CBD’s Kieran Suckling on the False Moratorium

27 May

Controversial Salazar “Moratorium” on Gulf Drilling was Only Verbal
by Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity

Gov. Prof: “so ridiculous that it defies understanding”

Law Prof: “moratorium does not even cover the dangerous drilling that caused
the problem in the first place”

In response to a scandal created by Center for Biological Diversity research
demonstrating that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) approved 19 new
drilling plans -after the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon-all with
exemptions from environmental review-Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar
announced on May 6, 2010, a moratorium on the issuance of final permits for
“any new offshore drilling activity.”

Since then, the Department of Interior, and President Obama himself, has
repeatedly changed the definition of the increasingly controversial
moratorium as ongoing Center research has shown that the agency was still
issuing new drilling permits. The moratorium description has become steadily
narrower as the Interior Department changes it to exclude whatever drilling
permits MMS issues on any given day.

As currently defined, the moratorium is so narrow it allows continued
issuance of the exact drilling permit type that BP was operating under when
the Deepwater Horizon exploded.

Daniel J. Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, told the New
York Times
last week that he was losing confidence that Salazar was capable

of instituting needed offshore drilling reforms since “(t)he moratorium
does not even cover the dangerous drilling that caused the problem in the
first place.”

“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,” said Kieran Suckling, executive
director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

“He seems more interested in political damage control than ensuring the Gulf
of Mexico is protected from another oil industry explosion,” said Suckling.
“Salazar’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.”

Yesterday, Interior spokespeople revealed why the “moratorium” has changed
so often and caused so much confusion: it does not exist in writing. In
keeping with the lax environmental oversight he allowed to rein at MMS,
Secretary Salazar never communicated his moratorium to the agency in
writing.

New York University Government Professor, Paul Light, told NPR yesterday
that a verbal moratorium is “so ridiculous that it defies understanding. It
could not be more important to enforce this moratorium and make absolutely
clear to the oil industry what is and is not permissible. And yet you have
the execution of a critical order that appears to have been basically done
through the most casual way possible under federal law.”

Secretary Salazar himself became the victim of his confused, shifting sands
moratorium when he falsely told Congress that it stopped all new drilling in
the Gulf of Mexico. Interior spokes people told NPR that “the Secretary
misspoke at the hearing.”

Background

Salazar’s 5-6-10 press release announcing the moratorium says:

“In a media availability after the meeting, Secretary Salazar announced
that, as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, beginning
April 20 – the date of the explosion – 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. In accordance with the President’s request, the Department will
deliver its report to the President by May 28, 2010. The only exceptions to
the new rule regarding permit approvals are the two relief w ells that are
being drilled in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

His 5-7-10 press release says the same thing:

“Offshore Drilling Permit Applications Halted

Secretary Salazar announced that, as a result of the Deepwater Horizon
explosion and spill, beginning April 20-the date of the explosion-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. In accordance with the
President’s request, the Department will deliver its report to the President
by May 28. The only exceptions to the new rule regarding permit approvals
are the two relief wells that are being drilled in response to the Deepwater
Horizon disaster.”

When confronted with the fact that MMS has issued 17 new drilling permits
since April 20th, Interior spokespeople inexplicably denied that the
moratorium applied to “any new offshore drilling activity,” saying that it
actually only applied to drilling of new wells. This allows the majority of
MMS drilling permits, including the kind used by the Deepwater Horizon, to
proceed unabated.

Salazar subsequently told Congress (and Carol Browner told the media) that
no new wells had been drilled since April 20th. Confronted with the fact
that new wells have been drilled since April 20th, Interior spokespeople
said the Secretary was mistaken and that the moratorium only applies to new
permits.

While the permit moratorium at least halts a minimal number of projects,
Salazar has placed no moratorium at all on the approval of drilling plans
without environmental review even though the president himself has declared
on May 14th: “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 anymore. We’re also closing the loophole that has allowed some oil
companies to bypass some critical environmental reviews…”

MMS to this day is approving drilling plans without environmental review.
Many are for ultradeep water drilling which is much more dangerous than the
Deepwater Horizon.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 18,001 other followers

%d bloggers like this: