US Not Ready to Drill in Arctic: Gulf Spill Response Leader


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Thad Allen, the Rear Admiral of the US Coast Guard charged with heading up the BP spill response in the Gulf, has issued a frank warning about the perils of drilling in the Arctic. Simply put, we're not ready to do so, as the US government is unprepared to contain a spill in the region. Even so, Republicans are planning to push for Arctic waters to be opened up for drilling anyhow. Here's the AFP:

The United States is ill-equipped to deal with a major oil catastrophe in Alaska, the Coast Guard admiral who led the US response to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill and others have warned.

Only one of the US Coast Guard's three ice breakers is operational and would be available to respond to a disaster off Alaska's northern coast, which is icebound for much of the year, retired admiral Thad Allen told reporters this week. Former Alaska lieutenant governor Fran Ulmer said that before drilling in the Arctic, the United States must "invest in the Coast Guard."

Before drilling should be considered, Ulmer and Allen said that we'd need more icebreakers, better and bigger facilities to house workers near offshore drill sites, de-icing facilities, and a hangar for fixed wing aircraft, which would be needed to reach the proposed drill sites far offshore.

And though the water isn't as deep in the proposed drilling region in Alaska, the conditions are far more treacherous -- frigid cold, heavy storms, and rocky beaches would make rescue operation difficult. But as the AFP reports, "funding for expensive new icebreakers is unlikely to be high on the list of priorities of Republicans who gained control of the House of Representatives by vowing to slash spending. And yet, Republicans are likely to push for more drilling off Alaska's coast, an area rich in oil."

As outlined by a man who knows something about oil spill responses, an accident in the Arctic would be disastrous -- it appears that in terms of offshore drilling policy, the BP Gulf spill has indeed taught us next to nothing.

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