Posted by: reefrescue | July 6, 2010

The environmental permitting charade

US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed risk from oil was low

For those familiar with the environmental permitting process it comes as no surprise that decisions are often based on politics rather than science. The MMS permits and the Fish and Wildlife Biological Opinion referenced below are not isolated, but are symptomatic of a permitting process that all too often looks the other way to accommodate special interests. There is evidence of the MMS type of cozy/corrupt relationships system-wide; from oil drilling leases to Clean Water Act permits to beach renourishment projects. Hopefully, the Gulf oil disaster serves an eye-opener to the general public. Even though environmental protections have been enacted into law, the permits are often rubber-stamped and enforcement is nonexistent.

The New York Times article below highlights an example of a systemically compromised permitting process with impacts that reach far beyond offshore oil leases.

Agency Agreed Wildlife Risk From Oil Was ‘Low’

By LESLIE KAUFMAN
Published: July 5, 2010

The federal agency charged with protecting endangered species like the brown pelican and the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle signed off on the Minerals Management Service’s conclusion that deepwater drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico posed no significant risk to wildlife, despite evidence that a spill of even moderate size could be disastrous, according to federal documents.

By law, the minerals service, before selling oil leases in the gulf, must submit an evaluation of the potential biological impact on threatened species to the Fish and Wildlife Service, whose responsibilities include protecting endangered species on land. Although the wildlife agency cannot block lease sales, it can ask for changes in the assessment if it believes it is inadequate, or it can insist on conducting its own survey of potential threats, something the agency has frequently done in the past.

But in a letter dated Sept. 14, 2007, and obtained by The New York Times, the wildlife agency agreed with the minerals service’s characterization that the chances that deepwater drilling would result in a spill that would pollute critical habitat was “low.”

Read NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/06/us/06wildlife.html?_r=2&ref=leslie_kaufman

Watch CNN News report: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2010/07/07/ac.johns.mms.wildlife.cnn.html

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is a Bureau in the Department of Interior

http://www.fws.gov/

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