Obama Administration Approves Shell’s Request To Drill Even Deeper In The Arctic

Protesters opposed to Arctic drilling rally at the Port of Seattle, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Seattle. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TED S. WARREN

Just weeks after giving Royal Dutch Shell final approval to begin exploring for oil in the Arctic Ocean, the Obama administration is now allowing the oil company to drill even deeper.

On Monday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) approved Shell’s application to modify one if its exploratory drilling permits in the Chukchi Sea, about 140 miles from Alaska’s northwest shoreline. That modification means that Shell can “burrow into potential oil-bearing reservoirs thousands of feet below the seafloor that previously had been off limits,” according to a report in Fuel Fix.

In a statement, BSEE said approval had been granted after “extensive review and under a robust array of safety requirements.” But environmental groups were not pleased.

“Today’s decision makes it final: President Obama is willing to allow the pristine Chukchi Sea to become an energy sacrifice zone and worsen climate disruption,” Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Marissa Knodel said in an emailed statement. “President Obama should know better — Shell has no business in our Arctic Ocean, and he will bear responsibility for the damage that Shell wreaks there.”

BSEE’s announcement comes just two weeks before President Obama is scheduled to make a trip to Alaska to discuss the dangers of climate change. According to some studies, all oil and gas from the Arctic must remain in the ground if global temperature rise is to be kept under 2 degrees Celsius.

Obama’s approval of Shell’s request to drill in the Arctic has been confusing to many, as it’s seen as contradictory to his seemingly keen interest in fighting climate change. Asked why he approved drilling there in a recent Twitter Q&A; session, Obama said it would be impossible to stop oil exploration in the Arctic completely, so he has implemented “the highest possible standards” instead.