Push to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling is Risky Business | Oceana USA

Push to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling is Risky Business

New Research Underscores Threats of Expanding Offshore Drilling in U.S.



Today, the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, a leading scientific journal of studies on environmental pollution, released a special issue devoted to monitoring and evaluating the effects and repercussions of oil spills.

The original research featured in this special issue includes:

  • Discovery of a major new ecological damage pathway overlooked by damage assessment studies of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, where massive mortalities of seabirds killed by oil led to a forage fish population explosion, with ongoing ecosystem-wide consequences;
  • Results from long-term studies on environmental recovery from the 2007 Hebei Spirit oil spill in Korea indicating the need for rapid and continuous response efforts to mitigate spill effects and the necessity of persistent monitoring to properly assess long-lasting impacts to the affected ecosystem;
  • Identification of new approaches for employing advanced imaging techniques to remotely sense spilled oil;
  • A new method for fingerprinting oil with its toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds to discern oil sources in water with new spills and previous contaminants; and
  • Creation of a framework for assessing oil spill risks to marine mammals that considers length of exposure, potential for oil adhesion, inhalation, direct ingestion, and indirect ingestion, as well as the likelihood of population-level effects of an oil spill determined by population size, distribution, group size, dependency on habitat, reproduction habits, life history, diversity of diet, and susceptibility of prey to decline.

The Trump administration has opened a public comment period on a new five-year offshore drilling program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, paving the way for the expansion of drilling efforts into environmentally significant areas. The move follows an executive order issued in late April that aims to expand offshore drilling and exploration in U.S. waters. By freezing the expansion of any new marine sanctuaries and calling for a review of all marine national monuments created or expanded within the last 10 years, the executive order threatens marine protected areas designed to safeguard against the devastating impacts of oil spills. The pursuit of more dangerous offshore drilling by the Trump administration is in sharp contrast to the research findings published in this special issue.

“It can take years, if not decades, to fully understand the lasting impacts of an oil spill,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s Deputy Vice President for the Pacific. “Oil was still being found in large quantities more than a decade after the Exxon Valdez spill. But oil spills don’t just impact marine life. It has been seven years since the BP disaster wreaked havoc on the Gulf and we’re still learning about its toll on human health and coastal economies. It’s absurd that the federal government is rushing to expand dirty and dangerous drilling into areas like the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans. The Atlantic contains less than 4 percent of the nation’s total offshore oil reserves and there is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in Arctic sea ice. The studies published today reinforce how devastating, wide-ranging and unexpected the consequences of oil spills can be to marine life, coastal communities and economies.”