Editorial: Withhold off-shore drilling leases in Arctic Ocean
"There is an important way for President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to show they are absorbing the lessons of the gulf oil spill and to reaffirm their pledge to proceed cautiously with offshore drilling in the future. That is to withhold the permits Shell Oil needs to proceed with a highly controversial drilling project in the Arctic Ocean.

The company owns two leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas — two of the most remote and frigid waters in North America. It hopes to begin exploratory drilling there as early as July. But it does not have final permits, which Mr. Salazar has the authority to deny.

The various laws governing offshore oil and gas activity and the National Environmental Policy Act allow for the suspension of activities whenever there is “significant new information relevant to environmental concerns.” There is no doubt that the gulf spill has provided significant new information — particularly about the inability of industry and government to respond to a huge blowout — as well as compelling evidence of the damage that a major spill can inflict.

This information is especially relevant to the Arctic, where responding to even a small spill would be complicated by ice, forbidding weather and a lack of onshore support."

Get the Story:
Editorial: The Arctic After the Gulf (The New York Times 5/26)

Also Today:
Panel Suggests Signs of Trouble Before Rig Explosion (The New York Times 5/26)
Amid criticism over oil spill, Obama will visit Gulf Coast again (The Washington Post 5/26)

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