Deepwater drilling moratorium lifted; why we’re concerned

The deepwater offshore drilling moratorium was lifted this week leaving experts at The Wilderness Society concerned about future oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico as well as in other precious waters including the pristine Arctic seas where oil and gas companies have been pressing for access.

The end of the drilling moratorium was announced by the Department of the Interior this week, just months after the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico damaged millions of acres of coastal wetlands and the marine ecosystem of the Gulf.

“The lifting of the moratorium on certain types of offshore oil and gas drilling is a result of several positive actions BOEMRE has taken in recent months to increase drilling safety and prevent oil spills, but many additional changes will be needed before drilling concerns will be minimized” said Lois Epstein, Arctic Program Director for The Wilderness Society, and part of our team monitoring the push to develop drilling in Arctic waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

BOEMRE, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which was formerly known as the Minerals Management Service, is the government agency charged with regulating offshore drilling.

Not only does the lifting of the moratorium pose a threat to the pristine Arctic environment, which Shell Oil is pushing to develop, but it shows continued support for dangerous, dirty and greenhouse gas-generating energy sources over clean, renewable sources like solar and wind energy.

The Wilderness Society has been working with the Obama administration and Congress to move forward on the transition to a clean, sustainable energy future. This includes pressing for climate change legislation and identifying the best way to site renewable energy development.

Unfortunately, more oil drilling also means more carbon pollution in our air, hastening the pace of climate change and threatening our wild places with increased temperatures, decreased snowpack, droughts, floods and increased threats from pests once contained by cold winter months like the pine bark beetle.

The Wilderness Society will continue to work with the Administration to improve how we get our energy, so that threats like the BP Gulf disaster become a thing of the past.