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Outrageous: Govt. Gives BP More Off-Shore Drilling Regulatory Exemptions

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Last week, I detailed the regulatory capture that paved the way to BP's oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Among them are significant failures by the Interior Department, which oversees off-shore drilling. From my story:

...the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service [gave] Deepwater Horizon a " categorical exclusion" from the National Environmental Policy Act, almost exactly a year before it exploded. (...)

Ten years ago, there were already warnings that the backup systems on oil rigs that failed on Deepwater Horizon would be a problem. The Interior Department issued a "safety alert" but then left it up to oil companies to decide what kind of backup system to use. And in 2007, a government regulator from the same department downplayed the chances and impact of a spill like the one that occurred last month: "[B]lowouts are rare events and of short duration, potential impact to marine water quality are not expected to be significant."

You'd think a huge regulatory magnifying lens would be placed over the Interior Dept. now given their tremendous failure to prevent the BP oil disaster, but here comes outrageous news that proves no lessons have been learned.

Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil have been gushing into ocean waters. And since that same date, the Interior Dept. has approved 27 new permits for off-shore drilling sites.

Here's the kicker: two of these are permits for good old BP. But it gets better still: 26 of the 27 new drilling sites have been granted regulatory exemptions, including those issued to BP.

You know what Einstein said about insanity, right?

I'm just waiting for calls for Interior chief Ken Salazar's resignation to start making a dent in the regulatory framework of this department. But I'm afraid that may be too much to hope for.