Merkley to Congress: Stop drilling in Arctic

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sen. Jeff Merkley said the Arctic is too cold, too isolated and unpredictable for the Coast Guard or others to navigate quickly and safely if a disaster happens.

That’s why the Oregon Democrat is proposing new legislation to stop offshore Arctic drilling. The “Stop Drilling Act of 2015” still has to go through committees, debates and discussion, but he hopes Congress will consider it soon.

Oregon US Sen. Jeff Merkley, Feb. 24, 2015 (US State Department)

Merkley told KOIN 6 News he sent a letter to President Obama asking him to rescind the Shell Oil Company’s exploration permit.

“Drilling in the Arctic is a crime against the environment and it must not be tolerated,” he said.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Interior announced an approval for Shell to drill this summer. But Merkley said if an accident or spill happens, it won’t be able to be contained fast enough.

“The aspects that make the region so special are its remoteness, its untouchability,” the senator said. “It just makes it all that more fragile in terms of natural disasters.”

His bill “would prohibit leases for oil and gasses in the Arctic region. It would also amend the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act to specifically exclude the Arctic Ocean.”

The answer to our energy challenge, he said, does not lie in the Arctic. But convincing Congress or even the president could be just as great a challenge.

“We just can’t keep up business as usual and as a nation we need to dramatically change course,” Merkley said.

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