Guarding Arctic Waters From the Next Oil Disaster

“Sites proposed for drilling in Alaska's Arctic Ocean are some of the most remote areas on Earth, and the challenges of drilling are formidable.”

-Marilyn Heiman, director, Oceans North U.S.

In the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the Pew Environment Group's Oceans North U.S. Campaign commissioned a comprehensive study on preventing and containing spills in the remote U.S. Arctic Ocean.

Oil Spill Prevention and Response in the U.S. Arctic Ocean: Unexamined Risks, Unacceptable Consequences (PDF), a 137-page technical report, was prepared by Nuka Research and Planning Group LLC and Pearson Consulting LLC. In an accompanying set of policy recommendations, Pew called for improving government oversight of offshore drilling and closing gaps in risk analysis, response planning and scientific research.

“Sites proposed for drilling in Alaska's Arctic Ocean are some of the most remote areas on Earth, and the challenges of drilling are formidable,” said  Marilyn Heiman, Oceans North U.S. director.

High winds, heavy fog, seasonal darkness and subzero temperatures make spill response in the Arctic more challenging than in any other area of the outer continental shelf, the report found. Other risk factors include the remoteness of the area, where the nearest major port is 1,300 miles away in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Pew continues to call for delaying offshore oil development in the U.S. Arctic Ocean until a precautionary, science-based plan is in place to protect communities and marine ecosystems from oil spills.