Did Bush Administration Relax Rules for BP in Gulf Drilling?

Bush relaxed BP drilling permits in GulfHopeTracker| The Independent UK writes a major piece today that in 2008 the Bush Administration relaxed the rules for BP, in its drilling in the Gulf.

A Washington Post investigation concluded that in April 2009 the MMS granted BP a “categorical exclusion” from requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act to file papers on what it would do in the event of a blow-out at the new well. It reported that BP had lobbied for the exclusion just 11 days prior. Moreover in its own assessments, the MMS concluded that a blow-out at a deepwater well in the Gulf would be unlikely to generate spills bad enough for oil to threaten coastal ecosystems.

That no blow-out plan was filed prompted fury from experts like Robert Wiygul, an environmental lawyer. “This is kind of an outrageous omission, because you’re drilling in extremely deep waters, where by definition you’re looking for very large reservoirs to justify the cost.” He added: “If the MMS was allowing companies to drill in this ultra-deep situation without a blow-out scenario, then it seems clear they weren’t doing the job they were tasked with.” via Independent UK

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said no new permits would be issued to expand offshore oil drilling, at least until officials completed a review of the Gulf spill due May 28.

Salazar also tabled three public meetings scheduled for May, for public comment to the process for auctioning off gas and oil exploration leases off the coast of Virginia.

“There are some very major mistakes that were made by the companies involved” in the Gulf spill, Mr. Salazar told reporters during a press conference at BP’s Houston offices. via WSJ

Business Week reports that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean companies have been advised by the US Justice Department to keep all evidence and documentation pertinent to the Gulf Oil spill.