Today, the House of Representatives passed legislation responding to the ongoing BP oil spill. The CLEAR Act (H.R.3534) will require oil companies to pay for environmental damage caused by spills, reform oil drilling oversight, end some loopholes in environmental rules for on-shore oil and gas drilling, and provide permanent funding for land and water conservation. Before it passed, however, the House added an amendment offered by Representatives Melancon and Childers that would allow deep water drilling to resume before the end of the administration’s six-month moratorium.
Environment Texas’ Luke Metzger issued the following statement in response:
“This bill takes a step forward on holding oil companies accountable for spills, securing funding for treasured lands and making modest reforms for on-shore drilling. We are extremely disappointed that the bill takes a step backwards in protecting the Gulf Coast by lifting a commonsense timeout for deepwater exploration put in place by the Obama administration.
AUSTIN – Environment Texas called upon the Texas Congressional Delegation to support the CLEAR Act, Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act, (H.R. 3534), scheduled for a vote tomorrow in the U.S. House. The bill
* Holds BP accountable for the oil spill by lifting the cap on liability.
* Reforms offshore oil and gas drilling by tightening safety and permitting provisions
* Provides funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire and protect key treasured lands in Texas, including Big Bend National Park and Big Thicket National Forest
Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger said, “We must do everything possible to ensure that a disaster in the Gulf never happens again. The CLEAR Act holds BP accountable, tightens safety standards on offshore drilling, and provides millions of dollars for Texas natural areas like Big Bend and the Big Thicket.”
Today, in the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) litigation brought by The Aransas Project (TAP) against officials of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), United States District Judge Janis Jack ruled from the bench to deny all motions to dismiss the litigation.
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock of Whooping Cranes that winters on the Texas coast is the only natural wild flock remaining in the world. The flock has increased from 16 birds in the early 1940s to a high of 270 in the spring of 2008. The 2008-2009 year was the worst in recent history for the Whooping Crane, with a death toll of 23 birds, or 8.5% of the flock, occurring in Texas during their winter at Aransas. The lack of freshwater inflows to the bays from the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers, especially during times of low flows, resulted in very high salinity levels and depleted food and water sources for the Cranes.
As thousands of Texans flock to beaches along the coast, Environment Texas reported that beach closings and advisories due to pollution dropped last year to 231 days, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Natural Resource Defense Council’s
20th annual beach water quality report. Environment Texas called for increased federal funding and strong EPA rules for reducing stormwater pollution.
Across the country, there were more than 18,000 closing and advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches in 2009, confirming that our nation’s beaches continue to suffer from serious water pollution that puts swimmers at risk. Meanwhile, as of July 23 the oil disaster had already led to 1,755 days of beach closing, advisories, and notices in the Gulf region this year. So far, 117.65 cubic yards of tar balls have washed ashore Texas beaches.
“When families head to the beach this summer, they shouldn’t have to worry about swimming in polluted water that can make them sick,” said Kara Byrom, an organizer with Environment Texas. “We applaud the General Land Office for the Texas Beach Watch notification effort that helps to protect public health by giving beachgoers easily accessible information about water quality.”
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest in American history, is an environmental tragedy that has had devastating effects on thousands of lives; however, the oil spill is only one of a multitude of problems the Gulf of Mexico is currently facing.
Today, Environment Texas released Our Great Waters, a new report that outlines the regional, environmental, and economic significance of eight of America’s most treasured waterways. Because of its ecological significance, Environment Texas has named the Gulf of Mexico as one of America’s “Great Waters.” This report lays out the specific problems facing each of the eight water bodies and proposed legislative fixes. The release of this report comes a week before a key vote in the Environment and Public Works committee in the U.S. Senate.
“Water quality in the Gulf is not only threatened by the oil spill, but also by excess pollution from industrial facilities and corporate agricultural operations,” Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas said. “These facilities release pollutants into the Mississippi River and other waterways, which then flow to the Gulf.”
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.