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Obama Administration Approves 448 New Drill Leases for Gulf of Mexico [View All]

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tekisui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-17-10 08:03 AM
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Obama Administration Approves 448 New Drill Leases for Gulf of Mexico
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Source: Mother Jones

At his long-awaited press conference on the Gulf oil disaster last month, President Obama announced a moratorium on new oil drilling and exploration for six months. "We can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again," he declared. But while existing rigs may be out of commission for the near future, the administration hasn't exactly put the brakes on new oil and gas drilling ventures. In recent weeks, the government has quietly approved the sale of more than 400 new leases for vast swaths of the Gulf of Mexico. And these contractswhich mark the first step in the drilling processwere subjected to the same slapdash environmental oversight that failed to prevent the BP catastrophe.

The region was included in a plan created by the Bush administration's Department of the Interior to lease new areas of the Gulf to the oil and gas industries. But it was Obama's Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who gave the go-ahead for the sale of Lease 2136,800 tracts covering 36 million acres off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in November 2009. The salewhich was held on March 17 this year in the New Orleans Superdomeattracted $1.3 billion in bids. Since then, the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has approved the sale of 448 of those tracts, 198 of them in deepwater, which is defined as more than 656 feet below the sea. BP is the proud new leaser of 13 of those tracts.

The lease sale is the first step in the oil drilling process. Companies must first obtain the right to drill the tracts before they can devise exploration plans, which must be approved by MMS.

And that's where the problem lies. MMS has been notorious for rubber-stamping the oil industry's plans. The lease for the well that's spewing oil into the Gulf, the Macondo, was sold in March 2008. The exploration plan for that well was granted a "categorical exclusion" from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in April 2009, paving the way for drilling to begin.

Earlier, in April 2007, MMS completed a 924-page Multisale Environmental Impact Statement for the Gulf regioncovering both the site of the Deepwater disaster and these new tracts leased by the government. The statement projects that an "estimated 2-3 blowouts could occur" in the central Gulf in an average year, but significantly downplays the potential impact of a large spill. Most blowouts have a "short duration, and half of blowouts lasted less than half a day," the statement says, projecting that a large spill would only "acutely threaten recreational beaches for up to 30 days." The document also states that a large spill would only have a 23 to 25 percent risk of harming the waters of western Louisiana.

more: http://motherjones.com/environment/2010/06/new-drilling...
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