Severe weather has impeded the salvage of a large drilling rig that ran aground on an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, highlighting conservationists' concerns about drilling in isolated and environmentally sensitive waters.
The Kulluk, a Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig, was being towed to Seattle for maintenance when it became separated from its towing vessel south of Kodiak Island and ran aground Monday night. Winds of up to 80 miles per hour and 50-foot waves hindered yesterday's salvage attempts. It is carrying an estimated 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel and another 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid.
Federal on-scene response coordinator Captain Paul Mehler told reporters that there is currently “no sign of a release of any product.” The Coast Guard has nonetheless mobilized for an emergency spill response as a precautionary measure.
The area is home to two endangered species, as well as seals, salmon, and sea lions.
U.S. Representative Steve Markey (D-Mass.) expressed his concern over the incident, saying “oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies.”