July 4th 2009
he Arctic holds about a tenth of the world’s known oil and natural gas reserves – and it’s not clear what nation owns which offshore reserves because ownership is based on where the edge of the continental shelf is, and we don’t have a clear picture of undersea topography there.
As a result, the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, China and even South Korea, Singapore and Japanare all making forays into the region to establish drilling rights – rights that are becoming more valuable as ice-free navigation becomes possible in some parts of the Arctic. So it would make good sense, wouldn’t it, for the US to establish operations wherever it can as quickly as it can, give a reasonable regulatory regimen?
And we would be doing just that, were it not for the Center for Biological Depravity Diversity. The Washington Times reports today that the Center’s endless and aggressive litigation has brought much of the exploration by US companies to a halt:
Richard Ranger, senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, an industry lobbying group, said direct legal challenges are also slowing exploration and production off Alaska’s coast.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation group, is the principal party behind Arctic litigation, Mr. Ranger said. The group has filed lawsuits with the federal Minerals Management Service to halt the issuing of air quality permits to Royal Dutch Shell, asserting, according to the center’s Web site, that the oil giant has not adequately assessed how exploratory drilling would affect wildlife and native populations.
Shell announced earlier this week that it was withdrawing its 2007-2009 drilling plan in the Beaufort Sea and would submit a new plan for 2010. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco blocked the company from oil drilling in July 2007.
The new lawsuits come on the heels of the Center’s central effort in getting the polar bear listed, a ridiculous, political contortion of the Endangered Species Act that should have been stopped in its tracks by the Bush Administration, but wasn’t, in one of Bush’s most signficiant domestic failures. Building on that success, the Center is actively pursuing listings of numerous ice-dependent seals, – the ribbon, bearded, spotted, and ringed seals – making similar arguments that worked well with its polar bear litigation strategy:
In addition to loss of its sea-ice habitat from global warming, the ribbon seal faces threats from oil and gas development in its habitat, and the growth of shipping in the increasingly ice-free Arctic. Last month, important summer feeding areas for the ribbon seal in the Chukchi Sea were leased for oil development, while seismic surveys are planned for the area this summer.
And what is the answer to these seals’ plight? Hint: It’s not to just let them survive, as they have survived previous warming spells that melted the Arctic ice. No, we have to attack industry, the economy and the American way of life to save the seals:
“With rapid action to reduce carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon emissions, combined with a moratorium on new oil-and-gas development and shipping routes in the Arctic, we can still save the ribbon seal, the polar bear, and the entire Arctic ecosystem,” said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director for the Center. “But the window of opportunity to act is closing rapidly. Endangered Species Act protection for the ribbon seal and other Arctic species will provide important tools to protect these species and their fragile habitat in the Arctic.”
Going after multiple seal listings at the same time is the same strategy that has worked so well for the Center in Central California, where its Delta smelt listing, which has slashed water deliveries and spiked unemployment in some areas to 40 percent, has been followed by similarly disruptive listings of the long-finned smelt and Delta-dependent salmon species.
The new litigation’s focus on air quality shows how opportunistically the Center bends environmental laws and regulations to their favor. Air quality is an area of easy pickings since the baseline arctic air is unusually clean. Regulations written for the Lower 50 are easy to exploit there, and exploit they have.
The Center takes no prisoners. It doesn’t believe in compromise. It certainly does not believe in an economically robust, expansive America. Its founder has made it clear he sees his purpose as the depopulaiton of the West. The Center’s mission obviously has grown, and its actions in the Arctic not only could lead to greater dependence on foreign oil, but also, tragically, could lead to foreign ownership of drilling sites that are rightfully ours.