Environmentalists threw a small victory party yesterday after Shell announced that it is abandoning its 2013 Arctic drilling plans, but the company insists that this is simply a pause. While the Obama administration gave Shell permits to conduct exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, it also enforced very strict rules to prevent environmental catastrophe. But after several incidents, it became apparent that the oil giant is no match for the great white north.

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Wild Arctic Pictures / Shutterstock

Recently the Kulluk drilling barge ran aground in Alaska and last summer another rig almost did the same when it dragged its anchor. After the last incident, an embarrassing scene that ended in Shell’s drill rig requiring a tow, both the coast guard and US government launched an extensive evaluation of the company’s arctic drilling program that has already cost the company $4.5 billion.

On Friday, according to the Washington Post, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) released a letter to Shell’s President Marvin Odum disclosing that the Coast Guard had found 16 violations with the drill ship Noble Discoverer. One reveals that the propulsion system “does not result in sufficient speed at sea to safely maneuver in all expected conditions without tow assistance.”

“We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term program that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way,” Odum said in a statement. “Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012.”

“This is the first thing Shell’s done right in Alaska – calling it quits,” Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA Executive Director said in a statement.

“Shell was supposed to be the best of the best, but the long list of mishaps and near-disasters is a clear indication even the ‘best’ companies can’t succeed in Arctic drilling. Secretary Salazar and President Obama gave drilling a chance; now the responsible decision is to make Arctic drilling off limits, forever.

Via Washington Post

Lead image via US Coast Guard / Greenpeace