A Victory For The Arctic

Good news is rare. Here you go:

In a “victory for the Arctic,” a federal appeals court Wednesday ruled in favor of a coalition of native and environmental groups who had challenged the U.S. government’s opening of millions of acres in the Chukchi Sea to oil and gas development.

The ruling deals a blow to oil giant Shell’s Arctic drilling plans.

In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that the estimate for assessing potential environmental effects of the oil leases made by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) of the Department of the Interior saying that just one billion barrels of oil will be economically recoverable from the remote area was “arbitrary and capricious.”


The Obama administration’s support for an “all of the above” energy strategy is one of the biggest disappointments of a frequently disappointing Democratic presidency. Viewed symptomatically, it indicates that our political process is even more completely dominated by the extractive energy industries than any progressives had ever imagined — a state of affairs all too easy to believe.

The Chukchi Sea lease sale, Sale 193, was originally held in 2008 by the Bush administration. It offered nearly 30 million acres in the Chukchi Sea for oil drilling—an area larger than the size of Pennsylvania. Prior to the lease sale, there were no active oil leases in the sea. In 2010 The Federal District Court in Alaska determined that the original lease sale violated the National Environmental Protection Act, one of the foundations of U.S. environmental law, because the Department of Interior had failed to address the widely recognized gaps in what is known about nearly every species in the Chukchi Sea. It required the agency to reconsider the decision. In October 2011, the Obama administration also decided to reaffirm the lease sale, despite the acknowledged gaps in information. The District Court upheld the Obama administration’s affirmation of the lease sale. The appeal decided today followed.


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