Offshore Oil Drilling Reforms Are Positive Step, But Big Questions Remain

For Immediate Release

Offshore Oil Drilling Reforms Are Positive Step, But Big Questions Remain

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration announced today that it will no longer exempt certain
deepwater offshore oil-drilling projects from environmental review. However,
non-deepwater drilling operations may continue to be approved without
environmental review. Also, deepwater wells and rigs already approved under the faulty
environmental review process will not necessarily have to seek full National
Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act compliance.

In
response, Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling
issued the following statement:

“Almost four
months after the greatest environmental catastrophe in American history, it is
good that the Obama administration is rhetorically committed to ending the use
of regulatory shortcuts such as categorical exclusions to bypass meaningful
environmental review of highly dangerous offshore oil drilling. We applaud
the move toward greater transparency at all stages of the Outer Continental
Shelf Lands Act leasing process.

“However,
today’s report and related actions by Interior fail to address a number of
realities, including the fact that non-deepwater offshore oil drilling is as
dangerous as deepwater drilling, so full environmental review must also be done
for these oil-drilling operations. The House’s recently passed oil-response
bill recognized this reality by prohibiting the use of categorical exclusions
for offshore drilling plans at all depths. 

“Deepwater
wells and rigs already approved under the now admittedly faulty environmental
review process will not necessarily have to seek full National Environmental
Policy Act or Endangered Species Act compliance. This potential loophole
includes failure to mandate a full environmental impact statement on the type of
drilling operations that precipitated the BP explosion.

“In
addition, despite the fact that many of the identified environmental
illegalities were spawned under the Bush administration, there is no information
in the report on how BP and other oil companies continued to pressure Secretary
Salazar and other current administration officials to continue the use of
categorical exclusions and other environmental shortcuts starting in January
2009. 

“Most
notably, the policy that allowed the categorical exclusions used by BP at the
Macondo well has not yet been officially revoked, and Director Bromwich's
implementing memo on categorical exclusions is still very narrow.

“We call on
the administration to build on today’s announcement and finally enforce all
current law as it relates to dangerous offshore oil drilling on America's
beautiful, important and irreplaceable coasts.”

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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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