Drilling is tragic for marine life

From Florida to the Outer Banks to the Chesapeake Bay, our coasts are home to incredible beaches and stunning wildlife. Unfortunately offshore drilling is putting our natural heritage and marine life at risk. On ‘good’ days, drilling kills and injures wildlife and threatens human health and the economy. When they happen (which is all too frequently) major disasters such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout are catastrophic.

Image: Louisiana GOHSEP / Creative Commons

Birds' feathers can be coated with oil, preventing them from being able to keep warm and reducing their ability to float. Seismic airguns, often used in exploration, can harm and even kill dolphins and whales. Oil and related chemicals may also damage the immune and reproductive systems of exposed birds, fish, and shellfish, lowering populations of affected species and denying food to the predators that depend on them.

Tragically, as many as 9 right whales - an already endangered species with only 450 individuals living - could be killed by drilling and related processes.

You drill, you spill

The Gulf of Mexico, home to most of the United States’ offshore drilling operations, has suffered one spill larger than 100,000 gallons every other year on average since 1964.

Image: Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Stumberg / Public Domain

The Deepwater Horizon offshore well blowout inflicted a massive toll on the environment, and especially on wildlife, one that continues to mount five years later. The initial explosion killed 11 people and injured dozens more, and for three months afterward, millions of gallons of crude oil and thousands of tons of methane spewed from the sea floor. Five years later, the damage inflicted by the spill continues to affect the environment, human health and the economy.

Technological improvements do not necessarily reduce the risk. 98.8 percent of offshore spills in the Gulf of Mexico from 1964 to 2012 were caused by weather, equipment failure, human error or “external forces.”

Image: Louisiana GOHSEP / Creative Commons

Save our coasts, no offshore drilling

To protect the environment, human health and the economy from the dangers of offshore drilling disasters, the federal government should:

  • Reduce our need for oil by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Halt its plans to allow offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
  • Reverse its proposed expansion of drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Stop granting permits for new offshore drilling operations in all U.S. waters.
  • Undertake full environmental protection reviews at all offshore drilling locations, as a federal commission recommended in 2011.
  • Bring American offshore drilling practices up to, and ultimately beyond, the protections afforded by international environmental standards.
  • Require offshore drilling operators to provide financial guarantees that companies – not taxpayers – will pay in full for cleanups when the inevitable disasters happen.

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