Offshore Energy Reform

March 2011
By:
in part the Pew Environmental Group
On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire aboard an oil drilling platform killed eleven workers and unleashed a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond the immediate human tragedy, the Deepwater Horizon disaster has imperiled the ecosystem along the U.S. Gulf Coast and impacted residents who depend on a healthy Gulf of Mexico.

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

The spill raises serious concerns about drilling in sensitive habitats from the Gulf to the Arctic Ocean, as well as broader questions of national energy policy.

The environmental implications of the oil spill intersect with a number of the Pew Environment Group's campaigns including securing protections for bluefin tuna, creating a national ocean policy, ending overfishing in the Southeast, protecting life in the Arctic, conserving sharks, addressing global warming and developing a clean energy policy.

"We should not be complacent. Offshore drilling involves some of the most advanced technology on earth, yet spill prevention, containment and cleanup technologies have not kept pace. Strong standards for oil spill response planning must be in place wherever drilling is approved. Such standards must be regularly verified with inspections and capability demonstrations. These reforms are especially critical as the oil and gas industry is planning to explore in frontier areas such as the U.S. Arctic Ocean, where remoteness, extreme weather and ice conditions make cleanup extremely challenging. We cannot allow spills in our oceans and along our coastlines to be treated as just another cost of doing business.  Americans from the Gulf to the Arctic expect and deserve far better stewardship of the oceans."

- Marilyn Heiman, director of the Pew Environment Group's offshore energy reform efforts, issued the following statement on the final report issued by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

View maps of how the oil slick overlays with habitats of several marine species.

Offshore Energy Reform To-Do List

Federal law governing offshore oil exploration and development is out of date. The Gulf of Mexico disaster exposed a system in which industry is allowed to cut corners on safety and environmental protection and government oversight is lax. It is time to plug the leaks in our nation's offshore oil drilling laws. The Pew Environment Group recommends the following changes to current law to help ensure that the catastrophes like the BP Deepwater Horizon never happen again.

Decisions regarding off-shore oil and gas activities should recognize the multiple values and uses of our ocean and coastal environments and ensure that the public has a voice in protecting them.

  • Fisheries, tourism, marine wildlife, subsistence and other ocean and coastal resources should be on equal footing with the oil and gas development in all oil and gas activity decisions.
  • Affected communities should have meaningful input into oil and gas development decisions and spill response preparedness through Regional Citizen Advisory Councils.
  • Offshore oil and gas leasing, exploration, and development should occur only where and when it is proven to be safe and will not harm valuable resources.
  • Leasing and development should occur only if decisions are based on the best scientific information provided by all relevant government agencies with expertise in spill prevention and response, fisheries, marine life, and water quality.
  • Oil and gas activities should be prohibited in areas defined by scientists as important ecological areas, during times when it poses the greatest risk to other resources such as migrating marine species, or where spill response capability is inadequate.
  • Industry should be required to use the best available technology that is proven to work in applicable conditions, and should be required to routinely test equipment and improve safety.
  • Oil drilling inspectors must be well trained and should provide around-the-clock operational safety monitoring on drill rigs.
  • Spill response should be fast, safe, and effective.
  • Industry should be required to demonstrate before drilling begins that it has the capability to quickly and effectively stop and clean up an oil spill.
  • Industry should be required to demonstrate it can remove a majority of the oil from a worst-case spill
  • Adequate financial resources should be readily available to address the full effects of oil spills.
  • There should be no cap on the liability of any company that is engaged in oil and gas exploration and development activities.
  • The oil spill liability trust fund should be used to ensure there is continuous improvement in oil spill prevention and response technology.

Though the Deepwater Horizon accident and spill happened over nine months ago, the effects will be felt for a long while, and the risk of more spills is always present.  We should not forget the lives (human, mammal, fish and bird) that were affected by this disaster and do what we can to take action to repair the current damage and prevent further harm.

Take Action

You can make a difference. Follow these steps to create a positive future for the ocean.

Take Action

 

  • Support ocean conservation by making a donation to Sailors for the Sea.
  • Prevent smaller spills around your boat or car by using bilge skimmers and oil pads.
  • Reduce your personal reliance on oil by getting a home energy audit
  • Consider the use of alternative fuels in your car, boat and home
  • The Nature Conservancy has been working in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 35 years with projects in each of the five surrounding states. Click here to learn about their work in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • To offer your vessel for service or submit alternative response technology, services or products, call 281-366-5511.
  • Sign Oceana's Stop the Drill petition
  • Donate through WaterKeeper and Saveourgulf.org