More Failures at MMS

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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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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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