07/18/2011 - The oil industry recently submitted exploration plans to drill up to 10 wells over the next two summers in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. These plans are being reviewed by the Department of the Interior.
Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean is a dangerous undertaking. Sub-zero temperatures, high seas, hurricane-force winds, long periods of fog and shifting and unpredictable sea ice make oil spill prevention and containment extremely challenging. Decades-old methods for cleaning up spills using skimmers, booms, burning and dispersants are inadequate in harsh Arctic conditions.
In addition, as this Pew Environment Group video shows, the basic infrastructure needed to mount a large-scale spill response effort simply does not exist. Small coastal communities are not connected to each other by roads or to the rest of the state by highways. The main transportation links are air strips or small airports.
The closest Coast Guard air station is almost 1,000 miles away from the proposed drilling sites. The Coast Guard itself has said that there’s no way it could send the 3,000 people it deployed to work on the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic. There are no facilities that could serve as temporary hangars for equipment. Even the largest village has no more than a few dozen hotel rooms to house emergency workers.
Please tell the Obama administration that to allow drilling now would put this extraordinary ecosystem—and vibrant communities that have practiced a traditional way of life for thousands of years—at risk. Before allowing drilling to expand, we need proven spill response capability and a comprehensive science-based management plan that includes local traditional knowledge and protections for ecologically important habitats.
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