WASHINGTON— The Obama administration announced today that it will no longer exempt certain deepwater offshore oil-drilling projects from environmental review. However, non-deepwater drilling operations may continue to be approved without environmental review. Also, deepwater wells and rigs already approved under the faulty environmental review process will not necessarily have to seek full National Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act compliance.
In response, Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling issued the following statement:
“Almost four months after the greatest environmental catastrophe in American history, it is good that the Obama administration is rhetorically committed to ending the use of regulatory shortcuts such as categorical exclusions to bypass meaningful environmental review of highly dangerous offshore oil drilling. We applaud the move toward greater transparency at all stages of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act leasing process.
“However, today’s report and related actions by Interior fail to address a number of realities, including the fact that non-deepwater offshore oil drilling is as dangerous as deepwater drilling, so full environmental review must also be done for these oil-drilling operations. The House’s recently passed oil-response bill recognized this reality by prohibiting the use of categorical exclusions for offshore drilling plans at all depths.
“Deepwater wells and rigs already approved under the now admittedly faulty environmental review process will not necessarily have to seek full National Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act compliance. This potential loophole includes failure to mandate a full environmental impact statement on the type of drilling operations that precipitated the BP explosion.
“In addition, despite the fact that many of the identified environmental illegalities were spawned under the Bush administration, there is no information in the report on how BP and other oil companies continued to pressure Secretary Salazar and other current administration officials to continue the use of categorical exclusions and other environmental shortcuts starting in January 2009.
“Most notably, the policy that allowed the categorical exclusions used by BP at the Macondo well has not yet been officially revoked, and Director Bromwich’s implementing memo on categorical exclusions is still very narrow.
“We call on the administration to build on today’s announcement and finally enforce all current law as it relates to dangerous offshore oil drilling on America’s beautiful, important and irreplaceable coasts.”