The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) paved the way to opening roughly 63 million acres in the Central Gulf of Mexico Jan. 11 by issuing its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Central Gulf lease sale 216/222 to new oil and gas exploration and development. This area notably includes the site of British Petroleum's (BP) massive 2010 oil spill.
“The Central Gulf of Mexico is literally a disaster zone, with oil plumes and dispersants still in the water, and marine life still trying to recover. We haven’t even fully assessed the damage done by the last spill. Allowing more drilling there is like opening up a crime scene before you have all the evidence and while the perpetrator is still at large,” said Jacqueline Savitz, senior campaign director for international ocean conservation group Oceana. “We need to understand what happened, how it affected the ecosystem and how we can prevent it from happening again before we reopen for business,” Savitz added.
For more specifics about shortcomings in drilling safety requirements, see the new Oceana analysis, False Sense of Safety.
Central Gulf waters are important habitat for bluefin and yellowfin tuna, red snapper, red drum and gulf sturgeon, in addition to numerous marine mammals. Many of these species are already struggling. Gulf sturgeon are endangered and bluefin tuna have been severely overfished. Until the status of these species is confirmed, it’s impossible to determine the impacts of this lease sale, a step required by law prior to the sale.
Many of the existing leases already purchased in the Gulf have yet to be tapped for oil. According to the U.S. Department of Interior, 76 percent of leases in the Central Gulf remained inactive as of October 2011 The companies holding these leases have not yet produced any oil from them. In addition, BOEM just sold off many more leases in the Western Gulf last month.
For these reasons, Oceana urges the Obama administration to more fully consider the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill prior to moving forward with a proposed Central Gulf lease sale.
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