Oil Spill Prompts Environmental Groups to Sue Department of Interior

Lawsuits surrounding the BP oil spill continue to fly, with environmental groups setting their sights on the Interior Department this week with a pair of lawsuits that blame the agency for "lax oversight" in the wake of the disaster.

Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center jointly filed suit against the agency Monday, while the Center for Biological Diversity filed a separate suit on Tuesday. Both of the suits denounce Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for continuing to approve environmental exemptions for new oil drilling projects--even as the equivalent of several thousand barrels of oil continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

"As demonstrated by the continuing disaster in the Gulf, the magnitude of potential damage posed by risky offshore drilling operations is just too great to require anything less than close scrutiny by a competent and discerning agency," said Sierra Weaver, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. "[Minerals Management Services] should appreciate that as it oversees drilling projects off of U.S. shores, it holds the very health and safety of our oceans and coastal waters in its hands."

For more on the suits, see releases from Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity.

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