WASHINGTON — As the United States celebrates its birthday on Monday, the U.S. government is once again making headlines for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Deepwater Task Force is still looking for evidence of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Coast, with the task force’s chairman now calling for the oil industry to provide evidence to prove it’s in the region.
“I think we need to go back and look at the evidence that’s out there, because I think we’ve just found a few pieces of it,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The U.N. has called for the Deepsea Drilling Program to “rethink” its methods, but Inhofes office has said the government is not looking to reopen the program.
But the Deep water task force, which Inhofen chaired in 2014, has been working on the issue for years, and in 2015 issued a report that urged the industry to submit evidence of its presence in the area.
It also recommended the government seek a permit for the exploratory drilling.
The report found evidence that the drilling would “likely” cause an oil spill, and suggested that the government could request a permit from the Interior Department.
In the report, the Deep Water Task Force also recommended that the United Nations step in and provide information to the taskforce about the risks of oil spills.
It’s been a year since the drilling program was halted.
In February 2017, the Obama administration issued a new policy that temporarily halted all drilling activities on federal lands.
But after a federal judge ruled in favor of a group of environmental groups and several states in April, the drilling resumed in a limited capacity in March 2019.
The new policy allows drilling in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska and the Beaufort Sea in the Carolinas for a limited time to help scientists determine the extent of the oil and natural gas beneath the seafloor.
The Interior Department has since announced it will resume drilling in both the Chokchi and Beaufort seas.
The administration’s new policy also allowed drilling on the continental shelf of the Gulf and Beaucces, which are also the focus of a similar investigation by the Deep Sea Drilling Task Force.