Sen. Markey, greens urge action on offshore drilling after Gulf blowout

Markey, a longtime critic of offshore drilling, said the incident showed oversight of energy development off the coast is still too lax following BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“Three years after the BP disaster in the Gulf, there are still too many incidents that threaten workers, the environment, and our economy,” he said.

The well, owned by Walter Oil and Gas, is still leaking, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said Wednesday. The regulator said another rig is moving into the area in case a relief well is required to stop the leak.

The incident comes shortly after the GOP-led House passed legislation to open more areas to offshore drilling.

Republicans have said the Obama administration’s drilling policies are too restrictive. They want the president to allow drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, which are currently off limits at least through 2017.

The White House’s original five-year drilling plan included Atlantic Ocean tracts, but President Obama excised them from the final version following the 2010 oil spill.

Obama also overhauled federal oversight of offshore drilling following BP's spill. The oil industry has pushed back against some of the new safety rules imposed by that regulatory regime, calling them too burdensome.

Environmental groups said the Tuesday spill demonstrated the rules aren’t strong enough.

They noted that the Tuesday fire was the second mishap in as many weeks in the Gulf and used it to apply fresh pressure on Obama to stop offshore drilling.

“This second gas spill within just a few weeks is a potent reminder that drilling for fossil fuels is volatile and dangerous. We must move as quickly as possible to safer, cleaner forms of energy like wind and solar,” Deb Nardone, the director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign, said in a statement.

The previous leaking natural gas well was discovered two weeks ago. The BSEE said it detected no sheen in the Gulf after it plugged the well, located 74 miles southwest of Port Fourchon, La.

Oceana chimed in as well, saying the oil and gas industry learned little from the BP disaster and went back to “business-as-usual” methods that inadequately promote safety.

“This is yet another reminder that offshore drilling remains dirty and dangerous. Despite what the oil companies and our government claim, offshore drilling is still far from being safe. What is even more worrisome is that these types of accidents happen more frequently than most people know,” Jacqueline Savitz, deputy vice president for U.S. campaigns with Oceana, said in a statement.