When the Obama Administration announced a moratorium on new offshore drilling until the cause of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster is known — not that that’s nearly enough of a halt, but still — didn’t you think it meant that there wouldn’t be any more drilling offshore? Or any further permitting for such drilling? Wrong.
Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.
The waivers were granted despite President Barack Obama’s vow that his administration would launch a "relentless response effort" to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the gulf. One of them was dated Friday — the day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was temporarily halting offshore drilling.
So, what is a moratorium, anyway?
"Is there a moratorium on offshore drilling or not?" asked Peter Galvin, the conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental group that discovered the administration’s continued approval of the exemptions. "Possibly the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has occurred, and nothing appears to have changed."
A separate application must be filed to actually drill, of course, but holding up that application after these 27 have been approved will be called foot-dragging.
The waivers are expected to spark new criticism of the troubled agency and the administration’s response to the spill.
Salazar announced Thursday that there’d be no new offshore drilling until the Interior Department completes the safety review process requested by Obama. The department is required to deliver the report to the president by May 28.
Given the MMS approvals, however, Galvin said the administration’s pledge appears disingenuous.
"It looks to me like they’re misleading the public," he said.
I thought a moratorium meant everything was, you know, STOPPED. At least until this disaster was better understood. So why is MMS conducting business as usual?
And isn’t an exemption from environmental impact studies exactly what got the Gulf of Mexico into its current mess?
Are you starting to wonder whether Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has control of his agency, specifically MMS? And are you starting to wonder whether Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should continue in office given this, um, smokescreen?