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CENTER ACTIONS

Since the BP explosion on April 20, 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity’s swift, decisive action and in-depth investigating have made us the leader in uncovering government scandals and mismanagement, as well as in pushing for important protections for wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and other areas vulnerable to similar oil spills. So far, the Center has launched 11 lawsuits to make sure BP and the federal government are held accountable for the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history and to make sure such a disaster doesn’t happen again.

ACTION TIMELINES

Offshore Drilling
Saving Sea Turtles
Protecting Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
Defending Gulf Marine Mammals
Holding BP Accountable

Fighting Toxic Dispersants

OFFSHORE DRILLING

April 18, 2014  Four years after BP's Deepwater Horizon spill, the Center and more than 50 allies called on the EPA to extend the oil giant's suspension from government contracts.

November 15, 2012 – BP has pleaded guilty to numerous criminal charges resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and has agreed to pay $4.5 billion in a settlement agreement with the United States. The settlement includes a guilty plea of obstruction for lying about the size of the spill. While the fine is substantial, it is less than the oil company’s recent quarterly profits, and not nearly enough to clean up the environmental devastation caused by the nation’s largest oil spill.

September 29, 2011 – A coalition of Alaska Native and conservation groups, including the Center and represented by EarthJustice, went to court to challenge the Obama administration’s decision to allow offshore oil drilling by Shell Oil in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea.

June 9, 2011The Center and three partners challenged the federal government’s approval of Shell Oil’s plan to conduct new deepwater exploratory drilling off Alabama’s coast in waters 2,000 feet deeper than the BP Deepwater Horizon rig — even though regulators acknowledged that the operations could result in an oil spill 10 times bigger than the Gulf disaster. 

April 20, 2011 – Exactly one year after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the Center renewed our call for an end to all new offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic and beyond — because the serious, fundamental dangers of drilling had still not been addressed.

April 18, 2011 The Center filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA for authorizing the use of toxic dispersants without ensuring that these chemicals would not harm endangered species or their habitats. Our notice requested that the agency immediately study the effects of dispersants on endangered and threatened species such as sea turtles, endangered whales, piping plovers and corals.

April 14, 2011 – A new report by the Center found that one year after the oil spill, the dangers of offshore drilling remained unaddressed, yet new projects were getting the stamp of approval from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The report, Lingering Threats, outlines 10 key policy, regulatory and oversight areas identified in the wake of the spill yet to be addressed by regulators and elected officials.

April 12, 2011 – The Center released a report, titled A Deadly Toll: The Gulf Oil Spill and the Unfolding Wildlife Disaster, that compiles federal data, scientific papers and media accounts to estimate the number of animals hurt by the spill so far. Using multipliers to calculate the true cost of the damage to wildlife species, the Center estimated that approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster.

March 21, 2011 – Interior Secretary Salazar announced the approval of the first deepwater drilling exploration plan since the moratorium was lifted, giving the go-ahead to Shell Offshore to drill three exploration wells in water 2,950 feet deep, 130 miles off Louisiana. The Department of the Interior had prepared an environmental assessment of the plan finding that there was no possibility of significant environmental effects.

March 20, 2011 – Center Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita issued a statement in response to reports of a potentially large, 100-mile oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the 2010 BP oil spill.

February 10, 2011The Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club filed a formal notice of intent to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Wednesday for ignoring marine-mammal protection laws when approving offshore oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

November 10, 2010 – The Center filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency for authorizing an inadequate oil-spill response plan for Alaska, including rubberstamping the use of toxic oil dispersants harmful to wildlife. Our notice demanded that the agencies immediately study the effects of dispersants and other cleanup operations on endangered wildlife and incorporate that information into oil-spill response plans.

October 23, 2010 – The Center filed suit against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for concluding that oil drilling poses no possible risk of significant environmental effects. The lawsuit sought reinstatement of the federal moratorium on deepwater drilling until the completion of a comprehensive analysis of its risks to wildlife and the environment.

July 27, 2010 – The Obama administration announced the cancellation of two offshore oil and gas lease sales: one in the Atlantic off the coast of Virginia and another in the Gulf of Mexico. The decision came after tens of thousands of Center supporters wrote to the administration asking it to cancel plans to expand dangerous offshore drilling into new areas.

July 26, 2010 – The Center filed a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for failing to assess possible impacts on the Gulf of Mexico’s endangered whales and sea turtles of a large oil spill resulting from drilling.

July 12, 2010 – The Center sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for not turning over emails, phone logs and meeting notes documenting his interaction with oil-industry lobbyists since becoming secretary of the interior. The Center had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents on May 18 to uncover the extent of oil-industry involvement in Salazar’s decisions regarding offshore drilling.

July 7, 2010 – After staunch opposition by the Center and others, BP announced its intention to delay its controversial Liberty project off Alaska until 2011.

June 22, 2010 – A federal judge ruled in favor of the oil industry in a lawsuit that challenged the Obama administration's deepwater oil-drilling moratorium; the Center announced our intention to appeal.

