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For Immediate Release, May 25, 2010

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703

Polar Bear to Greet President Obama in San Francisco
With Plea: "Don't Let Shell Drill in the Arctic This Summer"

What: The Center for Biological Diversity’s “Frostpaw” the Polar Bear will greet President Obama with the message: “Don’t let Shell drill in the Arctic this summer.” The president is expected to attend a fundraiser at the Fairmont for Senator Barbara Boxer. 

When: Today, Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 4:30 p.m.

Where: Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., San Francisco

Background: “If we have learned anything from the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s that we cannot drill in the Arctic. Large domes, small domes, golf balls, garbage, chemical dispersants, fire – nothing has stopped the enormous flow of oil into the Gulf. Clearly, there are no safeguards that make offshore oil – particularly in the Arctic – safe,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center’s Oceans Program director. “With limited capacity to respond to potential spills and icy, harsh conditions, the Arctic is no place to take our next drilling gamble.”

The Obama administration has been embroiled in controversy since it was revealed on May 5, 2010 that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar allowed the Minerals Management Service to exempt BP’s offshore drilling plan from environmental review. The agency used a National Environmental Policy Act loophole meant to apply to minor projects with no, or minimal, negative effects – such as construction of outhouses and hiking trails. The controversy deepened when it came out that the agency routinely exempts hundreds of dangerous offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico from review every year.

This same agency also rubberstamped Shell’s Arctic summer drilling plan without conducting a proper environmental review of the possible consequences of drilling, including a large oil spill such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Earlier this month, the Center filed suit against Secretary Salazar over his continued approval of offshore drilling plans in the Gulf without environmental review. Despite the catastrophe, Secretary Salazar allowed MMS to issue more than a dozen new drilling approvals – all exempt from environmental review – after the explosion.

“Shell’s plan for exploratory deepwater drilling in the Arctic in just one month must be re-examined in the light of the disaster in the Gulf, and President Obama must call a real halt to all offshore drilling today,” said Sakashita.

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