Federal officials in charge of regulating offshore oil drilling repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about the environmental impacts of drilling, in order to avoid delaying millions of dollars in drilling leases with oil companies, The Washington Post reports.
Officials at the Minerals Management Service receive cash bonuses for completing leases on deadline. Included in MMS documents obtained by The Post was a 2006 analysis by an agency expert on the damage to marine life in Alaska’s Prince William Sound since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. The report would have forced MMS to perform an Environmental Impact Statement on any offshore drilling lease in the area, so managers changed the report to prevent a year delay in leases.
A 2000 draft environmental analysis of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico included two sentences that were dropped from the final report to avoid a full environmental review:
The oil industry’s experience base in deepwater well control is limited,” and that a massive spill “could easily turn out to be a potential showstopper for the [Outer Continental Shelf] program if the industry and MMS do not come together as a whole to prevent such an incident.'”