Report: US not ready for Arctic drilling

The United States is not prepared for oil drilling in the increasingly accessible Arctic waters, according to a new report by the National Research Council.

The report, released on Wednesday, found that safety resources and oil response tools are not adequate. The absence of personnel, equipment, communication and overall infrastructure create a "significant liability" in the event of a large oil spill.

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With a changing climate, the research council said, additional research must be conducted to determine the best response options that will leave the least adverse impact on the fragile Arctic environment.

Given the wide range of conditions, unlike others U.S. companies and federal response teams have encountered elsewhere, the report states that no single technique may apply in all spill situations.

The U.S. Coast Guard should bulk up its presence and performance in the Arctic, the report states. It added that the Coast Guard should also expand its bilateral agreement with Russia to include Arctic spill scenarios.

Work between Russia and the U.S. may be on hold given the recent Ukraine crisis, experts say, but work can still be done at the research level.

The 199-page report, which goes on to detail a number of challenges for responding to oil spills in the remote, harsh terrain of the Arctic, was requested and funded by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the American Petroleum Institute and other federal agencies.

Interior's BSEE is currently working on an Arctic-specific drilling rule, which director Brian Salerno said will be released "shortly."

On Wednesday, Salerno commended the research council for its report, which he said would add to the department's $15 million oil spill response program.

"We look forward to reviewing the committee's recommendations and to continued collaboration with our federal and state partners to enhance worker safety and environmental protection in the Arctic," Salerno said in a statement.