02:00 PM

Hundreds of thousands say no to drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean

WASHINGTON (03/31/2011) -

As Republicans in Congress continue to do Big Oil’s bidding, more than 250,000 people from across the country spoke out to demand that oil companies keep out of America’s Arctic Ocean.

Earlier this week, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) introduced legislation that would waive environmental laws – even as we continue to clean up the largest manmade environmental disaster in U.S. history - and force the Obama administration to allow risky drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Meanwhile, more than 250,000 people called for no leases sales in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the nation’s 2012-2017 offshore drilling plan during a public comment period that ended today.

Many cited the lack of science and the inability to clean up an oil spill in Arctic waters as reasons why the federal government cannot include lease sales in Arctic waters in the new five-year plan. Currently, there is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic’s extreme conditions. In addition, there is a serious lack of scientific data on the Arctic, which is often called “the least understood area in the world.”

America’s Arctic Ocean is a national treasure. Home to many of our nation’s most beloved wildlife species – polar bears, walrus, ice seals, bowhead whales, beluga whales and more – these Arctic waters are the “garden” for the Inupiat people of Alaska’s Arctic coast. This fragile and abundant marine environment is under great stress from the impacts of climate change – the Arctic is projected to be free of summer sea-ice by 2030. With so much at stake, the federal government must not allow a headlong rush into risky drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean.

The following are quotes from conservation groups:

“Americans have spoken loud and clear, and safeguarding the pristine Arctic Ocean has come out ahead of embarking on a potentially devastating search for oil,” said Richard Charter, senior policy advisor for Marine Programs at Defenders of Wildlife. “The risk of another massive oil disaster such as the one that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico less than a year ago – or worse, is simply too great to hand over the keys to an industry looking to make a profit at any cost.”

“As the Republican majority in the House tries to hand over America’s Arctic Ocean to Big Oil, the American people are speaking out about the need to protect one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures from dirty, dangerous oil drilling,” said Leah Donahey, Western Arctic and Oceans Program Director for Alaska Wilderness League. “It’s time for the Obama administration and members of Congress to stop, listen and just say no to drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean.”

“Oil development in the Arctic is just plain short-sighted and stupid.  Global climate change is the single greatest threat to cultural and biological diversity of life on Earth.  And yet our Congress continues to push for it.  We have a small window of opportunity to reverse the effects of climate change so that people like the Inupiat can continue their traditional way of life and pass it down through the generations.  It’s time for us as nation to get a new prescription and cure our national myopia.” said Carole Holley of Pacific Environment.

"Rather than drilling in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding coasts to solve America’s energy problems, we must embrace responsible measures and real 21st Century sustainable energy solutions that make cars go farther, promote conservation, invest in clean, renewable energy, and protect our natural heritage," said Jessica Ennis, legislative associate at Earthjustice.

“In addition to the need for more comprehensive Arctic Ocean science and proven Arctic cleanup technologies, we need key statutory and regulatory upgrades to ensure safety and environmental protection prior to drilling in the Arctic,” said Lois Epstein, an engineer and Arctic Program Director at The Wilderness Society.

“Science and preparedness should guide decisions about the Arctic Ocean” said Oceana’s Pacific Senior Director, Susan Murray. “Fear should not drive energy planning, and blindly pushing forward in the Arctic exponentially increases the risk of a major environmental disaster in unforgiving waters.”

“The upcoming anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us that the price of offshore oil drilling is the constant risk of environmental devastation. In Alaska, we know this through bitter experience. We just marked the anniversary of the day the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled over 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters and rich fishing grounds of Prince William Sound,” said Dan Ritzman, Alaska Program Director for the Sierra Club. “Our addiction to oil is dirty and dangerous. More than 250,000 Americans have said now is not the time to open the Arctic Ocean up to dangerous oil development; we need to move America beyond oil by investing in clean energy and a 21st century transportation system.”


Learn more about how Defenders is working to protect America's coasts and wildlife from the dangers of offshore drilling.


Caitlin Leutwiler, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3226
Emilie Surrusco, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 544-5205
Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500 X213
Susan Murray, Oceana, (907) 586-4050
Carole Holley, Pacific Environment, (907) 306-1180
Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club, (907) 276-4044
Neil Shader, The Wilderness Society, (202) 429-3941

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.