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For Immediate Release, June 18, 2012

Contacts:   Kathleen Sullivan, SELC, (919) 945-7106,
Dustin Cranor, Oceana, (202) 341-2267,
Sierra Weaver, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3274,
Deirdre McDonnell, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 279-5471,
Jessica Lass, NRDC, (310) 434-2300,

Decision to Ignore Risks to Wildlife, Environment in Gulf Oil-drilling Expansion Challenged in Court

WASHINGTON— Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that challenges the Obama administration’s plans to increase offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico without fully addressing the risks to wildlife and the environment. According to the suit, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management dismissed the lessons learned during the Deepwater Horizon disaster and failed to obtain essential information about the status of species and resources still suffering from the 2010 oil spill.

“BOEM is continuing the same irresponsible approach that led to the oil spill and harm still being felt in the Gulf today,” said Catherine Wannamaker, the senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the groups in court. “Before selling new leases at ground zero for the Gulf oil spill, the government ignored critical information about the spill’s impacts that may’ve changed how it proceeded and better protected life.”

“The government is gambling with the Gulf by encouraging even more offshore drilling in the same exceedingly deep waters that have already proven to be treacherous, rather than investing in safer clean energy that creates jobs without risking lives and livelihoods,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for North America at Oceana. “This move sets us up for another disastrous oil spill, threatening more human lives, livelihoods, industries and marine life, including endangered species, in the greedy rush to expand offshore drilling.”   

“Failing to fully analyze the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and the potential of future spills before moving forward with drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is asking for another drilling catastrophe,” said Sierra Weaver, senior staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “If the government isn’t going to act in the interests of the region’s wildlife, natural habitats and coastal communities, we will.”   

“It is reckless for the government to continue oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico,” said David Pettit, senior attorney with NRDC. “Without new and fully tested procedures in place to guard against future blowouts and improve post-spill containment and cleanup systems, we are risking a repeat of the BP disaster two years ago. Increased drilling and exploration coupled with possible new oil spills would wreck havoc on an ecosystem that has a tenuous grip on existence.”

“Federal regulators still haven’t learned from their mistakes,” said Deirdre McDonnell, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Even with hundreds of endangered sea turtles dead, the administration is plowing ahead with business as usual and squandering this crucial opportunity to safeguard the Gulf’s wildlife. The name of the regulatory agency has changed but, sadly, not much else has since the biggest oil spill disaster in U.S. history.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center complaint, filed on behalf of Oceana, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity, challenges BOEM’s decision to accept bids from oil and gas companies for new leases in the Gulf of Mexico as part of Lease Sale 216/222.


Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 550,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than one million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at

The Southern Environmental Law Center is the only regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 40 legal experts represent over 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

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