Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tell Interior & MMS what you think about the oil spill

The terrible oil spill off Louisiana has shone a spotlight on some pretty unsavory regulatory practices at Minerals Management Services (MMS), a branch of the Department of the Interior that offers drilling permitting (who knew?). The New York Times has a strong article about just how lax the MMS had been:

The federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.

Those approvals, federal records show, include one for the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in thousands of barrels of oil spilling into the gulf each day.

The Minerals Management Service, or M.M.S., also routinely overruled its staff biologists and engineers who raised concerns about the safety and the environmental impact of certain drilling proposals in the gulf and in Alaska, according to a half-dozen current and former agency scientists.

Those scientists said they were also regularly pressured by agency officials to change the findings of their internal studies if they predicted that an accident was likely to occur or if wildlife might be harmed.

Under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Minerals Management Service is required to get permits to allow drilling where it might harm endangered species or marine mammals.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is partly responsible for protecting endangered species and marine mammals. It has said on repeated occasions that drilling in the gulf affects these animals, but the minerals agency since January 2009 has approved at least three huge lease sales, 103 seismic blasting projects and 346 drilling plans. Agency records also show that permission for those projects and plans was granted without getting the permits required under federal law.

“M.M.S. has given up any pretense of regulating the offshore oil industry,” said KierĂ¡n Suckling, director of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group in Tucson, which filed notice of intent to sue the agency over its noncompliance with federal law concerning endangered species. “The agency seems to think its mission is to help the oil industry evade environmental laws.”
There is much more to the Times article, so follow the link there. In the meantime, though, there are some other links to know about. You can tell the folks at MMS what you think about their regulatory habits. They have a sacrificial lamb for this purpose:

Office of Public Affairs contact at the Minerals Management Services, who I believe has the job of handling emails from outraged citizens:
Nicholas Pardi at nicholas.pardi@mms.gov

And the contact person for Minerals Management Services in the Gulf of Mexico division:
Eileen Angelico at eileen.angelico@mms.gov

And the "feedback" line for the Department of the Interior, who are the supervising agency for the Minerals Management Service and who are now planning reforms to the minerals service:
email to feedback@ios.doi.gov
or use the comments box on their website, http://www.doi.gov/archive/contact.html

Tip of the OOTJ hat to my socially conscious daughter, Alexa McKenzie!

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