The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kierán Suckling (520) 275-5960

Confusion Continues to Plague Interior Department Drilling Rules

Center Calls for Stronger Leadership, Clearer Rules


revelations last month that the BP Deepwater Horizon, as well as hundreds of
other deep and shallow water drilling projects, were exempted from
environmental review, the Department of Interior has announced a series of
agency reforms and drilling moratoriums. In every case, the policies were
quickly criticized for being ignored, misrepresented, constantly changed,
and too weak to prevent additional oil spill catastrophes.

All of the policies were hastily issued in response to
negative media stories, and some were never written down.

Today the Interior Department continued its confused,
leadership-challenged approach in response to media stories yesterday
critical of its approval of a new shallow-water drilling operation without
environmental review. Minerals Management Service officials withdrew the
drilling permit and informed oil companies that a moratorium had been
placed on shallow- water drilling. By this afternoon, the Department of
Interior denied that shallow-water drilling was being shut down, prompting
the Wall Street Journal to
declare "Confusion Reigns As Interior Dept Rescinds Drilling Permits."

"The Interior Department has proven itself
incapable of controlling the Minerals Management Service or articulating
clear, consistent drilling policies," said Kieran Suckling, executive
director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "There is a huge
leadership vacuum at the top and very poor communication throughout the
agency. No one seems to know what the policies are from day to day, or even
hour to hour."

"The Interior Department's baffling,
ever-changing reforms have only muddied the discussion over much-needed
actions to protect the Gulf, the Arctic
and other areas vulnerable to disastrous oil spills," Suckling said.
"Maybe the next step should be a moratorium on half-baked solutions
that do little to address the fundamental problems."

The Center is again calling on Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar to immediately take the following critical actions:

* Banthe use of environmental waivers for offshore
exploration and production plans and rescind all drilling approvals issued
with those waivers
. Such 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.

Permanently ban all new offshore oil
. 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.

Although much of the focus today is on changes to
shallow-water drilling, there's nothing to suggest it's any less
dangerous than deepwater drilling. The largest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - the Ixtoc I disaster that
dumped 138 million gallons of oil in 1979 - was from a shallow-water

The Minerals Management Service's
own data, collected over a 15-year period, demonstrates that "well
control performance for deepwater drilling was significantly better than
for shallow water operations."

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