Monday, May 17, 2010

44. Federal Government Approves 27 New Off-Shore Drilling Projects in the Gulf after the BP Disaster

Even as the BP spill gushes millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the agency tasked with overseeing offshore drilling is continuing to exempt dangerous new drilling operations from environmental review. Since the BP oil-rig explosion on April 20, an investigation has revealed that the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service has approved 27 new offshore drilling plans as of May 7 -- 26 of those under the same environmental-review exemption used to approve the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon project.  In fact, two of the exempted approvals went to BP, based on the same false assertions about oil-rig safety and an inconceivably alleged improbability of environmental damage.This is more bad news about the Mineral Management Service, but unfortunately it gets worse.  Last week, the MMS became embroiled in controversy when it was revealed that it had exempted BP's offshore drilling plan from environmental review, and that it exemptshundreds of dangerous offshore oil-drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico every year, by using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act meant only to apply to non-damaging activities like building an outhouse or creating a hiking trail.

In response to the review-exemption scandal, last Thursday Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he had banned approval of new offshore oil-drilling permits -- but the next day, Interior acknowledged that environmental exemptions and drilling plans have not been halted. Salazar is still allowing those flawed drilling approvals to proceed, only halting the issuance of a last technical check-off that doesn't involve any environmental review.

Get more from ABC News and see Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director KierĂ¡n Suckling talk about it on Democracy Now! 

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