I am just not buying the happy theory that we have already passed through “The Great Filter” that prevents the rise of spacefaring civilizations. It completely overlooks the possibility that advanced technological civilizations become so enormous and voracious that they are very much at risk of depleting their resources and bringing about the ecological collapse of their planet long before they develop the capacity for interstellar travel.
That certainly seems to be the path that we’re on, unless we come up with a technological fix or finally develop the will to rely on less destructive forms of energy, neither of which seems to be happening anytime soon.
3 commentsSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 07:23amPosted by Eli
The Stop the War on Coal Act, H.R. 3409, was approved in a 233-175 vote, although as usual, the bill many Democrats described as anti-environmental still found some Democratic support — 19 Democrats voted for it.
The legislation is a combination of five bills that would overturn or prevent an array of regulations that Republicans say would harm the coal industry and the economy. Among other things, it would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and prevent rules on the storage and disposal of coal ash and limit Clean Water Act rules.
It would also prevent potential Interior Department rules to toughen environmental controls on mountaintop removal coal mining, and thwart other air emissions rules, including air toxics standards for coal-fired power plants.
So apparently imprisoning black and brown people in the name of the wars on drugs and terror is a-okay, but a war on rising oceans and poisoned air is cruel and unjust.
The National Association Of Manufacturers is terribly offended by the fact that some California teens are suing the government to reduce carbon emissions:
“At issue is whether a small group of individuals and environmental organizations can dictate through private tort litigation the economic, energy, and environmental policies of the entire nation,” wrote National Association of Manufacturers spokesman Jeff Ostermeyer in an email.
But a small group of ultra-rich individuals and giant corporations using their money and lobbying power to dictate the health of the entire planet and everyone on it, that’s totally okay.
Amazing that after Macondo and Fukushima and Big Branch, not to mention multiple food and drug crises and a financial meltdown, Republicans can still get away with pretending that regulations are nothing more than profit- job-killing red tape that serves no useful function other than to punish corporations just for being corporations.
Advocates of stringent curbs on greenhouse gas emissions sued the federal government on Wednesday, arguing that key agencies had failed in their duty to protect the earth’s atmosphere as a public trust to be guarded for future generations.
Most of the individual plaintiffs in the suit, filed in United States District Court in San Francisco, are teenagers, a decision apparently made to underscore the intergenerational nature of the public trust that the earth’s atmosphere represents….
But in some ways the suit parallels a current case, brought by several states against the five largest utilities in the country, that frames greenhouse gas emissions as a public nuisance, legal experts noted.
After all, they’re always looking out for the interests of the unborn, protecting them from abortions, and from inheriting a crushing debt burden. Although, to be fair, they didn’t care about that last one until about five seconds after a Democrat became President.
Scarecrow uses the failure of Japan’s nuclear regulatory regime to remind us of the critically important point that political corruption isn’t just about greedy corporations cutting shady deals to skim a little extra off of the public trough – when safety corners are cut because captive revolving-door regulators look the other way, people DIE. And sometimes it’s a lot of people.
But money almost always trumps morality and civic responsibility, and even simple humanity, thus making disasters and tragedies not just unavoidable, but inevitable.
2 commentsMarch 22nd, 2011 at 05:03pmPosted by Eli
Why is it that the Cheney Doctrine dictates that “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response”, yet we need a 99.99% level of certainty that climate change will completely disrupt the world as we know it before we can take even the most modest and incremental steps to reduce carbon emissions?
2 commentsFebruary 2nd, 2011 at 11:32amPosted by Eli
Tax experts said Monday that since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was not classified as a disaster, BP claims might be taxed at the highest rate.
Disaster tax rules do not apply, so tax experts said they are warning people, especially those who received compensation from BP, to be prepared for the tax that they need to pay in the coming weeks.
CPA Ted Stacey said, “If you were paid for lost wages or income, that’s going to be ordinary income that is taxed at the highest rate you pay. It could be as high as 35 percent for federal or 5 percent state.”
If the Deepwater Horizon wasn’t a disaster, then what the hell is??? Does the toxic waste from the spill have to spawn a giant fire-breathing lizard that starts stomping on cities?
