U.S. Allowed Offshore Drilling without Required Permits
Federal records show that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) authorized dozens of offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico without first obtaining required endangered species and environmental impact permits.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been the primary critic, repeatedly issuing warnings to MMS that drilling in the Gulf posed a real and continuing hazard. Despite these warnings, the MMS has since January 2009 approved hundreds of plans and projects without first getting the federally mandated permits. As late as September 2009, the NOAA was accusing the MMS of continuously disregarding the likelihood and consequences of a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The evident lack of oversight on the oil industry has also led to some MMS science staff protestations, to no avail. There is a lively culture of silencing pesky scientists within the agency with whistle-blowers finding themselves whistling ‘in the wind’. One MMS scientist anonymously claimed, “You simply are not allowed to conclude that the drilling will have an impact.”
One notice of intent to sue MMS has already been filed. As what may be the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history unfolds, there will doubtless be many more. However, they will all be cases of far too little, far too late.