02:00 PM

One month after beginning of Gulf oil spill, groups call on President Obama to ban new offshore drilling

(05/20/2010) -

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2010) – Today, 14 major environmental groups joined together on a letter asking President Obama to ban offshore drilling in places off U.S. coasts that are not currently being drilled. One month after the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, the well is continuing to gush thousands of barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.  The groups called on the President to reverse his previously announced policy of expanding drilling off Florida, the Atlantic coast and Alaska and instead ban drilling in these places.  The President has the authority to ban drilling in new areas through a Presidential withdrawal.

Margie Alt, Executive Director of Environment America said, “One month after the BP oil spill began, this disaster continues to grow by the hour, jeopardizing all manner of wildlife and upending the lives of countless fishermen and coastal communities.  We need President Obama to make sure that BP is fully accountable for the environmental and economic damage caused by the spill, and protect places that are not being drilled now from ever having to deal with this environmental nightmare. Finally we urge the President to rise to the challenge of cutting our oil dependence by dramatically increasing efficiency, shifting to clean energy and capping global warming pollution.”

Yesterday, according to satellite photos, almost 16,000 square miles of the Gulf were covered in oil slick or sheen; more than 46,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico, an area the size of Pennsylvania, are now closed to all fishing; and surface oil is headed for the coast of Florida and the Florida Keys on the powerful Loop Current. Louisiana’s Governor reported yesterday that a blanket of heavy oil had coated 35 miles of marsh at the entrance to the Mississippi River. Oil has a devastating impact on marshes and other kinds of wetlands, killing plants and leading to more coastal erosion. Finally, the marshes themselves are sensitive nurseries for most of the shrimp, fish, crabs and oysters that thrive in the Gulf.  The tourism economy of several states is in disarray with hotels, restaurants, marinas and charter boats all calling for help. The regulators at the Minerals Management Service are by the President’s own admission “too cozy” with industry and Secretary of Interior Salazar is talking about having to “clean house.” Yet the administration has not backed publicly off its policy of expanding drilling on the Atlantic, Florida and Alaskan coasts.

Bob Irvin, Senior Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife said, “The continuing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has proven once again that oil companies cannot effectively protect our shores and coastal waters from the devastating effects of offshore oil and gas drilling. By halting any new drilling off of U.S. coasts, President Obama will demonstrate that our natural resources are more valuable than risky bids for dirty fossil fuels.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, said, "This disaster is a wake up call. There is no such thing as safe offshore drilling. Where there are drilling platforms, there will always be potential for catastrophic spills. It's clear that the oil industry's disaster response plans are grossly inadequate. We need a moratorium on new drilling and we need President Obama to deliver a plan to get us off oil. We don't need to sacrifice our beaches and coastal economies just so companies like BP can make a quick buck. We already have the technology and solutions for a 21st century clean energy transportation system. We just need our leaders to embrace them. It's time to stand up to the oil industry. Enough is enough."

Jackie Savitz, Senior Campaign Director for Oceana, said, “Gulf fishing and tourism economies are the biggest losers in this tragic event, along with the marine ecosystem.  The Administration and Congress should ban offshore drilling and stop putting oil industry interests above everything else.

Read the letter to President Obama calling for a halt to new offshore drilling in the U.S 

See how Defenders is responding to the Gulf oil disaster. 


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.



Mike Gravitz, Environment America, (202) 683-1250
Kristina Johnson, Sierra Club, (415) 977-5619
Caitlin Leutwiler, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 722-3226
Dianne Saenz, Oceana, (202) 467-1909