Jun 232015

A coalition of 10 environmental groups has asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to rescind the department's conditional approval of a plan by Shell to conduct exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

In a letter sent to Jewell today, the groups assert that Shell's current plans conflict with existing regulations governing the incidental take of Pacific walrus.

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a rule about two years ago imposing a requirement of “a minimum spacing” of 15 miles between drill rigs “[t]o avoid significant synergistic or cumulative effects from multiple oil and gas exploration activities on foraging or migrating walruses,” the groups noted.

But Shell's Exploration Plan "is premised upon simultaneous drilling operations using the Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer at specifically identified drill sites, none of which is 15 miles apart from any other," the groups said.

Earthjustice sent the letter on behalf of the Alaska Wilderness League, Audubon Alaska, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, and Sierra Club.

Oil and Gas Exploration in the Chukchi Sea (FWS Alaska Region)

Final Incidental Take Regulations for Polar Bears and Pacific Walrus for the Chukchi Sea issued June 12, 2013