WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) — A decision by the U.S. Interior Department to allow Shell Oil to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea has sparked a controversy, analysts say.
The move marks the first time in more than a decade that drilling will be allowed in the area, drawing rebukes from environmentalists, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
“There is no safe way to drill in the Beaufort Sea,” Athan Manuel, director of lands protection for the Sierra Club, told the newspaper. “Cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic’s broken sea ice is next to impossible, and where there is drilling, there are oil spills.”
Manuel added that a spill could threaten polar bears and bowhead whales. But Shell Alaska general manager Pete Slaiby praised the decision as “another positive step towards the ultimate goal of drilling in 2010.”
The Post said Shell plans to drill two exploration wells in the sea’s Camden Bay — about 20 miles north of Point Thompson, Alaska — while it is ice-free during the July-to-October open-water season next year.
“The Minerals Management Service is committed to responsibly developing offshore energy resources,” MMS Director Liz Birnbaum said in a statement.
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