Monday, August 16, 2010

To Bartleby the Driller: No

For a clear illustration that the right answer is often the simplest, look here:

The Obama administration announced Monday it is requiring environmental reviews for all new deepwater oil drilling.

That means an end, at least for now, to the kind of exemptions that allowed BP to drill its blown-out well in the Gulf with little scrutiny.

The announcement came in response to a report by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which found BP got environmental exemptions based on decades-old data.

The Interior Department said the ban on so-called "categorical exclusions" for deepwater drilling would be in place pending full review of how such exemptions are granted.

"Our decision-making must be fully informed by an understanding of the potential environmental consequences of federal actions permitting offshore oil and gas development," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
Right. There are rules already in place for how to gain a legal permit for drilling for oil in mile(s)-deep coastal waters, so the thing to do is to enforce those rules, not pretend they don't exist or don't matter.

It can be expected that some permit applications will pass the legal standards, and that others will fail them. The thing to do is to evaluate whether a given application passes or fails based on the details it provides. The thing not to do is to proceed as though "we would prefer not to" is a proper response to the legal requirements.

BP and others would prefer not to. BP and others would prefer to copy and paste half-assed plans that spell out remediation plans for walruses and sea lions in the Gulf of Mexico, drawing on the expertise of long-dead scientists.

That was never good enough; it's great to see it treated as not good enough going forward. To the government officials behind this I say: more like this, please.

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