Apparently it wasn’t enough for Fox News to insist on calling the public option “the government option” or “the so-called public option” (whatever that means). Chief propagandist Managing editor Bill Sammon also insisted that Fox News talking heads “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based on data that critics have called into question.”
This is either truly shocking ignorance or appalling dishonesty on Fox’s part. Sammon isn’t just trying to deny that global warming is caused by manmade activity, he’s trying to deny that it’s happening at all, as if historical temperature measurements are somehow subjective or a matter of opinion.
That the 2000s were the warmest decade on record isn’t a “theory” (I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean), it’s an indisputable fact, and the so-called Climategate scandal had nothing to do with it. If you want to argue over whether that was caused by carbon emissions or sunspots or geological cycles, fine – I still think you’re a dishonest hack, but at least you’d be arguing about facts on the ground instead of being one of those idiots who claims that because it’s cold today global warming must be a hoax.
And tens of millions of Americans get their “news” from these shameless corporate liars. I weep.
The lead investigator for the presidential panel delving into the BP oil spill said on Monday that he had found no evidence that anyone involved in drilling the doomed well had taken safety shortcuts to save money.
Fred H. Bartlit Jr., a prominent trial lawyer hired to lead the panel’s inquiry, disputed the findings of other investigators, including plaintiffs’ lawyers and members of Congress, who have charged that BP and its main partners, Transocean and Halliburton, had cut corners to speed completion of the well, which cost $1.5 million a day to drill.
“To date we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” Mr. Bartlit said on Monday as he opened a detailed presentation on the causes of the April 20 disaster on a drilling rig off the Louisiana coast, which killed 11 workers and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in American history. “They want to be efficient, they don’t want to waste money, but they also don’t want to get their buddies killed.”
The only charitable conclusion I can draw is that when Bartlit says stuff like “we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” he means that favoring dollars over safety is institutional corporate policy. That I could buy.
I worry that conservatives’ lock-step posture on climate change is seriously out of step with their professed priorities. A strong defense of our national interests, rigorous cost-benefit analysis, fiscal discipline and the ability to avoid unnecessary intrusions into personal liberty will all be seriously compromised in a world marked by climate change.
In fact, far from being conservative, the Republican stance on global warming shows a stunning appetite for risk. When faced with uncertainty and the possibility of costly outcomes, smart businessmen buy insurance, reduce their downside exposure and protect their assets. When confronted with a disease outbreak of unknown proportions, front-line public health workers get busy producing vaccines, pre-positioning supplies and tracking pathogens. And when military planners assess an enemy, they get ready for a worst-case encounter.
When it comes to climate change, conservatives are doing none of this. Instead, they are recklessly betting the farm on a single, best-case scenario: That the scientific consensus about global warming will turn out to be wrong. This is bad risk management and an irresponsible way to run anything, whether a business, an economy or a planet.
This is all true, but the problem is that conservatives’ nonchalance and outright denial of the risk of global warming doesn’t contradict their approach to economic, health, or military risk: it mirrors it.
Conservatives are only risk-averse in theory – in practice, their operating principle is to grab a buck and score a political point whenever they can and damn the consequences. Not only that, but if global warming can’t be fixed using their toolkit of tax cuts for the rich, spending cuts for everyone else, or invading someone, they really can’t be bothered.
Someone tell me again how the teabaggers are some kind of spontaneous populist uprising that reflects America?
Here’s one reacting to Baron Hill (not exactly a raging liberal as Democrats go) saying that man-made climate change is an indisputable scientific fact:
A rain of boos showered Mr. Hill, including a hearty growl from Norman Dennison, a 50-year-old electrician and founder of the Corydon Tea Party.
“It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”
Ah yes, Rush Limbaugh the noted climate expert. And other than the great flood, the Bible doesn’t really address climatology a whole lot.
This one is my personal favorite, though:
“This so-called climate science is just ridiculous,” said Kelly Khuri, founder of the Clark County Tea Party Patriots. “I think it’s all cyclical.”
“Carbon regulation, cap and trade, it’s all just a money-control avenue,” Ms. Khuri added. “Some people say I’m extreme, but they said the John Birch Society was extreme, too.”
