Unfortunately the impacts of oil and gas development go far beyond blowouts like the one we
just experienced. While we recognize that the probability of a worst case scenario oil spill like
remains low, we also recognize that the ecological and socioeconomicimpacts when such spills occur are severe. In addition to these relatively low probability events,
offshore oil and gas development continues to be plagued by higher probability problems,
including chronic small spills and the currently standard impacts of seismic activities and drillingon air and water quality and wildlife populations. While offshore oil and gas activity is
inherently risky - due to the unpredictable behavior of hydrocarbons deep within the earth as
well inevitable human and mechanical error - offshore drilling is far more dangerous than it need
be, because of laws that put too much emphasis on expedient development, a Federal agency thatis too close to the industry it regulates, and the lack of a coherent system to ensure sensible
planning and ocean resource protection and management across possible uses. It’s time for a
change both in the way the nation approaches offshore oil and gas development and oceanconservation overall.
While we support the critical work of our colleagues targeted specifically to the Gulf and to
nationwide reform, WWF is continuing our decades’ long focus on protecting the Arctic as one
of the last pristine environments on earth. Today, the Arctic is one of the world’s most valuableand unspoiled regions, with millions of migratory birds and marine mammals including walrus,
bowhead and beluga whales, bearded and ringed seals, and polar bears. The region is also home
to Native American communities, dependent on the health of the environment and wildlifepopulations. The Arctic is also a vital component of the global processes that regulate global
However, the Arctic is undergoing significant change. Nowhere on Earth are the effects ofocean acidification and global climate change more apparent and alarming than in the polarregion. Sea ice is currently both thinning and receding and frozen ground is thawing, altering
fundamental ecosystem function and making once unreachable areas accessible to development
for the first time.
We have a chance in the Arctic to define what a 21
century approach to conservation shouldlook like, rather than allowing oil and gas and other development activities to proceed without
the necessary side bars and without a broader dialogue about what areas should be protected,
what uses should and should not be allowed - where and under what conditions, and how to
minimize environmental harm overall. Before the United States pushes oil development evenfurther into frontier areas offshore, like the Arctic, our nation should embrace an overall
commitment to go forward only with a rational, science-based, and transparent decision-makingprocess that is based on integrated management plans, clear environmental standards, andappropriate response capacity. These tools, as described below, are critical in the Arctic andnationwide.