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For Immediate Release, September 2, 2010

Contact: Peter Galvin, (707) 986-2600

Latest Gulf of Mexico Explosion Illustrates Dangers of Offshore Drilling Operations

Center for Biological Diversity Calls on Obama Administration to Expand
Drilling Moratorium to Include New Shallow-water Activities

TUCSON, Ariz.— Today’s explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is the latest in a string of incidents in recent decades illustrating the dangers of offshore drilling in shallow waters. Despite assurances from the Obama administration, the hazards of shallow-water operations remain significant. A 2007 report by the Minerals Management Service acknowledged that most well blowouts happened at wells in water depths of less than 500 feet.

“Rather than lifting the moratorium on deepwater drilling, the Obama administration needs to step in now and expand it to any new drilling in shallow waters,” said Peter Galvin, conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Offshore drilling is an inherently unsafe, toxic activity that, every day, puts people and the environment at risk.”

Just weeks before April’s explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig, President Barack Obama announced an expansion of offshore drilling, vowing that it was safe. The administration issued a moratorium on deepwater drilling after the BP spill began, but has repeatedly ignored calls to do the same for shallow-water operations — a crucial step to ensure the safety of people and the environment.

“Unfortunately, the suspension of some deepwater operations only goes partway in protecting us from these hazardous activities,” Galvin said. “It’s time for the Obama administration to finish the job and expand the moratorium to shallow waters.”

In fact, prior to the BP spill, the largest oil spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico — the Ixtoc 1 disaster — was from a well in just 160 feet of water. The busted rig spewed some 138 million gallons of oil into the Gulf over nine months in 1979 and 1980. Just last year, a blown well in 250 feet of water off the coast of western Australia gushed oil into the ocean for more than 10 weeks. The Montara spill was the country’s worst oil disaster from offshore operations

The 2007 Minerals Management report examined blowouts between 1992 and 2006. The agency found one blowout per 362 wells drilled in 500 feet of water or less and just one blowout per 523 wells drilled in deeper waters.

The production platform in today’s explosion, owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy, was in about 340 feet of water.

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