June 18, 2010 – The Center and allies were granted intervention to block the oil industry’s challenge in the lawsuit that opposed the Obama administration's deepwater drilling moratorium.

June 15, 2010 – The Center filed a legal petition urging the White House and the Department of the Interior to rescind the “categorical exclusion” policy that allowed BP’s Gulf exploration drilling project — along with hundreds of other projects — to escape environmental review.

May 31, 2010 – The Center applauded the Department of the Interior’s new written moratorium on deepwater drilling but said it should also be expanded to shallow-water operations.

May 27, 2010 – The Center sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Minerals Management Service to stop 49 Gulf of Mexico drilling projects that had been exempted from environmental review.

May 27, 2010 – In response to a decision by President Obama to implement a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling in the Arctic, the Center called out the true need for revocation of improperly issued leases and permanent protection for the Arctic.

May 21, 2010 – The Center called for the firing of the supervisor of the Minerals Management Service’s Alaska operation after a New York Times story revealed the office had systematically suppressed scientific reports, violated environmental policies and even served a cake to employees topped with the words “Drill Baby, Drill.”

May 18, 2010 – The Center sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over his continued approval of offshore drilling plans in the Gulf of Mexico without environmental review. On the same day, we requested public documents under the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the extent of oil-industry involvement in Salazar’s decisions to: expand offshore oil drilling on the Atlantic Coast, eastern Gulf Coast and Alaska in March; challenge a court order vacating BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling project before it began; and approve hundreds of other offshore leases and drilling plans in the Gulf of Mexico.

May 13, 2010 – Despite a federal court decision dismissing a challenge by environmental groups, the Center and allies vowed to continue fighting to stop Shell Oil from drilling exploratory wells in the Arctic.

May 7, 2010 – Researchers at the Center discovered that the Minerals Management Service had approved 27 new offshore drilling projects since the disastrous April 20 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling operation.

May 6, 2010 – The Center called for a permanent, nationwide moratorium on all new offshore drillings.

May 5, 2010 – The Center announced plans to sue Interior Secretary Salazar for failure to assess the impacts on endangered species of a large oil spill that could result from proposed offshore oil drilling in polar bear habitat off Alaska.

May 4, 2010 – The Center and other conservation groups appealed an Environmental Protection Agency decision to issue Clean Air Act permits to Shell Oil for the company’s plan to drill exploratory wells off the Alaskan coast.

May 1, 2010 – With the scope of the Gulf disaster quickly expanding, the Center called on the Obama administration to issue a moratorium on new offshore oil leasing, exploration and development on all coasts, beginning with planned projects in Alaska.

May 14, 2010 – The Center announced plans to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for ignoring laws protecting marine mammals when approving offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

SAVING SEA TURTLES

July 6, 2011 In response to a suit by the Center and allies, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the law when it failed to consider a reasonable range of options to protect loggerhead sea turtles and refused to take a fresh look at the Gulf bottom longline fishery’s impact on sea turtles after the BP oil spill.  

May 31, 2011 The Center and allies formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service of our intent to sue the agency and three Gulf of Mexico states for failing to protect endangered sea turtles from entanglement and drowning in shrimp trawls. Despite the likely devastating impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on endangered sea turtles, the Fisheries Service had done nothing to enhance sea turtle protections.

April 14, 2011 The Center filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA for authorizing the use of toxic dispersants without ensuring that these chemicals would not harm endangered species or their habitats. Our notice requested that the agency immediately study the effects of dispersants on endangered and threatened species such as sea turtles, endangered whales, piping plovers and corals.

April 12, 2011 The Center filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA for authorizing the use of toxic dispersants without ensuring that these chemicals would not harm endangered species or their habitats. The same day, we released a report, titled A Deadly Toll: The Gulf Oil Spill and the Unfolding Wildlife Disaster, that compiles federal data, scientific papers and media accounts to estimate the number of animals hurt by the spill so far. Using multipliers to calculate the true cost of the damage to wildlife species, the Center estimated that approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster.

July 26, 2010 – The Center filed a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for failing to assess possible impacts on the Gulf of Mexico’s endangered whales and sea turtles of a large oil spill resulting from drilling.

July 14, 2010 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network petitioned the federal government for an emergency extension of the seasonal closure of the Gulf’s shrimp fishery, scheduled to expire the next day. The groups also asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct an analysis required by the Endangered Species Act before allowing the fishery to open as usual to determine whether sea turtles would be jeopardized.

July 2, 2010 – Responding to a lawsuit we joined two days earlier, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to measures to safeguard sea turtles from being burned alive as oil slicks are set on fire in the Gulf.

June 30, 2010 – The Center joined allies in a suit to stop BP from burning sea turtle alive during “controlled burns” meant to combat the spread of oil. Our suit sought a temporary restraining order to halt BP oil-burning operations in the Gulf until the safety of sea turtles swimming there could be ensured.

