Administration Acts to Protect Pacific, Atlantic and Eastern Gulf from BP-style Blow Out

WASHINGTON (December 1, 2010) -- The Obama Administration announced important protections today for waters of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Below is a statement from Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

“This action creates a no blow-out zone in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Eastern Gulf. It protects these waters and the millions of Americans who depend upon them from the kind of catastrophic spill still poisoning the Gulf seven months after the BP disaster. It puts drilling off-limits in these areas for at least the next seven years. That's the right thing to do.

“The administration, though, did not go far enough.

“Leaving the door open to exploratory drilling, and, potentially, additional lease sales starting in 2012, in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas puts precious Arctic waters and habitat at risk. We don’t yet know how to clean up oil in sea ice conditions, where oil breaks down slowly, if at all. These seas are home to one-fifth of the world’s polar bears, as well as seals, migratory birds, endangered bowhead whales, beluga whales, walrus and other marine life. Until we know how to protect this region from the risk of a blow-out and how to clean up oil spills in Arctic waters, these areas, too, need to be off-limits to drilling.

“We are troubled, also, by the prospect of seismic testing in the Atlantic. Not only is such activity a general precursor to future drilling, but the tests themselves typically rely on high-intensity sound likened to undersea warfare. It harms endangered whales and fish on a vast scale. New seismic testing -- anywhere -- should use less-harmful technology and it should not be allowed at all in areas like the Atlantic that are not even being opened to leasing.

“Healthy oceans are vital to seafood and recreational industries that pump nearly $130 billion into the U.S. economy each year and employ more than 2 million Americans. We can't put those jobs at risk for offshore drilling that the Department of Energy says won't make much difference in our oil and gas supplies for at least another 20 years. 

“And we shouldn't roll the dice on another BP-style blow out before we put the safeguards in place that we need.”