NRDC Backs President's Call for Clean Energy Response to Oil Disaster in Gulf

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2010)  – President Obama today announced an offshore oil drilling moratorium and enhanced safeguards in response to the BP oil spill.

Following is a statement by Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Like Americans everywhere, I'm hopeful this gusher will finally be stopped. The disaster is not over. Now we must clean up the oil; restore our wetlands, beaches, fisheries and wildlife; make our Gulf Coast families whole; and fix the problems that led to this catastrophe.

“BP said its technology was safe. Now 11 men are dead. BP said its equipment would prevent a blowout. Now we have the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with more than 18 million gallons of crude oil in the ocean and on our shores. And BP said it could protect us from a worst-case spill. Now birds, fish, and other wildlife have been poisoned. Irreplaceable habitat has been despoiled. And watermen by the thousands are wondering what will become of their families, their livelihood and their way of life.

“No great nation can abide failure this costly.  We must act to change.

“We must break our addiction to oil. We must reduce our dependence on an industry that counts its profits in the billions and then asks others to pay for its mistakes. We must strengthen safeguards and oversight of an industry that has relied for too long on lax regulation and self-enforcement. And we must move toward cleaner, more sustainable sources of power and fuel.

“President Obama is right to impose a moratorium on new offshore drilling, pending the outcome of the independent commission's inquiry on the BP oil disaster. But the president needs to go further. The commission needs to find out why this happened and what must be done to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Then its recommendations must be implemented. Until that happens, there should be no new offshore drilling activity permitted - in deep water or shallow.

“The president is right to cancel planned lease sales in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia. And he is right to delay planned drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the coast of Alaska.

“The Arctic waters pose special challenges. We know so little about the ecology of these important waters that NOAA closed much of this area to fishing last summer, pending additional research. If we don’t know enough about these waters to fish in them, we certainly don’t know enough to drill in them. It will take years, not months, to answer questions about the hazards and risks offshore drilling poses to this cold-water region. Until those questions are answered, the drillers must wait. We can't afford to gamble the future of this region on the promises of an industry that has so thoroughly failed us thus far.

“The additional safeguards the president announced today are a start. Again, though, more needs to be done to address the welter of problems - inadequate regulation, uneven enforcement, a revolving door connecting regulators to the industry they're supposed to keep watch on - that led to this disaster in the Gulf.

“That's why we need a national energy strategy to break our addiction to oil and move us to cleaner, safer more sustainable sources of power and fuel. We need to put Americans back to work creating the energy-efficient cars, homes and workplaces of tomorrow. And we need to cut the carbon emissions that are warming our planet and threatening us all.

 “Comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that can accomplish this is pending in the Senate. And we call on senators - Democrats and Republicans alike - to pass this vital bill.”