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Shell Launches Preemptive Legal Strike Over Arctic Oil Drilling

Shell gas station

In chess, the sign of a good player is the ability to think three moves ahead. Well, executives at Royal Dutch Shell have deployed a similar mindset by launching a “preemptive” legal strike against opponents of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic. The oil company has decided to file suit in anticipation of future legal challenges by environmentalists of exploratory drilling in the Arctic this summer.

Shell has filed a request for declaratory judgement in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage against 13 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Defenders of Wildlife. It seeks a ruling that the US government conformed to federal law when it approved Shell’s oil spill response plan for Arctic drilling.

According to a Shell spokesperson, Bill Tanner, “This preemptive action is an attempt to avoid a legal challenge on the eve of operations. We are anticipating that they were going to sue us.”

A legal challenge on the eve of drilling could create costly delays for Shell, a company that has already funnelled $4 billion into the project without constructing a single well. The short Arctic summer provides a very small window in which Shell can drill. If its plans are delayed, it may be set back a year.

Environmentalists have so far been unequivocal in their opposition to drilling in the Arctic. They claim that drilling in an environmentally sensitive region such as the Arctic would disturb the fragile ecosystem and its wildlife. An oil spill in such a remote location could be disastrous, as clean-up efforts could be seriously impeded by extreme weather conditions and difficult access.

Last month, actress Lucy Lawless and Greenpeace activists climbed aboard a Shell oil-drilling ship in protest.

What are your thoughts on drilling in the Arctic? Do you think that Shell’s preemptive legal strike over Arctic drilling will be successful?

Image CC licensed by Richard Masoner

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