Arctic Drilling Invites “Environmental Nightmare”

WASHINGTON (June 26, 2012) — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters today that his agency is poised to approve exploratory drilling in the Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska later this summer. Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke had the following response:

“This invites an environmental nightmare of unimaginable proportions. There's no way to prevent an off-shore blowout, or to quickly cap one, as we saw so tragically in the Gulf of Mexico. Nobody knows how to contain or clean up a spill in the harsh and remote seas of the Arctic. Unless and until we can, we have no business imperiling the last wild ocean on the planet for the sake of oil company profits.

“The industry’s spill response plan assumes that an emergency relief well can be drilled faster than an exploratory well. That’s never been done before under any conditions. If the industry’s wrong, and a blowout occurs late in the drilling season, there won’t be time to stop it before the winter ice chokes the site, leaving oil to gush uncontrolled for months.

“Oil drilling in the United States has doubled since 2009, without putting Arctic waters at risk. This is no time to expose this fragile and precious region to a disaster we can neither prevent nor control. The way to ensure affordable energy for all Americans is to insist on responsible safeguards for domestic resource production while we invest in energy efficiency and renewable power for our future.”

Frances Beinecke is the President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has 1.3 million members and activists nationwide. She was a member of the independent National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling named by President Obama in 2010.

For further information, contact: Niel Lawrence, senior attorney, NRDC, 360-534-9900 or