Make Shell disclose offshore drilling risks, Senate members demand

Eleven US Senate Democrats and Independent Bernard Sanders (Vt.) asked the US Securities and Exchange Commission to make Royal Dutch Shell PLC disclose to the public and investors inherent risks offshore oil drilling poses if there is a spill or other environmental accident.

They said in an Aug. 18 letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White that Shell “provided investors with boilerplate generalities about the potential for an accident and insisted that the company has a sufficient plan for response and clean-up” following problems it encountered drilling off Alaska in 2012.

Saying they are worried that other companies drilling for oil and gas on the US Outer Continental Shelf also haven’t disclosed potential risks of drilling off the US Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts as well as in the Arctic, the senators asked that the SEC fully review the companies’ plans.

“America has never been more energy secure with an abundance of domestic oil. There is no need to expand drilling into waters less able to recover from a spill,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), a senior Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, as he released the letter a day after the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement gave Shell approval to drill a well on its Chukchi Sea lease (OGJ Online, Aug. 17, 2015).

“The potential for another Deepwater Horizon-type catastrophe is not worth the risk to companies or the environment,” Cardin said. “If we are going to drill, we need the utmost transparency and risk assessment ahead of any activity. The SEC should make investors aware of the risks to their individual and economic futures.”

Democrats Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory A. Booker (NJ), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Ha.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) signed the letter in addition to Cardin and Sanders.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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