For Immediate Release
Kieran Suckling (520) 275-5960
Controversial Salazar 'Moratorium' on Gulf Drilling Was Only Verbal
Gov. Prof: 'so ridiculous that it defies understanding;' Law Prof: 'moratorium does not even cover the dangerous drilling that caused the problem in the first place'
SAN FRANCISCO - In response to a scandal created by Center for
research demonstrating that the Minerals Management Service (MMS)
new drilling plans after
explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon-all with exemptions from
environmental review-Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced on May
6, 2010, a moratorium on the issuance of final permits for "any new
offshore drilling activity."
Since then, the Department of Interior, and
President Obama himself,
has repeatedly changed the definition of the increasingly controversial
as ongoing Center research has shown that the agency was still issuing
drilling permits. The moratorium description has become steadily
the Interior Department changes it to exclude whatever drilling permits
on any given day.
As currently defined, the moratorium is so
narrow it allows continued
issuance of the exact drilling permit type that BP was operating under
Deepwater Horizon exploded.
Daniel J. Rohlf, a law professor
& Clark Law School, told the New
Times last week that he was losing confidence that Salazar
capable of instituting needed offshore drilling reforms since "(t)he
moratorium does not even cover the dangerous drilling that caused the
in the first place."
"Under pressure from the oil
and an agency he seems incapable of controlling, Secretary Salazar has
down the drilling moratorium to a point where it is virtually
said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological
"He seems more interested in
damage control than ensuring the Gulf of Mexico is protected from
industry explosion," said Suckling. "Salazar's so-called
moratoriums and reforms are little more than rhetorical dispersants
breakup and hide the political scandal threatening to wash up on his
Yesterday, Interior spokespeople
why the "moratorium" has changed so often and caused so much
confusion: it does not exist in writing. In keeping with the lax
oversight he allowed to rein at MMS, Secretary Salazar never
moratorium to the agency in writing.
New York University Government
Paul Light, told NPR yesterday that a verbal moratorium is "so
that it defies understanding. It could not be more important to
enforce this moratorium and make absolutely clear to the oil industry
and is not permissible. And yet you have the execution of a critical
appears to have been basically done through the most casual way possible
Secretary Salazar himself became
of his confused, shifting sands moratorium when he falsely told Congress
it stopped all new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Interior spokes
NPR that "the Secretary misspoke at the hearing."
press release announcing the moratorium says:
"In a media availability after the meeting,
announced that, as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and
April 20 - the date of the explosion - no applications for drilling
permits will go forward for any new offshore drilling activity
until the Department
of the Interior completes the safety review process that President Obama
requested. In accordance with the President's request, the Department
deliver its report to the President by May 28, 2010. The only exceptions
new rule regarding permit approvals are the two relief w ells that are
drilled in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster."
press release says the same thing:
"Offshore Drilling Permit Applications Halted
Secretary Salazar announced that, as a result
of the Deepwater Horizon
explosion and spill, beginning April 20-the date of the
explosion-no applications for drilling permits will go forward for any new offshore
until the Department of the Interior completes the safety review process
President Obama requested. In accordance with the President's request,
the Department will deliver its report to the President by May 28. The
exceptions to the new rule regarding permit approvals are the two relief
that are being drilled in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster."
When confronted with the fact that MMS has
issued 17 new drilling
permits since April 20th, Interior spokespeople inexplicably
that the moratorium applied to "any new offshore drilling activity,"
saying that it actually only applied to drilling of new wells. This allows the majority
drilling permits, including the kind used by the Deepwater Horizon, to
Salazar subsequently told Congress (and Carol
Browner told the media)
that no new wells had been drilled since April 20th.
the fact that new wells have been drilled since April 20th,
spokespeople said the Secretary was mistaken and that the moratorium
applies to new permits.
While the permit moratorium at least halts a
minimal number of
projects, Salazar has placed no moratorium at all on the approval of
plans without environmental review even though the president himself has
declared on May 14th: "It seems as if permits were too often
issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil
That cannot and will not happen anymore...We're also closing the
loophole that has allowed some oil companies to bypass some critical
MMS to this day is approving drilling plans
review. Many are for ultradeep water drilling which is much more
the Deepwater Horizon.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.