Ocean Currents » arctic drilling http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Sun, 22 Jan 2017 13:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Breaking News: Offshore Drilling Moves Forward in Arctic; Atlantic Spared http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/15/breaking-news-offshore-drilling-moves-forward-in-arctic-atlantic-spared/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/15/breaking-news-offshore-drilling-moves-forward-in-arctic-atlantic-spared/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 20:39:30 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11677

Today, the Obama Administration issued a proposed offshore leasing program that contains some good news and some bad news.

First the good news: the Administration’s proposed program will protect the Atlantic Ocean from oil and gas leasing until 2022.

Last year, the Administration signaled that it was considering opening the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Virginia to risky offshore oil drilling. Federal waters in the Atlantic provide vital habitat for marine mammals and fish, and support thousands of coastal communities and billions of dollars in business from fishing, tourism and more. Allowing oil leasing in the Atlantic would have opened a new frontier for drilling and jeopardized these existing uses and values. Today’s proposed program precludes leasing in the Atlantic Ocean and eliminates the threat of Atlantic drilling for years to come—a big step in the right direction for the whales and sea turtles that call the Atlantic home.

However, not all the news is good: the proposed five-year leasing program would still allow risky oil and gas leasing to go forward in the Arctic Ocean.

Last year, Shell’s Arctic drilling efforts failed and the oil industry retreated from the region. But the risks remain: offshore drilling could cause a major oil spill that would be all but impossible to clean up in remote and icy Arctic waters. On top of that, Arctic wildlife continues to face an uncertain future as the region warms and as summer sea ice retreats. For all these reasons and more, it doesn’t make sense to hold new oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic Ocean. Fortunately, there’s still time to act. Join Ocean Conservancy in asking the Obama Administration exclude Arctic lease sales from the final version of the five-year program.

In addition to the Atlantic and the Arctic, the proposed five-year program also addresses future oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. At Ocean Conservancy, we recognize that in the Gulf of Mexico, oil and gas development continues to play an important role in providing domestic energy security, is an important source of jobs and generates significant federal and state revenue. But as drilling goes forward in the Gulf, it is vital that we work to make it as safe as possible for both people and the environment. We must invest in the development of response technology that keeps pace with the development of offshore drilling technology. We must honestly account for the risks of a worst case (or even a best case) spill scenario. And we must ensure that government revenues generated by the leasing of offshore areas are invested in environmental restoration projects that address the impacts of oil and gas drilling and increase the health and vitality of the ecosystems that millions of people rely on for their food work and play.

When it is finalized later this year, the Obama Administration’s five-year oil and gas leasing program will guide decisions about offshore drilling from 2017 until 2022. The Administration deserves praise for its decision not to allow leasing in the Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, all of us who care about the ocean need to convince the Administration that there is no place for new Arctic lease sales in the final program. Join Ocean Conservancy in saying no to risky Arctic leasing. Tell President Obama to drop Arctic leasing from the final version of the 2017 to 2022 leasing program.

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Celebrating a Big Year for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/30/celebrating-a-big-year-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/30/celebrating-a-big-year-for-the-ocean/#comments Wed, 30 Dec 2015 15:30:40 +0000 Janis Searles Jones http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11299

This has been a landmark year for the ocean. The tireless work of ocean advocates—like you—has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve had quite a busy year, and we’re proud to have played our part in working towards a better ocean.

Please join me in celebrating a few of the successes we’ve had over the past year:

We engaged communities to take action on ocean acidification.

Important species like oysters and crabs that fuel the nation’s seafood industry are at risk due to the increasing acidity of seawater. Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Acidification team led the drive to introduce two new bipartisan federal bills to tackle this serious challenge, and we garnered support for additional federal funds for research and monitoring. We also co-authored papers in several science journals to raise awareness of this growing threat to coastal communities, and were pleased to see coastal states promoting legislation to combat this massive problem.

We made progress on smart ocean planning.

Our Ocean Planning program protects marine ecosystems while balancing ocean uses like shipping, fishing and recreation. Five years ago, ocean planning in the U.S. was a long-sought dream; today we are months away from ocean plans for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We also celebrated construction of Deepwater Wind, the country’s first offshore wind farm located in Rhode Island, which we’ve showcased as a model of sustainable development, supported by fishermen and conservationists. We, along with industry and conservation partners, are working to make smart ocean planning the new status quo for how our ocean is managed and protected.

