Center for Biological Diversity

Gulf Crisis: What Happened? What Needs to be Done?

On April 20, an explosion at a BP exploratory drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and initiated what could be the worst industrial disaster in U.S. history. Hundreds of imperiled species, from loggerhead sea turtles to Atlantic bluefin tuna, will be harmed by the oil spill -- and the entire Gulf ecosystem could be damaged beyond repair.

Is BP to blame? Yes. But so is the Obama administration for approving BP's oil-drilling plan, and for announcing just weeks before that it plans to oversee the largest expansion of offshore oil drilling in the past 30 years. Under the Obama plan, BP-like drilling rigs -- and the threat of BP-like oil spills -- will soon appear in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, offshore of Alaska, and along the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Florida. Read more on our Web site here and in the Washington Post.

What needs to be done:

- Ban all new offshore oil drilling
- Rescind Obama's plan to expand oil drilling in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast
- Suspend the use of environmental waivers for oil drilling
- Reform or eliminate the hopelessly corrupt Minerals Management Service
- Conduct a federal investigation of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's gross mismanagement in approving BP's drilling plan despite its gaping flaws

Real-Time Gulf-Crisis Web site Goes Live

The Center has launched a Gulf-Crisis Web site that we'll update daily with information on how big the spill is, where it's hitting shore, what species are suffering the impacts, how the rescue effort's going, what we're doing, and how it's all driving home the critical need to reverse Obama's decision to open up new areas to offshore oil drilling in Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and along the Atlantic Coast.

Center Breaks Massive Scandal Story: DOI Exempted BP Drilling From Environmental Review

The Center for Biological Diversity's research and communications teams have been working 24/7 since the BP oil-rig explosion to find out what happened and why -- and to make sure it never happens again. Pouring through technical legal and mining documents, we discovered that the Department of Interior rubber-stamped BP's drilling proposal without even conducting an environmental review. That's right: Interior approved a massive, ecosystem-killing offshore-drilling platform with a legal loophole meant for tiny, no-impact projects like building a hiking trail or outhouse.

We put together our case and went to the national press, causing an explosive, rolling scandal for Secretary of Interior -- and offshore oil industry booster -- Ken Salazar. As coverage of the scandal expands, so do calls for Salazar's resignation and investigations into his oil industry ties -- including thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from BP.

Read about it in the groundbreaking Washington Post story and the Center's press release.

Center Director Discusses Scandal on Keith Olbermann Show

Click here to see Center for Biological Diversity director Kierán Suckling discuss the Gulf oil-spill catastrophe on the Keith Olbermann show. Kierán lays out how the Department of Interior caved into industry pressure at every turn -- from Ken Salazar's 2006 legislation opening up new areas in the Gulf of Mexico to new offshore oil drilling, to the "drugs and sex with oil execs" scandal of 2008, to Interior's exempting BP's cataclysmic oil-drilling plan in 2010.

DOI Makes Same Drilling Mistake in Alaska, Center Acts to Prevent Another Catastrophe

The Center for Biological Diversity yesterday began legal action to stop new offshore oil-drilling in Alaska by filing a "notice of intent to sue" the Department of Interior over spill impacts to endangered polar bears, Steller's eiders, spectacled eiders, and bowhead whales.

On October 16, 2009, Secretary Ken Salazar approved Shell Oil's plan to drill in the Beaufort Sea, and on December 7, 2009, he approved a similar Shell plan to drill in the Chukchi Sea. There is no existing technology to clean up a catastrophic oil spill in these icy waters off Alaska's North Shore.

Just as he did with BP in the Gulf of Mexico, Salazar adopted Shell's conclusion that "a large oil spill, such as a crude oil release from a blowout, is extremely rare and not considered a reasonably foreseeable impact." In other words, we won't analyze or prepare for a catastrophic oil spill because it is unlikely to happen. This is exactly what BP said -- and the Department of Interior accepted -- in the Gulf of Mexico.

Read the Center's press release here.

Offshore Oil-Drilling Air Permit Challenged

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies on Monday formally challenged Shell Oil's permit to spew tens of thousands of tons of pollution into the pristine Arctic skies. The Environmental Protection Agency approved the permit for Shell's offshore oil-drilling platform, scheduled to begin operation in July. If Shell intends to spew that pollution on purpose, you can imagine how much air and water would be fouled in an oil spill.

Read the Center's press release here.

