TUCSON, Ariz.— Six months after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, spilled oil still fouls beaches and wetlands, birds and endangered sea turtles continue to suffer crippling effects, and the government has yet to deal with the significant risks that offshore drilling poses every day to wildlife and the environment.
“Offshore drilling is just as dangerous today as it was April 20, when this whole nightmare started,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has initiated seven lawsuits to hold the government and BP accountable for the spill and has been a leading voice in calling for offshore drilling reforms. “Clearly, there’s a long way to go before Americans can be assured that the wildlife and wild places they treasure are protected from offshore drilling, whether it’s in the Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic.”
More than 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion. So far, more than 6,100 birds, 605 sea turtles and nearly 100 mammals, including dolphins, have died. A new study this week estimated that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the area; scientists say it will be years before the full extent of the spill’s environmental effects are known. Twenty-one years after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, oil continues to effect marine and coastal environments.
Last week, the Department of the Interior announced it was lifting the moratorium on deepwater drilling, an action that is clearly premature. The agency has yet to completely outlaw the use of environmental waivers that allowed hundreds of drilling projects, including BP’s ill-fatedDeepwater venture, to be approved without a full analysis of the risks to the environment. In the Gulf, where there are more than 3,600 oil and gas production operations, regulators also aren’t complying with the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which require that imperiled species be protected during offshore operations.
The government has yet to impose significant additional regulations on new shallow-water drilling operations that can be just as dangerous as deepwater drilling.
“Rather than rushing to return to business as usual, we need to put all new deep and shallow water offshore drilling on hold till industry and government can prove that it’s safe. The price is simply too high, and the risks too great, to move ahead with any offshore drilling without addressing these fundamental dangers,” said Suckling. “We should be marking the six-month anniversary of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history by redoubling our efforts to protect the environment and making sure something like this never happens again.”
Visit the Center’s Gulf Disaster webpage: www.biologicaldiversity.org/gulf_disaster.