We helped keep risky offshore drilling out of the U.S. Arctic Ocean.

This year, President Obama protected nearly 10 million acres of important habitat off Alaska’s coast, Shell retreated from offshore oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea and the Administration cancelled two Arctic offshore lease sales. These decisions are huge victories for all of those—including Ocean Conservancy—that continually pressed for protections from risky development. Still, our work is not done. Although drilling is no longer imminent, Shell has signaled continued interest in the region and the Administration is still considering new leases. In the coming year, we will continue our fight against future drilling and for a more resilient Arctic marine ecosystem.

We redoubled our efforts to restore the Gulf of Mexico following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

In the years after the BP disaster polluted the Gulf with nearly 5 million barrels of oil, damage to fishing communities and marine wildlife continues to emerge. Roughly 4 to 8 billion oysters were lost, and bottlenose dolphins are expected to take 40-50 years to recover. The historic $20.8 billion settlement announced this year will help us address spill impacts and achieve long-term restoration goals. The inclusion of over $1 billion for ocean restoration—as well as separate funds to monitor long-term spill effects—were major victories. Ocean Conservancy remains steadfast in ensuring that every dime of funding is directed as intended.

We led the way in tackling ocean plastics.

This year we were thrilled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup. Thanks to millions of volunteers, we have protected marine wildlife by removing more than 200 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways over the last three decades. We are also leading a growing coalition of influential partners through the Trash Free Seas Alliance®

to keep trash and plastics from entering the ocean in the first place. With our Alliance partners we released a first-of-its-kind report, Stemming the Tide, which outlines specific solutions to reduce the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean by 45 percent.

As 2015 comes to a close, we are proud to reflect on everything our teams and our supporters have accomplished this year. These successes are your successes. We are also excited for all of the progress we can make in 2016: We’re ready to continue to make strides towards a healthier, more sustainable ocean.


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Take Action for the Arctic and Atlantic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/07/take-action-for-the-arctic-and-atlantic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/07/take-action-for-the-arctic-and-atlantic/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2015 14:30:25 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11187

I know I’ve shared a lot of good news about the Arctic with you lately, but the Arctic isn’t safe yet—and now the Atlantic Ocean is also at risk of being opened up to new offshore oil drilling.

That’s because the Obama Administration will soon roll out a new five-year plan that could open up offshore drilling in both the Arctic and the Atlantic—we can’t let that happen.

Take Action: Tell the Administration to leave Arctic and Atlantic offshore drilling OUT of their upcoming plan.

I want to protect Arctic and Atlantic waters from risky offshore drilling not one year at a time, but for many years to come.

We have a great opportunity to do just that: The Administration’s draft of a five-year program will guide decisions about offshore drilling until the year 2022.

The Administration has signaled that the five-year program will include new oil and gas lease sales in both the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. I need your help once again, to help safeguard the polar bears and walruses that call the Arctic home, as well as the whales and sea turtles that call the Atlantic home.

Here’s how you can help:

Take action and tell the Secretary of the Interior to exclude Arctic and Atlantic leasing when they issue the new draft of the five-year program early next year.

We have less than two months to persuade the Administration before the new plan is rolled out, so please take action today.

It’s time to say no to risky Arctic and Atlantic leasing.

Will you please take a minute to speak up for the Arctic and Atlantic?

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Four Things You Should Know About Polar Bears http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/02/four-things-you-should-know-about-polar-bears/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/02/four-things-you-should-know-about-polar-bears/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2015 14:00:20 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10992

The start of November can only mean one thing — it’s Polar Bear Week!

Up north in Churchill, Manitoba, polar bears are undertaking their annual migration to Hudson Bay, where sea ice is reforming after summer melts. After a long few months of fasting, the migration marks the bears’ return to their icy seal-hunting grounds where their favorite snacks are ringed and bearded seals. Polar Bear Week is specifically timed to coincide with this migration (meaning you’ll be distracted all week, watching the live polar bear cam!).

Join Ocean Conservancy in celebrating Polar Bear Week. We can’t think of a better way to start the week off right than by brushing up on your polar bear knowledge with these four furry factoids below.

1. Polar bears are superbly adapted to their environment

Polar bears thrive in the Arctic’s harsh climate. A protective outer fur coat paired with a dense undercoat help the bears stay warm in winter temperatures that regularly plunge to below -30° F. They even have fur coating the bottom of their paws, which gives them better traction on the ice and protects them from cold. A dense layer of fat, which can be 2-4 inches thick, further insulates polar bears from the freezing Arctic waters while also helping them stay buoyant as they swim.

