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Shell Game in the Arctic | Subhankar Banerjee

"In late June, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, ‘I believe there will not be an oil spill’ from Shell’s Arctic drilling, and proceeded full speed ahead. Know this: in 2011 alone in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, Shell reported 63 ‘operational spills’ due to equipment failure. That happened in a tropical environment."

No need to worry, though: Shell swears it’s dealing with the possibility of such a disaster, even to the point of bringing in dogs “to detect oil spills beneath snow and ice.” No joke. “When it comes to drilling for oil in the harsh and unpredictable Arctic,” the Guardian reported in March, “Shell has gone to the dogs, it seems. A dachshund and two border collies to be specific.”

The Obama administration has been no less reassuring. There will be a genuine federal inspector on board those drill ships 24/7. And whether you’re listening to the oil company or our government, you should just know that it’s all a beautiful dream, nothing more. When a spill happens, and it’s minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind’s howling at 65 miles per hour, and sea ice is all around you and moving, the idea that a highly trained dachshund or federal inspector will be able to do a thing is pure fantasy. Believe me, I’ve been there under those conditions and if the worst occurs, this won’t be a repeat of BP in the Gulf of Mexico (bad as that was). Help will not be available.

[…] Hand Shell this for honesty: the company has admitted that, if a spill were to happen late in the summer drilling season (of course it won’t!), they will simply have to leave the spilled oil “in place” for nine months to do its damnedest. The following summer they will theoretically deal with what’s left of the spill, and — though they don’t say this — the possibility of a dead or dying sea.

Read the whole piece

While the blues were feeding in Monterey Bay, Shell’s drill ships, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk, were migrating north, with the hope of drilling for oil in those very waters this summer. Unlike the jubilant tourists, scientists, and residents of the California coast, the Iñupiat people of the Arctic coast are now living in fear of Shell’s impending arrival; and little wonder, as that oil giant is about to engage in what may be the most dangerous form of drilling anywhere on Earth. After all, no one actually knows how to clean up an oil spill that happens under the ice in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean. Despite that, the Obama administration has been fast-tracking Shell’s dangerous drilling plan, while paying remarkably little attention to the ecological fears it raises and the potential devastation a major spill or spills would cause to the native peoples of the north. Subhankar Banerjee, Shell Game in the Arctic

Protesters Call on EPA to Deny Shell's Air Pollution, Arctic Drilling

Adding to the long list of reasons to ban Shell Oil from drilling in the Arctic, activists are now calling attention to Shell’s outdated air quality permits, and calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to deny the company’s recent request for a waiver of air quality requirements. The company needs the waiver in order to work in the Arctic.

Currently Shell’s drilling rig carrier, Noble Discoverer, the same ship that ran aground earlier this month near Dutch Harbor, as well as other shell vessels, do not meet EPA air emissions requirements. The generator engines on the Discoverer tested above permit levels for ammonia and nitrous oxide.

Colin O’Brien, an attorney for Earthjustice, told the Associated press that Shell wants the waiver for a threefold increase in the emission of nitrous oxide from the Discoverer and a tenfold increase in the amount of particulate matter pollution from the Nanuq, Shell’s principal oil spill response vessel.

A group of activists held a demonstration outside the Anchorage federal building on Monday urging the EPA to reject Shell’s request.

“We’re asking the EPA to stand up and do what’s right,” said Carl Wassilie, a Yup’ik Eskimo from the area and coordinator of activists group Alaska’s Big Village Network.

Activists across the world have been protesting Shell’s plans to drill the arctic, occupying Shell’s offices in The Hague and shutting down gas Shell stations throughout the UK and Europe.

Environmental groups are now delivering more than 360,000 comments to Washington, D.C., asking the EPA to deny Shell’s request.

Recently, a coalition of conservation organizations sent a letter to the EPA to uphold the requirements of the Clean Air Act and refuse Shell Oil’s request:

In this country, we have clean air and clean water because we established safeguards to protect our health, welfare, and environment. A corporate giant like Shell should not be granted an exception to these requirements simply because it wants to use equipment that does not comply…Shell Oil is clearly not ready to begin drilling for Arctic oil this summer.

The fight is one of the last remaining barriers to Shell’s drilling plans.

(Source: jayaprada)

Shell Loses Control Of Arctic Drilling Rig In Alaskan Harbor

arielnietzsche:

Royal Dutch Shell’s preparedness to drill offshore in the harsh and remote Arctic Ocean this summer has been called into question by a series of recent events.

Over the weekend, the company’s drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, appears to have come dangerously close to running aground near Dutch Harbor, where Shell’s fleet has been assembled.  The Noble Discoverer is one of two dozen ships Shell plans to send into some of the most challenging conditions on the planet.  According to the US Coast Guard, the vessel slipped anchor and drifted within 100 yards off shore before being pulled back into deeper water by a Shell tugboat.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The vessel‘s anchor failed to hold and the 514-foot ship began drifting, but its movement was halted when tug boats were called in to assist, Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis told the Los Angeles Times.

