Wednesday, May 5, 2010
As the cable news media basks in the diversionary story of the Times Square Bomber, the Washington Post — to it’s credit, today reports shocking details of how the US Interior Department exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact study last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.
The decision by Interior’s Minerals Management Service to exempt BP from any environmental impact study and grant lease rights at Deepwater Horizon on April 6, 2009 followed intense lobbying efforts by BP to convince Federal regulators that an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf was unlikely. BP’s lobbying efforts were successful.
MMS assessed the environmental impact of drilling in the western and central Gulf of Mexico on three occasions in 2007 and in each case, played down the prospect of a major blowout. In one assessment, the agency estimated that “a large oil spill” from a platform would not exceed a total of 1,500 barrels and that a “deepwater spill,” occurring “offshore of the inner Continental shelf,” would not reach the coast. In another assessment, it defined the most likely large spill as totaling 4,600 barrels and forecast that it would largely dissipate within 10 days and would be unlikely to make landfall.
Kierán Suckling, executive director of the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, said the federal waiver “put BP entirely in control” of the way it conducted its drilling. “The agency’s oversight role has devolved to little more than rubber-stamping British Petroleum’s self-serving drilling plans,” Suckling said.
Each day that the leaking oil well remains uncapped, scientists and energy industry observers are imagining outcomes that range from bad to worse to worst, with some forecasting a calamity of historic proportions. Executives from oil giant BP and other energy companies shared their own worst-case scenario in a Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers, saying that if they fail to close the well, the spill could increase from an estimated 5,000 barrels a day to 40,000 barrels or possibly even 60,000 barrels.