In response to multiple media reports indicating that Russian oil company Gazprom Neft will partner with Royal Dutch Shell to drill for oil and gas in the Russian Arctic, World Wildlife Fund-US (WWF-US) issued the following statement from Margaret Williams, managing director of WWF's Arctic work:
"Further opening the Arctic Ocean to offshore oil and gas development jeopardizes the health of the Arctic ecosystem and the local communities it supports -- especially when there is inadequate technology and no infrastructure to respond to an oil spill in this area. Offshore drilling, whether it takes place in waters of Alaska or Russia, currently presents unacceptably high risks and potentially irreversible impacts in the event of a spill.
"Based on the experience of Shell Oil’s 2012 Arctic drilling operations, despite billion-dollar investments in the process, it is clear that neither industry nor governments are prepared to manage offshore development safely. Shell’s mishaps last year underscore the inherent dangers of drilling in the extreme Arctic environment. Furthermore, Shell demonstrated that even basic operations – such as towing oil rigs – in adjacent waters may have significant impacts on the environment.
"The Chukchi Sea is one of the planet’s greatest marine treasures. It is home to many migratory species shared by the US and Russia: bowhead whales; Pacific walrus; polar bears. It is one of the most productive seas in the world, with a rich food chain and vast areas of intact habitat that attract birds from every continent for the annual breeding season.
"Arctic ecosystems and communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Given existing inadequate technology and infrastructure, gambling with one of our most important natural landscapes by adding additional risk and potential damage is unacceptable."