The Gulf Oil Spill and the Coastal Jobs Creation Act: Pew's Action Plan
The April 20 explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform killed 11 workers and unleashed a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond the immediate human tragedy, this disaster has imperiled the ecosystem along the U.S. Gulf Coast and impacted residents who depend on a healthy Gulf.
This spill did not need to happen. In its wake, the spotlight has focused on multiple failures of our legislative and regulatory system. The Pew Environment Group is concentrating its efforts on changing these laws and regulations to help ensure that this tragic spill is not repeated.
Pew is pushing for reform of both the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Oil Pollution Act, two Federal statutes whose inadequacies and loopholes helped allow this spill to happen. In particular, we are working to:
- Improve agency oversight of environmental protection, safety, and management of oil development of our outer continental shelf;
- Amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which governs offshore mineral leasing and development, and/or its implementing regulations to ensure the environmental effects of oil and gas development, including cumulative impacts, are thoroughly reviewed and appropriately addressed;
- Eliminate the statutory limits on liability for damages resulting from oil spills to ensure that the full cost of economic and environmental damage is recovered;
- Amend the Oil Pollution Act, which governs oil spill contingency planning and response, to increase the timeliness and effectiveness of oil spill response and recovery; and
- Suspend new oil leasing, exploration or production until new safety and environmental standards are adopted through legislation or regulation.
Additionally, Pew is advocating passage of a law introduced earlier this year that would provide funding and create jobs for fishermen and coastal communities as fish populations rebuild. The Coastal Jobs Creation Act would devote $80 million annually through 2015 to creating jobs for fishermen to perform cooperative research with scientists, remove marine debris, revitalize waterfronts and participate in projects to restore fish populations and ecosystems.
Last month, we wrote both houses of Congress to support the funding of an additional $50 million to assess damage from the Gulf spill and to gauge the prospects for recovery of the Gulf ecosystem and its fisheries.
These are the types of projects needed to respond to the Gulf oil spill – a tragedy that underscores the need to keep fish populations healthy.
Finally, we are continuing our longstanding work to stem the impacts of climate change by reducing fossil fuel consumption and promoting the development of a clean energy economy. Wind, solar, and other forms of clean alternative energy never spill, nor do they contribute to global warming. I invite you to explore our efforts on clean energy at www.pewglobalwarming.org, and our initiatives on the Gulf spill at www.pewenvironment.org/gulfoilspill.
Joshua S. Reichert
Pew Environment Group
The Pew Environment Group's offshore energy reform work is now a part of Pew's Arctic Ocean Program.