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Seattle Enviros Celebrate Cancelation of Oil Drilling Leases In The Arctic

Local environmentalists are celebrating the Obama administration’s announcement that it is canceling upcoming auctions for drilling rights in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

The Interior Department also announced it has denied requests for extensions of Arctic leases currently held by Shell and Statoil.

Shell’s Arctic fleet became a lightning rod for activism in Seattle this summer, launched by flotillas of “Kayaktivists” and others opposed to drilling.

Kristin Boyles is an attorney with Earthjustice, which filed suit against the Port of Seattle for its lease to host Shell’s Arctic fleet. She says the decisions are a long time coming.

“It made so much sense to take this step, to cancel those leases, and to say they aren’t going to hold further leases. Because the Arctic is such a special place and deserves permanent protection,” Boyles said.

She says Seattle’s protests shined a light on a fight against Arctic drilling that has been going on for years in Alaska. And the next step is to fight for a total ban on the practice, through the designation of the Arctic as a national monument or some other form of moratorium. 

The canceled lease sales come just weeks after Shell announced it would abandon its Arctic exploration plans “for the foreseeable future.”

Obama administration officials cited current market conditions and low industry interest as reasons for canceling the lease-sales. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to