Three years ago on April 20, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, caused by a well blowout that killed 11 crewmen and ignited a massive fireball visible from more than 35 miles away. The resulting fire burned out of control and two days later Deepwater Horizon sank, leaving behind a gushing open well that ended in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The effect of this disaster on wildlife and human lives alike continues to reverberate throughout the country today.
We cannot let this happen in our Arctic Ocean.
The infrastructure to clean up a spill in the Arctic Ocean is non-existent -- the U.S. Coast Guard is 1,000 miles away -- and there is no demonstrated response capability. The Arctic's harsh and chaotic environment would make any cleanup effort a nightmare. America's Arctic Ocean is a national treasure and is home to many of our nation's most beloved wildlife species -- polar bears, walrus, ice seals, bowhead whales, beluga whales and more. Alaska Natives have relied upon the bounty of the Arctic Ocean for thousands of years.
No oil company is ready to drill in the Arctic.
President Obama and his administration should take a pause on drilling in the Arctic. Big Oil's -- including Shell Oil Company, Statoil and, most recently, ConocoPhillips -- announcements that they will not pursue drilling in the Arctic gives the Obama Administration some breathing room to revisit the processes and standards that will guide the administration's future decisions in the Arctic. Shell's mishaps in 2012, culminating with its drilling rig running aground near Kodiak Island at the end of last year, demonstrated to the nation that no oil company is ready to drill in the Arctic.
The Arctic Ocean is under a dual threat -- not only drilling, but climate change.
President Obama has made a commitment to address climate change, but he can't have it both ways; he can't take on climate change while drilling in the Arctic to burn more oil. Now, alongside newly-appointed Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, President Obama has the chance to start with a clean slate, reevaluate his position on the Arctic, and choose a different course. Change is truly needed at the Department of the Interior to guarantee more effective decision-making when it comes to whether or not Arctic drilling should move forward. It's also necessary to ensure that effective regulations are in place to guide what possible drilling conditions would be, if any.
Drilling in the Arctic Ocean is not worth the risk, this much is clear -- not to the sensitive Arctic ecosystems, not to the iconic wildlife of the Arctic, not to the Alaska Natives that have benefited from the Arctic Ocean for thousands of years and not to the federal government which would be left to clean up potential catastrophes in the Arctic. We've learned this lesson over and over again. On the anniversary of Deepwater Horizon, it's a lesson we cannot afford to forget.