June 28, 2010 – Spurred by the Center and CREDO Action, more than 150,000 people signed petitions telling BP to stop burning alive endangered sea turtles in the Gulf clean-up efforts. Petitioners also called on the federal government to put an immediate end to this gruesome practice. The Center and CREDO delivered the petitions to BP and the Coast Guard offices in Louisiana.

June 2, 2010 – The Center notified the Environmental Protection Agency of our plans to sue over the use of toxic dispersants without ensuring the chemicals wouldn’t harm endangered species — including sea turtles — or their habitats.

May 30, 2013 – A court settlement filed required the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that toxic oil-dispersing chemicals used in federal waters off California would not harm sea turtles, whales and other endangered species or their habitats. 

PROTECTING ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA

May 27, 2011 – The National Marine Fisheries Service denied Endangered Species Act protection for Atlantic bluefin tuna.

May 25, 2011The Center formally notified the Fisheries Service of our intent to sue the agency for its delay in moving forward on protecting the Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act.

April 12, 2011 – The Center released a report, titled A Deadly Toll: The Gulf Oil Spill and the Unfolding Wildlife Disaster, that compiles federal data, scientific papers and media accounts to estimate the number of animals hurt by the spill so far. Using multipliers to calculate the true cost of the damage to wildlife species, the Center estimated that approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster.

September 16, 2010 – The National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would consider protecting Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act.

September 14, 2010 – The Center formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service we would sue the agency for failing to respond to our petition to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna.

June 24, 2010 –The Center filed a legal petition urging the Bureau of Ocean Energy (formerly the Minerals Management Service) and National Marine Fisheries Service to increase conservation measures for essential fish habitat in the Gulf of Mexico — including key habitat for the Atlantic bluefin.

June 2, 2010 – The Center notified the Environmental Protection Agency of our plans to sue over the use of toxic dispersants without ensuring the chemicals wouldn’t harm endangered species — including Atlantic bluefin tuna — or their habitats.

May 24, 2010 – The Center filed a formal petition to protect the North Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. Already harmed by overfishing, the species is now threatened by the Gulf oil disaster poised to devastate its spawning habitat.

DEFENDING GULF MARINE MAMMALS

April 12, 2011 – The Center released a report, titled A Deadly Toll: The Gulf Oil Spill and the Unfolding Wildlife Disaster, that compiles federal data, scientific papers and media accounts to estimate the number of animals hurt by the spill so far. Using multipliers to calculate the true cost of the damage to wildlife species, the Center estimated that approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster.

February 10, 2011The Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club filed a formal notice of intent to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Wednesday for ignoring marine-mammal protection laws when approving offshore oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

July 26, 2010 – The Center filed a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for failing to assess possible impacts on the Gulf of Mexico’s endangered whales and sea turtles of a large oil spill resulting from drilling.

June 30, 2010 – The Center and other conservation groups filed suit against the former Minerals Management Service over the use of powerful seismic surveys throughout the Gulf of Mexico that are known to disrupt marine mammal feeding, breeding and basic communication.

June 2, 2010 – The Center notified the Environmental Protection Agency of our plans to sue over the use of toxic dispersants without ensuring the chemicals wouldn’t harm endangered species — including marine mammals — or their habitats.

May 14, 2010
– The Center announced plans to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for ignoring laws protecting marine mammals when approving offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

HOLDING BP ACCOUNTABLE

April 18, 2014  Four years after BP's Deepwater Horizon spill, the Center and more than 50 allies called on the EPA to extend the oil giant's suspension from government contracts.

August 10, 2010 – The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a ruling requiring hundreds of lawsuits filed against BP for the Gulf oil spill — including the Center’s $19 billion case for Clean Water Act violations — be heard in New Orleans, instead of Houston, where BP’s American headquarters are located.

June 18, 2010 – In the largest citizen enforcement action ever taken under the Clean Water Act, the Center sued BP and Transocean Ltd. for illegally spewing more than 100 million gallons of oil and other toxic pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico.

June 3, 2010 – The Center notified BP of our intent to sue under the Clean Water Act for the ongoing spill in the Gulf, with the company potentially liable under the Act for billions of dollars in penalties for the spill.

January 9, 2013 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that a lower court wrongfully dismissed the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal claim seeking full disclosure of which chemicals spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Center had brought the claim under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

FIGHTING TOXIC DISPERSANTS

April 18, 2012 – Conservation groups, including the Center, sued the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard for authorizing toxic oil dispersants without ensuring that these chemicals would not harm endangered species or their habitats.

January 9, 2013 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that a lower court wrongfully dismissed the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal claim seeking full disclosure of which chemicals spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Center had brought the claim under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

May 30, 2013 – A court settlement filed required the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that toxic oil-dispersing chemicals used in federal waters off California would not harm sea turtles, whales and other endangered species or their habitats. 

September 13, 2013 – The Centerasked a federal court to accelerate consideration of its lawsuit seeking immediate, full disclosure of the names and amounts of toxic chemicals that were spewed into the Gulf of Mexico during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010. 

Deepwater Horizon explosion photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard