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For Immediate Release, May 27, 2010

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 632-5308

Lawsuit Filed to Stop 49 Dangerous Gulf of Mexico Drilling Projects
Minerals Management Service Excluded All From Environmental Review

NEW ORLEANS, La.The Center for Biological Diversity today filed suit against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Minerals Management Service to strike down the agency’s exemption of 49 Gulf of Mexico drilling projects from all environmental review. The suit was filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Just like BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling plan, all 49 plans in today’s suit state that no environmental review is necessary because there is essentially no chance of a large oil spill, and if a spill were to occur, it would be quickly cleaned up with no lasting damage.

“Secretary Salazar continues to exercise extremely poor judgment in approving these plans without meaningful environmental review,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “He seems to have learned nothing from the oil pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico. Since Salazar is unwilling to shut down the use of environmental waivers that even the president has denounced, we are asking the courts to do so.”

All drilling in the 49 plans would occur off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. These coastal areas provide habitat for an array of imperiled species, including the Kemp’s ridley and leatherback sea turtles, the sperm whale, the piping plover, the gulf sturgeon, and the bluefin tuna — and they are the very same areas hurt by BP’s April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

Nineteen of the plans were exempted from environmental review after BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. Many are deep- or ultra-deep-water drilling operations, including plans by Petrobras to drill at 7,150 feet and Anadarko to drill at more than 9,000 feet.

The Center is represented in the suit by Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

The Center has also filed a lawsuit in district court in D.C. challenging the policy underlying the decisions to exempt Gulf drilling from environmental review, and has initiated a legal action to require compliance with marine mammal and endangered species protection laws that have also been ignored in the Gulf.

Map of the drilling plan locations.

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