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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Jewell,

We urge you to not go forward with a new oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea. Instead of opening up new areas of the Arctic to risky drilling, the Department of the Interior should focus on protecting important ecological and subsistence areas and improving offshore drilling policies and regulations in the Arctic Ocean.

Shell Oil’s attempt to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2012 was plagued by failures and mishaps, culminating in the grounding of the Kulluk drilling unit near Kodiak, Alaska, on the last day of the year. In its evaluation of Shell’s drilling season, a Department of the Interior report concluded that “Shell entered the drilling season not fully prepared” and acknowledged “serious deficiencies in Shell’s management of contractors, as well as its oversight and execution of operations in the extreme and unpredictable conditions offshore of Alaska.” In addition to Shell’s failures, there are significant shortcomings in the policies and regulations that govern offshore oil and gas operations in the Arctic Ocean.

In the wake of the 2012 season, Shell abandoned its plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean in the summer of 2013, and ConocoPhillips and Statoil announced they would not seek to drill in the Chukchi Sea until 2015 at the earliest. The Department of the Interior and other federal agencies are only beginning to contemplate changes to improve safety and environmental protection. And no one has demonstrated the ability to effectively clean up a major oil spill in the Arctic, the damage from which could be catastrophic.

In this context, it does not make sense to consider holding an oil and gas lease sale that would expose more of the Chukchi Sea to risky oil and gas drilling. We urge you to not go forward with a new Chukchi Sea lease sale at this time.


Ocean Conservancy and Your Name

A spill recovery effort in the Arctic Ocean could face sea ice up to 25 feet thick, hurricane-force storms and 20-foot swells.

The Arctic has extremely limited infrastructure—there are no roads, only a few small airports and the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away, an issue that was proven problematic with the grounding of Shell’s oil rig, Kulluk, last year.

Shell even admitted that in a worst-case spill scenario, its recovery plans pledge only to “encounter” 95 percent of the oil—not necessarily to clean it up.

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