WASHINGTON, DC, May 27, 2010 – President Obama today announced that new exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska that was set to begin as soon as July 1 has been put on hold until at least 2011.
World Wildlife Fund has urged the administration to halt new offshore drilling until proper safeguards are in place to ensure it can be done safely and until the regulatory failures that likely contributed to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are identified and corrected.
"This is an important victory for the fragile Arctic ecosystem, for the communities of Alaska's North Slope, and for sound science,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF. It is clear that the Minerals Management Service is a broken agency, one that has been guided not by science, but by a culture that has often put leasing revenues ahead of thorough environmental and safety review. As the events of the past month have demonstrated, we do not have the technology or capacity to adequately respond to a massive spill—in the gulf or anywhere. Halting all new off-shore drilling until our failed regulatory system is reformed and the American people are assured that drilling can be done safely is absolutely the right decision.”
Recent press reports and Interior Department inquiries have identified corruption and serious conflicts of interest within the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency charged with oversight of offshore drilling. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently announced plans to completely overhaul MMS, splitting its functions into three separate agencies. The President has also commissioned an independent panel, which will be co-chaired by former EPA head and WWF Chairman Emeritus William Reilly, to investigate the gulf disaster and contributing regulatory failures. WWF pushed strongly for both decisions.
Roberts said that the spill in the gulf is further evidence that America’s environmental and economic security requires a shift away from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy. He urged the President to put the full weight of the White House behind efforts to pass climate legislation through the Senate this year.
“The administration's previously announced moves to overhaul MMS and commission an independent panel to investigate the BP spill are steps in the right direction. However, what is still missing is a solution to the underlying cause of the BP disaster -- our addiction to dirty, dangerous oil. It has never been more urgent to break oil's stranglehold on our economy and our environment. The catastrophe in the gulf should provide all the impetus needed for the President and Congress to finally pass a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill this year," said Roberts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to meet with committee chairmen and the full Democratic caucus following the Memorial Day recess. Roberts said the outcome of those meetings will likely determine whether the Senate moves on climate and energy legislation this year.