Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Obama Admin Warned by NOAA It Was Underestimating Offshore Drilling Risks-- To Be Expected Given Big Money

By Rob Kall

image from Moveon.org ad calling for stop to all new offshore drilling

The admin was warned but it had a political agenda and a government infrastructure still primarily made up of Bush appointees who earned their jobs by blocking regulations

When the Obama administration was developing its new policy on offshore drilling, it was warned by NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) officials that the risks were being underestimated, Dan Froomkin of the Huffingtonpost reports,
NOAA is the nation's lead ocean resource agency, and the warnings came in its response to a draft of the Obama Administration's offshore oil drilling plans. The comments were Web-published in October by the whistle-blowing group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
But NOAA's views were largely brushed aside as Obama went ahead and announced on March 31 that he would open vast swaths of American coastal waters to offshore drilling -- a plan now very much in doubt as a blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico spews out an estimated 200,000 gallons of oil daily, for the 13th straight day.

NOAA also wrote that the administration's "analysis of the risk and impacts of accidental spills and chronic impacts are understated and generally not supported or referenced, using vague terms and phrases such as 'no substantive degradation is expected' and 'some marine mammals could be harmed.'"

The NOAA report challenged the administrations claims that leaks had been rare in recent years.

Froomkin cites PEER whistleblower group head, Jeff Ruch,
that as in many other regulatory agencies, Obama political appointees in the Interior Department's notoriously troubled Minerals Management Service (MMS) have not taken enough steps to reverse the anti-environmental and anti-science policies of the Bush years.

"For the most part, the Obama team is still the Bush team," Ruch told HuffPost, noting that beyond a thin layer of political appointees, offices like MMS are run by managers who were "promoted during the Bush years -- In many instances, promoted for basically violating the law. And from what we can tell, their conduct hasn't changed."

Futhermore, Ruch said, Obama "sees environmental issues as a political bargaining chip."

Indeed, Obama's decision to increase offshore drilling was widely seen as a way of getting some Republican support for the administration's climate change bill.


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