Australian oil rig blowout creates environmental catastrophe

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Defenders of Wildlife urges Congress to oppose U.S. offshore drilling

(10/28/2009) -

WASHINGTON (Oct. 28, 2009) – The impacts of the nine-week West Timor oil rig blowout are creating an environmental catastrophe for wildlife and ocean ecosystems, Defenders of Wildlife said today. In August, the West Atlas/Montara offshore drilling rig, widely touted as a “safe, modern” operation, suffered what the rig’s operators termed a “loss of well control.” Despite three attempts to stop the resulting massive oil spill, oil continues to leak into the surrounding ocean.

“A global-scale environmental catastrophe so large that it is visible from space is unfolding in one of earth’s last marine wilderness areas,” said Richard Charter, government relations consultant with Defenders of Wildlife. “It is time for the dithering, excuses, and failed response efforts to end and for the international community to get the full story on how and why this spill has been allowed to continue for so long. This persistent mess is too big and too damaging to hide any longer.”

Estimates of the volume of oil spilled since the August 21 Australian blowout have now expanded as much as five-fold, to more than 9.7 million gallons, while the oil slick has covered several thousand square miles of ocean waters. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is now discussing allowing essentially the same kind of “environmentally-responsible” offshore drilling to go forward off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida’s Gulf Coast and Panhandle beaches.

“If anything like the Australian blowout ever takes place off of the Southeast U.S. beaches or in Florida waters, the economic and environmental consequences will last for decades,” Charter emphasized.

Worldwide, conservation interests have become increasingly concerned as satellite images have shown that the mega-spill has spread from Australia’s whale and sea-turtle rich Kimberley Coast into distant Indonesian waters as well. Three prior attempts to stop the flow of oil have failed, and a fourth attempt this week had to be postponed due to equipment failure.

View photos showing some of the preliminary assessment of wildlife impacts from the oil spill

Satellite imagery of the spill from Skytruth.org
More satellite imagery of the spill

Learn more about the impacts of offshore drilling on ocean wildlife and habitat, coastal economies, and the climate

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

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Contact(s):

Richard Charter, 707-875-2345

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