More Failures at MMS


I have a piece up today about the litany of failures at the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Services over the years that may have contributed to the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico. And it doesn’t end there.

Washington Post has another piece of damning evidence on MMS today, reporting that the division “exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year.”

An MMS evaluation of the Deepwater Horizon lease application vastly underestimated the amount of oil that could be spilled from the rig, and said it would not likely reach the coast. The evaluations prompted MMS to give the operation a “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act in April 2009.

The Post also has more on BP’s underestimation of potential spills:

BP’s exploration plan for Lease 206, which calls the prospect of an oil spill “unlikely,” stated that “no mitigation measures other than those required by regulation and BP policy will be employed to avoid, diminish or eliminate potential impacts on environmental resources.”

While the plan included a 13-page environmental impact analysis, it minimized the prospect of any serious damage associated with a spill, saying there would be only “sub-lethal” effects on fish and marine mammals, and “birds could become oiled. However it is unlikely that an accidental oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.”

Looks like MMS might still have a long way to go in cleaning up its act.

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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.