Interior Department to Limit Use of ‘Categorical Exclusions’
The Interior Department announced today that it will temporarily clamp down on the use of categorical exclusions, a type of environmental waiver, for offshore oil and gas projects. But the department stopped short of banning the use of these waivers altogether.
Under a categorical exclusion, the Interior Department waives certain environmental reviews associated with obtaining permits for offshore drilling. It’s important to keep in mind that a categorical exclusion doesn’t completely cut all environmental reviews; still, these waivers came under intense criticism in light of the Gulf oil spill.
The Interior Department announced today that “the department will restrict its use of categorical exclusions for offshore oil and gas development to activities involving limited environmental risk, while it undertakes a comprehensive review of its National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process and the use of categorical exclusions for exploration and drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf,” according to a statement.
At the same time, the statement says the department will conduct a new environmental analysis of the Gulf of Mexico that will “help provide information to guide future leasing and development decisions.”