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Settlement Reached on Guarding Against Burning Deaths of Sea Turtles in Gulf
The Washington Post // July 2, 2010
by Juliet Eilperin
The Coast Guard and BP reached a settlement Friday with environmental
groups over the issue of how best to guard against accidentally killing
endangered sea turtles during controlled burns in the Gulf of Mexico
aimed at curbing the oil spill's spread.
Three environmental groups -- the Center for Biological Diversity, the
Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Animal Defense League -- had
sued in federal court in New Orleans on Wednesday, charging that oil
spill responders had taken inadequate precautions while conducting the
controlled burns. While activists have not found charred remains of
endangered Kemp's Ridley or other sea turtles in the region, they
argued the animals are at risk because they tend to congregate in
sargassum, seagrasses that burn crews frequently target.
Under the settlement, the two sides have agreed the Coast Guard will
soon convene a group of scientists to determine how best to ensure that
no endangered sea turtles die during controlled burns. The
environmental groups will have input into assembling the group of
experts, and the protocol scientists devise will be put on a fast track
for public comment so it can be finalized quickly.
"Sea turtles are already suffering catastrophically from the oil spill
and it would be outrageous to add insult to injury by burning them
alive in the spill cleanup effort," said the Center for Biological
Diversity's executive director Kieran Suckling in an interview. "It's a
no-brainer to put sea turtle observers on the cleanup boasts and whisk
the turtles out of the oil pools before they're set on fire."
No burning will take place in the gulf before Tuesday, because of poor
weather conditions, and by then BP and the Coast Guard must inform the
environmental groups whether they are prepared to put scientific
observers on every burn boat to identify and remove all turtles before
any burns resume.
If they can not make that assurance, Suckling said, the plaintiffs "will be back" in court challenging the controlled burns.
Neither the Coast Guard nor BP could be immediately reached for comment.
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