Environmental Groups Intervene to Block Industry Challenge to Drilling Moratorium

For Immediate Release

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Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 658-5308

Environmental Groups Intervene to Block Industry Challenge to Drilling Moratorium

NEW ORLEANS - The Center
for Biological Diversity, in a coalition of conservation organizations, today
stepped in on behalf of the U.S. government to oppose a lawsuit
aimed at prematurely canceling the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. On June
7, 2010, Hornbeck Offshore Services, a company that provides services to oil
rigs, filed an action in federal district court accusing the Obama
administration of violating the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in issuing the
six-month moratorium on certain deepwater oil drilling and seeking its
cancelation. The coalition of conservation groups is seeking to intervene on
behalf of the federal government to uphold the moratorium.

“The
moratorium on drilling is crucial to ensure that safety and environmental
measures are in place to prevent the next Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said
Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The
industry attempt to overturn the moratorium is an unacceptable gamble with the
fate of the Gulf coast’s human and natural environment.”

After the
BP-leased oil rig Deepwater Horizon
exploded and caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico
April 20, President Obama ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to begin a
30-day review of all exploration and production operations on the Outer
Continental Shelf. This review resulted in a report that concluded that the
drilling of new offshore deepwater wells “poses an unacceptable threat of
serious and irreparable harm to wildlife and the marine, coastal, and human
environment.” On May 28, the government imposed a six-month suspension of new
deepwater wells. To date, all safety measures and further analyses to better
protect against the risk of future oil spills and harm to workers have yet to be
completed.

“If
anything, the moratorium does not do enough to end risky drilling, since there
have yet to be true reforms to the lax safety and environmental oversight of
offshore drilling,” added Sakashita. “The moratorium is already a compromise,
which is narrowly tailored to allow most drilling to continue despite exemptions
of environmental review. We are still struggling to combat the largest
environmental catastrophe ever faced by the Gulf of
Mexico. The industry challenge to the moratorium flies in the face
of good common sense.”

The
moratorium specifically prohibits the Minerals Management Service from
processing new applications for deepwater drilling operations, which affects 33
rigs out of thousands. Many of the suspended drilling plans have similar
oil-spill response plans to those of BP — a plan that has been proven tragically
inadequate. The Gulf region generates tens of billions of dollars annually for
the commercial seafood industry and recreational fishing industry. As a result
of the BP oil spill, one-third of the Gulf remains closed to
fishing.

The
conservation groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club,
Florida Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense
Council and are represented by staff attorneys, Earthjustice and the Southern
Environmental Law Center.

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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.

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