December 21, 2017

Department of Interior Cancels Critical Study on Oil and Gas Operations

Statement by Andrew Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (December 21, 2017)—The Department of the Interior (DOI) has ordered the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to cease a study that would review and evaluate a DOI program to inspect offshore oil and gas operations. This is the second study by the National Academies that DOI has halted, following their order to stop work on a study of the health effects of living near surface coal mining sites. This decision is an attack on science and an abdication of DOI’s responsibilities, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“It is simply beyond belief that the Department of the Interior would order a halt to a study of its work by our nation’s premier independent scientific institution.

“As we saw from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, where 11 people lost their lives, offshore oil and gas operations come with significant risks to workers and to ocean ecosystems. The Department of the Interior, whose job it is to make sure offshore drilling is safe, should welcome a serious investigation into the best way to carry out that job, especially as the administration pushes to expand drilling even further in the Atlantic and the Arctic. Instead, they’re blocking research into the risks. What is Secretary Zinke afraid of?

“We can only assume that this action, and the similar halt they placed on a study of coal mines, comes at the behest of Secretary Zinke’s allies in the fossil fuel industry, who want to dump the costs of their operations on to the public. By refusing to listen to independent science, the secretary is abdicating his legal responsibility to protect our health and safety.

“While private funding to complete these studies would be welcome, there’s no substitute for public investment. We can’t afford to have this scientific research be proprietary, or come with strings attached. This information is vital to the DOI and to the American people.

“It is unconscionable for the Department of the Interior to interfere with scientific progress and refuse to hear the evidence they need to do their work correctly. This attitude puts lives at risk. The scientific community is paying attention. We are united and we won’t allow attacks on science and the public interest to go unanswered.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.