Umm… yeah. But hey, if you really want to use that as your defense, I am willing to stipulate that the Tea Party movement is no more extreme than the John Birch Society.
But it’s not just me. Let’s go to the polls:
Those who support the Tea Party movement are considerably more dubious about the existence and effects of global warming than the American public at large, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted this month. The survey found that only 14 percent of Tea Party supporters said that global warming is an environmental problem that is having an effect now, while 49 percent of the rest of the public believes that it is. More than half of Tea Party supporters said that global warming would have no serious effect at any time in the future, while only 15 percent of other Americans share that view, the poll found.
And 8 percent of Tea Party adherents volunteered that they did not believe global warming exists at all, while only 1 percent of other respondents agreed.
Oh yeah, they sure are mainstream all right. As the NYT story points out, they believe what the energy companies that fund their movement want them to believe. On the plus side, at least they’ve read up on what to do when the entire planet is underwater.
BP is warning Congress that if lawmakers pass legislation that bars the company from getting new offshore drilling permits, it may not have the money to pay for all the damages caused by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company says a ban would also imperil the ambitious Gulf Coast restoration efforts that officials want the company to voluntarily support.
July’s decision halted development on billions of dollars in leases in the Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea. Beistline found that the federal government didn’t follow environmental law before selling drilling rights. Among other things, he found the government had failed to analyze the environmental impact of natural gas development, “despite industry interest and specific lease incentives for such development,” according to court records.
The Obama administration is among those seeking clarification from Beistline, a rare recent case of the administration siding with the oil industry. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked the court to narrow the ruling so that another company, Statoil, which owns 16 Chukchi leases, could start seismic testing roughly 100 miles from the coast. Government attorneys told the judge that Statoil, a global oil company partly owned by the Norwegian government, would likely face “significant economic losses” if it couldn’t proceed with seismic surveying.
Statoil said Tuesday it might cancel the seismic tests it hoped to do in the Chukchi this summer because it remains unclear whether the company will be allowed to do the work.
Environmental groups said they were stunned by the administration move, which they said undercuts the administration’s recent decisions to put the brakes on Arctic exploration in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
And, they said, marine mammals such as whales and walruses can be harmed by the testing. The impact of such tests on marine life was one of the issues the court said the federal government failed to consider adequately before issuing the Arctic drilling leases.
Awesome. So nice to see the Interior’s deep concern for protecting the environment from the offshore oil industry.
Until now, President Obama and his advisers have been adamant that Congress should extend the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts only for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000, leaving tax rates on upper-income earners to increase as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2011.
But when asked repeatedly on ABC’s “Good Morning America” whether he would recommend that Obama veto an extension of the upper-income tax cuts, Geithner refused to commit.
“If you extend particularly these tax cuts that only go to 2 percent of the highest-earning Americans, then there’d be a much higher probability they’ll be extended indefinitely,” Geithner said. That would dramatically drive up the deficit and be “a deeply fiscally irresponsible act,” he added.
But asked again whether he would commit to a veto threat against any legislation extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts for now, Geithner responded “no.”
This sounds an awful lot like the healthcare reform fiasco, where Obama repeatedly claimed to support the public option, but refused to commit to vetoing any bill without it. And after the way that turned out, it’s hard not to interpret a refusal to veto as a signal of tacit support.
No, really. Because he has cheerfully embraced Michael Grunwald’s happy propaganda story about how the oil is all dissolving and everything’s going to be fine and the environmental impact isn’t really a big deal at all (um, right). He also appears to embrace Grunwald’s assumption that any dead animal carcasses that are not obviously covered with oil must therefore have died of natural causes. Either that or he’s incredibly dishonest, but surely that can’t be true, right?
Some birds were oiled and died, always a sad sight. But according to Time magazine, the number of birds killed is — so far — less than 1 percent of the avian casualties of the Exxon Valdez. And to date, only three oiled mammal carcasses have been recovered. Three.
Wow, three sure is a small number, isn’t it? Maybe there isn’t anything to worry about after all!
But if you look at the actual report (PDF) from the Deepwater Horizon Response site (which probably has best-case numbers, and of course doesn’t count dead animals that weren’t recovered), you see that while there were only three oiled mammal carcasses, there were 64 overall. Still not a huge number, but bigger than Jonah’s carefully-parsed figure by a factor of 21. And mammals are the smallest of the categories encompassed by the report. There are 504 dead sea turtles, and 3455 dead birds (but that’s nowhere near the number of birds killed by the Exxon Valdez spill, so that’s okay). But no count of the number of dead fish, or shrimp, or oysters, much less damage to coral reefs and other deep-sea habitats, or even the number of Gulf residents and cleanup workers sickened by dispersants or oil fumes or tainted seafood.
But hey, we only found three dead mammals with oil on them, so that proves that this is just those crazy tree-hugging liberals getting hysterical again and trying to take away everyone’s jobs! I’m surprised Jonah didn’t cite the lack of seal, otter and walrus casualties as proof that BP’s environmental response plan is working perfectly.
Tony Hayward attempts to spread blame across the drilling industry like his failed rig has spread oil across the Gulf of Mexico:
BP maintains that it alone does not deserve all the blame for the April 20 accident and its aftermath, and it intends to pursue legal action to have drilling partners share in the cost of containment and cleanup. Those partners include Transocean, which operated the rig; Cameron, which built the blowout preventer that failed to shut down the well; and Halliburton, which cemented the oil drill into place underwater.
“It is clear the accident was the result of multiple equipment errors and human error involving many companies,” Hayward said in the webcast.
Hayward also defended his record on safety. “Safety, people and performance have been my watchwords,” he said. “We’ve made significant progress.”
Wow. Way to man up and accept responsibility, Tony. Even if we grant the rather shaky premise that Transocean, Cameron and Halliburton did shoddy work, it was BP calling the shots, and BP that made all of the fatally bad safety-last decisions that led inevitably to disaster.
It was BP that chose a wellbore design without seals or a liner – and then chose to skip the acoustic test which would have detected any flaws in Halliburton’s cement job. It was BP that falsely claimed that BOP failures were “inconceivable” and declined to install a backup unit. It was BP that cut corners on testing the BOP and ignored the presence of rubber sealant in the drilling fluid. And it was BP that ignored all the warning signs of dangerous pressure and replaced the drilling mud with seawater.
In short, even if there were quality issues with Transocean, Cameron and Halliburton, BP deliberately turned a blind eye to potential problems in order to get the Deepwater Horizon pumping as quickly as possible, and now eleven people are dead and the entire Gulf ecosystem may be dying. Heckuva job, Tony.
But not everyone is convinced that all of this cleanup business is necessary. For instance take George Crozier, a marine scientist from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, who thinks everyone should just suck it up and learn to live with it:
“Buried is buried. It will get carved up by a hurricane at some point, but I see no particular advantage to digging it up,” he said. “It’s a human environmental hazard only because people don’t want to go to the beach if it’s got tar balls on it.”
Fantastic. As long as it’s under the sand, there’s nothing to worry about. Sure, a hurricane might spread it all over the Southeast, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.
Elle Macpherson, aka “The Body,” is being blasted by animal-rights advocates for a technique she uses to keep her body looking good.
The 47-year-old supermodel and host of “Britain’s Next Top Model” told the Times of London that she eats powdered rhinoceros horn as a beauty treatment.
“Put it this way, it works for me,” Macpherson tweeted to the Times Online.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is so outraged by Macpherson’s confession that it has prepared an informational brochure to send to the superstar about the plight of the rhino and the use of alternative treatments.
“There is no excuse for using any endangered animal products,” spokeswoman Erica Martin told SkyNews.
“First and foremost, selling rhino products is illegal and in breach of CITES,” she said. “And secondly, four out of five species of rhino are literally on the brink of extinction. Elle has been a successful businesswoman with a high public profile for decades, and people do listen to what she says.”
That’s great, thanks a lot, Elle. The rhino population will be lucky to last a week now. Here’s the best part, though:
Macpherson’s admission comes just one year after the supermodel publicly boycotted a London restaurant for serving endangered bluefin tuna.
