Shell Handed Green Light On Controversial Off-Shore Arctic Drilling

Shell is set to commence its off-shore drilling operations in the exploratory wells of the Alaskan Arctic after having reportedly received a green light by the U.S. Federal Government on the former’s controversial Oil and Gas Extraction Project on Monday. The approval has been granted subject to the use of the most pertinent drilling equipment capable of stemming potentially catastrophic consequential oil spills.

According to reports, the Oil and Gas giant has already committed about $7 billion to the highly contentious project while insisting that imperative environmental safeguards are being diligently employed in the process. It has been estimated that the Arctic could be holding billions of barrels worth of recoverable oil secured beneath its waters. Shell, having historically been keen on exploring the region’s colossal Oil and Gas potential, has forcefully defended its campaign in a bid to accelerate existing domestic production. The Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement (BSEE), the authority which has issued the permit to the company, maintains that the off-shore drilling project is being implemented with the utmost emphasis on environmental protection and requisite safety standards.

The decision to authorize Shell to proceed with the initial test drills has outraged environmental groups to the point of anguish with Greenpeace actively spearheading a comprehensive boycott against consumption of Shell products in response to the announced go ahead. These groups are sharply skeptical of the preliminary safety protocols incorporated into the drilling project and wary of Shell’s ability to prevent any long-term consequence of a potentially calamitous oil spill in the region.

Erstwhile U.S. Vice President Al Gore earlier in an interview had been outspokenly critical of President Barack Obama’s favorable stance on the project given the inexorably hostile and inhospitable conditions prevalent in that region that may prove highly detrimental to a project of such magnitude. He had subsequently urged upon the international community to push for a blanket ban on its proceedings. Moreover, in light of the anticipated surge in oil exploration activity in the heart of Alaska’s Arctic waters, some federal agencies are likely to scrutinize many of the mandated guidelines formulated for responding to a post-spill scenario that could bring into enormous peril the pristine wildlife of that region.

In the event of a serious oil spill, officials believe any concerted effort to promptly secure marine mammals of the region would be largely inhibited by an evident lack of resources. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has embarked on its own spill response plan should an unforeseen incident occur as an immediate consequence of Shell’s protracted drilling in the region.

[Image Credit: Getty Images / Stringer]