Hashank Bengali writes for McClatchy,
The Obama administration late Wednesday moved swiftly to plug a hole in its much touted six-month ban on new deepwater drilling when the Interior Department ordered oil companies to overhaul and resubmit dozens of exploration plans that had already been approved but were virtually identical to BP’s and that called major spills and environmental damage “unlikely.”
The action came after McClatchy informed the White House and Interior officials that it had reviewed 31 deepwater exploration and development plans approved for the Gulf under the Obama administration and found that all of them downplayed the threat of spills to marine life and fisheries.
The language scarcely varied from company to company, suggesting that the plans were pumped out like boilerplate. Of the 31 plans McClatchy reviewed, 14 were approved since the April 20 explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig,
The administration had failed to include the plans in its moratorium, and experts told McClatchy that the filings could clear the way for drilling new wells when the ban was lifted. Following inquiries by McClatchy to White House and Interior officials, the Bureau of Land Management announced late Wednesday that oil companies would need to resubmit the plans with additional safety information before they’d be allowed to drill new wells.
“Pulling back exploration plans and development plans and requiring them to be updated with new information is consistent with this cautious approach and will ensure that new safety standards and risk considerations are incorporated into those planning documents,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said in a brief press release.
In the White House’s initial response to McClatchy’s inquiries, spokesman Ben LaBolt said only that a presidential commission investigating the BP spill would also “assess exploration and production plans and could provide options for ways to improve their development and review.”
Less than half an hour later, the Interior Department issued its press release, which came from the BLM, not the Minerals Management Service.