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Environmental groups invite Obama to review Gulf Oil Disaster

(Gulf Coast)

Gulf Coast environmental groups working in the areas at greatest risk from British Petroleum’s catastrophic offshore drilling disaster, joined by Greenpeace USA, are urging President Obama to accept their invitation, issued today, to view the crisis with them. “This is one of the worst environmental accidents in U.S. history,” said Anne Rolfes with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “We need the President’s attention.”

This disaster has added significance given President Obama’s recent opening of new offshore areas for oil exploration. The groups are encouraging the President to see the devastation first hand. “It’s not enough to get briefings and watch it on TV,” said Marylee Orr of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. “The President needs to be personally engaged.”

The groups’ hope is that Obama will use this most recent spill to see for himself the realities of offshore drilling, including what appears to be the impossible task of cleaning up the massive spill. “This rig was equipped with the latest technology, yet still we have a catastrophe on our hands,” said Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network. “Once an accident of this magnitude occurs, it’s clear that there’s little that can be done to protect our coasts,” finished Viles.

The nation’s largest environmental organizations, representing a wide array of views, are teaming with groups in the Gulf Coast. “We are witnessing one of the worst environmental accidents in U.S. history,” said Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace. “This spill demonstrates why off-shore drilling isn’t safe or economical and we demand the President reverse course on his policies and reinstate the drilling moratorium to keep this from happening elsewhere.”

As the oil heads toward the fragile wetlands, oyster beds and beaches along the Gulf Coast, one of the most significant issues is the failure of the automatic blow out preventer valve, a technology that has been touted as a safeguard to catastrophic spills. The boats skimming oil from the Gulf cannot operate in waves higher than about three feet; Gulf conditions are typically rougher. The massive burning that has begun has serious implications for wildlife.

President Obama is being encouraged to personally engage on this issue and visit the Gulf Coast lest his inaction recall the missteps of President Bush, widely viewed as aloof and detached from Hurricane Katrina. “The deaths of eleven workers as well as the economic and ecological impacts of the spill merit attention from the President,” Woody Martin, chair of the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The invitation letter to President Obama as well as the latest monitoring reports are available at