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For Immediate Release, June 22, 2010

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 658-5308 

Federal Judge Lifts Gulf of Mexico Oil Drilling Moratorium, Giving Green Light to More Risky Drilling

Conservation Groups Intend to Appeal

NEW ORLEANS— The Center for Biological Diversity and several other environmental groups plan to appeal a judge's decision today that lifts the federal government’s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. The decision, by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, reverses the government's moratorium put in place after finding that “offshore drilling of new deepwater wells poses an unacceptable threat of serious and irreparable harm to wildlife and the marine, coastal, and human environment . . . [and] that the installation of additional safety or environmental protection equipment is necessary to prevent injury or loss of life and damage to property and the environment.” 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.

“The judge’s decision to lift the moratorium trades oil-industry profits for the safety of offshore workers, the long-term health of the Gulf Coast economy, and the environment,” said Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that intervened in the case to defend the federal government’s moratorium. 

In response to a lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services, a company that provides services to oil rigs, Judge Feldman’s decision found that the government had failed to provide enough specific findings on the risks of deepwater drilling to justify a blanket moratorium. However, contrary to Hornbeck’s claims and the judge’s order, the moratorium was actually very narrowly tailored to fix regulatory problems identified by the government that lead to the BP oil spill. In fact, the moratorium only affected 33 deepwater drilling rigs, leaving the production of approximately 3,600 platforms unaffected. 

“The ongoing BP catastrophe in the Gulf should be enough to justify putting an end to all new offshore drilling,” added Sakashita. “It is obvious that the entire system is broken, and Big Oil lied about the risks of oil spills and its ability to respond to them.”

Compelled by the fallout from the BP oil spill, the federal government was forced to acknowledge its failure to adequately regulate worker and environmental safety of drilling and instituted the moratorium that was lifted by a Louisiana judge today. The court’s decision to lift the moratorium on drilling before implementing necessary changes invites the possibility of another disaster. 

The Center for Biological Diversity and its partners, Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council — all conservation groups who intervened in the lawsuit to defend the moratorium — intend to file an appeal.

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