Dear Secretary Jewell,
I am concerned about the potential impacts of oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, and I urge you not to allow drilling in Arctic waters at this time.
Arctic waters provide vital habitat for iconic wildlife such as walruses, ice-dependent seals, bowhead whales, and migratory birds. Many residents of coastal communities in the region depend on a healthy ocean to support their subsistence way of life. Both people and wildlife are already coping with stresses from a rapidly changing climate, including rapid loss of summer sea ice. Impacts from oil drilling will introduce significant noise, pollution, and traffic into this fragile environment. And as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrated, there is always the risk of a major oil spill. Such a spill could have devastating effects on Arctic ecosystems, people, and wildlife. On top of all this, the Arctic is an extremely challenging operating environment, with dangers that include cold temperatures, moving sea ice, poor visibility, and fierce storms. The region is also remote, with little infrastructure to support response operations if something were to go wrong.
With all that's at stake in the Arctic, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management should take a careful, cautious approach to offshore oil operations in the Arctic. So far, oil companies have yet to demonstrate that they are capable of operating safely and responsibly in Arctic waters--as evidenced by Shell Oil's error-plagued drilling campaign in 2012--and have not shown that they can clean up a major oil spill in real-world Arctic conditions. The government, too, has more work to do: the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) still needs to release long-promised Alaska-specific drilling and air quality regulations.
Given the oil companies' unconvincing performance and the government's unfinished business, there is simply no reason to allow offshore Arctic drilling at this time.
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