5 Years After Deepwater Horizon Disaster, Obama Pursues More Offshore Drilling

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

5 Years After Deepwater Horizon Disaster, Obama Pursues More Offshore Drilling

WASHINGTON - Five years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Gulf of Mexico is still reeling from the nation’s biggest oil spill yet the Obama administration is pursuing dangerous new offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf and in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, putting more wildlife at risk and exacerbating global climate change. 

Recent studies in the Gulf highlight ongoing harms sparked by the April 20, 2010 disaster: severe lung injuries in dolphins, near-record lows of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nesting, dispersants found toxic to corals, and a “bathtub ring” of oil remaining on the seafloor. Meanwhile the climate crisis is deepening, with 2015 poised to be the hottest year on record. In the midst of this, three new federal approval processes seek to expand offshore drilling.

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster should have been a wake-up call for the Obama administration to develop an energy policy that’s less hazardous and more sustainable,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead we’re sleepwalking our way into future disasters and learning nothing from the past.”

In 2014 the Obama administration approved a program to explore for oil along the Atlantic Coast. The plan includes blasting powerful airguns into the ocean floor from Delaware to Florida, which the federal government admits will injure or kill 138,000 dolphins and whales, including nine endangered North Atlantic right whales, and cause 13.5 million marine disruptions, altering breeding, foraging and migration patterns. The oil drilling itself raises the risks of a major oil spill fouling the East Coast. Ten permits for seismic surveys are pending, with the latest public hearing on the project scheduled for Tuesday in Jacksonville, Fla.

In January 2015 the Obama administration announced a new five-year plan that schedules 14 lease sales in eight planning areas between 2017 and 2022: 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one in the Atlantic Ocean. Until now offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic has been very limited.

The plan makes available 80 percent of all recoverable offshore oil at a time when deep and rapid cuts in fossil fuel use are needed to halt global warming. Producing and burning “recoverable” oil and gas reserves in the Arctic Ocean has the potential to release 15.8 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere — the equivalent of the emissions from all forms of transportation in the United States over a nine-year period or of burning 90 years’ worth of oil flowing through the Keystone XL pipeline at maximum capacity.

Earlier this month the federal government also kept Shell’s plans to drill for Arctic oil on track by upholding a 2008 lease sale in the Chukchi Sea. The approval comes despite severe risks, a history of successful lawsuits against the lease sale, and Shell’s own past Arctic drillship mishaps, including running its Kulluk aground and a near-grounding of the Noble Discoverer. Frozen conditions and the remoteness of the Arctic region would make it impossible to clean up an oil spill there.

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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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