More evidence that Congress lives in an alternate universe: they still think offshore oil rigs are no place for regulators.

Basic common sense says that if you want to increase oil production, you at least need to pay for more rig inspectors to handle the extra work.

But the new annual government spending bill introduced this week in the House of Representatives is an assault on common sense: not only does it under-fund BOEMRE (the oil watchdog agency) but it also includes a provision to speed up drilling offshore Alaska and re-write the Clean Air Act in favor of major polluters. Meanwhile, in the Senate, lawmakers are trying to put oil rigs off the coast of Virginia and in the Arctic Ocean.

Arctic drilling places endangered species -- like this Polar Bear -- in harm's way (photo: Amy Messere)

Would Congress be so eager to drill if they paid attention to the news?

Some recent headlines:

Since the Gulf disaster we have learned that spills are the rule, not the exception, when it comes to offshore drilling. Many of them go unreported; the Guardian article cited above calls its findings just “the tip of the iceberg.”

Other accidents are kept quiet, [whistleblowers] claim, because workers fear they cannot report them in case they lose their jobs. One veteran said that although everyone is formally told to report anything that goes wrong, staff adhere to an informal code to remain silent to avoid a halt in drilling that loses money for the companies.

So the deck is stacked against safety from the beginning, and BOEMRE (The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement…whew!) already has its hands full: a senior staffer told us that the House’s budget is $35 million less than BOEMRE needs for inspectors and permit planning for future leases.  For an agency that already runs on fumes and table scraps, that’s a huge chunk of money.

In what world does this make sense? It’s another kick to the teeth of environmental and public health programs, which are being dismantled before our eyes by this Congress.  Make sure to check out National Wildlife Federation’s breakdown of the spending bill and then TAKE ACTION by sending a message to your representatives in Washington.


Stop the stealth attack on wildlife!  Please speak up for wildlife TODAY, urging your federal officials to protect our nation’s bedrock conservation laws: