In Throes of Keystone XL Controversy, Obama Admin OKs Alaska Offshore Drilling

With all eyes on the ongoing battle over whether or not the Obama Administration and the State Department will approve the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, it was easy to lose another huge piece of news in the scuffle pertaining to the Obama White House. 

On October 3, the Obama Interior Department rubber stamped approval for offshore drilling in the Arctic off the northwest coast of Alaska in the Chibucki Sea. Reported the ​Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration said Monday it was moving forward with oil-drilling leases off the coast of Alaska issued by the Bush administration in 2008, a victory for oil companies in the battle over Arctic Ocean drilling.


The Interior Department's decision is the latest example of the Obama administration siding with energy companies against environmentalists amid a weak economy. Last month, President Barack Obama withdrew proposed ozone-emission rules that businesses said would have killed jobs.

According to an Alaska Dispatch​ story, the area that received drilling approval is 2.8 million acres and companies bid $2.6 billion in an auction for drilling rights, with fossil fuel conglomerates Shell and ConocoPhillips leading the way. The Associated Press​ (AP) wrote, “Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc…spent $2.1 billion for the leases in 2008.” 

The last hurdle now, assuming there is no backlash against the drilling, is a lawsuit currently in the works brought forth by Earthjustice, which says drilling will negatively impact whales, polar bears, walrus, fish and other Arctic marine species.

​Shell's Atrocious Human Rights Abuses and Oil Spills in Nigeria: Foreshadowing Disaster

The Obama Administration decision to allow Shell and friends to drill in the Chibucki came on the same day as the release of a damning report titled, “Counting the Cost: Corporations and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta,” published by a British media group called ​Platform.

“The report uncovers how Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbated conflicts, in one case leading to the destruction of [a] town where it is estimated that at least 60 people were killed,” wrote ​Platform in its Executive Summary. “​Shell continues to rely on Nigerian government forces who have perpetrated systematic human rights abuses against local residents, including unlawful killings, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

The report also documents numerous toxic Shell oil and and gas spills that have occurred in Nigeria over the past decade. “A leak in February 2009 contaminated Bodo Creek, a water source for 69,000 people. 70 experts estimated that over 280,000 barrels may have been spilled—a quarter the size of BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster,” documented the report.

Follow the Money: U.S. Politics 101

In the run-up to his 2008 presidential electoral victory, Barack Obama received over $169,000 in campaign money from Shell and its employees, according to Oil Change International's Dirty Energy Money campaign finance database.

Furthermore, for the past three years Shell has spent nearly $28 million dollars lobbying at the federal level alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' ​

With figures like this in mind, it is tough to say with a straight face that this newest environmental assault is at all a surprise – but it still stings given President Obama's campaign pledges to shift the U.S. away from oil addiction and towards clean energy sources.