Posted on 01 December 2010.
In a long-awaited move, the Obama administration today announced that it will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan. This is a welcome reversal of an announcement less March – made less than a month before the disastrous Deepwater Horizon blowout – that the administration had approved new offshore drilling off of Virginia, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and both coasts of Florida.
But not all of America’s coasts are safe from dirty and dangerous drilling operations. The five year plan still allows for the permitting process for Arctic drilling to move forward, although there will be further scientific evaluation of the operation.
Richard Charter, offshore drilling expert and senior policy advisor said, “The administration’s decisive move to restore protection of much of America’s coasts from the dangers of offshore drilling for the next five years demonstrates that it took the hard lessons of the BP Gulf oil disaster to heart. We continue to witness the devastation that drilling operations can have on our economy, coastal communities and wildlife. Prohibiting oil and gas exploration in these fragile areas is the only way to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again.
The Arctic's Chukchi Sea, courtesy USFWS
“The President now needs to apply the same lessons to the more immediate and very dangerous plans for offshore drilling in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean, where long dark winters and the absence of response infrastructure, combined with the complete lack of effective spill cleanup capabilities, would lead to catastrophic impacts.
“We are confident that further scientific studies of the impacts of drilling in the Arctic will show that the drilling ban should be extended to this region as well.”
Read the full statement here.
See the threats offshore drilling poses to the fragile Arctic environment.
Posted in Alaska, Experts, Offshore Drilling, Press Releases, Southeast, West Coast
Posted on 25 October 2010.
In a refreshing change of pace, last week brought good news to the climate front! The Department of the Interior announced it had chosen the University of Arizona to lead a newly established Climate Science Center (CSC), the fourth of eight planned regional CSCs. Defenders of Wildlife was instrumental in making this a reality, working with lawmakers to pass legislation that established the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and helping to secure funding for the initiative.
The Climate Science Center is a critical component of our nation’s efforts to understand and plan for the impacts of climate change on wildlife and ecosystems. Along with the Dept. of the Interior and a science advisory board, the Center will work to develop a national strategy to assist fish, wildlife and plants in becoming more resilient to the impacts of climate change, adapting to life in a warming world.
After the Interior’s announcement, U.S. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, a friend of Defenders who helped lead the project, said, “This is a huge honor and a well-deserved recognition of the world-class talent we have at the University of Arizona. Climate research is some of the most important scientific work going on today, and this will be a huge economic and intellectual engine for the entire Southern Arizona community for years to come.”
The Southwest Climate Center will be led by another Defenders’ friend, Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, the co-director of the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment and an international authority on climate change. The consortium will also comprise the University of California, Davis; University of California, Los Angeles; Desert Research Institute, Reno; University of Colorado, Boulder; and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.
Read about the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center.
Learn more about the impacts of climate change on wildlife and habitats.
Posted in Climate Change, Features, Southwest, Success Stories
Posted on 12 October 2010.
Oiled Pelican (Copyright AP / Charlie Riedel)
The Obama administration today lifted its moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, more than a month before the scheduled end date. The administration has not adequately addressed failures to comply with environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act.
Richard Charter, offshore drilling expert and senior policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife said, “It is premature to lift the deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf. Although the increased safety and spill response requirements imposed by Interior Secretary Salazar are important, there are still no new measures in place to protect species such as endangered sea turtles and sperm whales, and imperiled bluefin tuna.”
“Before Secretary Salazar approves any applications to resume drilling, potentially opening the Gulf up to future environmental disasters, he must ensure that the potential impacts on wildlife have been fully evaluated and strong measures are in place to protect them.”
“Although the increased safety and spill response requirements imposed by Interior Secretary Salazar are important, there are still no new measures in place to protect species such as endangered sea turtles and sperm whales, and imperiled bluefin tuna.”
