Oil drilling shift means more endangered species litigation
AUTHOR'S NOTE: In the ESA musing below, posted a mere two weeks ago on June 18, 2008, I warned that the oil drilling announcements by leading state and federal officials would spark Endangered Species Act litigation. In a press release today, captioned Gas Price Reduction Act Should Be Called 'The Western Water Reduction Act'; Does Nothing to Lower Gas Prices the Center for Biological Diversity proved my prediction correct. First, CBD argues that oil drilling will adversely affect water supplies: "Oil-shale production would also reduce western water availability. The RAND report states that each barrel of oil produced from shale will cost the nation three barrels of water, equal to the amount of Colorado River water allocated to California, Arizona, and Nevada over more than 40 years." Second, CBD follows up with concerns for species: "Oil-shale development would result in the destruction of western public lands — including some of the nation’s best recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and rare plants found nowhere else in the world... It’s hard to imagine a worse use of our public lands in an era of global warming and species decline.” For more information about the potential adverse effects of oil drilling on the environment, visit Defenders of Wildlife on ANWR, the series of useful articles assembled at offshore-environment.com, and Time Magazine. My original posting follows.
In recent days, Florida Governor Crist, along with President Bush and Candidate McCain, have all openly promoted the concept of renewed and expanded oil drilling (including areas off the Florida coastline). The policy position is a direct response to our national woes over spiking gasoline prices. See ENS and Miami Herald articles. This blawg takes no position on the merits of this position, other than to note that the policy will lead, inevitably, to Endangered Species Act litigation.
Photo of an oil drilling platform fire from the Royal Navy. The potential for fires such as this, or other foreseeable catastrophes, will prove a huge source of ESA litigation.
Indeed, the battle between oil drilling and species is already underway. Reuters recently reported a Notice of Intent to sue filed by environmental groups planning to sue the Federal government for failing to impose new regulations on oil development in Alaska's Arctic waters as part of the recent ESA listing of the polar bears. Similarly, the marbled murrelet, an ESA-listed and ocean dwelling bird species severely affected by Pacific coast oil spills, has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits and biological opinions related to the consequences of oil spills.
The conclusion is inescapable. Florida or Alaska, coral or caribou, marine mammals or sea dwelling birds... if and when oil drilling activity is proposed, the result will be more litigation. Today's policy announcement is tomorrow's notice of intent to sue.