Friday, July 24, 2015

Oregon Senator Submits Anti-Artic Drilling Bill

By Mark Edward Nero

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on July 16 announced the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act of 2015, legislation that would prevent any new or renewed leases for the exploration, development or production of oil, natural gas, or any other mineral in the Arctic planning area.

“A spill in the Arctic would be an environmental catastrophe of extraordinary proportions – and such a spill is inevitable if drilling proceeds,” Merkley said in a prepared statement. “The ecosystem in the Arctic is too fragile and the ability to respond to a spill in this region is nonexistent. Drilling in the Arctic Ocean is the height of irresponsibility. We need to put it off limits, permanently.”

In 2010, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded and began to sink in the Gulf Coast, the nearest Coast Guard station was about 132 air miles away, in New Orleans. In contrast, Merkley pointed out, current proposals by Shell Oil to drill in the Chukchi Sea are over 900 air miles from the nearest Coast Guard station in Kodiak and over 1,200 miles from the nearest deep-water port in Dutch Harbor.

Merkley said that opening development on a new fossil fuel reservoir in the Arctic not only puts the natural resources, ecosystems, and the dependent communities at risk, it also contradicts the President’s Climate Action Plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce climate change.

Merkley’s bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).