“The potential resumption of deepwater drilling in the Gulf makes it increasingly critical for Congress to pass legislation that ensures safer operations in any water depth, provides better spill response, lifts the grossly inadequate liability cap currently in place and secures funding for restoration efforts in the Gulf. The Obama administration should push the Senate to act and remain steadfast in its efforts to ensure that there will be no repeats of last summer’s disaster in the Gulf.”
Read more about the lifting of the moratorium.
Ask your Senators to pass comprehensive legislation to promote clean energy.
Posted in Experts, Features, Offshore Drilling, Press Releases, Southeast
Posted on 17 August 2010.
During inspection, Gulf seafood undergoes an initial sniff test, photo courtesy of NOAA
Yesterday marked the first day of white shrimp season in Louisiane since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, but the normal rush and crowd of fishing boats was absent from Gulf waters. New York Times reports the worries of shrimp industry officials about consumer confidence that underlies the whole network of fishermen, ice makers, processors and distributors that brings more than $100 million to the state each year.
Federal officials have said the shrimp is safe to eat. But the Washington Post reports that some fishermen and their families worried that the government’s testing was inadequate — and that how it could affect the industry should any diners wound up with a plate of oil-tainted seafood.
Scientists are particularly concerned with the effect of the spill on eggs and larvae of Gulf creatures such as crabs. Fortunately, a Smithsonian Institution’s collection of life in the Gulf of Mexico prior to the spill may provide some answers to how the creatures will fare. Read NPR’s story about the fortuitous catalogue of un-oiled life in the Gulf.
Meanwhile, the Interior Department announced it would restrict the use of exemptions of environmental reviews for deepwater drilling operations in Gulf waters, allowing them only in instances of “limited environmental risk.” Offshore drilling expert and Defenders senior policy advisor Richard Charter told the Times-Picayune, “It looks like the secretary is trying not to be rushed back into a business-as-usual mode.” And while “nobody thinks Deepwater Horizon is going to shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico,” there is an expectation that the administration is going to remedy the track record of government negligence by creating a new system of more rigorous safeguards.
Posted in Experts, Features, In the News, Offshore Drilling, Southeast
Posted on 22 July 2010.
Chukchi Sea, courtesy of FWS
A federal court Wednesday afternoon ordered all activities under Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea off the north coast of Alaska halted pending further environmental review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement, and Regulation, formerly the Minerals Management Service.
The court determined that the agency failed to meet its obligation under the law to analyze the importance of missing basic scientific information about the Chukchi Sea and verify whether it could obtain the information prior to offering leases in the sea. The court also faulted the agency for failing to analyze the potential impacts of possible natural gas development from the lease sale. In light of today’s decision, Secretary Salazar should fundamentally reexamine the decision to offer leases in the Chukchi Sea.
Defenders’ executive vice president Jamie Rappaport Clark said, “This decision halting new drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea represents a great opportunity for the Obama administration to take a new look at the risks of offshore drilling to our oceans, our coasts and marine wildlife. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf has demonstrated clearly just how risky offshore oil drilling can be, and the risks in the remote and wild Arctic Ocean are simply too great to take.”
Read the full release to learn more.
Posted in Features, Offshore Drilling, Press Releases, Southeast
Posted on 27 May 2010.
President Obama is expected to announce today that offshore oil drilling in the Arctic will be postponed for one year, and planned lease sales off the coast of Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico have been cancelled. New deepwater offshore permits will reportedly be put on hold for six months. However, shallow water permits will reportedly be allowed to proceed.
Defenders of Wildlife executive vice president Jamie Rappaport Clark said, “Safeguarding the Arctic Ocean for another year from dirty, damaging oil drilling is absolutely the right thing to do. We thank President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar for their leadership and for taking this important step. Any spill in the Arctic would have devastating consequences for the region’s fragile wildlife and ecosystems, and there is no technology in existence that could clean up a spill in the area’s broken sea ice and frigid waters. We’re relieved that Arctic drilling will not go forward this summer, and we hope that ultimately these leases will be permanently cancelled. Read the full story
Posted in Commentary, Offshore Drilling, Southeast