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Although the recent elections signal a return to more inhospitable times for environmental protection in Congress, we are sustained by two constants: the power of the law and the dedication of our supporters.

The law provides leverage for progress even when political winds shift, and our steadfast supporters have shown time and again that they trust in our ability to wield it for positive change, regardless of the prevailing politics.

And here's yet another clue to the question of what happened to all that oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's blown well.

A Canadian toxicologist reports that dispersants did break up the oil and make it less visible—but in doing so, the oil was allowed to contaminate a volume of water up to 1,000 times greater than if the oil was left alone. As a result, the oil, along with the dispersant, was made much more readily available to living organisms, including micro-organisms and wiildlife.

There is no reason to beat around the bush: Tuesday's election results are a setback in our progress towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable planet.

At a time when the world desperately needs leadership from the United States, voters have installed in the House of Representatives those who have vowed to do all they can to obstruct progress in cleaning up dirty coal-burning power plants, reducing health-destroying and climate-disrupting pollution, and protecting wild places and wildlife.

Following the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the idea of continuing deep water drilling sounded more than dubious. But, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar apparently found the idea perfectly sensible when he lifted the deep water drilling moratorium earlier this month, just weeks after the gushing BP well was finally shut down.

Here's the latest on the Obama administration's approach to oil drilling in the Arctic seas.

In July, a court agreed with Earthjustice lawyers that a hastily approved federal oil development plan for the Chukchi Sea is illegal. The court said the Interior Department simply ignored gaps in scientific data about the natural areas and wildlife about to be disturbed by drilling rigs without making any attempt to determine whether the missing information might be important or could be obtained from other sources.

Interior and its Minerals Management Service (renamed to escape the stigma of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and now called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) readily admit that they don't know much about almost every species of sea bird, migratory water fowl, seals and whales, not to mention polar bears, that would be affected by oil and gas development in the Chukchi.

Rather than take the hint, however, Interior now takes the position that oil drilling should go forward anyway because they would have approved it regardless of the scientific data. Interior Sec. Salazar's recent directive that the department's decisions be based on the best science available, rather than political pressure, seems not to have reached BOEMRE's Alaska office. We'll help get the word to them.
 

Today, six months from the day the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded 42 miles off the Louisiana shore, much is still unknown about the effects of the nation's biggest oil spill, which gushed for 95 continuous days and spilled nearly 200 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. (See a visual timeline of the oil spill.)

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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.