Posts tagged: oceans

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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.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
27 May 2010, 8:11 AM
President gives reprieve from exposing Arctic to oil spill potential

Over the last month, while oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico has poisoned thousands of square miles of waters, coasts, fish and wildlife, there has not been much occasion for celebration. Today, there is finally some good news.

The Obama administration's announcement to pause plans by the Shell Oil Company to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in America's Arctic Ocean means these pristine, fragile ocean waters will remain protected for now. Endangered and threatened bowhead whales, polar bears, seals and other wildlife will survive. The Native communities that rely on the bounty of the Arctic Ocean will not face the threat of Shell's operations. No oil will be spilled by Shell and no catastrophic disaster like the one currently happening in the Gulf of Mexico will occur.

This is a victory driven by all of you who saw what was happening in the Gulf and took action to make sure it didn't happen in the Arctic. Your calls and emails made a difference.

7 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
26 May 2010, 4:28 PM
Draw a permanent line in the sand, Mr. President—end our oil addiction
The extent of the BP oil spill on May 25, 2010.

So, President Obama—under withering criticism from all sides and faced with what may be the worst environmental tragedy in U.S. history—has hit the pause button on further offshore oil exploration, including the Arctic Ocean.

This is great, but only very temporary, news. And it's the least and most obvious thing the president could do.

He could do no less in the face of so much evidence pouring out of the Gulf of Mexico's wounded sea floor, flooding out of investigations into how we regulate the oil industry, coming out of opinion polls that show major shifts in how the Amercan public views this president's actions so far.

Here's what else this president could do. When he comes to Louisiana on Friday to view scenes of mounting environmental destruction, President Obama should go to the same oil-soaked beach where British Petroleum's head guy stood a few days ago. The corpses of sea life have greatly mounted since Tony Hayward stood there and vowed to "clean up every drop of oil" his company has spilled.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
25 May 2010, 7:28 AM
New TV ads to run in D.C. target Obama and need for Arctic drilling pause

We're taking our fight against plans by Shell Oil to drill in America's Arctic Ocean this July to the television airwaves in Washington, D.C. The 30-second spot will run beginning tomorrow nationally on CNN. It will also run on MSNBC and during the Daily Show and the Colbert Report in the D.C. region. 

You can see the ad here or watch it on the next page.

We're very proud to have worked with Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Federation, National Wildife Federation, The Wilderness Society, and National Audubon Society to create this ad. It comes on the heels of a very succesful ad campaign last week in the Washington Post and the New York Times. We heard that people flooded the White House switchboard with telephone calls asking for a time out on Arctic drilling, so the message is certainly being delivered. Thank you to those who took the time to call the White House!

2 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
24 May 2010, 2:55 PM
Polls, media show distaste for how spill is being handled

Most Americans (51 percent) disapprove of how President Obama is handling the Gulf oil spill, according to a just-released CNN poll, but that's nothing compared to how they feel British Petroleum has done (76 percent disapproval).

You have to wonder, though, whether the president would fare as well if the poll was taken now, after a weekend of media attacks on the administration for not taking a stronger leadership role in the Gulf spill. The critical drumbeat, led by Democratic strategist James Carville, challenged Obama for letting BP dictate clean-up efforts. Interior Sec. Ken Salazar promised to keep the government's "boot on the neck" of BP, but apparently BP wasn't cowed, because it defied EPA's demand that it use a less-toxic form of chemical dispersant. Today, EPA ordered BP to cut back on using the dispersants. Will BP ignore that order as well?

<Update: The EPA is launching an investigation into BP's refusal to follow last week's directive to use less-toxic dispersants.>

<Update: Today, as BP's CEO walked an oil-soaked Gulf coast beach—and promised to "clean up every drop of oil," the Coast Guard's admiral in charge said he believed the government should let BP stay in charge. The government isn't qualified to clean this spill up, he emphasized.>

And then there's the matter of the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that Salazar is drastically reorganizing because of its too-cozy relationship with the oil industry. The New Yorker skewers the administration on two critical points:

5 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
20 May 2010, 7:53 AM
The U.S. and governments worldwide must end marriage to oil industry
Salazar, in New Orleans before Gulf spill, announces expedited oil leasing

<Update: The EPA is finally hearing, and acting on, concerns about toxic dispersants used by BP in breaking up its Gulf oil spill. EPA today ordered BP to choose a less-harmful form of dispersant. More than 600,000 gallons have been sprayed by BP to date.>

<Update: BP said today it is collecting 5,000 barrels of oil each day from its Gulf spill—equaling the total amount BP has claimed is leaking—and yet, oil continues to gush from the well. Starting tonight, BP said it will start providing a live video feed from the leaking well at this web site.>

Great question to Interior Sec. Ken Salazar this morning on ABC TV: why can't we get exact numbers for how much oil is spilling from the Gulf of Mexico oil well?

Answer: We're trying, and will start looking beyond what British Petroleum tells us.

