A sad and ironic post for the day after Earth Day – the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil rig that caught fire on Tuesday and sank yesterday is still a serious concern for the Coast Guard, NOAA and potentially for dozens of endangered species.
The Coast Guard continues to search for the missing 11 crew members while cleanup efforts have begun. An oily sheen covers the water where the rig used to stand, probably related to the fire and onboard activity as the rig sank. While it is contained for now, BP Vice President David Rainey said "it certainly has the potential to be a major spill." BP PLC operates the license on which the rig was drilling.
While the focus has obviously (and justly) been on saving human lives and stopping the blaze, what are the ecological impacts of the explosion and sinking? The Gulf of Mexico is home to dozens of endangered creatures. Kemp’s Ridleys, the world’s most endangered sea turtle, call the Gulf home – it is the site of their only known nesting beach. Four of the top seven US fishing ports are in the Gulf and a brisk tourism trade in recreational fishing stands to be severely hit by potential oil disasters.
This explosion is a stark reminder that offshore drilling is NOT safe or clean, no matter what the industry tell us. With this recent disaster and the spill in Australia last year, the question isn’t if an accident happens, but when. As of right now, the Gulf has dodged a bullet – we seem to be pretty lucky on the environmental side. But one near miss doesn’t erase previous disasters, like last year’s spill in the Timor Sea.
We certainly hope that the climate legislation set to be released this Monday will not include an expansion of offshore drilling into areas that were previously protected and instead will stimulate the shift to the clean energy economy that we so desperately need.
Do your part - contact your Senators today.
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