University of California at Davis Law Review








The Arctic – with almost a third of the world’s remaining natural gas and thirteen percent of its oil – is one of the globe’s last frontiers for competition over unexplored natural resources. The rapid pace of Arctic melting due to climate change has created opportunities to extract the region’s previously inaccessible offshore oil and gas. The 2015 controversy over the Obama Administration’s approval of Shell Oil’s drilling in the Chukchi Sea followed by the company’s decision to pull out highlighted the need for clear and effective regulation of Arctic drilling. Offshore oil spills are difficult to prevent and clean up, as showcased by the BP Deepwater Horizon accident – which occurred in an environment not plagued by Arctic ice and weather extremes. The complexity and fragmentation of existing governance arrangements further complicate matters. Numerous public and private entities are currently developing standards for Arctic drilling and spill response as new projects and accidents highlight the urgency of addressing risks.

This Article makes a novel proposal for addressing these challenges through what it terms “hybrid cooperation.” In this form of cooperation, diverse public and private stakeholders at multiple governmental levels coordinate their efforts through either: (1) creating institutions or (2) integrating each other’s standards in agreements and regulations. The Article uses original case studies to assess the possibilities for hybrid cooperation to make Arctic drilling safer and to create more cohesive governance. It argues that this convergence of standards and stakeholders, while piecemeal, helps to develop norms for how to operate in the Arctic. More broadly, this concept of hybrid cooperation – which draws from and contributes to interdisciplinary scholarship on hybrid governance – can shed light on governance challenges in other areas, such as humanitarian crisis management, transnational investment, climate change, and whaling.


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