The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kierán Suckling 

Salazar Declares Shallow Water Drilling "Safe," Lifts Drilling Injunction, Conceals Shallow Water Oil Spill Currently Fouling Gulf

Taylor Energy Spill Has Caused 10-mile Slick, Is Still Spewing Oil


On May 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of the
placed a partial moratorium on shallow and deepwater drilling in
response to
the April 20, 2010 explosion of BP's Deepwater
Horizon drilling project. Interior defines "shallow-water
drilling" as occurring in less than 500 feet of water and "deepwater
drilling" as that which occurs in greater than 500 feet of water.

The moratorium was to last 30 days
while Interior conducted a drilling safety review. On May, 28, 2010, the
deepwater moratorium was expanded with great fanfare, and the
moratorium was quietly lifted without comment or explanation from
Despite the announced 30-day safety review period, the Interior
Department has
produced any report or finding to justify its apparent conclusion that
drilling is safe.

Today it was revealed that Taylor
Energy Company LLC's shallow-water drilling operation, using Diamond
Offshore's Ocean Sarasota
oil rig, has been leaking oil since at least April 30, 2010. That is
just 10
days after the Deepwater Horizon
explosion. Taylor Energy has multiple drilling operations in the Gulf of
using the Ocean Sarasota,
all in
waters between 430 and 440 feet in depth.

"It is unbelievable and unacceptable
for the Secretary of the Interior to lift the moratorium on
shallow-water oil
drilling right in the middle of a large shallow-water oil spill. If Ken
did not know the oil spill had occurred, he is spectacularly
incompetent. If he
did know, he purposefully misled the public. Either way, he has utterly
the American public and the Gulf of Mexico," said Kieran Suckling,
executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

As it did BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling project, the
Minerals Management Service, under Salazar's watch, approved the Taylor
Energy drilling project with an exemption from environmental review.

"To this day, the Department
of the Interior is allowing the MMS to exempt drilling projects from
review," said Suckling. "If the Taylor Energy disaster
doesn't force an immediate change of policy, we can only conclude that
the Department of the Interior is as fully controlled by the oil
industry as
MMS itself."

Information on the Dangers of Shallow-water Drilling

Contrary to the hand waving of the Interior
Department, shallow-water drilling is very dangerous. Indeed, it has a
blowout record than deepwater drilling.

1. The largest oil spill ever in
North America - the Ixtoc 1 disaster - was from a well in just 160
feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. The damaged rig spilled some 138
gallons of oil into the Gulf over nine months in 1979 and 1980 before it

2. The largest oil spill globally in
2009 occurred in just 250 feet of water off the western coast of
Australia. The
Montara spill gushed oil for 10 weeks, making it Australia's worst
offshore-oil disaster.

3. A Mineral Management Service
review of blowouts between 1992 and 2006 concluded that "most blowouts
occurred during the drilling of wells in water depths of less than 500
ft." The agency found one blowout per 362 wells drilled in 500 feet of
water or less and just one blowout per 523 wells drilled in deeper
waters. The
same report also found that 56 percent of all blowouts -- whether in deep
or shallow waters -- happened before the true vertical depth of the well
bore depth reached 5,000 feet. The blowout in the Deepwater Horizon drill occurred
at about 18,000 feet below
sea level.

See MMS, 2007, "Absence
of fatalities in blowouts encouraging in MMS study of OCS incidents

4. In May, 2010, Elmer Danenberger,
a 38-year veteran of the Minerals Management Service, testified before
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that MMS data indicate
"well control performance for deepwater drilling was significantly
than for shallow water operations."

See Danenberger, 2010, "Congressional

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.

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