Anchorage, Alaska – Following weeks of demonstrations in Seattle protesting Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic Drilling program, Anchorage residents gathered on the corner of Northern Lights and Minnesota at a local Shell gas station to join the international chorus speaking out about the controversial oil exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. A 30ft long banner held by protesters read “Shell Drills, Oil Spills : 75% chance of Arctic Spill”.
A coordinated event was also held in Juneau with a hand-built replica of Shell’s drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, parked in front of the Federal Building, where it dwarfed the gathered protesters. Both events were planned by participating grassroots and non-profit groups concerned about drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic.
Faith Gemmill-Fredson, from Arctic Village and Executive Director of REDOIL, helped organize the Anchorage event. “There is a predicted 75% chance of an oil spill. But it’s not a question of IF an oil spill happens, it’s WHEN it happens that we have to be concerned about in the Arctic. As an Alaskan Native, I am concerned about that because what affects the Inupiat communities, affects all other Alaska native communities. We live the same way. We share our foods. Our food security is at risk not just from offshore oil development, but also, from our rapidly changing climate, which is already displacing Alaska Native coastal communities.”
Kirby Spangler, a Palmer resident and volunteer with local activist group Alaska Rising Tide said, “Climate change and melting Arctic sea ice caused by our dependence on fossil fuels are making the pursuit of even more carbon polluting fuels possible. Shell is planning on profiteering from climate change plain and simple. Meanwhile, Alaskan coastal villages are eroding into the sea because of the changing climate. This is a grave injustice, and as Alaskans, we are here to say that this will not be done in our name.”
“As if rapid climate change weren’t bad enough”, said Ceal Smith with the newly formed grassroots Chukchi Sea Watch. “Now Shell is dividing coastal communities, disrupting subsistence and threatening the richest concentration of whales, walrus, polar-bear and nesting sea birds on the planet. The federal government is wrong-headed to allow Shell to drill given how reckless and irresponsible they proved to be in 2012”, said Smith, referring to the grounding of Shell’s vessel, The Kolluk, off the coast of Kodiak in December 2012 after breaking free from a tow.
Assuming all goes well this time, The Royal Dutch Shell drilling fleet is expected to reach Alaska waters in time to begin drilling by July 1st.