Although polar bear fur appears white, it’s actually transparent. The hollow hair shafts reflect light much like ice does, making polar bears appear white or yellow. Beneath their thick coats, polar bears have black skin that better absorbs the sun’s warmth.

2. Polar bears are amazing athletes 

Polar bears have swimming skills that would make any Olympic athlete jealous. Their large, slightly webbed paws allow them to swim at a pace of six miles per hour (for comparison, Michael Phelps clocks in around 3.92 miles per hour). Polar bears can also swim more than 60 miles without rest.

Although they spend about 50 percent of their time hunting for food, only 2 percent of their hunts are successful, and they often travel great distances searching for their next meal. One study tracked a female over a nonstop nine day, 426-mile swim – approximately equivalent to driving from Washington, D.C. to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

3. Polar bears are clever hunters 

Considered by biologists to be one of the smartest land animals in North America, bears exhibit intricate social structures and can perform complex tasks. Polar bears are incredibly smart and patient hunters, and can remain motionless for hours above a seal’s breathing hole in the ice, waiting for the seal to emerge. They also search for seal lairs, where they will crash through the icy roof and attack the seals inside.

But polar bears are not just crafty hunters; they are also quite playful, and have been observed wrestling with fellow bear “friends” and sliding repeatedly downhill on ice for fun. It’s not all fun and games though—play is an important part of cub development and helps them practice skills they will later use to hunt and protect themselves.

4. Polar bears are in trouble (but you can help!)

Global climate change is bad news for polar bears. Since 1979, sea ice cover in the Arctic has decreased by about 30 percent, meaning polar bears are being pushed ashore (and away from their prey) for longer periods of time. For example, in the Hudson Bay population, polar bears spend about 30 days longer on land than they did 30 years ago. Some polar bears have to walk almost 900 miles in search for smaller food items like berries and kelp that don’t fully meet their nutritional needs. This means less food and more strain on the bears, especially young cubs. Since 1987, the Hudson Bay population has declined by 22 percent. With their habitat melting away beneath their feet, the U.S. Geological Survey predicts that two-thirds of all polar bears could be gone by 2050 if nothing changes.

As if climate change weren’t troublesome enough, the Arctic ecosystem is still not safe from risky offshore drilling. There are no proven methods to effectively clean up oil spilled in Arctic waters, meaning a spill could have devastating and long-lasting impacts on polar bears. Although Shell Oil recently announced that it is retreating from drilling offshore of Alaska for the foreseeable future, the Obama administration is deciding whether to include new Arctic lease sales in a future drilling program. Let’s not go down that road again. Will you help speak up for polar bears – this Polar Bear Week? Please take action by joining myself and Ocean Conservancy in protecting the Arctic from risky drilling.

Can’t get enough of polar bears? We’re spending the next seven days celebrating our favorite Arctic predator with facts, photos and more goodies on our social media sites, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also, check out Polar Bears International for more ways you can help the polar bears.

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State of the Arctic: An Update on Drilling http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/22/state-of-the-arctic-an-update-on-drilling/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/22/state-of-the-arctic-an-update-on-drilling/#comments Thu, 22 Oct 2015 17:59:00 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10935

The past few weeks have delivered a lot of good news to those of us who feel that offshore drilling in Arctic waters is too risky and too much of a threat to both the region and the planet’s climate. But, while we have two pieces of good news to share with you, these victories are temporary. We still need to work together on solutions to protect our future from risky offshore drilling.

Let’s get to the good news! First, in late September, Shell announced that it was retreating from oil exploration off the coast of Alaska “for the foreseeable future.” Despite ever-increasing opposition from conservation groups, activists and concerned citizens, Shell drilled an exploration well in the Chukchi Sea this past summer. But the results were not what the company had hoped they would be. Instead of a bonanza, Shell’s well failed to yield enough oil to warrant additional exploration. In addition to the disappointing results from the well itself, Shell cited high costs and challenging regulations as reasons for its retreat from the Arctic.

