A recent Yale Environment 360 article highlights some genuine concerns about our lack of preparedness for off-shore drilling in the Arctic. Russia, Canada, and the USA are making serious strides towards drilling in the Arctic but there are a number of concerns about whether countries and companies are ready to safely drill in the harsh environment of the Arctic. The article doesn’t touch much on the many issues that befell US attempts to conduct exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in 2012. The drilling program ran into numerous problems, including the grounding of one of their drilling rigs on Sitkalidak Island – part of Kodiak Island and near to the Alaska Native village of Old Harbor where we have conducted fisheries research. The Department of the Interior released a report that reviewed Shell’s 2012 Oil and Gas Exploration Program and it was not pretty.
“The company experienced major problems with its 2012 program, some of which have been well-publicized. Shell’s difficulties have raised serious questions regarding its ability to operate safely and responsibly in the challenging and unpredictable conditions offshore Alaska.”
“The review has confirmed that Shell entered the drilling season not fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans…Likewise additional problems encountered by Shell…also indicate serious deficiencies in Shell’s management of contractors, as well as its oversight and execution of operations in the extreme and unpredictable conditions offshore in Alaska.”
An oil spill in the Arctic could have devastating consequences for marine life, fisheries, and Alaska Native communities that reside in the area. It doesn’t sound like we are near prepared to do it safely.