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Shell Abandons Drilling in America's Arctic Ocean

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After years of searching for oil in the cold and turbulent waters of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, Royal Dutch Shell has abandoned its plans to drill for the “foreseeable future.” This announcement is the conclusion of weeks of summer exploration, where results of drilling to a depth of 6,800 feet indicated oil and gas findings were “not sufficient to warrant further exploration.”

WWF has long opposed drilling in the Chukchi Sea, given the environmental and cultural values of this pristine and complex marine ecosystem that is crucial for wildlife, fisheries and local people.

“The world needs to stop expending resources trying to extract more fossil fuels from the most hostile and remote places on the planet, and risking irreversible environmental damage at the same time.”

Brad Ack
Senior Vice President for Oceans, WWF

This is a region highly sensitive to damage and drilling comes at a high risk as the rough seas, freezing temperatures and icy waters make for exceedingly difficult conditions. In the event of an accident, detecting and containing spilled oil in broken ice, summer fog, and rough sea conditions, would be likely impossible. Home to populations of whales, walrus, polar bears, seabirds and other wildlife, the Arctic and the people and wildlife who live there will benefit from this great news.

Royal Dutch Shell has explored for offshore oil in the Arctic for seven years, spending an estimated $7 billion in the process. In 2008 they obtained the license to explore the Chukchi Sea and in September 2012 began drilling two offshore Arctic wells. But on December 31 of that year plans were interrupted when they lost control of a drilling rig while towing it from Alaska to Seattle for maintenance; the rig grounded on a pristine island in the Gulf of Alaska. This came after a series of technological failures in gale force winds and high seas.

"The world needs to stop expending resources trying to extract more fossil fuels from the most hostile and remote places on the planet, and risking irreversible environmental damage at the same time,” said Brad Ack, senior vice president for Oceans, “We urgently need to redirect all of that energy to accelerate our nation's and world’s transition to a future powered by clean, renewable energy"

Along with partners and thousands of supporters from around the world, WWF has called to conserve this special place in the Arctic from offshore oil and gas development for today and years to come.

“Those working to protect the communities and wildlife throughout America's Arctic can rest a bit easier tonight knowing that the immediate threat of disastrous offshore oil spills has diminished” said Ack “The Arctic Ocean once again proved to be the challenging and unpredictable environment we know it to be.”

Learn more about the Arctic.