The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Richard Charter, 707-875-2345

Australian Oil Rig Blowout Creates Environmental Catastrophe

Defenders of Wildlife urges Congress to oppose U.S. offshore drilling


The impacts of the nine-week West Timor oil rig blowout are
creating an environmental catastrophe for wildlife and ocean
ecosystems, Defenders of Wildlife said today. In August, the West
Atlas/Montara offshore drilling rig, widely touted as a "safe, modern"
operation, suffered what the rig's operators termed a "loss of well
control." Despite three attempts to stop the resulting massive oil
spill, oil continues to leak into the surrounding ocean.

"A global-scale environmental catastrophe so large that it is
visible from space is unfolding in one of earth's last marine
wilderness areas," said Richard Charter, government relations
consultant with Defenders of Wildlife. "It is time for the dithering,
excuses, and failed response efforts to end and for the international
community to get the full story on how and why this spill has been
allowed to continue for so long. This persistent mess is too big and
too damaging to hide any longer."

Estimates of the volume of oil spilled since the August 21
Australian blowout have now expanded as much as five-fold, to more than
9.7 million gallons, while the oil slick has covered several thousand
square miles of ocean waters. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is now
discussing allowing essentially the same kind of
"environmentally-responsible" offshore drilling to go forward off the
coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and
Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle beaches.

"If anything like the Australian blowout ever takes place off of the
Southeast U.S. beaches or in Florida waters, the economic and
environmental consequences will last for decades," Charter emphasized.

Worldwide, conservation interests have become increasingly concerned
as satellite images have shown that the mega-spill has spread from
Australia's whale and sea-turtle rich Kimberley Coast into distant
Indonesian waters as well. Three prior attempts to stop the flow of oil
have failed, and a fourth attempt this week had to be postponed due to
equipment failure.

View photos showing some of the preliminary assessment of wildlife impacts from the oil spill

Satellite imagery of the spill from
More satellite imagery of the spill

Learn more about the impacts of offshore drilling on ocean wildlife and habitat, coastal economies, and the climate

Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitats in North America.

(202) 682-9400