For Immediate Release, November 10, 2010
Contact: Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110
Lawsuit Seeks Full Disclosure of Oil-spill Cleanup Impacts on Alaska’s Endangered Wildlife
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The Center for Biological Diversity today formally notified the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Coast Guard it intends to sue the agencies for authorizing toxic oil dispersants without studying how they’ll affect polar bears, Cook Inlet beluga whales, Steller sea lions and other imperiled species in Alaska. The Center is demanding 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.
“Oil spills are bad enough for wildlife. We shouldn’t add insult to injury by using toxic dispersants without fully understanding the damage they might cause. That mistake was made this year when nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. We shouldn’t repeat the error in Alaska,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Center’s Alaska director.
Chemical dispersants designed to break apart oil release toxic products that can make dispersed oil more harmful to marine life than untreated oil. Neither the short-term nor the long-term effects of dispersants on marine life have been adequately tested. And despite expressing concern over the impacts on wildlife from dispersants during the Gulf disaster, the EPA has refused to step back and study the wildlife effects of the dispersants it has authorized for use in Alaska.
“Endangered species in Alaska already have plenty to worry about. With climate change destroying polar bears’ sea-ice habitat and industrial development and pollution driving Cook Inlet belugas toward extinction, the last thing these struggling species need is a toxic dose of untested chemical dispersants,” said Noblin. “If the federal government cannot ensure that dispersants will not pose undue risk to struggling species in Alaska, it has no business authorizing their use.”
Studies have found that dispersed oil damages the insulating properties of seabird feathers more than untreated oil, making the birds more susceptible to hypothermia and death. Studies have also found that dispersed oil is toxic to corals, fish eggs, larvae and adults and can harm marine mammals’ ability to breathe. Some of the dispersants authorized for use in Alaska have been banned in the United Kingdom due to concerns about their impacts on the marine environment.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.