Interior Announces New Gulf Oil Sales: Green Groups Sue

The Department of Interior announced the sale of the first oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill, saying it has beefed up safety standards and environmental reviews after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The lease sale, which takes place today, includes all the available unleased areas in the Western Gulf off the Texas coast.

It opens up 21 million acres ranging from 9-250 miles offshore, at depths of 16 feet to nearly 11,000 feet.

The GOP says the sale doesn’t go far enough – they want to see the Atlantic and Pacific coasts opened up too.

Environmental groups filed suit to cancel the sale, alleging Interior has not advanced oil spill preparedness or developed new ways to prevent spills.  It’s still relying on the same faulty methods that led to the BP spill, which dumped 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Today, Bloomberg reports that the blowout preventer, which failed, causing the BP spill, still haven’t been redesigned, according to the final report of a technical panel that’s been evaluating the causes of the spill.

The agency is "continuing the same irresponsible approach that led to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and harm still being felt in the Gulf," says Catherine Wannamaker, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who represents the groups. "It’s easier for the government and oil companies to return to business as usual without considering the oil spill’s impacts on the Gulf, but it’s illegal and irresponsible."

"The spill’s impacts on endangered and commercially important species must be considered," says Jacqueline Savitz, senior campaign director for Oceana. "We are suing the Department of the Interior to force it to protect wildlife and ultimately, the fishing, recreation and tourism industries, rather than just selling out to Big Oil."

"The federal government is failing to learn from one of the most environmentally and economically destructive incidents in U.S. history," says David Pettit, senior attorney with NRDC. "Fresh oil from the Macondo well continues to wash ashore nearly two years later, and the government is being negligent by issuing leases to drill now and drill deeper without ensuring all necessary precautions."

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the complaint today on behalf of Oceana, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The U.S. is producing more oil than seen since 2003 could be a net exporter this year for the first time 62 years, reports the International Energy Agency. Emerging markets are soaking up demand while the US is using less oil than we’re producing.

Exports rose to a record 920,000 barrels a day in September, according to the Department of Energy, and will grow another 1.5 million barrels a day by 2022 as output grows, cars become more efficient in the U.S. and demand rises in Latin America, Ed Morse, head of commodity research at Citigroup Global Markets, told Bloomberg.

Read more about US oil exports:

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