House Dems to Interior: More science needed before Shell can drill off Alaska

The letter praises Interior’s announcement early this month that it is conducting new environmental analysis of the region in light of Shell’s request to drill in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s northern coast.

But the lawmakers also express doubt that drilling can be conducted safely and cite the BP spill the Gulf of Mexico.

“Considering the obstacles to cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico, it is clear that we are completely unprepared to respond to a spill in the Arctic. Gale-force winds, temperatures below freezing and persistent storms are routine in the Arctic. The Department does not know what the effects of an oil spill in the Beaufort Sea would be and Shell’s plan to respond to an oil spill is untested,” the lawmakers write.

A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he is committed to science-based decision-making in the region. “Secretary Salazar believes we need to continue to take a cautious approach in the Arctic that is guided by science and the voices of North Slope communities,” spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said.