Fact Sheet

Offshore Exploration in the Arctic

The ongoing blowout from the BP Deepwater Horizon exploration well, in the Gulf of Mexico, has the potential to cause environmental catastrophe, despite the fact that it happened in a temperate region with substantial spill response infrastructure nearby. Last fall the Department of Interior approved Shell's plan to drill exploration wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas this summer. In Alaska's Chukchi Sea, there are proposed oil and gas exploration drill sites up to 140 miles offshore which, for much of the year is dominated by moving packs of sea ice, extreme storms, darkness and sub-zero temperatures. The fleeting Arctic summer isn't much kinder with high temperatures in the 40s, gale-force winds, week-long storms, and heavy fog restricting visibility. Oil spill cleanup equipment to respond to a blowout is much further away and docks large enough to manage cleanup vessels are hundreds of miles away.

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Brandon MacGillis

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