“We don’t know exactly what happened yet. We do know that the vessel’s anchor didn’t hold, they began to drift, they let out more anchor chain to slow that drift and called for immediate tug assistance,” Francis said.

Although Shell and the Coast Guard asserted there was no evidence of grounding, onlookers — including longshoreman David Howard and Dutch Harbor captain Kristjan Laxfoss — contradicted this account, saying the vessel was not moving and appeared grounded: “There’s no question it hit the beach. That ship was not coming any closer. It was on the beach.”

Petty Officer Sarah Francis said winds of 27-35 miles per hour likely led to the ship drifting — conditions that are benign compared with the hurricane-force gales, 20-foot swells, and dynamic sea ice the Discoverer could encounter off the North Slope where the company plans to drill offshore.

Pete Slaiby, vice president of Shell Oil in Alaska, noted both the Discoverer and Kulluk drilling ships will be secured by an 8-point anchor system when operating in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

The incident immediately follows the Coast Guard’s refusal to certify Shell’s oil spill response barge, the Arctic Challenger, because of concerns about the fire protection system, wiring, and piping on the 37 year-old vessel. The Coast Guard also expressed doubts about the barge’s ability to withstand harsh Arctic storms. The containment barge is essential to the fleet as it is designed to deliver oil spill response equipment to the five drilling sites. Without it, Shell would not have access to the equipment necessary to contain an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.

In addition to the extreme and unpredictable weather, there is an alarming dearth of infrastructure necessary to mount a large-scale response effort off the North Slope. As detailed in the Center for American Progress report, Putting a Freeze on Arctic Ocean Drilling: America’s Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Arctic, the area lacks roads, railroads, a permanent Coast Guard facility, a major port, or sufficient infrastructure to house and feed a large influx of people.  As a result, Shell has said that its oil spill response efforts will be largely self-contained.  The fact that the company is experiencing problems with this equipment before even reaching the drill sites raises serious concerns about their contingency plan.

Shell’s flotilla will continue to wait in Dutch Harbor – 1,000 miles south of the proposed drilling sites; the closest major port to the North Slope – while unexpectedly heavy sea ice prevents them from making the voyage to the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Slaiby, Shell’s VP in Alaska, recently told CNN that the company’s proposed exploration in the Arctic will be the “most complex, most difficult wells we’ve drilled in company history.”

(Source: jayaprada, via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill

Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,  the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to  grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off  the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the  western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the  Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar  bears, and a wide-variety of migrating birds.
“This is a disaster  waiting to happen,” Holly Harris, an attorney with the environmental  group Earthjustice, said in a press release.
Environmentalists and  indigenous peoples living in the area have long fought drilling in the  US Arctic arguing that extreme conditions make drilling especially  precarious and an oil spill would be near-impossible to clean-up  adequately. But, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and  Enforcement (BOEMRE) granted permission, pending Shell’s completion of  an oil spill response plan.
Admiral Robert Papp, top officer with  the US Coast Guard, admitted last month that if a spill occurred in this  area, the Coast Guard lacks the infrastructure and equipment needed to  deal with a spill.
“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing,” said Papp, as reported by Platts. “We’re starting from ground zero today.”
However,  Shell has stated that it has ‘the best oil-spill response plan anywhere  in the world’, and that it is ready for any problem. The company has  already invested more than $3.5 billion to drill in the Arctic ocean.  The drill sites in the Beaufort Sea will take place 20 miles off shore  in 160 feet deep water, which Shell says would allow divers access to  the wells if need be. In the midst of its victory in the Arctic, Shell  is expected to pay $1 billion to clean up decades of oil pollution in  Nigeria, where a new UN report found that the company did not live up to  its own, or the Nigerian government’s, standards. Shell admitted last  week to spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Nigeria in 2008.

Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill

Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar bears, and a wide-variety of migrating birds.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” Holly Harris, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, said in a press release.

Environmentalists and indigenous peoples living in the area have long fought drilling in the US Arctic arguing that extreme conditions make drilling especially precarious and an oil spill would be near-impossible to clean-up adequately. But, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) granted permission, pending Shell’s completion of an oil spill response plan.

Admiral Robert Papp, top officer with the US Coast Guard, admitted last month that if a spill occurred in this area, the Coast Guard lacks the infrastructure and equipment needed to deal with a spill.

“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing,” said Papp, as reported by Platts. “We’re starting from ground zero today.”

However, Shell has stated that it has ‘the best oil-spill response plan anywhere in the world’, and that it is ready for any problem. The company has already invested more than $3.5 billion to drill in the Arctic ocean. The drill sites in the Beaufort Sea will take place 20 miles off shore in 160 feet deep water, which Shell says would allow divers access to the wells if need be. In the midst of its victory in the Arctic, Shell is expected to pay $1 billion to clean up decades of oil pollution in Nigeria, where a new UN report found that the company did not live up to its own, or the Nigerian government’s, standards. Shell admitted last week to spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Nigeria in 2008.