Shell Oil Co. has decided to use pre-emptive action to insure that environmental groups do not use last minute legal maneuvers to block drilling in the Arctic Ocean during this summer’s brief window for operations.
By filing a lawsuit against eleven environmental and Alaska Native organizations, the company is hoping to force an early review of its Chukchi Sea oil spill response plan so that it cannot be challenged at the last minute, once rigs and their support flotillas are in place. Delays at that stage of exploration are very costly, and the company has already obtained approval of its plan from The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
While activists have called the move an attempt to circumvent the regulatory process instituted to protect the fragile Arctic environment, Shell is arguing that last minute delays are just a tactic to stall any legally approved drilling until the summer exploration window is closed and the ice returns.
As someone whose livelihood depends on the strength of the valve industry, I could be accused of being biased toward Shell simply because oil and gas exploration and development keep me in business. However, I would have to counter any such accusation by saying that I am also an environmentalist. I walk whenever possible to get to any destination, I plan my errands so that I can get everything done in one concise circuit, and I reduce, re-use and recycle. I also compost and buy local and, well, you get the drift.
What’s more important, and this might come as a shock to more vocal activists, I am not the only one like me in this industry. I’ve spoken to people at nuclear power plants, in oil companies, and I’ve interviewed people that engineer and manufacture valves, actuators and controls. Frankly, I haven’t met one who isn’t conscientious and concerned when it comes to insuring that emissions and leaks are kept to the minimum possible, and you can be quite sure they don’t want blowouts any more than the fishermen who depend on the sea for their livelihood.
These folks are concerned about the environment. But they also take seriously their commitment to finding, exploiting, refining and transporting the oil and gas that keeps the world running. They don’t want to destroy the earth any more than Lucy Lawless, but the bottom line is that they are responsible to the companies for which they work. Those companies, by the way, make possible trips on the planes, trains, automobiles and ships that get the activists to the sites where they protest and the courtrooms and law offices where they institute their lawsuits.
At this time, there is no way any of us can continue our lifestyles without oil. So let’s work together to make it as economical and safe as possible to explore while alternative energy sources are developed.