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Alaska Drilling Plan Hits a Snag

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Authored by Jon Mercer in Energy, Environment
Published on 01-16-2009

Recently the Bush administration authorized a major new drilling program in the Arctic Ocean, but in a two to one decision, the federal appeals court ruled that the plan did not adequately consider the effects of drilling on the bowhead whales and the native villagers who earn their living from the Arctic Ocean’s coastal waters.

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the federal government should have done a more extensive environmental study of the impact of drilling for oil and natural gas in the Arctic Ocean. The Court of Appeals said that there was concern about harm to whales, caribou and other wildlife in the Arctic region.

In their two to one decision, the court ordered the federal Minerals Management Agency to prepare a more thorough review of the probable impact that drilling on the Arctic Ocean floor would have on the environment before the court would consider another vote on the drilling issue. Over the years environmentalist have fought against drilling in the Arctic region due to what they say would be disastrous impact on the Arctic wildlife and environment.

There are hopes among environmentalists that President-elect Obama’s administration will respond to the issue with greater sensitivity toward the environment, and with more consideration for the endangered wildlife that inhabits the Arctic region. Environmental groups such as Earthjustice in Juneau, Alaska are asking the incoming administration to call a complete time out on all new drilling until a more thorough investigative report can be compiled concerning the impact that drilling for oil and natural gas would have on the environment and the wildlife in the Arctic region.

Shell Offshore Inc is petitioning to drill as many as twelve exploratory wells in the Arctic Sea. Officials for the company say they have met or exceeded all requirements for environmental analysis, including how the exploratory drilling might affect the migration patterns of fish, endangered bowhead whales and caribou.

Proponents of the Arctic drilling like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, have urged the nation to take advantage of Alaska’s untapped oil and natural gas resources. Governor Palin has vowed to get the project back on track. Other proponents of the project say that the Alaskan offshore oil could help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and that if the oil and natural gas resources in the Arctic region can be safely harvested, it would be a significant step forward for the national energy program.

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