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For Immediate Release, May 5, 2011

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 632-5308

U.S. House of Representatives Approves Dangerous Measure Expanding Offshore Drilling

WASHINGTON— The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a bill aimed at expanding offshore oil and gas drilling, even though many of the fundamental reforms needed in the wake of the oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico have yet to be implemented. House Bill 1230, sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings (R.-Wash.), requires Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to lease new areas for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the eastern coast of the United States. It forces the government to reverse its decision to cancel the lease sale in the Atlantic, off the coast of Virginia. The bill also insulates the lease sales from new environmental review that can, and should, take into account the 2010 oil spill.

“Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster is still washing ashore, and yet members of Congress want to push blindly ahead with more drilling,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Ignoring the lessons of the BP disaster and simply returning to business as usual is a reckless, dangerous path.”

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  • Stop using woefully out-of-date information to determine and address the dangers of offshore drilling, especially in light of the massive BP oil spill.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.

The Gulf oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, spilling more than 200 million gallons of oil and other toxic pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of birds, sea turtles, dolphins and other wildlife were killed.
“The BP disaster exposed a lax regulatory system that prized oil-company profits over people and the environment,” Sakashita said. “The bill approved by the House today does nothing to address those dangers and instead opens our coastal waters to the prospect of another catastrophic spill.”

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