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WWF warned the Russian Foreign Ministry about the environmental risks of oil and gas production in the Beaufort Sea
27 december 2018
WWF appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in connection with US plans to develop hydrocarbon deposits on the Alaska shelf.
In 2018, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the preparation of leasing sales programme in the Beaufort Sea. WWF experts point out that the project may have a negative environmental impact not only in the Alaska region, but also in the Eastern sector of the Russian Arctic. In the event of an oil spill, there is a chance that the smear of oil will drift to the west for a long time. This may lead to transboundary pollution of the Chukchi Sea and the most ecologically valuable areas of the Bering Strait.
The basis for such concerns is an example of the drift of the Canadian barge NATL II. In October 2014, during a heavy storm in the Beaufort Sea, a 40-meter self-propelled vessel tore off the cable and was carried to the open sea. Due to severe ice conditions and storms, only 9 months later, in July 2015, the vessel was towed off the coast of Chukotka.
“The fact that oil and gas companies are not ready to work safely on the Arctic shelf may be confirmed by a whole series of emergency situations and problems of the exploratory drilling project of Shell in 2012 on the Alaska shelf,” said Alexey Knizhnikov, Head of WWF Russia Oil & Gas Programme. “As a result, the company refused to continue the work, losing more than $ 5 billion.”
“Due to extreme weather conditions and the presence of ice cover, no one in the Arctic will be able to effectively eliminate an emergency oil spill. The case of a Canadian barge is a vivid example. Coast guards of Canada and the United States could not take the vessel in tow, let alone talk about the deployment of oil spill response equipment,” commented A. Knizhnikov.
In its letter to the Russian Foreign Ministry, WWF Russia asks the American side to offer a transboundary environmental impact assessment of the planned program in accordance with the principles of the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. In addition, according to environmentalists, the work should involve all interested parties, including WWF. A cross-border EIA will minimize the environmental risks in the eastern sector of the Russian Arctic, caused by the development of Alaska oil and gas fields.
Photo: © National Geographic Stock / James P. Blair / WWF