Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 20, 2016

Contact:  Benjamin Craft-Rendon, Tar Sands Blockade, (412) 223-7279,
Yudith Nieto, TEJAS, (832) 867-1250,
Cyrus Reed, Sierra Club, (512) 740-4086,
Blake Kopcho, Center for Biological Diversity, (805) 708-3435,

On Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon Disaster,
Gulf Coast Residents Rally Against New Offshore Oil Leases in Houston

HOUSTON— Exactly six years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and triggered the worst oil spill in the nation’s history, the Department of the Interior today held an “open house” in Houston to discuss its plans to issue 10 new offshore fossil fuel leases in the Gulf over the next five years. That proposal drew strong opposition from Gulf Coast residents and their allies in the environmental and social-justice movements, who held a press conference and rally before storming into the open house to call for a cancellation of the proposed leases and new investments and job creation in renewable energy and environmental restoration.   

More than 40 people rallied outside the Hyatt Regency Houston as the meeting began, chanting “The seas are rising, so are we” and wielding signs including “From the Arctic to the Gulf, Keep It in the Ground,” before heading inside to confront Interior officials. Attendees came from Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Tar Sands Blockade, Bridge the Gulf, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and other Gulf organizations, as well as Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and other national organizations.

Eleven Gulf residents were killed on April 20, 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began spewing millions of gallons of crude oil per day into the Gulf until the well was finally capped almost three months later. Thousands of birds, turtles, marine mammals and other wildlife were killed, and the impacts of that disaster are still felt today. A number of recent studies highlight the ongoing environmental harms from the spill, including severe lung disease in dolphins, near-record lows of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nesting, oil dispersants that are toxic to corals, and a “bathtub ring” of oil on the seafloor. 

Meanwhile the climate crisis is deepening, with 2015 being the hottest year on record by far, fueling a growing movement to halt new fossil fuel leases in public waters. Dozens of concerned citizens rallied against the proposed leases in the Gulf during a public hearing in New Orleans on April 18, following up on a massive demonstration there at the Superdome on March 23 and joining the national movement to “Keep It in the Ground,” which has been targeting fossil fuel leases on public lands. Climate scientists say most untapped fossil fuel reserves should be left intact if humanity is to avoid the worst climate change scenarios and meet the carbon emissions reduction goals agreed to in Paris in December.

“Increased drilling in the Gulf perpetuates the treatment of the region as a ‘sacrifice zone,’ ” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter. “We have already seen what offshore drilling does to our economy, wildlife, health, and our planet. Instead of more offshore drilling in this sacrifice zone, we should be building a 21st century transportation system and investing in the kind of clean energy that will create jobs and infuse new life into our economy.”

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster graphically illustrates the dangers of offshore oil drilling. It's as risky today as it was six years ago, both to our climate and the Gulf's wildlife and coastal communities,” said Blake Kopcho, a campaigner with the Center of Biological Diversity. “We need to stop treating the Gulf like a sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry and help this region transition into a just and sustainable clean energy future.”

“The refining communities of Houston are also known as the sacrifice zones, since the oil export ban was lifted we have already seen oil extracted from our shores exported to other countries,” said Yudith Nieto, a community organizer with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. “Gulf Coast communities will bear the brunt of negative impacts from extraction in already vulnerable areas but there is another option for our energy needs. Texas already leads the nation in wind-powered generation capacity so why is there a need to drill in deeper, more risky waters? Our impacted communities could benefit from a just transition into sustainable clean energy and Texas should lead the way.”

“We still haven't recovered from the BP Disaster. Oil is in our ocean, in our seafood and it still clouds the judgment of our elected officials. But we the people can see clearly, and we are calling for an end to new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Anne Rolfes, director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

Go back