Oh yeah, she’s soooo concerned about the endangered species. What a colossal narcissistic phony.
BP’s CEO, Tony (I want my life back!) Hayward is testifying today before a House Committee, and he just received a heartfelt apology from one of his most loyal subjects. Joe Barton (R. Texas) just apologized to BP.
The Republican Party’s quintessential oil Congressman, Barton told Hayward how shameful it was that the Obama Administration would “shake down” BP by demanding that it give up dividends to shareholders and instead set aside a small fraction of their net revenues to the greedy Gulf folks who’ve been only slightly inconvenienced by losing their jobs, their livelihoods, and their environment. Never mind that BP agreed to this on its own, because it knows or fears it’s legal liability may eventually become worse.
Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people???
If BP is the responsible party under the law, they’re to pay for everything.I do worry that this idea of making them make a huge escrow fund is going to make it less likely that they’ll pay for everything. They need their capital to drill wells. They need their capital to produce income. … But this escrow bothers me that it’s going to make them less able to pay us what they owe us. And that concerns me. … [I]t bothers me to talk about causing an escrow to be made, which will — which makes it less likely that they’ll make the income that they need to pay us.
Obama needs to be tougher about holding BP accountable… without harming them in any way.
PAUL: I think whoever owns the property can do with the property as they wish, and if the coal company buys it from a private property owner and they want to do it, fine. The other thing I think is that I think coal gets a bad name, because I think a lot of the land apparently is quite desirable once it’s been flattened out. As I came over here from Harlan, you’ve got quite a few hills. I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there.
Sure, who needs stupid hills, right? They’re always getting in the way of stuff and they’re hard to build on.
For an encore, maybe Paul can go down to the Gulf and tell them that he doesn’t think anybody’s going to be missing a few miles of shoreline here and there either.
Stopping offshore drilling is not a realistic option, the senator said.
“Now we are not going to stop drilling in the Gulf tomorrow, folks. Let’s be realistic. There are 48,000 wells out there. One of them went sour. About 30 percent of our transportation fuel comes from the Gulf. You think Americans are going to suddenly stop driving to work tomorrow? Do you think people are going to stop driving the trucks to deliver the goods to the department stores? Not going to happen,” said the Massachusetts Democrat.
This goes beyond the strictly political argument I’ve heard from staffers, which says that drilling is part of Senator Kerry’s energy legislation only because it may help pick up Republican support. It remains to be seen whether that political calculation will pay dividends or end up costing the bill more support than it gains.
The bit about halting drilling ‘tomorrow’ is a straw-man designed to make opponents of offshore drilling seem extreme. While some groups are calling for a pause on new permits, and others may be advocating taking steps to shut down currently operating offshore rigs, I haven’t seen anyone argue that we should stop drilling ‘tomorrow.’
Thanks, Big John. Way to be a fierce advocate for the environment and brand the Democrats as the let’s-not-destroy-any-more-ecosystems party.
When it approved BP’s 2009 plan to start an exploratory well 50 miles off the Louisiana coast — the same well that is now spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf — the federal agency that oversees oil drilling assumed there would be little risk of a well blowout and likely no death to marine life if an accident were to happen.
BP estimated that in the worst case, a blowout at the well would spew out 162,000 barrels of oil every day, a massive figure that far exceeds any estimate of what is coming out now.
But in its exploration plan in March 2009, BP assured the federal Minerals Management Service that a well blowout was so unlikely that “a blowout scenario … is not required for the operations proposed.”
MMS then granted BP a “categorical exclusion” from a public review of the potential environmental impact of the drilling.
That was in line with the general view of MMS that a blowout was nothing to be feared. Before the lease of the oilfields in 2008, the MMS wrote a generic Environmental Impact Statement for the entire northern and western Gulf of Mexico that made the catastrophic well blowout that happened April 20 seem like a near impossibility.
MMS produced its blanket Environmental Impact Statement for 11 proposed leases, mostly off the Louisiana and Texas coasts. One of those planned sales was Lease Sale 206, which gave BP the right to drill at what is known as Mississippi Canyon 252 with a Transocean oil rig called Deepwater Horizon.
