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Oil and Gas Lobby, Unfazed by Gulf Disaster, Defends Regulators and Status Quo

Despite documented problems in offshore drilling regulation, the oil and gas industry, not surprisingly, is defending the authority of the Minerals Management Service and the status quo on regulations.

As we've reported, the job done by offshore drilling regulators at the Minerals Management Service has been marked by fast-tracked offshore drilling plans, self-policing by industry, lax enforcement, the occasional sex and drug scandal, and loose royalty collection.

Apparently, that's how the oil and gas industry likes it. Documents filed last week with the White House by the American Petroleum Institute, the industry's major lobbying group, defend regulators at MMS and argue against more stringent environmental regulations, according to the Los Angeles Times:

"One accident does not mean that the practice and procedures of MMS are inadequate to implement NEPA's requirements, especially when the cause of the accident has yet to be determined," wrote the lobbying group, which represents 400 oil and gas companies, including BP.

Anadarko Petroleum, which owns a quarter share of the leaking BP well, wrote in a separate filing that it believes the government's enforcement of environmental laws has not "in any way played a role" in the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Following BP's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration announced a series of major reforms to the agency, including a promise to scrutinize MMS' liberal use of an exemption to the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires detailed environmental studies.

The exemption, known as a categorical exclusion, effectively fast-tracks offshore drilling projects in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, and their use is evidently near and dear to the heart of the oil industry. From the L.A. Times again:

"The current process provides ample opportunity for both public input and review of the potential environmental consequences" of drilling, Anadarko wrote.

As we've reported, the White House Council on Environmental Quality had actually been reconsidering agencies' use of categorical exclusions months before the disaster in the Gulf. BP, on April 9, sent a letter to the White House (PDF), arguing that these exclusions were necessary to prevent "time delays."

Eleven days later, the Deepwater Horizon exploded, sank, and caused the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Industry, unfazed, has continued to argue that environmental regulations are adequate and that widely acknowledged regulatory failures had no part in the Gulf disaster.

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