Just as clean, renewable energy is lifting off and the impacts of climate disruption become ever more visible, fossil energy production is becoming dramatically more extreme. But extreme fossil energy production is exactly what we don’t need.
What’s at Stake
While fallout continues from BP’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government is prepared to let another oil giant into deepwaters with an inadequate safety plan. Earthjustice is suing to stop the dangerous drilling from going forward.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the worst environmental disasters in history—and the impacts are still being felt. One could plausibly expect that in the wake of such a catastrophe, the government would do a painstaking job of ensuring that future oil activities in the region are done safely. Unfortunately, it isn’t so.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved a deeply flawed plan from Shell Oil to drill in the same exact deepwaters as BP, where high water pressures are a major blowout risk. Industry documents put the odds of a spill at 1-in-43, far higher than the 1-in-4000 calculation upon which the government’s approval was based. Additionally, Shell plans to use the same technology that failed at BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling site—the only difference is that a spill at the Shell site could yield a spill six times greater than the BP disaster.
On behalf of community organizations that are still working to clean up the Gulf after the DP disaster, Earthjustice sued the government to stop this dangerous project from moving forward.
As I write this, ships are being prepared to steam northward from several ports to begin poking holes in the floor of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in search of oil.
Thanks to legal action by Earthjustice over the last few years, and thanks also to a one-year time-out called in the wake of the catastrophic blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the drilling has been forestalled, but it could finally begin this July. Legal challenges are still pending, but the odds seem long against them.
That said, this is closer to the beginning of this struggle than to its end.
On backing down, backing away, and backing into a corner . . .
President Obama’s statement, “I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago,” was one the more awkward sentences in his State of the Union speech, and not just syntactically.
Apparently, Shell Oil and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) live in a land of make believe. Thankfully, Earthjustice makes its abode in a place called reality.