Will They Make The Same Mistake with Alaska's North Shore Project?
After letting it gush unrestrained for over two weeks, clean-up crews might finally be able to regain control of the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig operated by British Petroleum.
BP engineers are preparing to to lower a 98-ton metal chamber over the ruptured seabed well, in the hopes of slowing the spill's spread, and siphoning the oil into barges waiting above.
Federal officials have been quick to reassure the country that BP would be held completely responsible for clean-up of this multi-state disaster.
On Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar commented that "very major mistakes" were made by companies involved in both the deadly explosion and the ensuing spill, but failed to own up to oversights perpetrated by his own department.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the Interior Department failed to impose a full review of potential environmental impacts of the BP drilling operation because preliminary reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.
When Ken Salazar took office in early 2009, he pledged to bring reform to the scandal plagued Mineral Management Service (MMS), which had been found by the U.S. inspector general to have traded sex, drugs, and financial favors with oil-company executives.
Just three months later, when BP submitted its Gulf drilling plans to the MMS, the agency chose to ignore the detailed environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Instead the MMS declared the plan to be "categorically excluded" from environmental analysis because it posed virtually no chance of harming the environment (read the one-page approval letter here).
Well, Salazar, looks like you should add your name to the long list of people that made "very major mistakes."
And that list isn't done growing yet.
In 2009, Salazar approved Shell Oil's plan to drill in the delicate Beaufort and Chukchi seas. There is no existing technology to clean up a catastrophic oil spill in these icy waters off Alaska's North Shore.
In approving Shell's plans, Secretary Salazar accepted the company's conclusion (they concluded it for themselves?!) that "a large oil spill, such as a crude oil release from a blowout, is extremely rare and not considered a reasonably foreseeable impact."
Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency in Secretary Salazar's Interior Department that is charged with protecting the polar bear and other threatened and endangered species, declined to consider the impacts of a large oil spill in its Endangered Species Act analysis.
So if all of you on the West Coast are feeling jealous that you haven't had your fill of environmental and economic catastrophe via oill spill, just sit tight, there's probably one coming your way soon.
While Obama has announced that no new oil-drilling operations will occur until review of the Gulf spill is completed, both Shell and Secretary Salazar are apparently interpreting Obama's directive as not applying to Shell's drilling plans.
Shell's drilling, unless stopped by Obama or the courts, would begin in early July, likely before the causes of the Gulf spill are determined, possibly before the leaking well is sealed, and certainly before cleanup in the Gulf is completed.
Unless we fight back.