Gulf of Mexico Still in Crisis Four Months After BP Explosion: Center for Biological Diversity Tour Finds Oiled Beaches, Water and Wildlife
Drilling Policy Reforms Still Too Weak, Too Late
Video of Kierán Suckling discussing oil impacts and the need to stop new offshore oil drilling.
NEW ORLEANS— Today marks the end of the fourth month since BP’s negligence and lack of government oversight caused the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig to explode, sending more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. To assess how much damage was done and is continuing, the Center for Biological Diversity sent a team to the Gulf to assess the state of its beaches, marshes, waters and wildlife.
What the Center’s team saw was horrific. “Touring the Gulf of Mexico this week I’ve seen firsthand how oil is still killing wildlife and fouling beaches and marshes,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “This crisis is far from over.”
On Grand Island, the team found beaches covered in oil. Pools of liquid oil lie on the surface, and oil mixed with sand is hardened in mats along the water’s edge. Some beaches appear fine from a distance but are actually sitting atop massive amounts of oil, which bubbled to the surface when the team walked across the sand. Digging into the sand with rubber gloves, the Center’s team struck oil just six inches below the clean-looking surface.
Crabs and birds continue to be covered in oil as they cross the beaches or land in the marshes. Fish and sea turtles are forced to swim through oil on the surface and below the surface as they look for food.
In short, a full four months post-explosion, the Gulf of Mexico is still an oily mess despite rosy assertions by oil companies and the Obama administration two weeks ago that most of the oil is gone. The Center’s survey supports the conclusion of independent scientists, who announced findings on Monday that 80 percent of the oil is still present and continues to foul the beaches, waters, marshes and wildlife of the Gulf.
“Rather than downplay the oil damage, as it first downplayed estimates of the spill rate, the Obama administration should mobilize more money and workers to get this mess cleaned up,” said Suckling.
Unfortunately, regulatory reform is also inadequate four months after the explosion. The White House has refused to rescind its March 31 decision to open up new areas to offshore oil drilling on the Atlantic Coast, eastern Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The Department of the Interior just recently banned the use of environmental waivers (called categorical exclusions) for some projects, but is allowing these waivers to illegally continue on hundreds of others. The Department has refused to address the wholesale violation of the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. And the Department of Justice has not yet filed criminal charges against BP under the Clean Water Act.
“It is clear that the Interior Department has its finger to the wind and is trying to institute the minimum possible reforms to make it appear responsive to the public’s outcry. But this is the time for bold action, not window dressing,” said Suckling. “The Department of the Interior should immediately end offshore oil drilling in Alaska, ban the use of environmental waivers for all drilling plans and seismic testing, and expand the current moratorium to include all dangerous oil rigs, not just those in deep water.”
To help secure the necessary reforms, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed seven lawsuits against BP and failing government regulators, including the largest Clean Water Act suit in history, which seeks $19 billion in fines from BP.