Obama's Oil Decision Grants a Reprieve to Arctic WildlifePublished June 1, 2010
Last Thursday, describing the tremendous oil spill as a "wake up call," President Obama announced that proposed lease sales off the coasts of Alaska, the Gulf Coast and Virginia will be canceled or delayed until 2011. Obama said, "I continue to believe that domestic oil production is important, but I also believe that we can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again. It's going to take some time for the experts to make those determinations." He also ordered 33 exploratory rigs to stop work right away. Even though the BP oil spill is the worst spill disaster in our nation's history, far exceeding the 1989 Exxon Valdez tragedy, there was passionate opposition to the delay. Republican Rep. Don Young called it "irrational and careless," saying, "The kind of event that happened in the gulf, while tragic, is so uncommon. It is akin to an American jetliner crashing. If a plane goes down, we don't stop flying." Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell responded that the decision was fear-based, without sound scientific evidence. He said, "Vigorous opposition has led to administrative and court challenges on almost every front." However both Alaskan Native and environmental groups claim that it would be impossible to clean up a spill in the Arctic waters, which are far from deep water ports and airports. The president of the Wilderness Society, William H. Meadows, said, "Until a full review of what happened to cause the devastation in the Gulf of Mexico and of Shell's plans to deal with a similar situation, it would be irresponsible to continue drilling as if nothing happened." Meanwhile, Jamie Rappaport Clark, Executive Vice President of the Defenders of Wildlife, promptly released an email sharing the news as it concerns endangered polar bears. Thanking the numerous people who took action expressing their concern for all the species that could be adversely impacted by any further "accidents" she wrote, "Today, your hard work paid off, as President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar acknowledged the very serious threat that drilling activities pose to the sensitive ecosystems that sustain the Chukchi's polar bears, bowhead whales and other wildlife." She also cautioned, "Today's announcement by the Obama administration is a HUGE victory in our fight to prevent the next offshore oil disaster, but make no mistake: Our fight is from over." In a statement to the press made on May 27, Richard Charter, Defenders' Senior Marine Policy Advisor, wrote, "President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar should be commended for suspending Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer. The Arctic environment absolutely could not stand an oil spill like the one we're now seeing in the Gulf of Mexico -- any spill, in fact, would have devastating effects on Arctic wildlife, and it's clear that we couldn't clean it up." But what I cannot "grok" no matter how hard I try, is the apparent lack of concern for our precious wildlife these oil companies display. Sadly they seem to leave them out of their primarily financially-based equation. These irreplaceable species are global treasures that must be preserved at any cost. Every bear, marine animal, fish and bird, lobster, snail and other creature that lives in these waters is a jewel in the Earth's crown. We must preserve the balance of nature; while at the same time consider our much needed energy resources in a careful, sane and humane manner. Share your thoughts about President Obama's decision by leaving a comment.