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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet


May 11, 2010

Contact: Kristina Johnson
(415) 977-5619

Senate Hearings Examine Causes of BP Disaster
Salazar Announces MMS Reforms

Washington, D.C. - Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee held hearings on the environmental and economic impacts of the BP offshore drilling disaster. Witnesses from BP America and Transocean Ltd. testified, along with fishing and tourism industry representatives and environmental scientists.

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is announcing reforms to the Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling operations.

Statement of Sierra Club Lands Protection Director Athan Manuel:

We know thousands of people are working hard right now to contain the oil pouring from the BP disaster site. They are in our thoughts and prayers. The more quickly they contain the spill, the fewer impacts our wildlife and coastal economies will face.

There are two important lessons from this disaster: There is no such thing as safe offshore drilling. Disaster response plans are grossly inadequate.

We need a presidential moratorium on all new offshore drilling.

This disaster has exposed pervasive problems within the Minerals Management Service. 

The Minerals Management Service has a long history of lax oversight and coziness with the oil industry. We need to fix that. The federal government should serve as an independent watchdog for the oil industry, which can't be trusted to regulate itself.

Since the BP oil rig exploded three weeks ago, the MMS has allowed more than two dozen offshore drilling projects in the Gulf to sidestep the environmental review process. Fast tracking offshore drilling projects in the wake of this disaster is unacceptable. If there were ever a time to slow down and take a good look at the impacts of drilling, it is now.

We're now looking at a scenario where our best cures are nearly as bad as the disease.  Response to this disaster has required lighting the sea on fire and pouring potent chemicals into the water. Now they are considering dredging the ocean to create manmade barrier islands, and using trash and human hair to prevent the spread of oil. If this is the backup plan, we need to rethink the logic of taking the risk in the first place. If the oil industry isn't capable of responding to the consequences of drilling, they shouldn't be taking the risk. 

The BP disaster is a wakeup call. It's time to rethink our energy. We need to end subsidies and giveaways to the oil industry. BP has been skirting safety regulations and putting workers and communities at risk, all while raking in some of the biggest profits in the world. The entire cost of disaster response efforts thus far is roughly equal to four days of BP profits.

We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get us off oil by promoting clean energy solutions. We already have the technology and solutions for a 21st century transportation system, we just need the political will to implement them. Our leaders must finally break free of Big Oil's hold and not allow BP to shirk responsibility for this disaster--and they must make sure this simply never happens again. Enough is enough.

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