Statement from Endangered Species Coalition on the Six-Month Anniversary of the BP Drilling Disaster
Today marks the six-month anniversary of the BP drilling disaster in the Gulf- the worst environmental disaster this country has ever experienced. Numerous threatened and endangered wildlife, already on the brink of extinction, have been in the path of the oil spill and the toxic dispersants used for cleanup. The government’s response to the BP spill has been inadequate.
Despite the catastrophe and the industry’s inadequate plans for preventing, containing and responding to a spill, Secretary Salazar lifted the moratorium on oil and gas drilling one month early. And, Congress stalled on passing legislation (S. 3663) that would have addressed the urgent needs demonstrated by this spill—safer operations, better response to spills, removal of the liability cap and funding for restoration efforts in the Gulf.
We need clear and strong actions from the government now to protect currently threatened and endangered species. We also need actions that focus restoration efforts on minimizing the number of new species that become threatened or endangered as a result of this spill. For instance, the Brown pelican was very recently taken off the endangered species list, but it has been one of the most impacted birds. Other species that have conservationists and scientists concerned include the Bluefin Tuna and the Whale Shark.
The Endangered Species Coalition is calling for full compliance with the Endangered Species Act in order to protect threatened and endangered wildlife from this and all future spills.
We are advocating for wildlife policies that would allow qualified non-governmental organizations and other professional wildlife experts to assist in the search and rescue of endangered species during an oil spill, as well as in the documentation and assessment of both short- and long-term impacts.
We’re also advocating for thorough consultations with the expert wildlife agencies required by the Endangered Species Act. If the Endangered Species Act had been implemented and enforced, permittees like BP, for the Deepwater Horizon well and the dozens of other oil drilling operations, would have had consultations with FWS and National Marine Fisheries Service to plan for accidents and potential impacts on threatened and endangered species. ESC is calling on this administration to conduct consultations for all new permittees and to re-initiate the consultation process for existing permittees, including oil drilling operations in Alaska.
We are calling on FWS and NMFS to update their recovery and conservation plans to address all current and potential future impacts the oil spill will have on species. Instead of waiting for 5-year reviews for species, all ESA listed species should receive reviews within the year to make sure we're doing all that we can. In doing these reviews, FWS may discover actions that must happen now.
Furthermore, we are urging the Department of the Interior to request necessary funds to help in the recovery and restoration of imperiled wildlife, fish and plants and their habitats—meeting the acute needs of the oil spill now. In addition to emergency funding now, for the next decade or more there will be a need for increased agency personnel and resources.