Earthjustice, on behalf of eight conservation groups, filed to intervene in a case before the Interior Board of Land Appeals to defend the Department of Interior’s (DOI) decision to deny Shell’s request for an extension of the terms of its oil drilling leases in the Arctic Ocean.
The Noble Discoverer. Image from Shell Flickr.
Without an extension, the leases are due to expire in 2017 and 2020 in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, respectively. The DOI denied Shell’s request for an extension of the leases in October 2015, and Shell has now appealed that decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals.
Earthjustice is representing Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, National Audubon Society, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.
“The Arctic Ocean is ground zero for climate change, and drilling in such a sensitive region threatens the whales, seals and countless other wildlife that call it home. So last fall, we welcomed the news that Shell was leaving the Arctic Ocean, at least for now,” Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe said. “This appeal, however, is the oil company’s latest attempt to keep the door open for drilling. The agency was right to reject Shell’s extension request, and we look forward to helping it defend that decision.
According to Earthjustice, the government concluded there is a 75% chance of a major oil spill if oil companies develop the region, and experts agree that there is no way effectively to contain and clean up a spill in the Arctic Ocean.
“Developing and burning Arctic Ocean oil is incompatible with efforts to combat climate change. To help stave off the worst effects of climate change, the Arctic Ocean must be off limits to future drilling,” Grafe said.
Shell decided to cease further exploration offshore Alaska at the end of September 2015, after its Burger J prospect failed to prove oil.
In December, the supermajor ended its contacts for both the Noble Discoverer and the Polar Pioneer.