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As Oil Spill Crisis Worsens in Gulf of Mexico, WWF Renews Call to Halt Oil, Gas Development in Arctic

WASHINGTON, DC, April 29, 2010 – The following statement was issued today by World Wildlife Fund’s Vice President for Arctic and Marine Policy William M. Eichbaum regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

“More than 40 years ago, Americans watched in horror as an oil slick caused Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River to erupt in flames. Today’s images of burning oil on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the tragic loss of life in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon provide a grim reminder of the risks posed by oil and gas exploration to the environmental and economic well-being of coastal regions, including the Arctic.

“While there is no good scenario for an oil spill, the temperate weather conditions and the Gulf of Mexico’s well-developed infrastructure and access to the most technologically advanced methods for responding to a spill offer the best possible set of circumstances for coping with such a disaster. Yet despite all these advantages, the crisis continues to worsen.

“As terrible as this situation is, the impacts would be far worse should this spill have taken place in the harsh and remote environment of the Arctic, where violent storms and thick ice would make it nearly impossible to effectively respond to even a minor oil spill.

“Today, WWF is renewing its call for a moratorium on gas and oil development in the waters of the Arctic until there is a better understanding of the risks and an improved capacity to respond to spills and other environmental hazards. 

“It’s important to note that the Arctic Council, of which the United States is a member, has adopted guidelines for the Arctic in which governments agree not to allow further oil and gas development without the ability to adequately respond to potential risks. The events of this past week in the Gulf of Mexico and the lack of resources to respond should something similar occur in the Arctic region, make it clear that any further oil exploration in the near term would violate those principles.

“We once again call on the Obama Administration to withdraw permission for the petroleum industry to begin exploration in the Arctic, scheduled for July of this year, pending a full environmental impact review. We also urge the Obama Administration to cancel the leases in Beaufort and Chukchi Seas that were issued by Bush Administration.”

“More than two decades have passed since the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters of the Prince William Sound and killed millions of marine mammals, fish and birds. The devastating effects of that disaster continue to be felt today. We cannot take a similar risk with the Arctic.”