Citizen Action Monitor

Ignoring expressed concerns of 1.4 million citizens, Obama approves Arctic drilling

Obama’s White House has drifted further from its earlier posture as an environmentally concerned administration

No 488 Posted by fw, May 26, 2012

Just how many millions of concerned citizens will it take to move Obama on climate change? — apparently, more than the 1.4 million who have already petitioned him this year to stop Arctic drilling.

(See, Can 60 members of Congress and 400,000 U.S. citizens stop Arctic drilling? posted February 9, 2012. And below, Ignoring Protest and Warnings, Obama Ushers in Era of Unprecedented Arctic Drilling, a Common Dreams story published on May 24, 2012, noting that “Last week, more than 1 million people called on Obama to save the Arctic from oil drilling.”)

Here’s an abridged version of the Common Dreams’ staff story with added subheadings. To read the original version, click on the above linked title.

Obama dashes hopes on a wave of broken promises

President Barack Obama, who once elevated the hopes of many US environmentalists by promising to be a ‘transformative’ president — one whose term, as he said, would mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal” — may yet be the president remembered for passing on a potentially historic opportunity to end, or at least curb, the practice of dangerous offshore drilling.

Open gateway policy to Arctic drilling catches president’s advisory panel by surprise and shocks environmentalists

A front-page report in today’s New York Times paints the picture of a president eager to open a gateway to arctic drilling that members of his own energy and climate change advisory panel thought was both surprising and “improbable”.

Even as the full impact of the BP spill was still being determined in the Gulf, according to the Times, Obama took the initiative in clearing a regulatory pathway that would allow oil companies — specifically a proposal by oil giant Shell — to start drilling test wells off the Alaskan coast. “The president,” write John Broder and Clifford Krauss for the Times, was “writing a new chapter in the nation’s unfolding energy transformation, in this case to the benefit of fossil fuel producers.”

Environmentalists were shocked by the report. “We never would have expected a Democratic president — let alone one seeking to be ‘transformative’ — to open up the Arctic Ocean for drilling,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the Times.

“We don’t think there should be drilling in the Arctic, period.” –Rebecca Noblin, Center for Biological Diversity

Million-signature petition and demonstration outside White House fail to sway Obama

Last week, more than 1 million people called on Obama to save the Arctic from oil drilling, by delivering a million signatures to the White House, and gathering outside to ask the president to stop Shell Oil from drilling this summer.

Shell’s ships on their way as Obama rubber-stamps drilling permits

“Shell’s ships are already on the way to drill in the icy Arctic waters, putting human life, polar bears and whales at risk in harsh, stormy conditions,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which has worked for many years to keep offshore drilling out of the Arctic Ocean. “President Obama has a small window to stop Shell from spoiling the Arctic, and that’s exactly what people across the country are asking him to do.”

Drilling will kill the Arctic Ocean and destroy traditional cultures

“The Obama administration has been rubber-stamping Shell’s drill permits one after another,” Subhankar Banerjee, photojournalist and editor of the soon to be released Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point, said in response to the Times article. “By approving these operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of Alaska, the administration is about to commit a major crime. No one knows how to clean up oil from underneath the ice or in the extremely harsh weather of the Arctic. If Shell is allowed to drill there come July, they will kill the Arctic Ocean, and along the way destroy the traditional culture of the Iñupiat communities.” The Kulluk, seen in Seattle, is one of two Shell drilling ships in the city undergoing final preparations before going to the Arctic.

Call for citizens to stop the plan. Legal battles on both sides already in the works

Banerjee said people must fight to stop the plan on behalf of this generation, and “for all future generations.”

“We don’t think there should be drilling in the Arctic, period,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at CBD, which has blocked every offshore drilling proposal in the Arctic since 2007 and most recently filed a legal challenge against new air permits that would allow Shell to drill there this summer.  Shell has returned the favor by filing suit against CBD and other environmental groups in a series of preemptive legal maneuvers.

Obama drifts further from “posture as environmentally concerned”

But as environmental groups try to ratchet up pressure and oil companies flex their financial and legal muscle, observers notice that Obama’s White House has drifted further from its earlier posture as an environmentally concerned administration to one bent on dodging political attacks by tacking towards the Republican position, which advocates an aggressive drilling policy.

White House aggressively touting support for “domestic oil and natural gas drilling”

“Gone are the urgent statements warning of melting glaciers and rising sea levels,” writes Steven Dennis in Roll Call. “Indeed, the energy and environment page at now shows a photo of the president walking in front of segments of oil pipeline, and the White House never neglects an opportunity to tout its support for domestic oil and natural gas drilling. In briefings on background, senior administration officials now talk about exporting fracking technology.”


  • Rebuild the Dream by Van Jones, Nation Books, 2012 – “We should always hold Obama accountable. But in a democracy, we should hold ourselves accountable, as well. Positive change requires two sources of leadership, not one. We need a president who is willing to be moved, and we need millions of Americans who are willing to do the moving. Under George W. Bush, millions marched to prevent the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But the president was unmovable.” (p. 3) As is Obama!
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