The National Marine Fisheries Service has received a request from Hilcorp Alaska, LLC to “take” marine mammals incidental to the construction and operation of the Liberty Drilling and Production Island in Foggy Island Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska over the course of five years. Your comments against the first oil development in federal Arctic waters, and what could be a catastrophe, are due today.
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The Arctic is one of our last and greatest unspoiled wild places. No oil company has ever successfully drilled for oil in the pristine, wildlife-filled public waters of the Arctic Ocean despite an expensive and near catastrophic attempt by Shell Oil to explore for oil there in 2012, when a Shell drilling rig ran aground in a storm.
The Liberty project would be the first off-shore development in Arctic federal waters, would harm endangered species, and would require a separate permit from the USFWS for the incidental take of polar bears. To make matters even worse, Hilcorp has an atrocious track record for leaks and spills. Even without an oil spill the seismic activity during exploration would devastate all marine wildlife.
Please send this letter today:
Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Construction and Operation of the Liberty Drilling and Production Island, Beaufort Sea, Alaska
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division
Office of Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
Dear Ms Harrison,
I am writing to express my sincere objections to Hilcorp’s plans for Arctic drilling in the Beaufort Sea, and application for bypassing protections for marine mammals.
A permit to allow incidental take (aka killing) of bowhead whales, ringed seals, bearded seals and other imperiled Arctic marine mammals during exploration and operation processes should be denied.
Environmental rules have been in place for decades, offering whales and other marine life a degree of protection from the cacophony of seismic activity that can damage or kill. These rules should be strongly adhered to especially with regards to the Arctic. High decibels are known to reduce the presence of zooplankton, impair fish eggs and larvae, and temporarily if not permanently deafen adults and juveniles. Without the ability to hear, fish and marine mammals struggle to communicate, navigate, avoid predators, and locate prey. These disturbances can also disrupt important migratory patterns, forcing marine life away from suitable habitats meant for foraging and mating. In addition, seismic surveys have been implicated in whale beaching and stranding incidents.
Offshore drilling threatens our oceans, marine wildlife, and terrestrial wildlife with the risk of catastrophic oil spills; the possible, if not imminent, loss of imperiled species would be unconscionable.
As I understand it, a special permit from USFWS, for the incidental “take” of polar bears, a federally protected and declining species, would also be necessary. With under 900 Beaufort Sea polar bears remaining, this is also unacceptable.
Hilcorp’s atrocious track record in Alaska dates back to 2012, according to a lengthy list of Hilcorp missteps and violations, where state regulators write that “disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp’s approach to its Alaska regulations.”
Clearly Hilcorp’s history of numerous violations demonstrate that pipeline hazards and disasters are imminent, and would cause irreparable harm to marine life, as well as federally protected species.
I urge you to deny Hilcorp’s request and uphold laws put into place to protect Arctic wildlife.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my comment,
Thank you for your help with this last minute effort.
Overview from NOAA Fisheries
Press release from the Center for Biological Diversity
From the LA Times: New rules would make it easier to find oil and endanger whales and dolphins.
Feature image by P. DeGraaf
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