Public Employees Group Urges Scrutiny Into Review of Arctic Drilling Plans

The grounding of a drill rig in the Gulf of Alaska has sparked
much concern in the commercial fisheries industry over possible adverse affects
of the grounding on anticipated harvests.
Federal regulators were asked on Jan. 15 to allow public
scrutiny into an emergency 60-day review of Arctic drilling plans by the
Interior Department.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is urging
federal regulators to meet with independent experts in open session rather than
with industry representatives behind closed doors, and to create an advisory
council for local residents to participate in decision making.
PEER officials noted that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has
already ordered a two-month review of plans by Royal Dutch Shell to resume oil
and gas exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas for the summer of 2013. Salazar
ordered the review following a series of incidents with Shell. These included
failure of Shell’s oil spill containment dome, and more recently, the grounding
of the drill rig.
“More than a self-review will be required to restore public
confidence that this is not another eco-catastrophe waiting to happen, said PEER
executive director Jeff Ruch.
PEER officials said noted that the British government on
Jan. 15 rejected a report from a committee of the British Parliament which
urged a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic until
stronger pill prevention, response and recovery safeguards are secured. But the
Cameron government did agree with recommendations from British lawmakers that
marine preserves are needed in Arctic waters and that local residents have a
role in decision making.
“Until we can effectively address these residual risk
factors, it’s time for a ‘tie-out’ in Arctic offshore drilling,” said Rick
Steiner, an expert in oil spill response and retired University of Alaska
professor. “Unless these uncertainties are resolved, a real catastrophe may