Groups say a host of marine creatures and birds are imperiled by oil, dispersants
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Two environmental groups announced Friday they intend to sue BP or the unauthorized take of endangered species caused by the continuing oil spill and use of dispersants.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it’s illegal to harm animals listed as threatened or endangered. The Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center say the oil gushing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig directly imperils 32 threatened or endangered speciesincluding the sperm whale, gulf sturgeon, manatee and five kinds of sea turtles (leatherback, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and Kemp’s ridley), as well as the waters, coastal wetlands and National Wildlife Refuges that many of these species call home.
“BP must be held accountable for the grave threat posed to sea turtles, whales, seabirds and other endangered wildlife as the result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Mike Senatore, vice president for conservation law at Defenders of Wildlife. “Not only does the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico pose an immediate and long-term threat to endangered wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, but the company’s unprecedented application of chemical dispersants poses additional risks.”
“We’re concerned about the oil-covered wildlife that we may see onshore, but we’re also extremely concerned about what’s happening below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, said Catherine Wannamaker, an attorney for Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is shaping up as an unprecedented disaster for the people and wildlife of the Gulf. From plankton to endangered sperm whales to fishermen, BP has put an entire ecosystem at risk and must be held accountable.”
The groups included the following as background information in the release announcing their intent to sue BP:
The notice of intent letter sent today by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Defenders of Wildlife outlines both immediate and long-term exposure concerns for the well-being and survival of endangered species caused by the continuing oil spill and use of dispersants. The Gulf of Mexico is home to numerous endangered and threatened species all of which face acute and/or chronic risks from the Deepwater Horizon disaster including: five species of whale (blue, fin, sei, humpback, and sperm); five species of sea turtle (green, hawksbill, leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, and loggerhead); seven species of beach mice (Alabama, Choctawhatchee, Anastasia, St. Andrew, Southeastern and Perdido Key); seven species of bird (piping plover, roseate tern, whooping crane, Mississippi sandhill crane, Everglade snail kite, wood stork, and least tern); four species of fish (gulf sturgeon, Alabama sturgeon, pallid sturgeon and smalltooth sawfish); two species of coral (elkhorn and staghorn); Florida salt marsh vole; and the West Indian manatee.
Several hundred species in the Gulf are at risk of being harmed by the oil from this spill, including several endangered and threatened sea turtles, whales, and seabirds. Already there is reason to believe that species such as seabirds, turtles, and dolphins may have been affected and even killed by the spill. Oil has begun to appear in the coastal wetlands used by seabirds and other species, and much of the marine life in and around the Gulf Coast has been exposed to oil and thus likely will experience its toxic effects.
Marine mammals are further imperiled by the release of other contaminants into the environment in connection with oil development. Regarding the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, additional contaminant risk is posed by dispersants used to break up the oil. By BP’s own account, it has mobilized a third of the world’s supply of dispersants, including Corexit. Dispersants can cause genetic mutations and cancer, further adding to spill toxicity.
On May 17, 2010, Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center filed suit challenging the Minerals Management Service’s (MMS) continued lax oversight of oil drilling operations. The lawsuit details MMS’ failure to require a thorough examination of spill risks from exploratory drilling operations like the Deepwater Horizon—eight of which would be at even deeper depths than the well currently spilling oil into the Gulf. It also seeks to prohibit the MMS from continuing to exempt from environmental review new exploratory drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center also notified MMS that they would file suit for violations of the Endangered Species Act related to insufficient analysis of the impacts of exploratory drilling on threatened and endangered species.
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