Ten environmental groups say a missing icebreaker should be a deal-breaker for Arctic offshore drilling by Royal Dutch Shell PLC off Alaska's northwest coast and urged the U.S. government not to grant final permits to Shell, reports Reuters and AP.
The groups in a letter that under Shell's exploration plans, the U.S. Interior Department cannot allow it to begin exploring for oil in the Chukchi Sea off northern Alaska while the icebreaker, the Fennica, is unavailable.
The icebreaker is a key part of Shell's exploration plan and spill response plan, said attorney Mike LeVine of Oceana. "The Fennica plays an important role in protecting the entirety of Shell's fleet from ice," he said. "Without that protection, the oceans are at additional risk."
Shell is sending the Fennica to Portland, Oregon for repairs after crew discovered a 39 inch (1 meter) gash on the ship's hull last week. It is believed that a shoal caused the rip, even though the Fennica was in charted waters.
The company is hoping to return to Arctic drilling later this month for the first time since 2012, when it lost control of an oil rig forcing an evacuation of 18 workers in high seas by the Coast Guard.
Arctic offshore drilling is strongly opposed by environmental groups that say oil drilling is too risky in a fragile environment that features brutal storms and sea ice.
The groups signing the letter to Jewell are the Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, League of Conservation Voters, Oceana, Audubon Alaska, Greenpeace USA, Ocean Conservancy, Natural Resource Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center and Sierra Club.