Proposed 20.6 Million Acre sale in the Western Gulf is Premature, Will Harm Valuable Gulf Ecosystems

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) announced its intent to open more than 20 million acres in the Western Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas exploration and development.

“Rushing this lease sale puts marine ecosystems at risk before the ink is even dry on the impacts of the BP spill.   BOEMRE still hasn’t fully assessed the environmental impacts, and there are major shortcomings in spill response and cleanup capabilities.  BOEMRE appears to be caving to intense pressure from the oil industry to return to ‘business as usual,’ without regard for the extraordinary risks to already imperiled marine animals,” said Jacqueline Savitz, senior campaign director for international ocean conservation group Oceana.

Reports following the Deepwater Horizon spill highlighted the impacts on already struggling species, such as endangered sea turtles. Many commercially important fish were spawning at the time of the spill, and studies to measure the impacts have not yet been completed.  Until the status of those populations is clarified, it’s impossible to determine the impacts of this lease sale, a step required prior to the sale.

Moreover, BOEMRE is relying on an extremely out-of-date spill risk analysis from the year 2000, which was written long before the Deepwater Horizon accident, and before deepwater drilling became as common as it is today.   BOEMRE also neglects to account for the increased risk of blowouts and spills that are likely when drilling in “frontier areas,” according to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The Commission defined “frontier areas” to include deepwater and ultra-deepwater environments, such as  those that would be included in the lease sale.

Oceana urges the Administration not to proceed with this lease sale until the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill are better understood, and until we improve our readiness to prevent and respond to major oil spills.

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