A body of British lawmakers has called for a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic by oil and gas companies, including Royal Dutch Shell and Cairn Energy, until tougher environmental regulations are in place, saying that there is a lack of cleanup infrastructure in place in case of a spill.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that the multiparty Environmental Audit Committee said that existing oil spill response techniques have not been proved adequate to respond to a spill in Arctic conditions. The committe has proposed to stop drilling operations in the region until more stringent safeguards have been put in place, in an effort to avoid a catastrophe on the scale of BP’s Macondo spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Joan Walley, a member of the opposition Labour Party and chairwoman of the committee, said in a statement, “The infrastructure to mount a big cleanup operation is simply not in place.”
Companies have been eager to capitalize on a record Arctic ice melt to drill in the region, but Reuters reported Monday that a recent drilling operation by Royal Dutch Shell had to be halted last week after the incursion of an ice floe damaged a containment dome designed to cap any potential oil spill.
In its report, the committee pointed out the danger of spilled oil lingering “for decades,” saying, “Only a small fraction of oil would be recovered in the event of a significant oil spill in the Arctic and it might take decades for wildlife to recover.” They referred to evidence provided by Greenpeace and said that oil was still being found in the Arctic 23 years after the oil spill from the 1989 Exxon Valdez in Alaska.