Environmentalists in the United States are again waging war with Republicans
in Washington. This time the row is over a decision to allow an energy company
to drill two gas wells in a coastal national park in Texas that is home to the
world's most endangered species of sea turtle.
The federal government is to grant approval to BNP Petroleum to sink two wells
in the Padre Island National Seashore, a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico
that features the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in the US.
at Padre Island is not about decreasing our nation's dependency on foreign sources
of energy. This project is designed only to enrich energy executives at the expense
of seashore visitors and endangered marine life.
Permission was granted by the National Park Service, which is administered
by the Department of the Interior. The Park Service insists the greatest possible
care will be taken to respect the ecology of the island. But environmentalists
believe it will put the island and the turtles in peril.
Lobbyists claim the decision to allow more exploration on Padre Island is further
evidence of President George Bush's disregard for the environment in favor of
allowing private companies to run riot over the American landscape in search of
new energy sources.
"Energy development does not belong within our national seashores," Randall
Rasmussen, of the National Parks Conservation Association, said yesterday. "People
and marine life will be put at great risk in the rush to sink wells because of
Bush administration policies designed to speed up drilling without careful consideration
of its impact on the environment.
"Drilling at Padre Island is not about decreasing our nation's dependency on
foreign sources of energy," he added. "This project is designed only to enrich
energy executives at the expense of seashore visitors and endangered marine life."
The island is one of only two breeding grounds for the world's smallest and
most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp's Ridley. There is concern that heavy lorries
driving to the drilling sites will run over the turtles' nests and destroy eggs.
The area is also popular for camping and fishing.
"The beach at Padre Island is starting to look more like a highway than a National
Park," said Fred Richardson, communications director of the Texas chapter of the
Sierra Club, a green lobby group.
"Most Americans believe that there are places that ought to be protected and
kept for the public, but the Bush administration is out of touch with those values."
Under Mr Bush, oil and gas companies are being encouraged to drill on more
than 50 sites on federal land across the US, including territory within the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Geographical surveys suggest there may be as much as 80 billion cubic feet
of gas under Padre Island that could take 30 years to extract and could accommodate
15 more wells.
The Sierra Club has sued the government to try to block the drilling. The group
argues that by allowing large trucks to run up and down the island, the government
is violating the Endangered Species Act.
© 2002 lndependent Digital (UK) Ltd