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<Update: AP reports that Interior Sec. Ken Salazar has halted the issuance of new offshore oil drilling leases nationwide until at least the end of the month. Here's how the New York Times sees Salazar's action playing out with reard to Shell Oil's plans to drill this summer in the Arctic.>

The Obama administration has been hinting for days that it might reverse course on its support for offshore oil drilling—and today it took the first real step in that direction. Shaken by the uncontrolled Gulf oil spill, the Interior Department has suspended plans for an oil and gas lease sale off the Virginia coastline.

Greenwire reports:

The move comes as the department seeks answers from investigations into the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig and the ongoing leak of hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil every day into the Gulf.

All too aware of the oil spill disaster playing out in the Gulf, Native Alaskans are in court today, determined to keep the same thing from happening in Arctic waters they call home.

Timing is critical, as Shell Oil is poised to start drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as early as July. Represented by Earthjustice, the 13 Native Alaskan and conservation groups are hoping to convince a federal court that the federal government illegally granted Shell a permit to drill.

Dear President,

It must be tough trying to keep up with all that's being written about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The words are gushing out faster than those 210,000 gallons of oil. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but like British Petroleum and the rest of the oil industry, no one seems to have a solution for fixing the leak or ending our nation's addiction to oil.

But, if you want some crystal clear advice on how to lead the nation out of this mess, there's one writer out there who really nailed it. So, here's our advice—read Thomas Friedman's column in the New York Times. His first words are these:

There is only one meaningful response to the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that is for America to stop messing around when it comes to designing its energy and environmental future. The only meaningful response to this man-made disaster is a man-made energy bill that would finally put in place an American clean-energy infrastructure that would set our country on a real, long-term path to ending our addiction to oil.

That's just a tease of what Tom has to say. He makes so much sense that national television news programs have been interviewing him today. Check it out, Mr. President. And while you are at it, you might want to check out what the Earthjustice president has to say about this issue.

<Update: The Washington Post also is reporting on today's attempt to contain the spill.>

<Update: AP reports that the containment vessel has arrived at the scene of the spill.>

In just a few hours, a giant dome—even now being hauled by boat through oil-thick Gulf of Mexico waters—will be in position and ready to lower onto the gushing British Petroleum oil well leak. If it works, the well's 200,000+ gallons will be contained, enabling BP to siphon it into ships.

There is nothing sure about this. It's stricly experimental. Never been tried before. And BP officials are openly crossing their fingers. After failing for two weeks to even slow down the gusher, this is their best hope. If it fails, many more weeks of unrestrained oil flow will pour into gulf waters, adding to a vast, menacing area of oil bigger than Puerto Rico.

Anxious residents of four gulf coast states aren't counting on something miraculous from this dome procedure—they are too busy preparing for what's already spilled and headed their way. BP doesn't have a solution for oil churned by wind and waves into a frothy chocolately mousse that threatens to destroy livelihoods and wildlife linked to the sea.

<Update: There's only one cure for man-made oil spills, says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: man-made legislation that ends our dependence on oil.>

One of three leaks from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been capped, according to news reports, but there is no apparent slowdown in escaping oil, and that report came with a warning that the spill could increase exponentially if containment measures fail.

Oil is flooding from the sea floor at an estimated 210,000 gallons daily since an oil rig exploded two weeks ago at a British Petroleum offshore drilling site. Yesterday, after a meeting with BP executives, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said they warned him that oil flow could grow to as much as 2 million gallons a day. BP is hoping to put an experimental dome over the leak, a mile below the ocean surface, this week.

Meanwhile, four coastal states were bracing to protect themselves against the main body of oil, amid predictions that it will start coming ashore within three days. <Update: Frantic efforts are being made to protect fragile coastal areas teeming with wildlife and directly in the path of the oil spill.>

<Update: Check out the Gulf Restoration Network website for local reports on the oil spill.>

One of my favorite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, has a short, sweet meditation on the meaning of BP's huge oil spill in the Gulf. It's worth a full read. I don't always agree with Mr. Sullivan, but I always admire his thoughtful attempt to navigate through the issues of our time. His post asks the big questions. It ends:

These wounds, these temperatures, these destructive weather patterns are symptoms of a planet in distress. At some point, those of us who see our relationship to the natural world as something more than mere economics—as something sacred—need to face up to the fact that our civilization is not taking this sacredness seriously enough. When do we ask ourselves: by what right do humans believe we can despoil the earth for every other species with impunity? By what self-love have we granted ourselves not just dominion over the earth but wanton exploitation of its every treasure?

Is there no point at which we can say: this is enough? 

At what point indeed?

It's been a long time coming, but they're finally here: the EPA announced today plans to set the first ever federal safeguards for coal ash, one of America's most dangerous wastes. But what they really did was announce two plans: one good and one bad. The agency will accept public comment on both plans and then decide which to pursue.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.