View Full Version : Obama Administration Was Warned About Underestimating Threat Of Serious Oil Spill

05-04-2010, 04:07 AM
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration officials last fall warned the Department of Interior, which regulates offshore oil drilling, that it was dramatically underestimating the frequency of offshore oil spills and was dangerously understating the risk and impacts a major spill would have on coastal residents.

NOAA is the nation's lead ocean resource agency, and the warnings came in its response to a draft of the Obama Administration's offshore oil drilling plans. The comments were Web-published in October by the whistle-blowing group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

But NOAA's views were largely brushed aside as Obama went ahead and announced on March 31 that he would open vast swaths of American coastal waters to offshore drilling -- a plan now very much in doubt as a blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico spews out an estimated 200,000 gallons of oil daily, for the 13th straight day.

The memo, which NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco wrote was based on the agency's "extensive science, management and stewardship expertise related to oceans, coasts and marine ecosystem" recommended that Interior conduct "a more complete analysis of the potential human dimensions of offshore production."

NOAA complained that the draft report overstated the safety of offshore oil production by using information on frequency of spills from 1973 to 2004. NOAA pointed out there was a "substantial increase in spill volume in 2005, primarily due to spills associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Some of the damaged rigs and pipelines damaged during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons continue to have episodic releases, and repairs have not been fully completed."

Citing Interior's own data, NOAA scolded it for asserting that it had "been many years since any substantial environmental impacts have been observed as a result of an oil spill caused by the [Outer Continental Shelf] production and transportation activities."

NOAA also wrote that the administration's "analysis of the risk and impacts of
accidental spills and chronic impacts are understated and generally not supported or referenced, using vague terms and phrases such as 'no substantive
degradation is expected' and 'some marine mammals could be harmed.'"