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For Immediate Release, June 15, 2010

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 658-5308

Legal Petition Filed to Reform Policy That Allows Oil Drilling to Evade Environmental Review

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a legal petition with the White House and secretary of the interior formally requesting a rescission of the policy that allowed BP’s exploration drilling and hundreds of other drilling plans to escape environmental review. The petition requires that the secretary formally respond to the request and explain how offshore drilling evaded the mandates of the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Two months later, we have yet to see real reform of the flawed process that ushered in this horrific oil spill,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It seems obvious to everyone, except perhaps those who are in charge, that the lax environmental oversight of Big Oil must end.”

BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling plan was approved in 2009 under the “categorical exclusion” policy, leading to the April 20, 2010 explosion that caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Despite the catastrophe, Secretary Salazar has continued to allow the Minerals Management Service to approve new drilling plans — all exempt from environmental review — after the explosion and even after the moratorium.

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality is reviewing the Interior Department’s policy that exempts drilling plans in the Gulf of Mexico from environmental review. On June 17, 2010, the Council must complete its review.

“On the fast track to drilling, the secretary had to make a finding each time he approved a drilling plan that no significant environmental impacts could occur,” added Sakashita. “In light of the BP oil spill, it is clear that exploratory and development drilling can, and does, result in significant impacts to the environment and communities that depend on the Gulf’s coastal resources.”

Today’s petition seeks to eliminate the exemption for drilling policies and replace it with a policy that requires the Minerals Management Service to consider the environmental effects of each stage of offshore oil and gas development, including the risk and impacts of a large oil spill. It would also allow an opportunity for public participation in the process.

Click here to read the petition.

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