Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s plan to conduct an offshore exploration drilling in the Beaufort Sea which is being protested by the natives of Alaska. According to Earth justice, a nonprofit law firm representing five Alaska environmentalist groups, drilling could harm the bowhead whales, polar bears, migratory birds and other area wildlife.
Once the Arctic ice breaks up, Shell plans to drill four wells on the Sivulliq prospect this summer. Further drilling is set for 2008 and 2009. The leases are for drilling in federal waters between Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A drill ship, the Frontier Discoverer, and a semi submersible drilling rig, the Kulluk, have been contracted by Shell. It is a $44 million package of leases.
U.S regulators and Minerals Management Service (MMS) have approved the plan. The environmentalist group says that federal officials should have allowed a more thorough public evaluation of the potential impact on the environment and the North Slope’s indigenous people before allowing any drilling.
The oil exploration work which involve firing underwater air guns to study rock formations beneath the sea floor, will force the whales further offshore.