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NRC Report Underscores Risks of Arctic Drilling

ANCHORAGE -- In response to today’s National Research Council report on Arctic oil spill response, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the following statement from Margaret Williams, managing director of Arctic programs:

“It’s heartening when an esteemed scientific body like the National Academies reaffirms our belief that there is still no effective way to contain oil spills in the Arctic. Their work reminds us that there are still too many unknowns about this vibrant, rich, and sensitive environment.

“Aggressively pursuing Arctic drilling without proven technologies in place to prevent and clean up spills is both risky and irresponsible. A spill in the Arctic could be devastating to marine ecosystems and the coastal communities they support.

“History demonstrates that oil spills are bound to increase as development and shipping expands throughout the Arctic. If we know spills are going to happen and we know that we can’t respond effectively, we must recognize that there is an increased risk of fouling the Arctic’s pristine waters.

“What happens in the US Arctic doesn’t necessarily stay in the US Arctic. The report correctly points out that a large spill could spread across the region and impact the sovereign waters of other nations. Without a comprehensive international contingency plan in place, cleaning up an Arctic oil spill would be incredibly complicated and could potentially undermine international efforts to protect this remote region and its wildlife.

“It is not just a Deepwater Horizon-like spill that could pollute these waters for generations; even small volumes of crude spilled in open water and washed into wetlands could cause irreversible damage. The Department of Interior should not approve further Arctic oil and gas leasing or specific activities unless and until spill prevention and response technologies are proven effective in this harsh environment.”

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