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Obama administration approves BP’s plan to drill in the Gulf of Mexico

The Obama administration has approved BP’s first plan to drill for oil in the gulf since last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, which left 11 dead and damaged the gulf ecosystem and the economies of the states that border it. Representatives for the Gulf Restoration Network say the decision is “problematic,” considering the fact that comprehensive safety legislation has yet to be passed through Congress. Via PBS’ Frontline:

The approval by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) came despite the fact that BP is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and was recently cited by the Department of the Interior for numerous safety and environmental violations in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

But BP does not currently warrant special scrutiny or attention, BOEM deputy director Walter Cruickshank told Lusgarten on a panel at the Society of Environmental Journalists Conference on Friday. Until there is a conviction that affects its eligibility, the criteria to evaluate BP’s qualifications will be the same as any other operator, Cruickshank explained.

BOEM approved BP’s plan to drill up to four exploratory wells nearly 200 miles from the coast of Louisiana after the bureau completed a “site-specific environmental assessment” of the activities in the plan.

Some members of Congress, like Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., are critical of the administration’s decision to approve BP’s plan to drill up to four exploratory wells nearly 200 miles off the Louisiana coast. “Comprehensive safety legislation hasn’t passed Congress, and BP hasn’t paid the fines they owe for their spill, yet BP is being given back the keys to drill in the gulf,” Markey told Frontline.

Though BP’s Macondo well was capped in September 2010 after spilling more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf, the effects persist even today. Concerns over the safety of gulf seafood still abound, and recent sightings of a 10-mile oil slick in the area have led many to question just how capped BP’s well actually is. The Coast Guard has said that the oil is not from the Macondo well, but may be emanating from the company’s sunken Transocean rig.

Dan Favre, communications director for the Gulf Restoration Network, says the administration’s decision is problematic no matter which oil company drills in the gulf.

“Whether it’s BP or any other oil company, it’s problematic that there’s this rush to drill in the gulf again and yet we still haven’t seen comprehensive safety legislation passed through Congress that includes a regional citizens’ advisory council that would really give local impacted communities a voice and a seat at the decision-making table when it comes to ensuring that oil and gas companies are living up to safety and environmental standards,” he says.

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