Conclusion: No one knows, so whose numbers are we to trust—the 5,000 barrels per day guesstimated by BP, and which the government has endorsed? Or, maybe those of independent scientists who think the spill is 10 or 12 times bigger? Today, for the first time, Salazar promised to do some independent surveying.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
19 May 2010, 3:34 PM
Salazar divides MMS into three bureaus
Heavy oil now in coastal marshes. Courtesy National Geographic

Exposed by the Gulf oil spill disaster as a conflict-ridden friend of oil companies it was supposed to regulate, the federal Minerals Management Service died today—dismantled by Interior Sec. Ken Salazar, who's obviously feeling the heat of eight congressional hearings and an angry president.

The MMS, corrupted by the sum of its dual roles to collect royalties from oil companies it oversees, was split into three separate agencies: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Unfortunately, the split comes too late for the Gulf of Mexico, which is reeling from millions of gallons of oil loosed into it by a British Petroleum offshore drilling scheme that MMS approved on assurances from BP that the chances of a big spill were insignificant and that, at any rate, BP could handle anything that happened.

It still isn't too late for the Arctic Ocean, however, whose sensitive offshore waters are to be drilled this summer by Shell Oil under an inadequate plan also approved by the MMS. At this point, only President Obama and/or Sec. Salazar can keep this from happening.

3 Comments   /  
View Jared Saylor's blog posts
19 May 2010, 12:21 PM
National ad campaign urges Obama to pause for more science on Arctic

Today, we joined a broad coaltion of groups to run full page ads in the Washington Post and the New York Times that call upon President Obama to stop drilling in the Arctic Ocean planned for this summer.

The ads are sponsored by Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Wilderness League, the World Wildlife Fund, Pacific Environment, Audubon, Oceana, and The Wilderness Society. The ads say:

2 Comments   /  
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
19 May 2010, 11:35 AM
President must step in to prevent Arctic from being next victim

Revelations flooding out of the Gulf oil spill disaster provide damning evidence about the main federal agency tasked with regulating offshore oil leases. Corrupted by its closeness to the oil industry and lax oversight from political leaders, the Minerals Management Service allowed British Petroleum to drill under risk-heavy circumstances, in waters too fragile to sustain a major spill, without an adequate plan to keep a spill from being catastrophic.

Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar is taking small steps to address the inherent conflicts of interest that have crippled the MMS mission, but much more is needed. Most immediately, decisions MMS already has made must be dealt with -- especially with regard to the Arctic Ocean.

Direct intervention from the president and the secretary of interior are needed to prevent the potential for another Gulf disaster from spreading to America's Arctic Ocean, where Shell Oil—with a plan approved by the MMS —is poised to begin drilling this summer. If you think you've heard the president say that there will be no new drilling until the cause of the Gulf blow-out is understood, think again. So far, there has been no reconsideration of the permits to drill in the Arctic this summer.

The reasons for intervention are twofold. First, marine scientists agree that drilling's impacts on the Arctic Ocean have yet to be adequately studied. The Chukchi and Beaufort seas, where the drilling would take place, are among the world's most remarkably wild places; home to many animals, fish, and the native people who depend on them. We have a responsibility to ensure that these American treasures won't be spoiled in the event of a large oil spill like the one unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

35 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
19 May 2010, 8:16 AM
Surely, the nation and its president won't be smooth-talked this time
Chukchi Sea, Arctic - Courtesy Greenpeace

It's hard to imagine—as we watch oil billowing into the Gulf of Mexico and washing into coastal wetlands—that Shell Oil is using this out-of-control scenario to bolster its case to drill this summer in offshore Arctic waters.

Shell officials promised federal officials yesterday that it has learned the lesson of the Gulf and will have on hand all the safety goodies British Petroleum didn't—items like that containment dome (that failed), dispersants (toxic), robots and divers.

These assurances from Shell might carry some weight if we hadn't already been fed the same smooth line last year by BP in documents it filed with the Minerals Management Service—the federal regulatory agency that is being radically reorganized and is the focus of a presidential commission and eight congressional hearings because of its snuggly relationship with the oil industry. The Mobile Register did some snooping in those documents and came up with this:

3 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
18 May 2010, 12:37 PM
As Gulf spill proves, drilling permits are too easily granted by MMS

Permits to sell hot dogs are harder to get than permits to drill offshore in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, an Earthjustice attorney said this morning as he filed a lawsuit challenging the federal Minerals Management Service for letting companies like British Petroleum drill without adequate safety measures.

BP, which has struggled for a month to stop a catastrophic oil spill after its Gulf deepwater drill rig exploded, was given a wave-of-the-hand waiver of legal requirements by the MMS—and then started drilling. Only after the well blew out, and BP was confronted with a worst-case scenario that it hadn't been forced to plan for, did MMS's regulatory failure become obvious.

For attorney David Guest, what's frightening—and is at the heart of the Earthjustice suit—is that there are at least 60 other permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf that received the same lenient waiver of requirements from MMS. That's five dozen time bombs that shouldn't be allowed to tick, he said.

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