that there was such as series of mishaps,” Salazar said today at during a Washington meeting of an agency offshore-drilling advisory panel. If the drill ship, the Kulluk, is damaged, “it may be that Shell isn’t even ready to move forward in 2013” with oil drilling, he said.

Shell has spent $4.5 billion over the last five years to prepare for drilling offshore for oil in the Arctic — a region melting quickly due to carbon pollution from fossil fuels. Last year, the Interior Department granted Shell permits for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, allowing Shell to move equipment up Arctic waters and begin drilling test wells.


As problems piled up for Shell in its first summer drilling in the region, Environmental groups reacted by calling on the Interior Department to revoke permits for the company, saying the risks are too high to warrant continued operations.

For a full re-cap of Shell’s year in the Arctic, see our timeline.