New Study Uncovers Long Term, Unanticipated Damage from Oil Spills

NRDC Calls for Strengthening Pollution Controls and Protecting Sensitive Areas from Offshore Oil Development

Statement by Lisa Speer, NRDC Ocean Protection Initiative

NEW YORK (December 18, 2003) - An alarming new study appearing in tomorrow's issue of Science found that methods scientists use to assess the impact of oil spills vastly underestimate long-term damage to wildlife and the marine environment. The study concluded that the various regulations addressing ocean oil spills must be strengthened. The need for stronger controls is underscored by the fact that, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, nearly 11 million gallons of oil -- the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill -- runs off our streets and driveways into U.S. waters every eight months.

Below is a statement by Lisa Speer, co-director of the Ocean Protection Initiative at NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council):

"This new study found that damage from oil spills to wildlife and the environment is even worse than we thought. Specifically, it found that oil persists far longer and is harmful at far lower concentrations than what scientists previously assumed. That means we have to strengthen our current regulations governing water quality.

"In light of these new findings, Congress needs to revisit some of its recent actions. For example, the study provides further evidence that the proposed energy bill's incentives for oil development in sensitive areas off the Alaskan coast are misguided and should be removed. Likewise, Congress should drop a provision in the omnibus spending bill that would lift a moratorium protecting Alaska's wildlife-rich Bristol Bay from oil development."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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