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Offshore Drilling: Overview

oil rigOffshore drilling harms the oceans. Not only is oil pollution damaging to marine life, but the emissions from the continued use of oil and other fossil fuels contribute to climate change and ocean acidification.

The risks associated with offshore oil drilling have never been clearer than they’ve been since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010. Not only did 11 people die that day, but for 87 straight days after the explosion, oil gushed uncontrolled into the open ocean, polluting our waters, killing sea life, and putting thousands of people out of work.

The question is not whether there will be another spill, but when. Nearly every day, a spill of some size is reported in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, our representatives in Congress have forgotten all about the damage caused by the Gulf oil spill and the spills that have happened since. 

Two years after the worst accidental oil spill in world history, Congress has failed to pass a single law to improve the regulation and safety of offshore drilling. Instead of making drilling safer, Congress chooses to give Big Oil billions of dollars in tax breaks each year and allow those companies to expand drilling, including in deeper waters and in sensitive areas like the Arctic.

Oceana has long been working to prevent the expansion of offshore oil drilling, and in December of 2010 it was announced that in the new five-year plan for offshore drilling, no new offshore drilling would be allowed in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico was even protected from offshore oil and gas exploration for the next seven years. This proposed ban on drilling in these sensitive habitats is a monumental victory for our oceans.

For the health of the oceans and the billions of people that depend on them, we must invest in offshore wind and other renewables and permanently move away from offshore drilling. See Oceana’s report, Breaking the Habit, to learn how we can transition away from offshore drilling to a clean energy future.