The MMS assessed everything from the possible impact of noise on marine life to the specific vulnerabilities of sea turtles and sturgeon, but through it all, the agency assumed any oil that might be spilled would be minimal and any leak would be quickly shut off.
When it comes to the type of oil well blowout that happened April 20, MMS was downright dismissive. The agency determined that fewer than six of every 10,000 wells would have a blowout that caused any oil to spill. Blowouts are “rare events of short duration,” the study stated, and “the infrequent subsurface blowout that may occur on the Gulf OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) would have a negligible effect on commercial fishing.”
That paved the way for BP to assert that its plans for drilling in Lease Sale 206 posed no real dangers.
After stating that 162,000 barrels a day is the worst-case scenario from a blowout of the well, BP certifies that it “has the capability to respond, to the maximum extent practicable, to a worst-case discharge.” Elsewhere in the document, the company states it could deal with a loss of well control by drilling a relief well, but states a “further discussion of response to an oil spill resulting from the activities proposed in this plan is not required for this Exploration Plan.”
I mean, how could anyone possibly expect that there might be an uncontrollable blowout in a well a mile underwater? Why, that’s just crazy talk!
I’m sure no one could have anticipated that there would be a human cost as well:
Desperation is setting in in Southeast Louisiana. “I spoke to a group of fishermen, mainly Vietnamese Americans and a group of them came up to me and said, they told me that they contemplated suicide because they’re in such despair,” says Congressman Joseph Cao. He says fishermen are feeling compounded stress on top of post-Katrina troubles. “For some people, this is almost a boiling point where they can no longer handle it and they’re going to crack.”
“These are grown men that broke down and cried this morning because they don’t know what to do and we don’t know how long it’s going to be,” says Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
That’s why Cao and organizations like Volunteers of America are working to get mental health workers on the ground to intervene. “They’ve just recovered as a result of their businesses, their homes and the rebuilding effort and now you have a number of these small businesses, these fishermen, who have to go through this all over again,” says Voris Vigee with the Volunteers of America. She says organizations are expediting crisis and mental health counseling among other disaster-related services.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell: Some of the scientific estimates, Mr Dudley, have been vastly hugher. The Perdue scientist Steve Wereley said that as much as 100,000 barrels a day – 4.2 million gallons of oil every day were leaking. Could it be that bad?
BP’s Dudley: Andrea, it’s not anything like that, and I find those statements alarming. I think they’re alarming to the people on the Gulf Coast. I think it actually damages the Gulf Coast. There are people now saying, “I don’t want to near Florida, Alabama, Mississippi.” Those beaches are clean, the fishing is good. I think it’s actually hurting the local economy with that sort of alarmist statements. No. I think it’s highly unlikely oil will actually reach the beaches of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.
It’s a well-known fact that the leading cause of fish kills is actually alarmist scientists. Sea life is very sensitive to bad vibes, you see.
A proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean as early as this summer received initial permits from the Minerals Management Service office in Alaska at the same time federal auditors were questioning the office about its environmental review process.
The approvals also came after many of the agency’s most experienced scientists had left, frustrated that their concerns over environmental threats from drilling had been ignored.
Minerals Management has faced intense scrutiny in the weeks since the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. An article in The New York Times reported that it failed to get some environmental permits to approve drilling in the gulf and ignored objections from scientists to keep those projects on schedule.
Similar concerns are being raised about the agency’s handling of a plan by Shell Oil to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
The Shell plan has stirred controversy for many years among environmentalists and advocates of the endangered bowhead whale, which is legally hunted in the area for subsistence by Alaska Natives.
Opponents have argued that an oil spill would be virtually impossible to contain, given the region’s remoteness, its severe weather and ice and limited onshore support.
But it also raised questions about future leasing plans in the Beaufort and Chukchi at the time the agency was deciding whether to allow Shell to go forward on leases it had purchased. The Shell project received critical initial permits from Minerals Management last fall, though it still needs several final approvals.
The G.A.O. found that the Alaska branch deliberately avoided establishing consistent guidelines for determining whether future leases would cause significant environmental impacts in the Arctic — a finding that could require further examination and delay or prevent drilling.