Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 7, 2016

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

New Arctic Drilling Regulations Won't Protect Wildlife, Climate

WASHINGTON— U.S. Interior Department officials announced final rules today governing offshore fossil fuel exploration in the U.S. Arctic Outer Continental Shelf. The new regulations are similar to the requirements the government placed on Shell Oil’s controversial drilling operation in the Chukchi Sea last summer, and will not protect oceans, wildlife or coastal communities from disastrous drilling-related harm.

Environmental groups have strongly opposed new Arctic drilling as inherently dangerous and are awaiting a decision by the Department on whether to issue new fossil fuels leases in the region as part of its five-year offshore energy plan — a decision expected by the end of the year.

“Arctic drilling can’t be made safe, period. These rules endanger wildlife and people both, with the false hope that companies can drill in these treacherous waters without spilling,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Obama should take his cue from the history of major, destructive oil spills during his tenure and protect Alaska’s coast and our climate by halting all new offshore oil leases.”

Today’s rules would require oil companies to develop a drilling plan that takes into account harsh Arctic conditions and to have a containment dome and separate rig available to drill a relief well in the event of major oil spill. The Interior Department found there was a 75 percent chance of Shell’s project causing a major oil spill; it approved the project anyway. Shell and several other oil companies have since pulled out of the Arctic because the currently low oil prices don’t justify expensive drilling operations there.

Just this week the Center released a study showing that burning oil and natural gas reserves that are already under lease would push global temperatures beyond the targets set by the United States and other countries last year at the global climate summit in Paris.

“To protect our climate and honor our international commitments, we shouldn’t be expanding drilling in the Arctic or anywhere,” Sakashita said. “These regulations are a step in the wrong direction.”

Details on the Interior announcement can be found here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back