Center for Biological Diversity

Urge Obama to Enforce Environmental Laws in the Gulf

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You can stop Interior Secretary Ken Salazar from rubber-stamping oil drilling plans. Shortly after the BP oil spill began, the Center for Biological Diversity uncovered a loophole that allows drilling in the Gulf to evade environmental review. Finally, in response to mounting pressure, the Obama administration is seeking your comments on how to reform environmental oversight of oil drilling.

Environmental review is essential to ensure informed decision-making by analyzing the potential risks of a proposed activity. Offshore oil and gas drilling activities should require environmental review -- just like all other major federal actions. But the Gulf of Mexico was sacrificed to thousands of offshore oil platforms with no environmental reviews, no matter how shallow or deep the water and no matter how risky and untested the drilling.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved BP's drilling without an environmental review by invoking a "categorical exclusion," which is supposed to apply only to "actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment." Each year hundreds of drilling plans in the Gulf are categorically excluded from environmental review. Salazar's decision that drilling in the Gulf has no significant environmental effects was irrational before the oil spill, and now it’s completely untenable. Had the drilling plan undergone environmental review, both BP and the federal government would have had the opportunity to analyze mitigation, more environmentally friendly alternatives, and at the very least be more prepared for a spill the size of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Rather than immediately revoke this irresponsible policy in light of Deepwater Horizon, the Obama administration continued to approve deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico pursuant to the categorical exclusion policy for several months. Now, the administration has finally decided it should at least "review" the policy, and is currently soliciting public input on its use of categorical exclusions for oil drilling.
Please send a letter today demanding that risky drilling activities in the Gulf of Mexico undergo environmental review.

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Please submit comments by November 8, 2010.

Photo courtesy Flickr Commons/Deepwater Horizon Response.

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