Investigation sought of Obama administrations approval of Shells Arctic drilling

Investigation sought of Obama administrations approval of Shells Arctic drilling

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Conservation groups have filed an administrative complaint urging the Obama administration to investigate last summer’s controversial approval of Shell’s oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea, which resulted from a rushed environmental review to meet the company’s timeline. The complaint urges an investigation of the “loss of scientific integrity” at the Department of the Interior. The approval triggered worldwide protests against Shell’s drilling plans, including a “kayaktivist” blockade in Seattle and demonstrations during President Obama’s visit to Alaska in August 2015.

The complaint was filed this week by Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth.

“When he took office President Obama pledged to ‘restore science to its rightful place.’ In the stampede to open the U.S. Arctic Ocean to offshore oil drilling, science seems to have gotten trampled,” said Timothy Donaghy, senior research specialist at Greenpeace.

The complaint charges there were violations of the department’s Scientific Integrity Policy in crafting the “supplemental environmental impact statement” for the Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale 193. It asserts that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management rushed the supplemental analysis for political reasons to meet Shell’s timeline demands, thus compromising the report’s quality, circumventing peer reviews, and placing a burden on BOEM staff that undermined their scientific integrity.  

“Good science was undermined by the pursuit of profit, putting Alaska’s people and wildlife at risk. We need to understand exactly how that happened and prevent it from ever happening again,” said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Climate change and oil spills have upped the ante. We need to hold Big Oil accountable for flexing its political muscle and ensure scientists are free to do their jobs.” 

Shell failed to strike oil during its drilling operations, announcing Sept. 27, 2015 that it would abandon its Arctic drilling aspirations for the “foreseeable future.” The Obama administration later rejected the company’s attempt to extend its Arctic Ocean leases for an additional five years — an action that Shell is now appealing. In December a report by the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspection General concluded that BOEM scientists rushed their analysis to facilitate Shell’s timeline and that several employees have resigned in protest.

“The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s lack of scientific integrity is a blatant violation of its duty to manage our oceans in the best interests of people and the climate, not fossil fuel empires like Shell,” said Marissa Knodel, a climate change campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “Risking turning the American Arctic Ocean into an energy sacrifice zone to boost Shell’s profits is shameful. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management must be held accountable for ignoring climate science when all evidence points to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”

“The evidence uncovered by the Inspector General shows an alarming level of deference to the fossil fuel industry, at a time when Obama needs to keep federal oil, gas and coal in the ground,” Donaghy said. “No one knows who our next president will be. Now is the time to strengthen the integrity of regulatory agencies tasked with protecting our environment so that they are impenetrable to fossil fuel companies motivated by profit alone.”

For more information and to read the complaint, visit:


Timothy Donaghy, (510) 325-9186, [email protected]
Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108, [email protected]
Marissa Knodel, (202) 222-0729, [email protected]

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