Before going any further, I have to say up front that I am dead set against offshore drilling, especially in the Arctic where cleaning up another catastrophic mess would be much more challenging than the Deepwater Horizon one that is still affecting Gulf Coast residents.
After the BP disaster, IMHO it's unthinkable that we'd so much as consider our outdated, insane quest to further destroy what's left of our environment by trying to suck up the remaining finite goo supply. But that is exactly what we're doing.
The Obama administration on Friday approved Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc.'s plan for responding to an accident should it occur in the Chukchi Sea. The company hopes to begin exploratory drilling there, 70 miles off the northwest coast of Alaska, in June.
The issue of how to clean up a spill in the remote waters, 1,000 miles from the nearest U.S. Coast Guard base, has proved to be the biggest impediment to opening the most significant new frontier in U.S. energy development. But Interior Department officials said a robust plan is in place that could protect the fragile environment even in the event of a large blowout.
“After an exhaustive review, we have confidence that Shell’s plan includes the necessary equipment and personnel pre-staging, training, logistics and communications to act quickly and mount an effective response should a spill occur,” said James A. Watson, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Dandy. Just dandy. Why am I not feeling reassured? Here's why:
The plan calls for a fleet of oil-spill response vessels to be on hand at all times, along with a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. It also calls for a specially designed capping and containment system, still under construction and testing, that would be able to contain and store an accidental release of up to 80,000 barrels a day.
What could possibly go wrong?