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Congressional Funding Deal Undermines Clean Air Protections in Arctic

All Press Releases…
December 16, 2011
Washington, D.C.
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Oceana cried foul today, as Congress prepares to pass the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, which includes a provision that would undermine clean air protections for the Arctic people and environment.  While this legislation is extremely important for funding the federal government, it should not be used to attack and undermine environmental rules.

Section 432 of the bill would exempt the world’s largest and most profitable corporations from important Clean Air Act requirements.  It is a free pass to pollute, which would move jurisdiction of air permitting for offshore drilling in the Arctic from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Department of the Interior (DOI).  In effect, Arctic drilling would become almost completely exempt from the Clean Air Act’s health-based national ambient air quality standards and its program to prevent significant deterioration of air quality. This change will increase health risks for local populations, as well as ocean pollution, and accelerate reductions in sea ice, which has major implications for wildlife and sea level rise.

“We all deserve clean air and clean water,” said Michael LeVine, Pacific Senior Counsel for Oceana.  “Big, multinational oil companies seeking to drill in the Arctic should to be held to the highest standards,” LeVine added.

Currently, EPA requires offshore sources to demonstrate that their emissions will not violate health-based air quality standards. For the largest sources, EPA requires installation of “Best Available Control Technology” to reduce pollution emissions.  Unfortunately, DOI regulations are incredibly lenient.  The regulations do not require compliance with Clean Air requirements over the ocean; they only require it onshore.  They will not protect residents and others who use and depend on the ocean.   As a consequence of DOI’s lenient regulations, Big Oil would be left to operate virtually uncontrolled in this area, with pristine air quality.

“Risking the health of the Arctic and its residents in an appropriations bill is irresponsible government,” said LeVine.  “Congress has treated the Arctic, its residents and wildlife as second-class citizens, undeserving of a full and fair debate.  We can and should do better.”

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop oil and gas pollution in the Arctic, please visit www.oceana.org.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.