Some of America’s most vibrant ocean waters—and our climate—are being threatened by oil and gas development. The Atlantic Coast, which has been off-limits to drilling for decades, and the Arctic Ocean are being put at risk by oil companies looking to drill near polar-bear habitat, whale-migration routes, and deepwater corals. The possibility of a major spill looms: Congress hasn’t passed a single law strengthening offshore-drilling safety standards since the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. And extracting and using more fossil fuels is out of step with our national climate goals.
NRDC is fighting to avert the worst impacts of climate change and protect our oceans from the routine pollution and serious spill risks caused by drilling, by calling for the permanent protection of the Arctic and Atlantic. Our experts call attention to the unique challenges of drilling in the Arctic. For example, the region is dominated by frigid temperatures, gale-force winds, and darkness for much of the year, and no cleanup technologies have been proven to work in sea-ice conditions. Shell suffered a series of fiascoes in this setting in 2012—and again in 2015, forcing the company to abandon its drilling plans for now. But our last pristine ocean won’t be safe until it is permanently protected.
The Chukchi is home to roughly half of America’s polar bears and part of the migratory path of the endangered bowhead whale. We challenge Shell’s permits, environmental reviews, and cleanup plans in court. And our advocates have pushed the U.S. Department of the Interior to withdraw the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas leasing once and for all.
We are also urging the Obama administration to take the Atlantic off the auction block for oil and gas leasing for good. The deepwater canyons off the coast support abundant fish, corals, and various species new to science. Seismic blasts and spills from drilling operations would expose this sensitive marine life to grave risks. The economy of the Atlantic coast also relies heavily on tourism, recreation, and fishing. All of this could be placed at risk from offshore oil and gas exploration and development.
Our oceans are held in trust for all Americans. Our leaders have an obligation to use them in the public’s best interests and to help put America on the best path to a climate-safe future. They should not issue new leases for oil drilling that will make our country’s climate change problems worse and put our coastal communities and economies at risk from oil spills.
As we fight to protect these seas, NRDC policy experts are also helping design the clean energy and climate solutions that will limit U.S. dependence on oil, which will reduce pressure to drill in the wild ocean.