North Slope Blowout on Land Clearly Shows We Are Not Ready to Deal with an Accident in the Arctic

Juneau, AK – Susan Murray, Oceana’s Senior Director, Pacific, issued the following statement in response to the North Slope Repsol well blowout:

“Yesterday, Spain’s big oil company Repsol drilled into a methane pocket that resulted in an exploration drilling blowout on Alaska’s Arctic shores.  This is yet another wake-up call for the Obama Administration that oil and gas activities are risky business.  We are incredibly lucky this is not an oil well blowout offshore in the Arctic Ocean; because the nation is not prepared to deal with an accident like that in offshore Arctic waters where the ability to respond is limited at best, and impossible at worst. As of right now 42,000 gallons of drilling lubricant or “mud” have spilled and an unknown amount of methane has escaped.

“This accident is only the latest of several oil and gas disasters since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy less than two years ago.  As is the case with Repsol’s blowout here, accidents happen for unanticipated reasons, but when it comes to oil and gas activities the record shows it is not if an accident will happen but how soon will the next accident happen.

“In the Arctic Ocean, responders could face icy conditions, dense fog that lasts weeks, and hurricane-force winds in a place nearly 1000 miles from the nearest Coast Guard facilities. There is no proven method of cleaning up an offshore oil spill in Arctic conditions; there are not sufficient personnel or equipment in the region capable of carrying out an effective response plan; and there are gaps in basic scientific information about the ocean ecosystem needed to prioritize response, rescue, and cleanup efforts and equipment.

“Repsol had to evacuate employees and yet had no well-control specialists on site or even near site. Instead they had to fly in specialists from Houston to help tame the well. The crew took more than a day to arrive because they are more than 3,500 miles away.

“Repsol wasn’t ready and they had all their permits. So, is Shell really ready? A paper plan is not enough; no public in-the-water spill response tests have been conducted in the U.S. Arctic Ocean since 2000.  As shown in this footage from that most recent test, it failed miserably:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dL3RGwpBaI

“The American people want change. President Obama can learn from this onshore mistake and protect America’s Arctic Oceana. President Obama please do not grant Shell’s final permits to drill in America’s Arctic Ocean this summer.  It is simply a disaster waiting to happen.”

Source: Oceana

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