Mother Nature made the point the Obama administration chose to ignore two years ago as it was processing an application by Shell Oil to proceed with oil and gas development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

The Arctic Ocean is a rough place to do business.

Shell operations were pummeled in both locations last year, and recently the company called off plans for the 2013 drilling season.

Oil rigs had trouble, and so did a new tug. Harsh weather, accidents and errors combined to send the Shell rigs to Asia for repairs.

All of the early warnings were seemingly ignored during the permitting process, so high winds and seas, ice and limited visibility made the point.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico made the hazards and difficulties clear. Imagine spill response within truly harsh conditions.

Respect the lessons learned.

Last month, the Interior Department approved a plan to expand energy production and wildlife protections in a widely praised move for the 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The agreement makes approximately 11.8 million acres available for oil and gas leasing and closes 11 million acres to energy development.

The Bureau of Land Management estimates three-fourths of the recoverable oil and half of the recoverable gas are in the plan.

Energy supplies are open, and other resources — subsistence living, recreation, fish and wildlife, historical and scenic values — are protected.

Do not ignore Mother Nature. Shell was lucky. Better options exist, and the Interior decision provides for them.

— The Seattle Times, March 3

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