In case of oil disaster amnesia, Congress passes bill fast-tracking dangerous offshore drilling

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Summary:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the first in a series of three bills that mandates the acceleration of the offshore drilling permitting process and opens up new areas to oil and gas drilling, including offshore along the coasts of California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida and in the Arctic Ocean. Votes on the remaining two bills are expected in the coming days.
  • In addition to fast-tracking the drilling permitting process this package of bills will allow companies to bypass any meaningful environmental regulation, exactly the reckless protocol that led to the explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent oil disaster.
  • H.R. 1230 comes in lieu of any legislation that ensures safer operations in any water depth, provides better spill response, lifts the existing liability cap or secures funding for restoration efforts in the Gulf.
WASHINGTON (05/05/2011) -

The following is a statement from Rodger Schlickeisen, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife:

“Our government appears to be dealing with a widespread case of oil disaster amnesia. Congressman Hastings’ trio of bills blatantly ignores the lessons learned from the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy, promoting harmful new drilling in key wildlife habitat and weakening critically needed environmental review of drilling projects.

“The reality that acts of Congress can be bought and paid for by Big Oil is being played out before our eyes: these bills were written with the single-minded purpose of increasing profits for a drilling industry that just last week reported billions of dollars in record profits. Our government needs to stop pandering to the oil and gas industry and stand up for the ordinary Americans who elected them to office.”

Background:

Read on for details of H.R. 1230 and the two other drilling bills anticipated to come up for vote in the coming days:

• H.R. 1230 - Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act – reopens lease sales that were cancelled in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia following the Gulf disaster. In addition, the bill would deem sufficient environmental impact statements completed before the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, with no other review required under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The bill’s head-in-the-sand approach would compel lease sales with no effort to learn from the lessons of the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy, undoubtedly leading to further tragedies.
• H.R. 1229 - Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act – imposes arbitrarily rushed permitting deadlines that would force the Secretary of the Interior to approve or deny drilling permits within 30 days. In addition, if a decision is not made within 60 days, the bill requires that the permit automatically be approved. This legislation eliminates important safety and environmental considerations and gives experts far too little time to adequately evaluate the safety and environmental implications of drilling. If we have learned anything in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, it is this: short-circuiting safety and environmental requirements will only lead to more catastrophes in the future.
• H.R. 1231 - Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act – is a massive handout to the oil and gas industry. This legislation not only forces the government to take on 50% of the cost of seismic testing for oil, it requires the administration to open up coastal and Arctic offshore drilling areas regardless of economic or environmental consequences.

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Links:

See how Defenders is working to protect wildlife and natural places from the dangers of offshore drilling

Contact(s):

Caitlin Leutwiler, (202) 772-3226; cleutwiler@defenders.org

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