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For Immediate Release, May 14, 2010

Contact: Kieran Suckling, (520) 275-5960

Center for Biological Diversity Response to President Obama's May 14, 2010 Rose Garden Speech on the
Growing Minerals Management Service Scandal

WASHINGTON, D.C.In a Rose Garden speech responding to breaking stories in the New York Times and Washington Post, President Obama today attempted to shield embattled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar against a growing tide of criticism that under his watch, the Department of Interior and Minerals Management Service (MMS) approved hundreds of dangerous offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico — none with the environmental reviews legally required by the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act. Among those exempted from environmental review under Salazar was the disastrous BP drill that exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people, and that is now spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“I think the president will come to regret this speech as his ‘Heckuva job, Brownie’ moment,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s speech can be summed up as, ‘Heckuva job, Kennie.’

“Ken Salazar came into office announcing, ‘There is a new sheriff in town,’ and promised to reform the deeply corrupt Minerals Management Service. He took action regarding personal, criminal actions, but did absolutely nothing to address the agency’s dangerous practice of rubber-stamping offshore oil-drilling permits. Salazar is long-time offshore oil-drilling booster and recipient of oil company campaign contributions. As a senator, he criticized the MMS for not issuing enough oil-drilling permits and pushed legislation that opened more than 8 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to new offshore oil drilling. His mission as the MMS’s overseer has been to promote more offshore oil drilling, not to fix the agency’s thoroughly corrupt environmental review process.

“The president had the opportunity today to take clear, decisive action to address the offshore oil-drilling scandal; instead, he chose to circle the horses around Secretary Salazar. That won’t stop the scandal from spreading and won’t protect the Gulf of Mexico from another disastrous oil spill.

“The president should immediately rescind his March, 2010 decision to expand offshore oil drilling to the Atlantic Coast, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska. He should cancel Shell Oil’s permit to begin a very dangerous offshore oil drilling project in Alaska this summer. He should put a real stop to all new offshore drilling approvals, and he should order the MMS to halt all oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico approved without environmental review.”

“Ken Salazar’s assertion that splitting MMS in two will stop the abuses is wrong; the action will work no better than the ‘moratorium’ on new offshore drilling approvals he announced on May 6, 2010. The MMS has continued to approve new offshore drilling without any environmental review, some as recently as yesterday. The Salazar ‘moratorium’ was smoke and mirrors, and the splitting of the MMS in two is not much better.”

“The heart of the MMS scandal — approving drilling with no environmental review — is in no way solved or even addressed by Salazar’s plan, because it continues to allow the revenue-generating arm of the MMS to be in charge of approving drilling permits.”

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