The grounding of a petroleum drilling ship on a remote Alaska Island has refueled the debate about oil exploration in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, where critics for years have said the conditions are too harsh and the stakes too high to allow dangerous industrial development.
The drilling sites are 1,000 miles from Coast Guard resources, and environmentalists argue offshore drilling in the Arctic's fragile ecosystem is too risky. So when a Royal Dutch Shell PLC ship went aground on New Year's Eve off an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, they pounced – saying the incident foreshadowed what will happen north of the Bering Strait if drilling is allowed.
Drill rigs in Arctic waters could be affected by ice any time during the four-month open water season, said Marilyn Heiman of the Pew Environment Group. The other threats – near hurricane-force winds compounded by cold and darkness – were seen in the grounding, she said.
"We know that in the Arctic and in the gulf it's not uncommon to have pretty high seas, and you have to take precautions," she said. "If you're going to dill in those types of conditions, or even move vessels in those conditions, you have to have strong, Arctic-specific gear and equipment and safety training. It has to be very vigorous, and I don't think we're there yet."
Read the full article, Critics Say Grounding Shows Arctic Drilling Danger, on the Huffington Post website.