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The latest casualty of the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill is... offshore oil drilling. At least in California. The state's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, today withdrew his own proposal to resume oil drilling off California. Swayed by images of the gulf spill, Schwarzenneger said:

"I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fisherman out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California, and this is why I am withdrawing my support."

One can only hope that President Barack Obama sees the same images in the same light and reverses his support of renewed offshore drilling—especially in fragile areas like the Arctic Ocean, where Shell Oil is poised to sink exploratory wells as early as July 1... with Obama's blessing.

In the wake of the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Earthjustice is calling for a halt to further exploratory oil drilling off America's coasts -- especially in fragile Arctic waters. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen issued the following statement:

The tragic explosion and loss of life on the exploratory drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us that offshore oil drilling comes with continued risks to workers and the environment.

The disastrous spill of oil from an exploded Gulf of Mexico drill rig is threatening many sea creatures , among them species that Earthjustice has worked to protect for years—including Kemp's Ridley, the world's most endangered species of sea turtle—and the western Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The Ridley is among five sea turtles that live and breed in areas of the gulf being invaded, or soon to be, by the massive spill. By Monday, oil is expected to start fouling beaches in Florida where the turtles haul out to lay eggs. Earthjustice sued to protect the turtles from being incidentally captured by longline fishing that targets other species. Last year, in response, the National marine Fisheries Service ordered a 6-month emergency closure on longline fishing.

Oil has already spread across areas of the Gulf where endangered western Atlantic bluefin tuna breed at this time of year. As with the turtles, Earthjustice has been trying to protect the tuna from longline fishing. Bluefin tuna spawn in the same gulf waters fished by longline vessels. Because spawning bluefin are highly stressed, most hooked bluefin die even if they are released.
 

(Earthjustice Media Director John McManus remembers what it was like covering the Exxon Valdez oil spill as a CNN journalist)

The oil now washing up on the Gulf Coast reminds me of the last big oil spill America lived through, the Exxon Valdez spill 21 years ago.

On March 24, 1989 a supertanker that had just topped with oil left the port of Valdez and crashed into a submerged rock reef in Alaska's Prince Williams Sound. Eleven million gallons of north slope crude oil gushed from the side of the ship into the Sound.

Americans can breathe a sigh of relief today, thanks to new rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency that will reduce toxic air pollution in communities across the country. The rules come three years after Earthjustice and others stopped the Bush administration from deregulating toxic emissions from industrial boilers, incinerators, and process heaters.

<Update: By Monday, Florida's panhandle and western beaches will be seeing the same oil spill assault that Louisiana is now enduring, authorities say. Florida officials are concerned that it may cripple its $65 billion tourism economy, environment and fishing industry.>

<Update: Louisiana's $3 billion fishing industry jeopardized by oil spill, reports Wall Street Journal.>

<Update: President Obama said he is putting on hold plans to resume offshore drilling until a full investigation of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been conducted.>

As oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill moves onto the Louisiana shoreline today, pressure is building against President Obama's plan to expand oil drilling off the shores of America. <Update: The drumbeat of political opposition to offshore drilling is getting louder, reports The Atlantic.>

USA Today was blunt in its lead headline: "Should oil spill end Obama's offshore oil drilling plan?"

Meanwhile, a local citizens action group, Gulf Restoration Network, was on the scene in Louisiana reporting on the sights, smell and damage already occurring along environmentally sensitive shorelines. The group is organizing an outpouring of volunteers offering to help clean up the oil.
 

<Update: Go here for today's oil spill news.>

Oil from the Gulf of Mexico offshore drill rig explosion has just started hitting sensitive areas of the Louisiana coast, according to a locally based citizen action group, the Gulf Restoration Network. The group told Earthjustice that it was going out to investigate by airplane and by boat, but had no further information. Authorities hadn't expected the spill to hit land until later tonight or Friday.

Here is a link for local information, news and photos. The New York Times offers a visual depiction of areas and wildlife most endangered by the spill. The Los Angeles Times put together this snapshot of what's at stake. Earthjustice will provide a daily, updated report on the spill as events progress.

Today, after disclosing that the spill was five times worse than previously reported, the federal government and state of Louisiana both made crisis declarations. The White House dispatched top officials from the Homeland Security Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department to the Gulf Coast, while Louisiana's governor declared a state of emergency.
 

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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.