Court Today Hears Offshore Oil-Drilling Case

The Center and allies squared off with the Department of Interior today in a Portland, Oregon federal court over the embattled agency's granting of a permit to Shell Oil to begin drilling offshore for oil in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Just as it did in the Gulf of Mexico, the agency downplayed and ignored the spectacular risks of massive drilling operations. The arguments looked particularly weak against the backdrop of a burning oil rig, millions of gallons of spilled oil, and dying wildlife on the Gulf Coast. We'll keep you posted on the case's progress.

Read about it in the Christian Science Monitor.

Gulf Disaster Fund Needs Urgent Support

Since we asked for your support this Tuesday, more than 600 people have dug deep to contribute to the Center's Gulf Disaster Fund a total of $18,275.  But we need to raise $12,000 more by the end of this week so our expert team of lawyers, scientists, and activists can continue our efforts to make sure the BP disaster doesn't happen anywhere else -- from the Arctic to the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico.

Please click here to give as generously as you can. Your special, emergency gift will have a big impact for wildlife and our oceans. And, if you've already given or aren't able to, please consider forwarding this message to all your friends right now to help with this urgent effort.

One Down, Three to Go: Obama Yanks Virginia Offshore Oil Expansion

In the wake of a growing scandal at the Department of Interior for exempting the BP drilling platform from environmental review, the White House announced today that it's cancelling public hearings and indefinitely postponing the Department of Interior process for opening coastal Virginia to offshore oil drilling.

In March 2010, President Obama shocked environmentalists by announcing he would open Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Coast from Maryland to Florida, to new offshore oil drilling. The plan was the brainchild of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is closely aligned with the offshore oil-drilling industry. Salazar has come under intense fire, however, for allowing the Minerals Management Service to exempt the catastrophic BP drilling project from government review. Going forward with Salazar's plan to have MMS open up coastal Virginia to offshore oil drilling would have invited even more controversy.

Unfortunately, Obama is still supporting Salazar's plan to open Alaska's Chukchi Sea to oil drilling this summer. Just today, the Department of Interior squared off against the Center and its allies in federal court to defend the Alaska drilling.

Here's what we have to say: Mr. President, putting a time out on Virginia drilling is not enough. Please withdraw your entire offshore oil-drilling expansion for the rest of the Atlantic Coast, for the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and especially for Alaska -- which is in Shell Oil's cross hairs right now.

Read our press release here.

BP "Cleaning Up" Oil With Deadly Chemicals

To "clean up" its massive mess, BP is spraying chemicals into the ocean that could add to the permanent damage in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has mobilized one-third of the world's supply of dispersant (more than 156,000 gallons) to break up oil in the vast slick before it reaches shore. The idea is to spray the oil with dispersant as it rises through the water, causing some of it to congeal into droplets and drop to the ocean floor instead of floating on the surface.

But dispersants are poisonous themselves, causing genetic mutations and cancer, and exposing sea turtles, bluefin tuna, and other marine life to even more toxicity than oil alone. In fact, the particular dispersant being used, Corexit 9500, has been reported by its own manufacturers to harm early stages of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. And it's been shown to be four times as toxic as oil. Corexit can also be harmful to humans -- like the thousands of out-of-work fishermen and other volunteers currently working to combat the spill's destruction.

Beaches in Santa Barbara, California -- the site of an infamous oil spill in 1969 -- harbor toxic, dispersant-caused "tar balls" to this day.

Read more in the Guardian and USA Today.

Take Action: Tell Obama "No New Offshore Drilling!"

The White House has delayed release of its National Ocean Policy, likely due to the Gulf crisis. The policy is the perfect opportunity for the administration to painlessly back away from its March 2010 proposal to open up Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Coast to dangerous offshore oil drilling. Click here to send a letter to the President saying "No New Offshore Oil Drilling!"

Then please, forward this to everyone you know, asking them to send letters too. I have no doubt that deep down, Obama knows offshore oil drilling is wrong. He likely delayed release of the National Ocean Policy to reconsider his plan after watching the Gulf catastrophe unfold. If tens of thousands of people raise their voices, I really think he will reverse course and do the right thing. No New Offshore Oil Drilling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Gulf disaster photo courtesy U.S. Coastguard; boat near oil slick by Daniel Beltra, Greenpeace; oiled brown pelican courtesy International Bird Rescue Research Center; oil platform near spill by Sean Gardner, Greenpeace; Kieran Suckling courtesy MSNBC; clean-up crew in Pass Christian by Tim Aubry, Greenpeace; oil sheen courtesy NOAA; birds near oil boom by Sean Gardner, Greenpeace; boat in oil by Daniel Beltra, Greenpeace; oil spill boat, birds on Breton Sound Island, and birds gathering by Sean Gardner, Greenpeace.

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