On May 14, President Barack Obama announced that oil companies would no longer be given license to bypass environmental reviews of their drilling projects.
“We’re also closing the loophole that has allowed some oil companies to bypass some critical environmental reviews,” Obama said.
But in the month since the BP-run Deepwater Horizon (above right) exploded and collapsed into the sea, its drill site spewing an unending current of oil into the open ocean, the US government has granted at least 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and 17 drilling permits. Most are for deepwater drilling operations, similar to that conducted by the ill-fated rig.
"At least six of the drilling projects that have been given waivers in the past four weeks are for waters that are deeper — and therefore more difficult and dangerous — than where Deepwater Horizon was operating," the New York Times' Ian Urbina wrote Monday. "While that rig, which was drilling at a depth just shy of 5,000 feet, was classified as a deep-water operation, many of the wells in the six projects are classified as “ultra” deep water, including four new wells at over 9,100 feet."
"In explaining why they were still granting new permits for certain types of drilling on existing wells, Department of the Interior officials said some of the procedures being allowed are necessary for the safety of the existing wellbore," Urbina added.