The Fate of the Arctic in Offshore Oil Blowouts

In November 2016, President Obama announced a five-year ban on drilling in the Atlantic and the fragile Arctic. While this is an important step, it still leaves this cherished coastline wide open to the oil and gas industry once the five years are up.

A recent modeling study, commissioned by NRDC, reveals the extraordinary risks from a plausible oil well blowout in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Even if such a spill were controlled and cleaned up in record time—and that’s wishful thinking when you consider the harsh Arctic conditions and the difficulty of amassing responders in such a remote location—this research shows that the impacts could be devastating.

An Arctic oil spill poses serious threats to the entire region, including several areas with high biological diversity like the Chukchi Coast, Wrangel Island, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many sensitive species are also in the crosshairs, including polar bears, three different kinds of whales, ice seals, and walruses, as well as many endangered migratory birds. These animals could be injured or even killed as a result of the impacts of a spill.

We know how quickly coastlines and precious marine areas can be destroyed by oil spills and drilling pollution. Our research shows that a spill in this harsh, unpredictable environment is almost guaranteed to cause serious damage that can be felt for generations. Enough is enough.