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ACTION TIMELINE

February 13, 2007 – A Center-sponsored suit challenged U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations that allowed oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea to harm several imperiled species, including the polar bear and walrus. 
  
July 2, 2007 – The Center challenged a federal plan to expand offshore oil and gas leases in federal waters — a nationwide five-year program for 2007-2012 that would schedule 21 lease sales, including in ecologically vulnerable areas like the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan coast. 
  
July 20, 2007 – A federal court sided with the Center when it temporarily halted Shell Offshore’s plans to drill exploratory oil wells in the middle of the bowhead whale migration corridor in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea.

March 2008 – The Center and allies challenged a federal oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea.

July 8, 2008 – The Center filed a suit against the Department of the Interior for issuing regulations that would allow for the unlimited harassment of polar bears and Pacific walrus by oil companies operating in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.  

April 2009 – A federal court sided with the Center and vacated the Interior Department’s 2007-2012 five-year plan for offshore oil development.

December 2009 – The Center challenged Shell’s 2010 exploration plan for the Beaufort Sea.

February 2010 – The Center challenged Shell’s 2010 exploration plan for the Chukchi Sea.

Spring 2010 – In the wake of the disastrous explosion of BP’s oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, the Center initiated an aggressive campaign to end dangerous offshore oil drilling and hold the federal government accountable for the scandals and mismanagement that helped lead to the Gulf catastrophe. Read about our numerous legal actions, in-depth investigating and extensive public-relations work post-spill.

May 2010 – The Center and allies challenged Shell’s air permits for drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2011.

May 2010 – The Center sent a notice of intent to sue the Minerals Management Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service for their failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act by considering the possible impacts of a large oil spill on polar bears and other federally protected species in the Arctic.

July 21, 2010 – A federal court ordered all activities under Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea off the north coast of Alaska halted pending further environmental review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, formerly the Minerals Management Service. 

November 10, 2010 – The Center filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA for authorizing an inadequate oil-spill response plan for Alaska, including rubberstamping the use of toxic oil dispersants harmful to wildlife. Our notice demanded that the agencies immediately study the effects of dispersants and other cleanup operations on endangered wildlife and incorporate that information into oil-spill response plans.


November 30, 2010 – Following opposition from the Center, our supporters and other environmentalists, BP announced it was suspending work on the controversial Liberty oil-drilling project in the Beaufort Sea.

December 1, 2010 – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans to revise the national offshore oil-drilling plan that, while protecting areas off Florida and the Atlantic seaboard, would leave drilling in polar bear critical habitat off Alaska on the table.

August 18, 2011 –  The Obama administration approved a Bush-era plan to open the Chukchi Sea off Alaska to offshore oil drilling without determining how it will affect Arctic wildlife.

September 2011 – The Center and allies challenged Shell’s expanded Beaufort Sea drilling plan for 2012.

October 2011 – Instead of issuing a new, more complete environmental review for the Chukchi Sea lease sale, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released a “supplemental environmental impact statement concluding that the environmental-threat information missing in the original environmental impact statement (thrown out in July 2010) wasn’t necessary to move forward with oil and gas leasing in the Chukchi. Based on this inadequate review, the administration affirmed the 2008 lease sale.

October and November 2011 – The Center and allies challenged Shell’s air permits for drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in 2012.

November 2011 – The Obama administration released a new five-year plan for offshore oil development in 2012-2017 that schedules lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The same month, the Center and a broad coalition of allies appealed the EPA’s decision to issue an air pollution permit for Shell Oil’s ship, the Kulluk, to drill for oil in the Arctic. The appeal was filed Monday with the federal Environmental Appeals Board.

December 2011 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reversed a prior decision and allowed ConocoPhillips to construct a road in the Colville River delta to access drilling sites in the Western Arctic Reserve.

February 21, 2012 – The Center and allies filed a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air-pollution permit for Shell’s exploratory drilling operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

March 28, 2012 – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced approval of Shell Oil’s unproven oil-spill response plan for offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska.

April 13, 2012 – A coalition of groups, including the Center, filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the approval of Lease Sale 193, which opened for oil drilling the remote Chukchi Sea, home to iconic species such as polar bearbowhead whale, and walrus and to a vibrant indigenous subsistence culture.

May 1, 2012 – The Center requested that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigate Royal Dutch Shell for potentially misleading statements about its readiness to drill in the Arctic Ocean for offshore oil. 

July 10, 2012 A coalition of conservation organizations, including the Center, filed a lawsuit in Alaska federal court challenging the federal government’s approval of Shell Oil Company’s oil-spill response plans for its planned drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas that summer. 

February 27, 2013 – Shell Oil announced that it wouldn't drill for oil in the Arctic off Alaska for the year of 2013. The oil giant had planned to drill several exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Several setbacks, including the grounding of its Kulluk drilling rig, failure of its oil spill response containment dome and the Coast Guard’s discovery of numerous safety violations on its Noble Discoverer drilling rig, prompted Shell to delay its plans.

April 10, 2013 – ConocoPhillips announced that it would halt plans to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea in 2014. The oil giant was slated to be the next company to attempt drilling in the Arctic Ocean after Shell Oil encountered numerous difficulties with its attempt to begin exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Statoil, another company with leases in the Alaskan Arctic, also put its drilling plans on hold.

June 5, 2013 – The Center for Biological Diversity filed a  lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers challenging its approval of an oil-industry proposal to build the first drilling site ever inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the first road into America’s largest roadless area.

December 31, 2013 Shell’s Arctic drilling rig Kulluk ran aground near Kodiak Island amid high seas and strong winds.

January 22, 2014  The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it sold offshore oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. 

Polar bear photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Martha de Jong-Lantink