Ringed seals and bearded seals were added to the Endangered Species Act at the end of December 2012. This action would indicate that the Arctic environment is in such a critical condition that species living there remain under eminent threat. Not without irony, about the same time the seals were added to the list, two Arctic oil rigs, Kulluk (owned by Royal Dutch Shell) and Discoverer (owned by Noble Corp. and leased by Shell) needed to be towed to Seattle for sustaining damage in Arctic ice and failing to meet minimum safety requirements. This is chilling news, as the rigs are not even operational and already causing problems, which is about as sobering a thought as the knowledge that there has only been one test conducted for clearing an oil spill in Arctic waters, and it failed. Regardless, the United States government continues to allow these rigs to proceed into the protected region to search out and drill for oil without a recovery and cleanup plan in place.
Here is the problem: the government is violating its own laws. Irrespective of corporate latitude and the government’s apparent flexibility about the law, in no way changes the reality that drilling in the Arctic Circle willfully violates numerous environmental and animal welfare acts. President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law and made the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the overseers of those laws. The act clearly states that FSW and NOAA are to function in a capacity that protects listed species and “the ecosystems upon which they depend” from threats. Of which, drilling platforms, with no successful safeguard measures, would represent an immediate danger to the protected wildlife habitat.
Arctic sea-ice hit a record low in the summer of 2012. Researchers have developed mathematical models that demonstrate this extensive loss of ice has put the environment on a tipping point for recovery, as corrective measures taken now would not be noticeable for decades, simply by how the planet’s atmospheric system works. Yet, Shell continues to usurp laws and heads directly for the seals’ home, which puts the population directly in harm’s way. Ringed seals are the primary diet for the polar bear, which were placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in 2008, one year after Shell proposed the Arctic drilling scheme.
Taxpayers should be outraged that they are paying for environmental and animal protections, while corporations purchase political favor to look the other way. To complicate this nonsensical line of thinking further, the oil industry receives massive tax breaks, pays little to no fines for long-term damage, and refuses to spend money in an attempt to make offshore drilling safer because that maneuver is considered cost prohibitive and impractical.
People need to question, reason, think, and decide what is more important in life. A sustainable future that holds personal, corporate, and government practices accountable in a moral and responsible manner, or remain confined to the destructive attitude of short-term gains found in self-interest and misdirection.