After a tumultuous year, punctuated by the running-aground of the Kulluk drilling rig in Alaska’s Strait of Sitkalidak, Shell has decided to pause its Arctic drilling plans for the remainder of the year.
Shell’s operations in the Arctic have been plagued with dangerous weather conditions, equipment failures and operational mishaps, all of which underscore claims from environmentalists that the company is not prepared to safely conduct operations in the unpredictable waters of the Arctic.
Shell’s drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas put a wide variety of biodiversity at risk, including polar bears, whales, fish and millions of migrating birds. The native Inupiat people of this region depend on Arctic marine life for their survival.
2012 Goldman Prize recipient Caroline Cannon is a member of the Inupiat community and is a leading advocate against drilling in the Arctic. Shell’s decision to suspend drilling, though not permanent, affords environmental activists like Cannon more time to bring attention to their campaigns against drilling in the region.
Shell’s President Marvin Odum commented on the company’s decision, saying, “We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term program that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way. Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012.”