Quantcast
Popular
A polar bear in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. World Wildlife Fund

Trump Administration Approves Exploratory Drilling in Arctic Ocean

The Trump administration on Wednesday approved a plan submitted by Eni US to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, setting the stage for a devastating oil spill in one of the most biologically rich areas in America's Arctic.

The company, a U.S. subsidiary of the Italian oil and gas giant, has sat on its leases in the Beaufort Sea since acquiring them more than a decade ago. The leases would have expired at the end of this year if Eni did not act on them. The Trump administration provided the public only 21 days to review and comment on the exploration plan and only 10 days to comment on scoping for an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act.


"Approving this Arctic drilling plan at the 11th hour makes a dangerous project even riskier," said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "An oil spill here would do incredible damage, and it'd be impossible to clean up. The Trump administration clearly cares only about appeasing oil companies, no matter its legal obligations or the threats to polar bears or our planet."

Under the approved plan, Eni US will drill extended reach wells into federal waters in the Beaufort Sea from an existing facility in Alaska state waters. Eni's proposed wells would be the longest extended reach wells in Alaska, reaching out more than six miles.

The drilling is planned in Harrison Bay next to the Colville River Delta. The area is home to many imperiled marine mammals, including bowhead whales, polar bears and ringed seals. Birds from all over the world, including spectacled eiders and longtailed ducks, spend summers near where Eni will drill.

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to reject an exploration plan if it "would probably cause serious harm or damage to life (including fish or other aquatic life)" or to "the marine, coastal or human environment."

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies submitted comments urging the Trump administration to reject Eni's draft plan in light of the statutory standard, the risk of devastating oil spills and the fact that drilling in the Arctic will exacerbate the warming already melting the habitat of polar bears and other Arctic wildlife.

Leading climate scientists say the vast majority of untapped fossil fuels, including all Arctic oil resources, must stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic, irreversible changes to the climate. Full development and burning of oil and gas from the Arctic Ocean alone could release nearly 16 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the equivalent of more than nine years of tailpipe emissions from every car and truck on the road nationwide.

Eni estimates that a large well blowout could result in an oil spill of more than 21 million gallons. Such a spill would be impossible to clean up. The Arctic lacks the infrastructure to mount a response to an oil spill; there are few roads, no deepwater ports and the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away.

"The Trump administration ignored the law in rushing to approve dangerous drilling in this remote, beautiful area," Monsell said. "We'll fight Trump's reckless giveaway of our oceans for the sake of polar bears, whales and ice seals and the fragile ecosystems where they live."

On May 3, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump's April 28 executive order purporting to revoke permanent protections for most of the Beaufort Sea and all of the Chukchi Sea from new offshore oil and gas drilling. The lawsuit is pending in federal court in Alaska. Eni's project is in the part of the Beaufort Sea not included in President Obama's withdrawal.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
Two baby Loggerhead turtles. U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Veronica McMahon

A Record 589 Sea Turtles Killed By Florida's Toxic Red Tide

Florida's longest red tide in more than a decade has killed scores of the state's most iconic marine animals.

The current outbreak, which began in October 2017 off southwest Florida, has been tied to a record 589 sea turtle deaths and 213 manatee deaths, the Herald-Tribune reported, citing figures from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Lake Baikal. W0zny / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Wildlife Under Siege at the World’s Oldest Lake

By Marlene Cimons

Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and deepest lake. It's at least 20 million years old, and roughly a mile deep at its lowest point. The Siberian lake contains holds more water than all the North American Great Lakes combined, what amounts to more than one-fifth of all the water found in lakes, swamps and rivers. It was formed by the shifting of tectonic plates, which created a valley that filled with water. That shift continues today at a rate of around 1 to 2 centimeters year, meaning the world's biggest lake is only getting bigger.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Oil rig operating next to a walk and bike way in the Signal Hill area of Los Angeles. Sarah Craig / Faces of Fracking / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Is Drilling Us Towards Climate Disaster

By Kelly Trout

As the 116th Congress commences, in the wake of dire reports from climate scientists, the debate over U.S. climate policies has taken a welcome turn towards bold solutions. Spurred on by grassroots pressure from Indigenous communities, the youth-led Sunrise Movement and communities from coast to coast fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, Capitol Hill is alive once again with policy proposals that edge towards the scale required to address the crisis we're in.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Bumblebee on goldenrod. Jim Hudgins / USFWS

Half of Michigan's Bumblebee Species in Decline, One Extinct

Honeybees get a lot of attention for their worrisome decline, but many species of bumblebees—which are key pollinators—are also in trouble.

In Michigan, half of its bumblebee species have declined by 50 percent or more, Michigan Radio reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Bound bales of crushed plastic bottles and containers sit stacked ready to be recycled at a recycling center in the Netherlands. Jasper Juinen / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Toward a Circular Economy: Tackling the Plastics Recycling Problem

By Margaret Sobkowicz

Why has the world continued to increase consumption of plastic materials when at the same time, environmental and human health concerns over their use have grown?

Keep reading... Show less
Oceans
Bleached coral at the Great Barrier Reef. The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

2018 Was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded for Our Oceans

The year 2018 was the hottest year for the planet's oceans ever since record-keeping began in 1958, according to a worrisome new study from international scientists.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, noted that the five warmest years for our oceans were the last five years—2018, 2017, 2015, 2016 and 2014 (in order of decreasing ocean heat content).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler / EPA

Senate Shouldn’t Put Wheeler at the Wheel of the EPA

By Ana Unruh Cohen

As the longest government shut down in history drags on, and the experts protecting our air and water remain off the job, the Senate is barreling forward to put Andrew Wheeler at the wheel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is unfit for this public trust.

In his seven-month tenure as the acting administrator at EPA, Wheeler's relentlessly pushed to advance the pro-polluter agenda launched by Scott Pruitt, the worst administrator in the agency's storied 48-year history. Wheeler may lack Pruitt's scandals, but he's no improvement.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Westend61 / Getty Images

Top 20 Healthy Salad Toppings

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Salads are typically made by combining lettuce or mixed greens with an assortment of toppings and a dressing.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!