Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 28, 2015

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108,

Victory in Alaska: Shell Pulls Out of Arctic After Failing to Strike Oil

CHUKCHI SEA, Alaska— Royal Dutch Shell has announced an end to its Arctic oil exploration “for the foreseeable future” after failing to strike oil at its Burger Prospect site in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, located in remote federal waters within the Arctic Circle. The public and conservation groups have long opposed drilling in the Arctic — where an oil spill would be impossible to clean up — and have criticized the Obama administration’s approval of Shell’s permits.

“Polar bears, Alaska’s Arctic and our climate just caught a huge break,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Here’s hoping Shell leaves the Arctic forever. Drilling for oil there is inherently dangerous and will only drive the world deeper into the climate crisis. If we’re going to leave behind a livable planet, we need to leave that oil in the ground today, tomorrow and always.”

The Chukchi Sea is valuable habitat for threatened polar bears, seals, walruses and other sensitive wildlife that depend on sea ice for survival. The Interior Department has admitted there is a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill being caused by Shell’s project. Harsh weather conditions and strong opposition from conservationists had already led most oil companies to abandon plans to drill in the region; now Shell joins them.

“Countless Americans have spoken out against Arctic drilling by writing letters, calling Congress and even protesting from their kayaks,” Sakashita said. “It’s a great day for the Arctic. Now we need to permanently protect this sensitive region and keep the oil up there safely in the ground.”

Shell’s announcement comes at the end of the summer drilling season. The company’s federal permits require it to conclude active drilling operations by today, a deadline that Shell had sought to extend, but that appeal was recently rejected by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

In June the Center and a coalition of other groups sued the Obama administration for issuing Shell’s permits after a rushed and cursory review of the project. The coalition also has a pending federal lawsuit challenging federal permits that allow Shell to harass and disrupt Pacific walruses, which are already under pressure because of precipitous drops in Arctic sea-ice cover due to global warming. The coalition also has a pending challenge against Shell’s lease in the Chukchi Sea.  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back