WASHINGTON, DC, May 11, 2010 – World Wildlife Fund today called on President Obama to create a high-level independent commission to examine all of the factors related to the gulf oil disaster. Further, WWF urged the administration to halt all new drilling, including Shell’s planned drilling off the Alaska coast on July 1, until the commission is able to issue its findings and recommendations.
“One of our nation’s greatest environmental disasters is unfolding off the gulf coast,” said WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts. “Many questions remain as to the cause of the disaster and the efforts that could have been taken to prevent it. All the technological and regulatory factors must be fully examined by independent experts so that policymakers and the American public learn what went wrong and what is needed to ensure worker safety and prevent another environmental catastrophe.
“Until an independent commission can thoroughly examine the factors related to the gulf disaster, no new drill bits should be allowed in US waters.
“Secretary Salazar’s plan to split the Minerals Management Service into two separate agencies is an important step to correct clear regulatory failures and ensure improved worker safety and greater environmental protections,” Roberts said. “But the only way to fully understand what happened in the gulf and how to prevent such an occurrence in the future is to have a thorough investigation by an independent panel of experts."
As the gulf coast disaster grows more severe by the day, Shell Oil is moving forward with plans to begin new drilling off the north coast of Alaska in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas on July 1. Shell’s planned drilling would take place in a harsh environment known for severe weather, moving ice and long periods of darkness. With more than 700 leases having been sold in the Beaufort and Chukchi, Shell’s July 1 drilling would be the firing gun for an Arctic oil rush.
“The Arctic region is, in nearly every respect, the exact opposite of the temperate conditions of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Roberts. “Technology simply does not exist to clean up a spill in Arctic waters. And, unlike the gulf with its robust response apparatus close at hand, the Coast Guard lacks the capacity to adequately respond to a spill in the Arctic – and that’s not the assessment of WWF, but of the admiral who previously headed the Coast Guard district covering Alaska.
“Allowing Shell to proceed with drilling operations before we fully understand all of the factors related to the gulf disaster would be irresponsible.”
Roberts praised legislation recently introduced by Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) that would create a 15-member commission to examine the BP disaster. “We commend Congresswoman Capps for providing strong leadership on this critical issue. Our hope is that President Obama will take immediate action to convene an independent commission, working closely with leaders in Congress to ensure a disaster like this never happens again. This should include an immediate halt to all new offshore drilling until the findings and recommendations of an independent commission can be fully analyzed and implemented.”