Weeks away from starting the first major offshore drilling operations in the Arctic, Shell is pulling a major bait and switch – telling the EPA its drilling rigs can’t meet the air pollution rules the company had already agreed to in order to get a drilling permit.1
Shell has known since 2010 it would have problems meeting the rules.2 But officials still told the EPA they could. Now Shell wants the EPA to weaken the rules at the last minute?
It’s clear that Shell simply cannot be trusted. The company’s last minute request gives the EPA the option to cancel Shell’s permit. That’s exactly what EPA must do.
This bait and switch is the latest in a long list of broken promises, walk-backs and mishaps which should serve as clear signs to the Obama Administration that allowing Shell to drill in the Arctic is a recipe for disaster.
Just this weekend, Shell literally lost control of its Discoverer drilling rig, which either ran aground or very nearly did so, when its anchor broke while harbored a thousand miles south of the Arctic.3 Moderate winds are being blamed — yet these winds are mild compared to what it will encounter in the Arctic. The rig, one of the oldest in the world, had a similar anchor malfunction just last year, while it was stationed in New Zealand.
Shell is also having problems with its nearly forty-year-old oil spill recovery barge. While Shell promised the Coast Guard it would upgrade it substantially to withstand stronger weather, Shell now says those upgrades aren’t necessary. The Coast Guard hasn’t yet decided if it will weaken these standards for Shell.4
And of course — while we’ve known for some time that the Obama Administration was being hoodwinked by Shell’s hopelessly inadequate oil spill response plan — now Shell has come out and admitted its initial spill response claims were overstated. Shell initially said it could “recover” 95% of oil in the case of a major spill. Now Shell is saying that what it actually meant is “encounter” 95% of the oil — whatever that means.5
Shockingly, the Department of Interior has put the probability of an oil spill in the Arctic at 40%.6
That is simply unacceptable. With Shell in the driver’s seat, it’s clear that it would be unwise to even bank on those unacceptably high odds.
Shell’s request to EPA is a major opportunity for President Obama and the EPA to revisit the undeserved trust they have put in Shell thus far. It’s time for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to be a hero, and draw a line stop the next major drilling disaster in the Arctic.
EPA’s response could come any day. Please sign the petition now.
1. “Shell Seeks to Weaken Air Rules for Arctic Drilling,” New York Times, 7/13/12
2. “Shell Application to Revise Discover Chukchi Permit,” EPA
3. “Shell Loses Control of Arctic Drilling Rig in Alaskan Harbor,” Think Progress 7/16/12
4. “Shell may be ready for the Arctic, but its oil spill barge isn’t,” LA Times, 7/5/12
5. “Shell Clarifies: It Can ‘Encounter’ 95 Percent Of An Arctic Oil Spill, Not Collect It,” Think Progress, 7/2/12
6. “What if an oil spill happened at an Arctic well?,” LA Times, 5/6/10