The EPA approved air permits for Shell offshore drilling operations in off the Alaskan coasts Monday. The approval, which grants permission for the Shell drillship Discoverer and a supporting fleet to operate in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, moves the company one step closer towards conducting off-shore drilling procedures in the pristine Arctic waters.
In July 2011, Admiral Robert Papp, a top official at the U.S. Coast Guard, said that the government is not prepared to handle an oil spill in the unique conditions presented by the remote, ice-laden Arctic waters. If an accident similar to the Deepwater Horizon accident were to occur in the Arctic today, Papp testified before Congress, the government “would be starting from ground zero.”
Such an accident is entirely likely given the context of 50 years worth of Shell’s polluting history. A recent U.N. report held Shell accountable for contributing to 50 years of pollution in the Niger Delta—now the site of a $1 billion dollar, thirty year-long oil clean-up process.
The Arctic region is home to more than 4 million people, including 30 indigenous populations, as well as several endangered species.