Offshore Drilling Moratorium Only Verbal, Permits Continue

We’re now witnessing one of the worst marine environmental disasters ever, and yet the political posturing coming from Washington D.C. continues to be based on lip service and empty promises. The Secretary of the Department of Interior, Ken Salazar, announced a moratorium on the issuance of final permits for “any new offshore drilling activity” on May 6, 2010, but it turns out that this moratorium is only verbal, with no real teeth to it.

Image: 350.orgCrude Awakening
Crude Awakening

“Secretary Salazar announced that, as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, beginning April 20โ€”the date of the explosionโ€”no applications for drilling permits will go forward for any new offshore drilling activity until the Department of the Interior completes the safety review process that President Obama requested.” – Department of Interior

The Department of Interior and President Obama have since repeatedly changed the definition of the moratorium, and continued to issue new drilling permits. The description of the moratorium has become increasingly narrow, as the Interior Department changes the definition to exclude whatever drilling permits the Department of Mineral Management Service (MMS) issues on any given day.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, as currently defined, the moratorium is so narrow it continues to allow the issuance of the exact type of drilling permit that BP was operating under when the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, flooding the Gulf of Mexico with crude oil.

“Under pressure from the oil industry and an agency he seems incapable of controlling, Secretary Salazar has watered down the drilling moratorium to a point where it is virtually meaningless. He seems more interested in political damage control than ensuring the Gulf of Mexico is protected from another oil industry explosion. Salazarโ€™s so-called moratoriums and reforms are little more than rhetorical dispersants designed to breakup and hide the political scandal threatening to wash up on his shore.” – Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity

Spokespeople from the Interior department revealed why the so-called “moratorium” has changed so often: it does not exist in writing. Secretary Salazar never communicated his moratorium to the agency in writing, and as a result, the MMS has issued 17 new drilling permits since April 20th, the date of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

NYU Professor Paul Light, told NPR that a verbal moratorium is “so ridiculous that it defies understanding.”

While the new permit moratorium at least halts a few projects, Salazar has placed no moratorium at all on the approval of drilling plans without environmental review, even though President Obama declared that “It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymoreโ€ฆWeโ€™re also closing the loophole that has allowed some oil companies to bypass some critical environmental reviews…”

Which might make us wonder, just who exactly is in charge here?

[Source: Center for Biological Diversity]

Written by Derek Markham

One Comment

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  1. This is ridiculous!! I am truly outraged. How can President Obama stand there and tell me, with a straight face, that the government is in charge?! If the government is in charge, then THEY are the ones destroying the environment by NOT putting a stop to this dangerous activity. Here’s what I want: I want the President to stop telling me he’s doing all he can to get to the bottom of this and actually DO SOMETHING. I want him to pull ALL permits. I want a stop on ALL off shore drilling at the very least, until this disaster is stopped AND cleaned up. Is this extreme? Some would say yes, but the ocean is a vital life source and this is no time to act lightly. Enough is enough!

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