GAO: Alaska Offshore Drilling Decision Based on Faulty Analysis

Photo under Creative Commons license, via Flickr.


Remember the Obama administration’s big announcement last week that it plans to expand offshore drilling? It turns out that the environmental analysis of at least one of the new drilling areas may have been faulty.

According to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday, the Alaska regional office of the Minerals Management Service within the Department of Interior failed to follow internal policy and hid from employees industry-generated reports examining the environmental impacts of more drilling. Office management claims it kept information secret to “protect proprietary information” of oil and gas companies.

Regional staff say that the secrecy within the office “has hindered their ability to complete sound environmental assessments.” The report was just released, but the Interior Department had drafts sometime before March 1—well before the agency decided to go ahead and open areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska to drilling.

Robert McClure at Investigate West has more on the GAO report, noting that some scientists who were fed up with being forced to do half-baked reports quit. Writes McClure:

Remember, folks, we are talking here about the Obama administration, which, as we noted recently, seems reminiscent of the Bush administration on some enviro matters lately. This latest finding flies in the face of President Obama’s chest-pounding about how his administration would end the era of arm-twisting government scientists.

“If the same managers who manipulated and suppressed scientific evaluations are still in charge, why should the public expect candid assessments of environmental impacts to suddenly begin?” asked Jeff Ruch, executive director of the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, in a statement. Alaskan anti-drilling advocates are calling for the Obama administration to rescind its decision to open these areas of Alaska until the environmental analysis can be reviewed. 

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.