Report: More safeguards needed for Arctic oil drilling
by Bob Berwyn
Most experts agree that, given existing resouces, it would all but impossible to stop an Arctic oil spill on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. U.S. COAST GUARD PHOTO.
Conservation group advocates for an international Arctic response plan
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With oil drilling activities in the American Arctic on the horizon, concerns are mounting about the lack emergency response capabilities, as well as information about environmental conditions in the area.
A new report by the Center for American Progress highlights some of those concerns, pointing out that several federal agencies have called for more studies of baseline environmental conditions. Oil spill cleanup experts also say more resources are needed for the U.S. Coast Guard to fulfill its mission in the region.
The report also explains that even the well-developed infrastructure and abundance of trained personnel in the Gulf of Mexico couldn’t prevent the Deepwater Horizon tragedy — and the country’s Arctic response capabilities pale by comparison.
Drilling for oil in the Arctic should not be pursued without adequate safeguards in place. If the Deepwater Horizon disaster had any lessons to offer, it’s that the importance of preparedness cannot be overstated. That’s why the report strongly recommend specific actions be taken by the federal government, by Congress, and by Shell and other companies before beginning exploratory drilling in the Arctic.
Recommendations in the report include:
Ensure adequate response capabilities are in place before drilling operations commence
Require and oversee oil spill response drills in the Arctic that prove the assertions made in company drilling plans prior to plan approval
Engage other Arctic nations in developing an international oil spill response agreement that includes an Arctic Ocean drilling management plan
Appropriate adequate funds for the Coast Guard to carry out its mission in the Arctic, including increasing our icebreaking capability
Significantly increase the liability cap (currently $75 million) for oil companies in violation of drilling safety rules
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