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Obama administration decides to exempt oil companies from environmental regulations

Edited by John Stokes

TUCSON, Arizona— Even as the BP drilling explosion which killed eleven people continues to gush hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has continued to exempt dangerous new drilling operations from environmental review. Twenty-seven new offshore drilling projects have been approved since April 20, 2010; twenty-six under the same environmental review exemption used to approve the disastrous BP drilling that is fouling the Gulf and its wildlife.

“The MMS has learned absolutely nothing from this national catastrophe,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, “It is still illegally exempting dangerous offshore drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico from all environmental review. It is outrageous and unacceptable.”

The MMS became embroiled in controversy when it was revealed on May 5, 2010, that it exempted BP’s offshore drilling plan from environmental review by using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act meant only to apply to projects with no, or minimal, negative effects such as construction of outhouse and hiking trails. The controversy deepened when it was revealed that MMS exempts hundreds of dangerous offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico every year.

Two of the newly approved—and environmentally exempted—drilling operations were awarded to BP despite the fact that the new plans are based on the exact same false assertions about oil rig safety and the improbability of environmental damage even of oil spill occurs:

BP drilling plan approved April 6, 2010 (this is the one that exploded):

“2.7 Blowout Scenario - A scenario for a potential blowout of the well from which BP would expect to have the highest volume of liquid hydrocarbons is not required for the operations proposed in this EP.”

BP drilling plan approved May 5, 2010:

"II.J. Blowout Scenario - Information not required for activities proposed in this Initial Exploration Plan."

“It is inconceivable that MMS could look out its window at what is likely the worst oil spill in American history, then rubber stamp new BP drilling permits based on BP’s patently false statements that an oil spill cannot occur and would not be dangerous if it did. Heads need to start rolling at MMS.”

In response to the environmental exemption scandal, embattled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday that he had banned approval of new offshore oil drilling permits. The public, of course, assumed he was halting the approval of drilling plans and environmental exemptions since they are the heart of the MMS scandal. Today, however, the Interior Department acknowledged that environmental exemptions and drilling plans have not been halted. Salazar is allowing those flawed drilling approvals to proceed and is only halting the issuance of a last technical check off that does not involve any environmental review.

Under Salazar’s “moratorium”, the environmental review process will continue to be completely undermined in the exact same manner as in the BP oil spill.

“Salazar is playing a cynical shell game, making the public think he stopped issuing the faulty approvals that allowed the disastrous BP drilling to occur, when in fact he has given MMS the green light to keep issuing those very same approvals,” said Suckling. “The only thing Salazar has stopped is the final, technical check off which comes long after the environmental review. His media sleight of hand does nothing to fix the broken system that allowed what may be the greatest environmental catastrophe of our generation to occur.”

“For Secretary Salazar to allow MMS to exempt 26 new oil wells from environmental review in the midst of the ongoing Gulf crisis shows an extraordinary lapse of judgment. It is inconceivable that his attention is apparently on providing BP with new environmentally exempted offshore oil wells instead of shutting down the corrupt process which put billion of dollars into BP’s pocket and millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”

Internet site reference: LINK

VIDEO shows that Obama's Presidential campaign presentation against offshore drilling was insincere:

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