By Darryl Malek-Wiley, Sierra Club
Six years ago today, Americans witnessed the very real dangers of offshore drilling. We watched as 11 workers lost their lives when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. We watched as the spill continued for 87 days, dumping 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And we continue to watch as the entire Gulf region copes with the ongoing impacts and effects of offshore drilling.
Eight months after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released a report finding that the blowout was a result of British Petroleum (BP), Haliburton, and Transocean cutting costs to protect the bottom line. While BP, Arknado, and other companies involved have been ordered to pay tens of billions in cleanup and damages, it’s nowhere near sufficient to compensate for the devastating and ongoing impacts of the disaster and the persistent treatment of the Gulf region as a sacrifice zone.
For far too long, the Gulf region has been sacrificed to continue our dependence on fossil fuels; whether it be from the Deepwater Horizon disaster or the ongoing leak from the Taylor Well, oil rigs and abandoned wells found throughout the region are emitting pollution into the air and dumping oil into its waters. The Gulf produces more oil than any region in America, yet while the oil itself is sent all over the world, the pollution caused by the drilling and the threat of spills stays in the region. We cannot continue to sacrifice the beauty of its coasts, the tens of thousands of men and women who depend on the waters for employment, and the health and well being of all those who call it home.
As America continues to move off of dirty fuels, we must have a plan for the Gulf. We must continue to invest in the region–but rather than oil and gas, we should invest in clean and renewable energy jobs like solar and wind.
The Obama administration didn’t cause the rampant pollution and destruction brought on from decades of offshore drilling in the Gulf, but it has the chance to begin cleaning it up and putting a plan in place that will change the course of the region for the better–and the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program is the perfect place to start.
A little over a month ago, the Obama administration unveiled its latest draft of the five year plan with one major change: the Atlantic Ocean. Originally, the 2017-2022 plan proposed drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, but as a result of significant pressure along the Eastern Seaboard, the administration withdrew the Atlantic, protecting it from the dangers of offshore drilling.
When President Obama finalizes the five year plan, he should keep listening to the hundreds of thousands of voices throughout the country who have called on him to continue expanding his climate legacy and protect our waters–like the Gulf–from ever facing the prospect of another Deepwater Horizon.
Six years later, the Deepwater Horizon continues to be the symbolic reason to ban offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, but we cannot ignore the region who is still dealing with the disasters ramifications today. We must heed the lessons learned and ban offshore drilling in all our waters–including the Gulf.