One year ago, an explosion aboard the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig claimed the lives of 11 workers and initiated the worst oil disaster the U.S. has ever seen. Thousands of animals in the Gulf of Mexico were killed, many of which were endangered or threatened already, and oil and toxic dispersants continue to impact coastal communities and natural habitats. But despite recommendations from the Presidential Oil Spill Commission, Congress has yet to pass legislation that ensures safer operations in any water depth, provides better spill response, lifts the existing liability cap or secures funding for restoration efforts in the Gulf.
In an ironic sense of timing, just last week, the House Natural Resources Committee passed three bills introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings that mandate the acceleration of the offshore drilling permitting process and open up new areas to oil and gas drilling, including offshore along the coasts of California, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Florida and in the Arctic Ocean.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders’ executive vice president who traveled to the Gulf last year to bear witness to the unfolding tragedy said, “An entire year has gone by since the monumental economic and environmental disaster began in the Gulf of Mexico – an entire year of lost opportunity for Congressional action. Instead of enacting any laws that would prevent the same thing from happening tomorrow, some members of Congress are actually pushing through legislation that opens virtually all of America’s coastline to a similar crisis.
“What’s wrong with this picture? This backwards response is a colossal failure – for the Gulf communities struggling to get back on their feet, for the wildlife and natural habitats that will feel the harm of oil and toxic dispersants for years to come, and for the American people who expect our government to protect our country’s natural treasures.”
“What’s wrong with this picture? This backwards response is a colossal failure – for the Gulf communities struggling to get back on their feet, for the wildlife and natural habitats that will feel the harm of oil and toxic dispersants for years to come, and for the American people who expect our government to protect our country’s natural treasures. Congress can and should do better.
“Instead of rushing to open more of our sensitive waters to drilling, we must first fix what went wrong in the Gulf. Congress needs to take action to secure not only the Gulf but all of our coastlines from a future oil disaster. This means first ensuring that the risky offshore industry operates with meaningful measures to protect worker safety and prevent future oil spill disasters, and bears full financial liability for its mistakes. It means taking important steps to move our country away from the dirty and dangerous fuels that got us into this mess in the first place and usher us toward a responsible, clean energy future.
“It’s time for Congress to stop doing the bidding of Big Oil and start looking after the interests of Gulf citizens and the American people. In fact, it’s a year overdue.”