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Gushing with Legal Issues

June 11 2010 | Legal,
by Angela

The tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the Deepwater Horizon rig blow out on April 20, 2010 has shocked the nation and has already been labeled America's worst environmental disaster. Predictably, where there is a man-made disaster and deep pockets, there will be Plaintiffs. Goodness knows there is evidence of injustice.

There have been dozens of negligence lawsuits and other claims filed by fishermen, shrimpers and the survivors of the eleven oil rig employees who lost their lives in the explosion. In one recent proposed environmental law suit, environmentalists chose to invoke the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act to address BP's violations resulting from the Macondo oil well blow out and weeks of subsequent spillage. Gulf Restoration Network, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Environment America have given formal notice to BP of the groups' intent to sue. While Surfrider is assessing our involvement, if any, in the litigation surrounding the spill and efforts to mandate strong and effective clean up efforts, our Not the Answer campaign has focused on proactive legislative efforts.



Surfrider Legal's main focus thus far is currently embodied in our legislative work aimed at restoring the 28 year Congressional and Executive moratoria on any new offshore drilling that was allowed to lapse in the fall of 2008. Two bills are currently going through Congress that would help to restore protections against new offshore drilling and safety for our national waters and coasts. Here is a summary of the proposed federal legislation:

H.R. 5213; "West Coast Protection Act of 2010"
On May 5th, Representatives from California, Oregon, and Washington introduced the West Coast Protection Act of 2010 to the House of Representatives, which would prohibit offshore drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. The bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to grant offshore oil and gas leases. Under the new Act, the Secretary could not grant new leases for exploration, development, or production of oil and natural gas off the west coast. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

H.R. 5248; "No New Drilling Act of 2010"
Representatives from California, Florida, and New Jersey introduced legislation in the House of Representatives May 6th, which would prohibit further leasing of any area in the United States' outer continental shelf for the exploration, development, or production of oil, gas, and minerals. The bill would eliminate parts of the current Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which allow the Secretary of the Interior to create and revise oil and gas leasing programs off U.S. coasts. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.
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