A new threat for the Arctic
On April 29, Donald Trump signed an order aimed at supporting oil and gas shelf drilling in the Arctic off Alaska’s shores. This order lifted the ban on drilling introduced by his predecessor Barack Obama. According to the new U.S. President, he expects the expanded oil and gas mining activities to bring profit to the budget and create thousands of jobs.
WWF believes that this policy change can, on the contrary, lead to irreparable consequences for the ocean and its inhabitants, as well as for the residents of coastal areas. There is still no effective methods of cleaning up oil spills in ice conditions, something that even oil companies acknowledge. Recently, United States estimated the financial damage of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at 61 billion dollars.
“Why would we encourage drilling in one of the most difficult places on the planet where sea ice and ocean currents have foiled previous attempts? And why would we do it in a place where any cleanup efforts would be impossible because of distance and icebound conditions?”, said WWF-US CEO Carter Roberts in response to Trump’s decision.
Trump’s order lifts Obama’s ban on drilling in vast water areas (around 46.5 million ha) in the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea. A number of coastal water areas to the north of the Bering Sea that are of special significance to the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous peoples of Alaska were also excluded from drilling operations.
In addition, Trump’s order instructed the Commerce secretary to review other marine protected areas named in the last 10 years. The Commerce department must find out what damage their exclusion from industrial development has done to the economy. The order also suggests accelerating the permitting process for seismic research, even though it can have a negative impact on marine mammals, and a number of other measures.
“Oil and gas companies ceased operations in the Arctic shelf because the investments in these projects are too risky, not because Obama wanted it,” says WWF-Russia CEO Igor Chestin. “Creating government incentives for developing the shelf is doomed to subject any national economy to losses and reduced competitive ability. We hope that the moratorium on new drilling licenses for the Arctic shelf introduced by Russia will remain in effect regardless of the mistakes made by others.”
Oil and gas drilling in the Arctic: prospects in Russia
The Government of Russia decided to introduce a moratorium on issuing new licenses for drilling on the Arctic shelf in September 2016. Earlier during the Arctic Oil Can Wait campaign, WWF gathered 80 thousand signatures for freezing oil drilling in the region.
WWF-Russia suggests extending the moratorium for at least 10 years. This will allow redirecting government support and the funds of oil and gas companies for more economically viable and less environmentally dangerous projects on land. Profits can be increased quickly and with relatively small costs by increasing the efficiency of drilling on land (the so-called oil recovery factor), reducing oil losses during the transportation (high pipeline wear), and by stopping associated petroleum gas flaring.
The moratorium will allow solving a number of nature conservation goals that must prevent or at least minimize negative impacts of the Arctic development on the environment. Such measures include introducing a strategical environmental assessment, marine spatial planning, creation of new specially protected nature areas and fishing sanctuaries, development and testing of efficient methods of oil spill cleanup in ice conditions, and improving financial mechanisms for damage compensation during oil spills.
Why does WWF oppose expanding oil and gas drilling in the Arctic?
The Arctic is a habitat for vulnerable wildlife species
The well-being of indigenous peoples depends on the environment
There are no effective methods of cleaning up oil spills in ice conditions
Rescue teams are usually located hundreds of kilometers away from drilling locations
Humanity should reduce its dependence on fossil fuels
Фото в анонсе:
Alaska, © Scott Dickerson / WWF-US
Фото в шаблоне:
Alaska, © Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com