Obama Admin. Approves New Drilling as Gulf Disaster Continues

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


When the Obama administration announced last week that it was extending the temporary moratorium on offshore drilling for another six months, it had no intention of including shallow-water drilling in that time-out. Following through, the administration approved a new permit for drilling just off the coast of Louisiana on Wednesday. Because, you know, what could go wrong?

The Associated Press reports:

The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean’s surface. It’s south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.

The permit was issued Wednesday morning, according to MMS records. The approval makes clear that the administration, despite touting the need for caution in last week’s announcement, has no plans to limit shallow-water drilling, which is defined as drilling in waters of less than 500 feet.

An Interior spokesman told the AP that they believe that this drilling is safe. “The interim safety measures, as long as they’re completely adhered to, we feel that’s enough for the shallow-water drilling to proceed under closer scrutiny and stepped-up inspections,” said spokesman Frank Quimby.

That shallow-water drilling is less dangerous than drilling in the deeper waters is questionable, at best. It might be easier to stop a blowout when it’s not a mile below the surface, as the Deepwater Horizon is, but shallow water spills can stil be quite disasterous. Indeed, the worst drilling disaster in the Gulf to date, the blowout of the Ixtoc 1 well off the coast of Mexico in June 1979, occurred in shallow seas, under just 160 feet of water. That disaster dumped 138 million gallons of oil into the Gulf and lasted 9 months.

Needless to say, offshore drilling critics aren’t happy about the new permit. “Opening new drilling in the Gulf is asking for trouble,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “Where there is drilling, there are spills.”

If you appreciate our BP coverage, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate