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For Immediate Release, September 17, 2012

Contact: Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110

Shell Abandons Drilling in Arctic Ocean for 2012 After Failing to Meet Oil-spill Protection Standards

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Shell’s failure to demonstrate it can contain an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean has forced it to abandon, for this year, its controversial plans to drill for oil there. The company’s oil-spill containment barge Arctic Challenger, which has been held up for weeks undergoing repairs in Bellingham, Wash., failed to meet its tests for Coast Guard certification last week. Shell reports that the problem-plagued barge was damaged during the testing process and cannot be repaired in time for this year’s drilling season.  

“We’ve always known that Arctic drilling can never be truly safe. These last few weeks confirm that drilling can’t be done safely for one month, much less long term,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which for years has worked to keep risky offshore oil drilling out of the Arctic. “This reprieve for our pristine Arctic Ocean gives the Obama government yet another opportunity to stop drilling operations before they truly get underway.”

Shell’s drilling crews arrived in the Arctic earlier this month to begin initial stages of offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea. The operation was forced to halt after just one day after an ice floe 30 miles long and 12 miles wide threatened the company’s drillship. Although Shell will not drill in oil-bearing zones this year, it plans to continue preparatory work, including drilling “top holes” in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Shell has also been unable to meet required limits on air pollution and in July asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive Clean Air Act requirements. Days later its drillship Noble Discoverer slipped its moorings in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and drifted dangerously close to shore. Now its spill-containment equipment has failed to meet the standards to obtain required permits.

More than 1 million people have called on President Barack Obama to save the Arctic from oil drilling. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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