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Monday, May 03, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill: Government Regulator Downplayed Environmental Impact Of Spill

In the wake of the growing environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is being blamed for discounting the potential for a massive oil spill and underestimating its effects.
But the federal agency tasked with oversight of offshore oil drilling may be even more responsible for understating the impact of a spill in the environmentally-sensitive area.
In a 2007 environmental impact statement for the Western and Central Planning Area Sales, which includes the Macondo Prospect where the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service downplayed the potential for environmental damage.
In the document which covers oil drilling leases from 2007-2012, MMS assesses the potential impact of oil spills and blowouts on wetlands, marine mammals, commercial fishing, economic impacts, and water quality, among other factors (emphasis mine):
- "Offshore oil spills resulting from a proposed action are not expected to damage significantly any wetlands along the Gulf Coast... Overall, impacts to wetland habitats from an oil spill associated with activities related to a proposed action would be expected to be low and temporary." - "The effect of proposed-action-related oil spills on commercial fishing is expected to cause less than a 1 percent decrease in standing stocks of any population, commercial fishing efforts, landings, or value of those landings. Any affected commercial fishing activity would recover within 6 months. At the expected level of impact, the resultant influence on commercial fishing activities from a proposed action would be negligible and indistinguishable from variations due to natural causes." LinkHere


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