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18 Senators Go on Record Against Arctic Drilling

01 Jun 2015  |   Gloria Zhang

Tags: Arctic

The League of Conservation Voters would like to thank Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and his colleagues for their continued leadership and efforts to oppose Arctic offshore drilling. 

On May 22, 18 Senators led by Senator Merkley sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking for an immediate halt to all offshore oil and gas drilling permits in the Arctic, citing the fragile ecosystem, remote area, impacts to our climate, and lack of infrastructure to clean oil spills as major concerns.

The letter, signed by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Charles Schumer (D-NY), conveyed disappointment in the Obama administration’s recent decision to allow Shell Oil Company to drill in the Chukchi Sea, a part of the Arctic Ocean.

 “Opening development on a new fossil fuel reservoir in the Arctic not only puts the natural resources, ecosystems, and the dependent communities at risk, it also contradicts the President’s Climate Action Plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce climate change. It is an unacceptable and irresponsible decision,” expressed the senators.

The letter comes at a time of growing public opposition to offshore drilling in the Arctic as “kayactivists” protest the arrival of a Shell oilrig in Seattle. A recent oil spill in California also underscores the senators’ call to prioritize ecosystem health and the safety of local communities over Big Oil’s interests. 

As Shell waits for its final federal and state permits, LCV urges the administration to block Shell’s offshore drilling plans and remove leases in the Arctic Ocean, as well as the Atlantic Ocean, from its draft offshore leasing plan for the years 2017-2022. President Obama has demonstrated unprecedented leadership on climate and conservation, and opposing Arctic drilling is yet another opportunity for the president to expand his leadership and environmental legacy. The potential consequences are enormous, and we applaud the senators’ inspiring actions to defend the Arctic and our climate for generations to come. 

(Photo found on U.S. Goelogical Survey flickr, Photo Credit: Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard)

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