Shell protested that the particular series of events that led to the Kulluk's grounding was an improbable one.
"It seemed an unlikely scenario that all four engines would fail simultaneously," said Shell's Alaska operations manager Sean Churchfield. Maybe so, critics retorted; but the fact is that they did fail, and in the hostile Arctic, seemingly unlikely failure is not only more likely, but its potential consequences are much more severe.
"Oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies," said Rep. Ed Markey, senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. "Drilling expansion could prove disastrous for this sensitive environment."
IMAGE: Waves crash over the conical drilling unit Kulluk where it sits aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Jan. 1, 2013. A Unified Command - consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard, federal, state and local partners and industry representatives - was established in response to the grounding. (U.S. Coast Guard)