The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kierán Suckling (520) 275-5960

Interior to Suspend Shell Oil Drilling Permits in Alaska

Center Applauds Action, Calls for Stronger Measures, Removal of BP Exec from Interior Post


Embattled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce today that Shell
Oil Company will not be permitted to drill for oil in Alaska's
Beaufort and Chukchi seas this year. Amid intense protests, lawsuits, and
administrative appeals by environmentalists and native Alaskans, Shell had
planned to begin drilling this July.

It is not clear when the Interior Department will decide
whether Shell will be allowed to drill for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi
seas in 2011, and under what conditions.

"Suspending Shell's drilling permit this
year is the first thing Ken Salazar has done right in response to the
Minerals Management Service scandals," said Kieran
Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.
"We applaud the Secretary's decision and hope that he
permanently ends all new offshore oil drilling in Alaska. Drilling for oil
in icy Arctic waters is like playing Russian roulette. There is no way to
clean up a spill there and endangered species such as polar bears, whales,
walruses, and seals are already under too much stress."

"Much more needs to be done, and done right
away," said Suckling, "including an immediate ban on
environmental waivers for oil drilling, removal of BP executives from oil
oversight posts in the Department of Interior, and rescinding the
Interior's plan to open up new areas on the Atlantic coast, eastern
Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska to new offshore oil drilling."

The Center for Biological Diversity call upon Secretary
Salazar to immediately take the following actions::

1. Remove former BP executive, Sylvia
Baca, from her job as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals
Secretary Salazar expressed
outrage at the Inspector General's finding earlier this week that the
revolving door between the oil industry and the Minerals Management Service
has undermined the agency's effectiveness and credibility. He did not
mention, however, that in June, 2009, he himself appointed a BP executive
to oversee the Minerals Management Service.

"Sylvia Baca is a classic example of the revolving
door between oil companies and the MMS," said Suckling, "It was
a terrible judgment call to appoint her; it is politically catastrophic to
keep her. If Salazar is serious about reform, he needs to start with his
own interest conflicted appointments."

2. Ban the use of environmental
waivers for offshore exploration and production plans.
waivers are designed for very small impact projects such as constructing
hiking trails and outhouses. There is no possible scenario in which an
offshore drilling project-whether deepwater, ultradeepwater or
shallow water-can be considered a non-threat to the environment,
economy, and endangered species.

3. Rescind all drilling approvals
issued with environmental waivers.
Hundreds of
dangerous offshore oil platforms are operating today in the Gulf of Mexico
without having undergone any environmental review. These dangerous drilling
projects are operating illegally and threaten the Gulf with additional oil

4. Enact, as the Department of
Interior first announced on May 6, 2010, a moratorium on the issuance of
permits for "all new drilling activity."
first Interior description of Salazar's verbal moratorium was
properly broad and would have captured the kind of drilling permit that
BP's Deepwater Horizon was operating under at the time of its
explosion. The Interior has since dramatically narrowed the moratorium to
let scores of drilling actions go forward, including exactly the kind of
drilling that the Deepwater Horizon was doing.

5. Rescind the President's plan
to open up new areas on the Atlantic Coast, eastern Gulf of Mexico, and
Alaska to offshore oil drilling.
The President's
announcement, made on March 31, 2010, three weeks before the BP explosion,
was made on the false premise that offshore oil drilling is safe.

6. Ban all new offshore oil drilling,
beginning in Alaska.
As a nation, we need to
transition to clean energy sources such as sun and wind as fast as
possible. Pushing forward with new, dangerous and dirty offshore oil
drilling sends the wrong signal to energy companies and technology
developers. Continued subsidizing of big oil is a major hindrance to our
nation's development of clean energy.

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