Alaska Well Blowout Still Out of Control While Congress Wants to Drill in Polar Bear Country

Breaking news reports are coming in that an exploratory oil and gas well on Alaska’s North Slope has triggered a blowout that is still out of control. Meanwhile, Congress is pulling out every trick in the bag to open up a new, pristine landscape on the North Slope: the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to polar bears and other iconic wildlife.

According to the Alaska Dispatch, a well being drilled by Spanish company Repsol hit a methane gas pocket, which triggered the blowout.  A crew of specialists all the way from Texas is traveling to the site, but meanwhile the well is spewing drilling mud–42,000 gallons and counting.  An expert from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation explained that the drilling mud “is hazardous to the tundra.”

Should Big Oil Be Allowed to Drill (And Spill) in Places Like the Arctic Refuge?

credit, Susanne Miller/USFWS
This developing story is happening at the same exact time that lawmakers in the House of Representatives are debating whether to give Big Oil their entire wish list of places to drill (and spill), including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Some misguided members of Congress are using the excuse that extracting dirty fuels from a beautiful and untouched national treasure will pay for highway projects.  But, thanks to people voicing their outrage across the country, some elected officials are standing up against the transportation and energy bill (H.R. 3408) that would bring ruin to wildlife and wild places.

The “terrible” transportation package in Congress opens up new drilling areas on the East and West Coast, off the coast of Alaska, and in the pristine coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge, which is home to iconic wildlife like polar bears, caribou, Arctic fox, wolves, and more. House Republican leadership are using rare procedural tricks to split the bill up because many Members take serious issue with drilling impacts, so they may lack the votes to pass it all at once.

Representatives object to drilling off the coast of places like California and along the Atlantic coast, where oil spills and well blowouts, like in the Gulf spill and right now in Alaska, threaten communities that depend on tourism. Other lawmakers worry that a provision to grant industry 2 million acres of public land for oil shale speculation would generate zero energy, zero revenue, and zero jobsA group of House Republicans even sent Speaker Boehner a letter requesting that Arctic Refuge drilling be taken out of the bill, continuing a legacy of moderate support for this pristine wilderness.

All of this new drilling revenue is supposed to pay for a chunk of the $260 billion transportation bill.  But there’s one minor detail:  much of this revenue is speculative and wouldn’t even pay for 1% of the total cost.  Groups like Club for Growth, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Taxpayers for Common Sense agree that it is a fiscally irresponsible approach to paying for highways, bridges, and mass transit with imaginary money.

But Pipelines Transport Oil, Not People

The transportation package also requires approval of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline permit within 30 days,  which irresponsibly overturns a recent decision by the President to deny the permit.  This pipeline would move dirty Canadian tar sludge through the heartland of the U.S. to export to foreign countries, making the America complicit in the destruction of wilderness habitat in Alberta’s boreal forests and the senseless  poisoning of wildlife to make room for the pipeline. The transportation legislation, if passed in its current state, would also fuel  climate change that is already causing severe drought and economic damage in the United States.   Building the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would threaten America’s clean water suppliesraise gas prices in the U.S. and result in a net loss to American jobs.

The legislation also waives environmental review for many projects, takes away dedicated dollars for public transportation and even defunds a program to establish safe routes for kids to get to school.

Big Oil is already double-dipping into our wallets.  It is making record profit through taxpayer-funded subsidies and every time we pay at the pump–the industry doesn’t need another expensive gift from us.

Help Protect Wildlife from Arctic Drilling

Arctic wildlife are already suffering from loss of sea ice from global warming.  The lives of species like the ringed seal and the polar bear would be at even greater risk from an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean, which would be virtually impossible to clean up in the remote and rough, frigid waters.  The blowout on Alaska’s North Slope is a perfect example: a crew of specialists had to be called up from Texas to try and control the well.

Wildlife need you to speak up for them and tell their member of Congress that the entire transportation package is a bad deal for wildlife, our clean air and water, and the future of public transportation.

Take ActionUrge your decision-makers to make the right choice to protect wildlife from drilling >>