Senators to Obama: Just Say No to Arctic Oil Drilling

 

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Gary Peters (D-MI), today sent a letter urging the Obama Administration not to approve oil drilling off the coast of Alaska.  Just two months after the Administration allowed Shell to drill two exploratory wells in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, and with the results of that exploration expected to be announced in the days ahead, the Senators argue that allowing more drilling would be inconsistent with the President’s stated goals for controlling climate change and poses serious risks to wildlife and natural resources.

 

“Research shows that drilling in the Arctic is inconsistent with efforts to achieve the world’s target, endorsed by the United States, of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels,” the Senators write.  “Allowing Shell to expand fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic is incompatible with this imperative and with your commitment that the United States will lead the global effort to address climate change… We urge you to change course, and ask for your critical leadership on international Arctic Ocean protection.”

 

Merkley, Whitehouse, and others wrote earlier this year to both Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell and President Obama urging them not to approve drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

 

The text of today’s letter is below.  The PDF can be seen here.

 

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September 25, 2015

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

Dear President Obama,

 

Recently, your Administration conditionally approved Shell’s plan to begin exploratory oil drilling off the coast of Alaska.  As several of my colleagues and I noted in a previous letter to you on June 30th, and a letter before that to Secretary Jewell on May 22nd, the development of fossil fuel resources in the Arctic is inconsistent with your Climate Action Plan. 

 

Research shows that drilling in the Arctic is inconsistent with efforts to achieve the world’s target, endorsed by the United States, of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.  You have stated many times that America must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and build our capacity for clean, renewable energy.  Allowing Shell to expand fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic is incompatible with this imperative and with your commitment that the United States will lead the global effort to address climate change.

 

As the previous letters also discussed, opening up the Arctic Ocean to drilling poses serious risks to wildlife and natural resources, and the communities that depend on them.  Oil companies like Shell have yet to demonstrate they possess the capacity to prevent and respond to oil spills in the unforgiving environment of the Arctic Ocean.  Instead of opening a new carbon reserve within an invaluable ecosystem, the United States should use its position as Chair of the Arctic Council to discourage Arctic drilling and to promote Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship, all while guarding against the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change in this region. We urge you to change course, and ask for your critical leadership on international Arctic Ocean protection.        

 

We continue to hope the Administration will reverse its policy to promote drilling in the Arctic. In the meantime, we are concerned that no one has responded to the concerns we raised in our previous letters.  We again request that your Administration explain how expanded drilling in the Arctic aligns with your Climate Action Plan and the need to keep global warming below 2 degrees.  We also again ask that the Administration respond to concerns about the numerous risks Arctic drilling poses to wildlife and natural resources, and explain how these risks are appropriate in light of the already clear inconsistency between Arctic drilling and meeting our country’s responsibility to address climate change. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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