Then, just a few weeks after the news from Shell, the Obama Administration announced that it was cancelling the two Arctic offshore lease sales scheduled under the current five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program. Because of the cancellations, there will be no Chukchi Sea lease sale in 2017 and no Beaufort Sea lease sale in 2017. At the same time, the Administration also denied requests from Shell and Statoil to “suspend” their Arctic leases. Denial of the suspensions means that the oil companies will not get additional time to explore for oil in the U.S. Arctic Ocean.

These announcements represent major victories for all those who joined together in opposition to risky drilling schemes in the offshore Arctic. Even so, Arctic waters still face significant threats and challenges, and there’s still more work to do to protect Arctic waters from the threat of offshore drilling.

For example, the offshore leases held by the oil companies remain valid: in general, oil leases in the Beaufort Sea won’t expire until 2017 and oil leases in the Chukchi Sea won’t expire until 2020. We need to keep up the pressure to ensure that companies like Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil and Repsol keep their oil rigs well away from vulnerable Arctic waters.

In addition, despite its recent decision to cancel Arctic leases under the current five-year oil and gas leasing program, the Obama Administration has proposed a new draft five-year program that calls for two new oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic Ocean. Let’s not go down that road again.

Join me in standing up for the Arctic! Please take action today by making your voice heard. Help close the door on risky Arctic drilling and ask President Obama to remove the proposed Arctic lease sales from the next five-year program.

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The 26 Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Alaska http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/24/the-26-anniversary-of-the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill-in-alaska/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/24/the-26-anniversary-of-the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill-in-alaska/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 17:45:33 +0000 Brett Nolan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10005

Today marks the 26 anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska where nearly 11 million gallons of oil spewed into the ocean over the course of three days. Exxon failed to carry out its pre-approved oil spill response plan because their response barge was “out of service and unavailable for use.” Even if the barge were operational, it lacked enough skimmers and booms to handle the spill. Government officials and local volunteers quickly began spearheading the cleanup. Despite their best efforts to make up for Exxon’s systematic failure, only 14 percent of the spill was removed. This massive spill caused then Governor of Alaska, Steve Cowper, to declare a state of emergency. Oil from the spill can still be found today and some places may be as toxic as they were 26 years ago.

Now, more than two decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Arctic Ocean is still threatened by risky oil drilling. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released an analysis that showed a 75 percent chance of at least one major spill if companies were allowed to develop oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. Rapidly forming sea ice, fog, high winds, extreme cold and lack of infrastructure make it nearly impossible to clean up an oil spill in Arctic waters. Even in the Gulf of Mexico, only 19 percent of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster was removed or dispersed.

Oil companies have failed to show they can drill responsibly in the Arctic. In 2012, Shell’s Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground near Kodiak Island on its way back from drilling operations in the Beaufort Sea. A Coast Guard report found that Shell failed to recognize the risk, used subpar equipment to deal with the environment and had too little experience dealing with Arctic waters. Also, Shell was in a hurry to move Kulluk because they didn’t want to pay state taxes to Alaska for keeping it there after the after year.

A recent  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) analysis showed that marine mammals in the Arctic would be subject to dangerous levels of noise caused by exploration drilling. This could disrupt migrations, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding and sheltering.

At this very moment, a barge carrying 925 gallons of diesel fuel has been drifting aimlessly in the Arctic after severe weather broke its tow 5 months ago. Rapidly forming sea ice has beaten back any attempts at securing the vessel. The earliest another rescue attempt could be made is July.

People and marine life alike depend on a clean and healthy Arctic. Adding reckless drilling to the number of threats facing the Arctic (like loss of sea ice, rising temperatures and increased shipping) will only make matters worse in this once pristine environment.


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Tell the Department of Interior to Protect Walruses http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/10/tell-the-department-of-interior-to-protect-walruses/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/10/tell-the-department-of-interior-to-protect-walruses/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 12:00:11 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9332

When I first saw the photo above, I couldn’t believe it was real.

Those are 35,000 walruses – packed together onshore in Alaska.

If you’re saying to yourself “that doesn’t look normal,” you’re right. Packs like this were unheard of before 2007.

The sea ice walruses usually rest on is disappearing, forcing them to come all the way to shore between feedings. These changes to sea ice are putting walruses at great risk.

Now, Shell has proposed a plan to drill for oil in the waters where walruses live, feed, and raise their young. Risky Arctic drilling will cause even more stress for the walruses that are already struggling to cope with the loss of sea ice. We need to stop Shell’s plan.

Click here to tell the Department of Interior to protect the walrus’s home. Say no to risky Arctic drilling.

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