Five Year Anniversary of BP Oil Disaster Highlights Risks of Expanding Offshore Drilling into New Areas
Press Release Date: April 20, 2015
Location: Washington, D.C.
Today marks the five-year anniversary of the worst environmental disaster in United States history. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster claimed the lives of 11 workers and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking havoc on communities, economies, fisheries and wildlife.
Since the spill, numerous studies have found that the oil, and the dispersants used to clean it up, has had detrimental effects on birds, dolphins, fish and other species.
Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s vice president for the U.S., marked the occasion with the following statement:
“It has been five years since the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, yet offshore drilling is still not safe. Offshore drilling continues to plague the Gulf with deaths, injuries, explosions and spills.
We are only now beginning to understand the true effects of the BP oil disaster. We have seen sea turtles wash up on our beaches. We know that the oil has damaged the hearts of fish like the valuable Bluefin tuna and caused illnesses in dolphins. Many of these impacts equaled death for these animals, which may lead to effects on populations that were already struggling from overfishing. While the jury is literally still out on the full extent of the impacts, we do know that BP has not yet come close to making Americans whole and recovering the Gulf to its pre-spill conditions.
Today’s anniversary is a stark reminder that when we drill, we spill. Yet Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation to better regulate this dirty and dangerous industry. The myth that more energy produced at home means lower gas prices is simply untrue – oil is sold on the world market, and the majority of what we produce at home is shipped overseas.
Instead, we have seen a constant push to expand our drilling efforts. In fact, the Obama administration is currently considering opening up the East Coast to offshore drilling for the first time in U.S. history. The federal government is also planning to authorize new drilling in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, the worst possible place we could allow drilling given its remoteness, extended darkness and icy conditions. There is no good reason to sell more leases in the Arctic Ocean, where companies such as Shell have proven so clearly that drilling can’t be done safely.
Drilling in the Atlantic could destroy coastal communities, economies, fish and marine mammals for decades to come. It would lead to a coastline scattered with oil and gas rigs, and industrialization in coastal communities. Commercial fishing, tourism and recreation would suffer from routine leaks as well as the looming risk of a Deepwater Horizon-like oil disaster along the East Coast.
Even the exploration itself is extremely dangerous. The Obama administration is currently reviewing applications to use seismic airguns that use repeated dynamite-like blasts to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. This is being permitted in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida, in some cases in areas not even being considered for offshore drilling. Based on the government’s own estimates, seismic blasting in the Atlantic could harm fish populations while injuring as many as 138,000 marine mammals like whales and dolphins, killing some of them, and disturbing the vital activities of as many as 13.5 million more. To date, 50 coastal communities have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing. In addition, 65 Members of Congress, over 400 elected officials, over 160 conservation and animal welfare organizations, as well as the Billfish Foundation, the International Game Fish Association, the Southeastern Fisheries Association and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, have all publically opposed offshore oil exploration and/or development.”
In March, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama detailing the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, stating that “the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which approximately only 500 remain.
Oceana’s own analysis finds that offshore wind would produce twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy as offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, without the risk of a catastrophic spill.