The Green-Lighting of BP

More than 3 million gallons of crude have gushed into the Gulf of Mexico. Here, Coast Guard ships assist in cleanup.
© U.S. Coast Guard

If oil company BP was to blame for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it was the Interior Department, headed by Ken Salazar, that was responsible for green-lighting the Deepwater Horizon oil rig behind the disaster. Last year, according to a recent Washington Post story, "the Interior Department exempted BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis." Officials had concluded that a massive oil spill there was not likely to happen. Adding to concerns about a lapse in judgment is the news that BP had lobbied aggressively for an expansion of those exemptions 11 days before the explosion on April 20.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS), a division of the Interior Department, has downplayed environmental impacts of offshore drilling before. Writes the Post: "In one assessment, the agency estimated that “a large oil spill” from a platform would not exceed a total of 1,500 barrels and that a “deepwater spill,” occurring “offshore of the inner Continental shelf,” would not reach the coast. In another assessment, it defined the most likely large spill as totaling 4,600 barrels and forecast that it would largely dissipate within 10 days and would be unlikely to make landfall."

More than 3 million gallons of crude and counting have since gushed into the Gulf.

Calls for Salazar's resignation have increased in light of these revelations.

SOURCES: Center for Biological Diversity; Washington Post.