The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351

Senate Rejects Massive Expansion of Dangerous Offshore Drilling


The U.S. Senate today rejected a bill that would have mandated a dramatic expansion of dangerous offshore oil drilling and weakened already-inadequate environmental-review requirements. Senate Bill 953, offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would have required new offshore oil-drilling lease sales in the Arctic, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and limited the time for federal environmental review of drilling permits.

"Oil and other toxic chemicals from the Gulf disaster are still washing ashore, and yet some in Congress seem eager to turn a blind eye to that catastrophe and return to business as usual," said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Thankfully, today the Senate rejected that view."

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama recently announced that he's fast-tracking oil development in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Atlantic coast and in some of Alaska's most pristine wilderness.

Among his proposals are accelerating environmental-impact reviews for drilling off parts of the Atlantic coast that had been on hold until 2018; considering additional exploration and leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean that had been halted after the BP spill; and additional incentives to oil companies if they drill more quickly on existing leases.

"This rush to drill by Republicans and now the Obama administration ignores the dangers that were laid bare by the unprecedented disaster in the Gulf," said Snape. "These projects won't drive down gas prices at the pump. Instead, they'll jeopardize clean oceans and shorelines as well as the people and wildlife that depend on them."

The Center recently released a report calling for a halt to new offshore drilling because a series of crucial reforms meant to protect people, wildlife and the environment has yet to be enacted.

Among the key steps still needed:

  • Close the loophole that has allowed hundreds of offshore drilling projects to evade in-depth reviews of their effects on the environment.
  • Stop using woefully out-of-date information to determine and address the dangers of offshore drilling, especially in light of the massive BP oil spill.
  • Comply with longstanding laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act designed to protect vulnerable species from industrial-scale drilling operations.
  • Lift the liability cap for companies responsible for oil spills and require companies to be fully accountable for damage.
  • Impose a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Arctic, where an oil spill would devastate fragile ecosystems and be nearly impossible to clean up.

"If we learned anything from the BP disaster, it's that our regulatory system prioritized the desires of Big Oil and profit over people and the environment," Snape said. "We need the Senate and President Obama to reverse that equation and halt new offshore drilling."

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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