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Grijalva Reiterates Call for Gulf Drilling Moratorium Pending Safety Inspections As Another Oil Rig Explodes Off The Louisiana Coast

Washington, D.C.– In the wake of today’s oil rig explosion at the Vermilion 380 platform in the Gulf of Mexico, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva repeated his call for a drilling moratorium in the Gulf pending full safety inspections of each rig. Grijalva has been investigating oil rig safety since before the April 20 Deepwater Horizon – for a full record, visit his oversight Web page.

In a June 9 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Grijalva – who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands – urged, among other measures, “Mandating the development of more stringent equipment standards at all offshore oil rigs. Existing regulations rely on industry-developed ‘best practices’ that have obviously failed.” In the same letter, Grijalva wrote of the need for “Instituting a regularly scheduled full inspection of all wells in the Gulf of Mexico by [the Minerals Management Service] or its successor agency. The first such inspection should begin immediately, because the risk of a second catastrophic spill cannot be ignored or left to chance.”

The newly announced spill, Grijalva said, “is the starkest possible reminder that oil rigs in this country are not safe, have not been safe for years, and are not currently being inspected for safety. This is not a situation we could afford to ignore before the Deepwater catastrophe, let alone today. It seems that everyone is content to let another oil rig explode every few months rather than taking concrete steps to clean up the industry.”

Vermilion 380, owned by Mariner Energy based in Houston, had a 13-person crew. All have been accounted for, and one is reportedly injured. According to the company’s Web site, “About 85% of the company’s production comes from offshore, with a growing share of that coming from deepwater developments[.]”

Improving the industry’s safety record “can’t get bogged down in political quibbling, because it’s not a political issue,” Grijalva said. “People are dying, getting injured, losing their livelihoods and filling the Gulf with spilled oil while we continue to do nothing.”

In addition to his oversight of rig safety, Grijalva in an August 2 letter called on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to encourage oil companies operating in the Gulf to hire local labor to dismantle old and abandoned rigs. Grijalva repeated that call today.

“We need to act with a sense of urgency that’s been sorely lacking so far,” Grijalva said. “The half-measures and happy talk need to end. Rather than rushing out a half-baked study that says the Gulf is free of oil, the administration needs to take this issue seriously, put pressure on industry to clean up its act, and pass a bill that includes the kind of technology and inspection manpower upgrades we should have made years ago.”

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