News / USA

Gulf Oil Spill Raises Concerns in Alaska

Environmental groups call for time out from offshore exploratory drilling

Environmentalists argue the harsh climate in northern Alaska would make cleaning up any potential offshore oil spill extremely difficult.
Environmentalists argue the harsh climate in northern Alaska would make cleaning up any potential offshore oil spill extremely difficult.

Multimedia

Zulima Palacio

Reacting to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 15 environmental groups have asked the U.S. Interior Department to reconsider an exploratory drilling schedule set to begin in less than 60 days off the northern coast of Alaska.  

"This could be stopped by the stroke of a pen of the Secretary of Interior Salazar or President Obama," says David Dixon of the Alaska Wilderness League.

Environmental concerns

Some native Alaskans and environmental groups have pushed for an offshore drilling delay since the days of the Bush administration.

Environmentalists worry that if a fraction of what happened in the Gulf were to happen in northern Alaska, there would be no way to respond to it leading to devastating environmental damage.

"What we are advocating is that there should be a time out," says Dixon. "We should pause until we know for sure what the potential impacts are to the ecosystems out at sea where they are drilling and until such time as we have a credible means and credible technology to respond to an oil spill."

Dixon says the scheduled drilling is in a very unique and fragile region already affected by climate change.

"Right now the federal government and Shell Oil, the company that will be drilling in the Arctic, say the chances of a blowout in the Arctic are minimum so we shouldn't worry about it," says Dixon. "That's what BP was saying and the Minerals Management were saying in the Gulf of Mexico."

Fifteen environmental groups have asked the Obama administration to delay scheduled offshore drilling in northern Alaska.
Fifteen environmental groups have asked the Obama administration to delay scheduled offshore drilling in northern Alaska.

Risky climate

Dixon says two Alaska explorations are scheduled.

One is in the Chukchi Sea, 80 kilometers from shore, a region known for migratory whales. The other is in the Beaufort Sea, 20 kilometers from shore as well as from the Arctic National wildlife Refuge.

Both are in a harsh icy environment.

"The ice would make it even more difficult to find the oil if it were leaking, let's say, from a pipeline or from a wellhead, because you can't see it, because it is under the ice," says Dixon.

A few days after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama pledged there would be no more offshore drilling until an investigation is completed.  But Dixon says it is not clear whether that includes Alaska.

Safety Record

The oil and energy industries defend their safety record.  

Out of thousands of offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico, they say, only one has had a significant accident and this should not change other plans already scheduled. 

Randall Luthi is the director of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) which represents more than 250 domestic offshore energy industries. During the Bush administration, he was director of the Minerals Management Service which oversees offshore drilling at the Interior Department.

"Those that have been opposed to drilling I think see this as a great opportunity to re-impose moratoriums," says Luthi. "I don't think that's the answer, at least not right now. Let's first find out what happened and what can be done to fix the problem."

Luthi agrees with a temporary restriction on new projects until the investigation in the Gulf is completed, but he sees no need to stop an exploration in Alaska that has already been approved.

"At this point ,from what we know, I don't think there is a need to stop," he says. "I think there is a need for caution. I believe there is a need for everyone to be on their toes and to be extremely careful."

Environmentalists say the answer to the U.S. needs for energy should not be found in more oil drilling but from developing more alternative and renewable sources of energy.

The oil industry says that, while other sources of energy are growing rapidly, the oil and gas industry will continue for the foreseeable future.

For now, both sides know the future of offshore drilling is under scrutiny.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs