The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Miyoko Sakashita,, (510) 845-6703
Kierán Suckling,, (520) 275-5960

Center for Biological Diversity Calls for Moratorium on Offshore Oil Leasing, Exploration and Development


As experts once again increased the estimate of the oil spewing from the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster to as much as 25,000 barrels, or one million gallons, per day, the oil spill is poised to become perhaps the worst industrial environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Hundreds of species in the Gulf will be harmed by the toxic oil, including endangered sea turtles that are returning to the beach areas to nest and Atlantic bluefin tuna that aggregate in the area to breed this time of year. Seabirds, sharks, whales and other marine mammals are also at risk, while fisheries and other businesses will suffer ill effects for years to come.

The Department of the Interior approved the Gulf drilling, as well as similar operations planned by Shell for this summer off Alaska, without any meaningful analysis of, or adequate contingency plans for, a large spill.

In response, Center for Biological Diversity oceans program director Miyoko Sakashita issued the following statement:

"The Gulf of Mexico disaster has shown with tragic clarity the absurdity of the claims by the oil industry and politicians beholden to that industry that offshore oil and gas development is safe.

"We call on President Obama to reverse the recent decisions of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to allow drilling this summer in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska, and to reinstitute a moratorium on new offshore oil leasing, exploration, and development on all our coasts.

"Given the difficulties in dealing with a spill in the calm waters of the Gulf, where response equipment and other resources are close at hand, it is the height of irresponsibility for the Department of the Interior to allow Shell to drill for oil this summer in remote areas of the Arctic when no technology exists to clean up an oil spill in icy conditions, and mobilizing an effective response would be logistically overwhelming, if not impossible.

"Under Ken Salazar's watch the Department of the Interior continues to prioritize the wishes of Big Oil over the safety of workers, wildlife, and the integrity of our ocean ecosystems.

"When President Obama appointed Ken Salazar as secretary of the interior, the American people were promised that the mismanagement, lax oversight, and environmentally destructive policies of the Minerals Management Service would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, Secretary Salazar failed to deliver on that promise and the wildlife and people of the Gulf are now paying the price."

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.

(520) 623-5252