The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960

Lawsuit Filed to Stop Department of Interior From Continuing to Issue New Offshore Drilling Permits With No Environmental Review


The Center for Biological Diversity today filed suit against
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar over his continued approval of
offshore drilling plans in the Gulf of Mexico without environmental
review. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks
to overturn Department of Interior policies exempting oil drilling from
the environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy

BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling plan was
approved in 2009 under the "categorical exclusion" exemption policy,
leading to the April 20, 2010 explosion that killed 11 people and
caused what is likely the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Despite
the catastrophe, Secretary Salazar allowed the Minerals Management
Service to issue 26 new drilling approvals -- all exempt from
environmental review -- after the explosion

Salazar has learned absolutely nothing from this national catastrophe,"
said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological
Diversity. "He is still illegally exempting dangerous offshore drilling
projects in the Gulf of Mexico from all environmental review as
millions of gallons of oil gush into the ocean. It is outrageous and

"Today's lawsuit seeks to turn Salazar's fictitious 'moratorium' on oil-drilling approvals into a real one," added Suckling.

Secretary Salazar has been embroiled in controversy since it was
revealed on May 5, 2010 that he allowed the Minerals Management Service
to exempt BP's offshore drilling plan from environmental review by
using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act meant only to
apply to projects with no, or minimal, negative effects -- such as
construction of outhouses and hiking trails. The controversy deepened
when it was revealed that the agency routinely exempts hundreds of
dangerous offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico every

"It is inconceivable that Ken Salazar could
go visit what is likely the worst oil spill in American history, then
continue to allow the rubber-stamping of new drilling permits based on
the absurd claim that an oil spill cannot occur and would not be
dangerous if it did. It is positively Kafkaesque," said Suckling.

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