The search for oil is pushing into ever more remote corners of the world – including the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Diminishing sea ice is increasing access to Arctic waters, potentially enabling industrial activities such as shipping and oil and gas development. But industrial development in U.S. Arctic waters brings a new set of challenges and a larger set of risks than in other oceans. In the Arctic, people and machinery will be working in some of the most remote and harshest conditions on the planet.
Oil exploration and development brings with it the ever-present risk of an oil spill in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. High winds, coupled with human error present significant risks to the sensitive Arctic marine environment.
Oil and ice don’t mix. Oil spilled in broken sea ice is likely to pool in biologically rich ice leads and openings, negatively affecting marine life throughout the food chain.
There is currently no technology that has been proven to clean up an oil spill in Arctic Ocean conditions.
Certain weather conditions (e.g. high wind, fog, high waves) make oil spill cleanup impossible.
There is a lack of baseline knowledge about the Arctic Ocean and how offshore oil drilling could affect an ecosystem already stressed by climate change. Oceans North recommends that the following assessments be conducted in order to better prevent and respond to an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.
VIDEO: Don't Put America's Arctic Ocean at Risk
The oil industry recently submitted exploration plans to drill up to 10 wells over the next two summers in the U.S. Arctic Ocean for review by the Department of the Interior. As the video below shows, to allow drilling now would put this extraordinary ecosystem—and vibrant communities that have practiced a traditional way of life for thousands of years—at risk.
Arctic Oil Spill Report
Oil Spill Prevention and Response in the U.S. Arctic Ocean: Unexamined Risks, Unacceptable Consequences is the most comprehensive analysis yet on challenges to preventing and containing spills along the nation’s northernmost coast. Find details, downloads, and video >
Misconceptions about Oil Spills in the Arctic
View a fact sheet detailing a number of common misconceptions about the impact of an oil spill in the Arctic. Click here for fact sheet >