This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.
If you add up all the indicting statements, conclusions and recommendations in President Obama’s oil spill commission report, you’d think outlaws are running the oil industry under charter from federal regulators. Which is no surprise to us at Earthjustice.
Much of what the commission says is what we’ve been saying (in court, in Congress and in our public messaging) for many years: offshore drilling is too risky to be conducted the way our government has allowed. The process rejects science, embraces politics, ignores environmental calamity, and lets private business interests trump public interests. We can only applaud the commission’s recommendations for top-to-bottom change in how the industry approaches drilling and how the government regulates the industry.
We are particularly appreciative of the commission’s cautions and advisories about oil exploration in the icy waters of the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Although the commission didn’t come right out and call for a moratorium on drilling those areas, its recommendations add up to virtually the same conclusion. Observes Earthjustice Vice President for Litigation Patti Goldman:
As the commission indicated, the science and technology needed to safely drill for oil simply does not exist for some of the places the Department of Interior is considering allowing for drilling and leasing. Large information and technology gaps, as well as an inability to respond to a major oil spill in the icy and stormy conditions that prevail, mean we shouldn’t be developing oil at this time in places like the Arctic Ocean.
These gaps must be addressed before offshore decisions in the Arctic Ocean are made, including pending drilling decisions for the Beaufort Sea in 2011 and pending reconsideration of leases in the Chukchi Sea. We support the commission’s call to strengthen science and interagency consultations to reduce environmental risks from drilling.