For Immediate Release, May 6, 2010
Contact: Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960
Embattled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Announces Three-week Halt to New Oil Drilling Permits
Salazar Was Under Fire for Ties to Oil Industry and Exempting of BP’s Catastrophic Drilling
Project From Environmental Review
TUCSON, Ariz.— In the wake of a rapidly growing scandal, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced this evening that new approvals for offshore oil drilling will be halted for three weeks. Calls for Salazar’s resignation have mounted since Center for Biological Diversity research and a Washington Post exposé revealed that the Minerals Management Service — a scandal-plagued agency that Salazar promised to reform — approved BP’s disastrous drilling plan without any environmental review.
The agency “categorically excluded” BP’s drilling — and hundreds of other offshore drilling permits — from environmental review using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act created for minimally intrusive actions like building outhouses and hiking trails.
“The three-week time-out is welcome news,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, “but it is too little, too late. We need a permanent, nationwide moratorium on all new offshore oil drilling. President Obama should rescind his March 2010 decision to open up Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast to dangerous, uncontrollable offshore drilling.”
Salazar’s announcement does not affect an existing permit for Shell Oil to begin offshore oil drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea this July. There is no technology or adequate response plan for dealing with a major oil spill in the frigid, ice-laden Arctic ocean. As it did with BP’s plan, the Department of Interior did not require any analysis or planning for a catastrophic spill because it declared the probability too remote.
“If BP’s disastrous spill had occurred in the Arctic instead of the Gulf of Mexico, the impact would be orders of magnitude worse,” said Suckling, “Salazar should immediately revoke Shell Oil’s faulty permit. If he does not, the Arctic will be at risk of a massive oil spill as soon as this summer.”