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NRDC, The Wilderness Society Call for Immediate Hold on Offshore Arctic Drilling
NRDC: Shell Oil’s debacles around its Arctic Ocean drilling efforts make it crystal clear how risky it is to drill in one of the most fragile places on the planet.

WASHINGTON (January 3, 2013) – The Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society today called on the Obama administration to immediately put a hold on all current and future approvals for offshore oil exploration in America’s Arctic Ocean.

Shell Oil’s long string of accidents and mistakes – culminating with Shell losing control of its Kulluk drilling ship this week - makes it crystal clear what a bad idea it is to drill offshore America’s Arctic, Chuck Clusen, NRDC’s director of national parks and Alaska projects said on a press conference call today.

“The risks are too big to get this wrong - especially in one of the most fragile places on the planet,” Clusen said. “And, as we’ve learned this week from the grounding of the Kulluk, the risks of exploration extend all up and down the fragile Pacific coastline from Seattle to the top of the world.”

The Department of the Interior and other agencies are currently reviewing permit applications for future Arctic Ocean drilling. Along with Shell, which has faced nonstop problems because of harsh Arctic conditions, mistakes and accidents, ConocoPhillips has applied for permits to begin drilling in the Chukchi Sea in 2014.

Shell lost control of its Kulluk drilling rig as it was being towed to Seattle, and the rig ran aground near Kodiak Island in Alaska on Monday.

“The implications of this very troubling incident are clear – the oil industry is no match for Alaska’s weather and sea conditions either during drilling operations or during marine transit,” Lois Epstein, PE, Arctic Program Director for The Wilderness Society, said on the press conference call.

In addition to calling on the Obama administration to put a hold on all permitting in the Arctic Ocean, NRDC and TWS called on the new Congress, which convened Thursday, to immediately enact the basic safeguards for offshore drilling that were recommended by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

“Those basic safety recommendations may have come too late to prevent the BP disaster, but there’s no excuse for not doing everything possible to prevent a disaster in the Arctic, the worst place to drill on the planet,” Clusen said.

NRDC President Frances Beinecke served on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. For more details, see her blog here:  http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/

See NRDC’s report on the environmental risks of offshore drilling here: http://www.nrdc.org/land/alaska/drilling-off-north-slope.asp

And for a recording of today’s press conference call, please dial 888-203-1112; passcode 9334983.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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