The conflict circles on offshore oil prospecting and drilling 150 miles from the Alaskan city Barrow. The prospection was made by Shell Oil Company which during its ongoing project investing 7bn dollars without success . They stopped the prospection when they considered the crude oil prices too low, falling down to $45 per barrel in June 2014 from its peak of $107 . By March-April 2017, there is a renewed attempt to open the area to drilling. The conflict first arose when Shell submitted its “Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan” to the Minerals Management Service (MMS), predecessor to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Shell identified 3 different location for prospection where Burger was one of them. The Minerals Management Service did an environmental Assessment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact in 2009 which gave a go to Shell Oil Company to do the prospection. They delayed their project to wait out the opinion storm of the Gulf of Mexico incident but picked it up again in 2011. The plan was to drill 6 different wells at the Burger site, one well was drilled at a depth of 1,505 feet and then abandoned .
According to The US Geological Survey the Arctic may contain about 13% of the worlds undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of the natural gases, which is why the interest was awoken .
This did not go down without resistance from civil society, NGOs and indigenous groups. Even though Shell argued that they would clean up any possible spill, NGOs backed by scientists argued that it would be impossible since there is a lack of equipment for cleaning up oil from under ice. The drilling could also disturb fishes and other animals which WWF describes as “[...]cornerstones of the subsistence and cultural livelihoods of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic” . This is the reason why the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which represents 160,000 indigenous peoples from Alaska, through Canada and Greenland to Russia said that this was a central issue to them . A group of activists, both from Greenpeace and other environmental activists, in Portland, Oregon did a blockade on kayaks and hanging from a bridge to blockade key vessels of Shell's Arctic drilling . Different local Greenpeace organizations carried out other actions against Shell. Another reason why WWF and other organizations raises this as an issue is ocean noise. Since wales and other mammals navigate through sound, offshore oil drilling can cause great confusion, injury or death.
In 2016 the Obama administration used the law “Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act” to protect large portions of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, coordinated with the Canadian administration, which was a great victory for the environmental movement . Alaska’s two republican senators introduced a new bill in April of 2017 to undo Obama's restriction for drilling, so the question of drilling at the site of Burger may once again be of immediate interest .