Oil and Ice Don't Mix: Protect the Arctic Ocean

The rush for oil and gas drilling is on in the Arctic Ocean -- one of the world's last pristine marine ecosystems. Temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on earth and Arctic ice is melting at a rapid pace.

Decisions the Obama administration are making now about oil and gas development could have irreversible environmental impacts such as threatening the survival of many species that are dependent on sea ice, including the polar bear, walrus and ice seals, and may endanger the subsistence way of life of Indigenous peoples. Once the drills start, government scientists predict a 40 percent chance of one or more large oil spills in the Chukchi Sea alone!

The previous administration's unconstrained plans for oil and gas development have no place in the Arctic Ocean and Bristol Bay. Urge Secretary Salazar to remove Bristol Bay entirely from current and future leasing plans and to take a time out from all oil and gas activities and new leasing in the Arctic. The Arctic should be off limits until a comprehensive, science-based Arctic Ocean plan can be developed.
RE: Comments on the proposed 2010-2015 Oil and Gas Leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf and on the current re-analysis of the 2007-2012 Leasing Program

Dear Secretary Salazar:

Thank you for taking the bold step of examining, in-depth, the new five-year plan for oil and gas development off our nation's coasts. Decisions made now by the Obama administration about oil and gas development could have irreversible environmental impacts in the Arctic Ocean -- one of the world's last pristine ecosystems and the human communities that rely on its health for subsistence.

The previous administration's aggressive plans for oil and gas development, as reflected both in the current 2007-2012 Leasing Program and the 2010-2015 Draft Proposed Leasing Program, have no place in the Arctic Ocean or Bristol Bay. I urge you to impose a "time-out" in the Arctic and develop a comprehensive Arctic Ocean plan that is based on science.

[Your comment here]

The Arctic is the "least studied and most poorly understood place in the world," according to the U.S. Arctic Commission. Thus the full range of impacts from development is unknown. We can't proceed with oil and gas drilling until we understand the impacts on this rapidly changing environment.

One thing we do know is that there is currently no technology that exists to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic's icy conditions. Government scientists have predicted a 40 percent chance of one or more large oil spills in the Chukchi Sea alone if drilling takes place.

The current lease plan includes Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay is home to the world's largest run of wild sockeye salmon, critical habitat for the endangered Steller sea lion and North Pacific right whale, and is offshore from one of the world's largest concentrations of sea bird colonies. Almost 50 percent of America's seafood comes from the Bristol Bay region. Recognizing the potential damage, the U.S. government bought back previous leases in Bristol Bay during the 1990s at taxpayer expense.

The environmental impacts of oil and gas development in the waters of the U. S. Arctic are not adequately assessed. I urge you to permanently remove Bristol Bay from current and future leasing plans and defer oil and gas activities and new leasing in the Arctic Ocean. Until a comprehensive, science-based Arctic Ocean plan is developed, I urge you to impose a "time-out" from all oil and gas related activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

I commend you for providing more time for public comment on the OCS leasing plans, for your personal attendance at the hearings around the country and for your stated intention to base future development decisions on sound science.

Your thoughtful process could ensure a legacy of healthy, living oceans for future generations.
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