For Immediate Release, June 16, 2010
Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 658-5308
Environmental Groups Intervene to Block Industry Challenge to Drilling Moratorium
NEW ORLEANS— The Center for Biological Diversity, in a coalition of conservation organizations, today stepped in on behalf of the U.S. government to oppose a lawsuit aimed at prematurely canceling the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. On June 7, 2010, Hornbeck Offshore Services, a company that provides services to oil rigs, filed an action in federal district court accusing the Obama administration of violating the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in issuing the six-month moratorium on certain deepwater oil drilling and seeking its cancelation. The coalition of conservation groups is seeking to intervene on behalf of the federal government to uphold the moratorium.
“The moratorium on drilling is crucial to ensure that safety and environmental measures are in place to prevent the next Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The industry attempt to overturn the moratorium is an unacceptable gamble with the fate of the Gulf coast’s human and natural environment.”
After the BP-leased oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico April 20, President Obama ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to begin a 30-day review of all exploration and production operations on the Outer Continental Shelf. This review resulted in a report that concluded that the drilling of new offshore deepwater wells “poses an unacceptable threat of serious and irreparable harm to wildlife and the marine, coastal, and human environment.” On May 28, the government imposed a six-month suspension of new deepwater wells. To date, all safety measures and further analyses to better protect against the risk of future oil spills and harm to workers have yet to be completed.
“If anything, the moratorium does not do enough to end risky drilling, since there have yet to be true reforms to the lax safety and environmental oversight of offshore drilling,” added Sakashita. “The moratorium is already a compromise, which is narrowly tailored to allow most drilling to continue despite exemptions of environmental review. We are still struggling to combat the largest environmental catastrophe ever faced by the Gulf of Mexico. The industry challenge to the moratorium flies in the face of good common sense.”
The moratorium specifically prohibits the Minerals Management Service from processing new applications for deepwater drilling operations, which affects 33 rigs out of thousands. Many of the suspended drilling plans have similar oil-spill response plans to those of BP — a plan that has been proven tragically inadequate. The Gulf region generates tens of billions of dollars annually for the commercial seafood industry and recreational fishing industry. As a result of the BP oil spill, one-third of the Gulf remains closed to fishing.
The conservation groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council and are represented by staff attorneys, Earthjustice and the Southern Environmental Law Center.