We had so many great successes for the Arctic Ocean in 2015. As we begin 2016, here are five things we’d like to see happen for the Arctic Ocean this year.
We had so many great successes for the Arctic Ocean in 2015: an inspiring movement began in Seattle over the summer when kayaktivists took to the water and confronted Shell’s Polar Pioneer drill rig as it attempted to head to drill in the Arctic (a similar tactic stalled Shell’s Fennica icebreaker as it tried to leave port in Portland later in the year); Shell pulled out of the Arctic and delayed any plans to drill there “for the foreseeable future”; and the Department of Interior (DOI) denied requests by Shell and others to extend Arctic Ocean lease agreements and canceled all currently scheduled lease sales for the Arctic Ocean.
But as we begin 2016, we’re aiming to build upon these wins and protect the Arctic Ocean for good. Here are five things we’d like to see happen in 2016:
- Arctic Ocean leases are removed from the 2017-2022 off shore leasing plan:
In a few months, the Department of Interior will release its 5-year Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Program, followed by a 90-day public comment period. This will be the time to let the Obama administration know to stop offering new areas for lease in the Arctic Ocean and stand firm in his commitment to fighting climate change.
- DOI upholds its decision to deny current lease extensions to Shell and ConocoPhillips:
Shell and ConocoPhillips are appealing decisions that denied their requests to extend their current leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, leases which are set to expire between 2017 and 2020. We hope DOI upholds its earlier decisions to deny those extensions, which hopefully leads to both companies relinquishing their leases for good!
- Congress protects the Arctic Ocean from all future drilling:
Congress has already taken first steps on this with the introduction of the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act (H.R. 3632 and S. 1794) in both the House and the Senate thanks to Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Now is the time for Congress to act and pass this important legislation for lasting protections.
- President Obama grants the greatest possible protections for the Arctic Ocean:
If Congress fails to pass legislation to protect the Arctic Ocean, then we believe President Obama should use his authority and provide the strongest possible protections from future oil and gas development. The President should build on past withdrawals and protect more areas in the Arctic Ocean, ultimately taking all development off the table.
- The United States keeps its promises made in Paris:
More than 190 countries came together in Paris and adopted an historic climate change agreement. To achieve those climate goals, it is important to leave Arctic Ocean oil in the ground. Development in the Arctic Ocean is not only riskier and more expensive than projects in less remote locales, but if we want to reach our goal of staying under disastrous global average temperatures, we must leave the Arctic Ocean (and the fossil fuel reserves beneath it) untouched.