Pause of Risky Deepwater Drilling Needed for Safety
The federal moratorium announced today pauses risky deepwater drilling operations until safety and environmental safeguards can be assessed as oil still hemorrhages into the Gulf and onto states’ coasts after the tragic Deepwater Horizon explosion, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“Halting risky deepwater drilling until we address the current disaster in the Gulf and enact measures to reduce the chance of another massive spill is a sensible step,” said Derb Carter, senior attorney and Carolinas director of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Until the oil companies demonstrate the ability to prevent a deepwater blowout and clean up a massive oil spill, the moratorium should stay in place.”
After years of oil and gas companies skirting safety and environmental regulations leading up to the current oil disaster, a temporary pause by the government is necessary to bring oil companies back into compliance with existing regulations and to consider development of new regulations and standards which may be needed to safeguard workers and the environment as well as other industries and wildlife throughout the Gulf Coast.
“The government has ample cause to pause risky deepwater drilling until safety and environmental protection is assured following the tragic explosion, the unstopped oil spill, and resulting damage to fishing and tourism industries, communities, and wildlife along the whole Gulf Coast,” said Catherine Wannamaker, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who defended the initial moratorium in federal court on behalf of several environmental groups. “To continue deepwater drilling in the Gulf with no adequate plans to prevent and control blowouts, or no ability to clean up massive oil spills would be irresponsible to all who depend on a healthy Gulf Coast now and for future generations.”
In June, Louisiana supported oil industry groups challenging the initial six-month federal moratorium on new deepwater drilling operations which affected less than one percent of the total wells in the Gulf of Mexico. Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and the Southern Environmental Law Center intervened to support the legal defense of the drilling moratorium.
According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the Gulf Coast tourism industry is worth approximately $20 billion per year and Gulf Coast fish, shellfish, shrimp and oysters have a value of about $1 billion per year.