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Sunday, May 23, 2010

New Offshore Drilling Projects Forge Ahead

President Obama may have called for a moratorium on new offshore drilling since the Deepwater Horizon blast, but at least seven new permits have been granted since the announcement, The New York Times reports ( potentially violating the president’s orders. And at least five environmental waivers—also banned by the president—have been given as well. When confronted about the drilling, officials at the Department of the Interior and the Minerals Management Service stressed public comments by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, “reiterating that the agency had no intention of stopping all new oil and gas production in the Gulf,” and arguing that the moratorium was only intended to stop permits for new wells, not permits for different types of drilling on existing projects. Critics, however, feel it’s been violated, inviting the possibility of another devastating accident.

OK, what the fuck???

Shown the data indicating that waivers and permits were still being granted, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, said he was “deeply troubled.”

“We were given the clear impression that these waivers and permits were not being granted,” said Mr. Cardin, who is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where Mr. Salazar testified last week. “I think the presumption should be that there should be stronger environmental reviews, not weaker.”

At least six of the drilling projects that have been given waivers in the past four weeks are for waters that are deeper — and therefore more difficult and dangerous — than where Deepwater Horizon was operating. While that rig, which was drilling at a depth just shy of 5,000 feet, was classified as a deep-water operation, many of the wells in the six projects are classified as “ultra” deep water, including four new wells at over 9,100 feet.

“The moratorium does not even cover the dangerous drilling that caused the problem in the first place,” said Daniel J. Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, adding he was not certain that the Interior Department was capable of carrying out the needed reforms.

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