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Feds Agreed Oil Risk To Wildlife Was Low

From an unfazed New York Times:

Agency Agreed Wildlife Risk From Oil Was ‘Low’

By LESLIE KAUFMAN

July 5, 2010

The federal agency charged with protecting endangered species like the brown pelican and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle signed off on the Minerals Management Service’s conclusion that deepwater drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico posed no significant risk to wildlife, despite evidence that a spill of even moderate size could be disastrous, according to federal documents.

By law, the minerals service, before selling oil leases in the gulf, must submit an evaluation of the potential biological impact on threatened species to the Fish and Wildlife Service, whose responsibilities include protecting endangered species on land. Although the wildlife agency cannot block lease sales, it can ask for changes in the assessment if it believes it is inadequate, or it can insist on conducting its own survey of potential threats, something the agency has frequently done in the past.

But in a letter dated Sept. 14, 2007, and obtained by The New York Times, the wildlife agency agreed with the minerals service’s characterization that the chances that deepwater drilling would result in a spill that would pollute critical habitat was “low.”

The agency signed off on the minerals service’s biological evaluation, even though that assessment considered only the risks to wildlife based on spills of 1,000 to 15,000 barrels — a minuscule amount compared with the hundreds of thousands of barrels now spewing into the gulf. The assessment also noted that even such modest spills carried up to a 27 percent risk of oil reaching the critical habitat for some endangered species

Deborah Fuller, the endangered species program coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s office in Lafayette, La., led the team that reviewed the minerals service’s biological assessment. She said that her office recognized that a big spill would be disastrous to wildlife and that it made suggestions for increasing preparedness for the cleanup of a spill as part of an informal consultation on the biological review.

But she said her office did not challenge the minerals service’s assessment of the risk.

“We all know an oil spill is catastrophic, but what is the likelihood it will happen?” Ms. Fuller asked. She said her office had considered that any likelihood under 50 percent would not be enough to require the protections of her office.

“Obviously, we are going to relook at all these numbers for upcoming consultations,” she said

So what is the Fish and Wildlife Service going to change its name to? (The Minerals Management Service has of course been renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.)

For that matter, have they been proven wrong yet? There still hasn’t been any catastrophic harm to the local wildlife or their habitat, as yet. Which, of course, could expand the foot dragging from the Obama administration.

Still, we realize that this will only lead to calls for still more government oversight. And never mind that the problem seems to have stemmed from too many oversights as it was.

For what it’s worth, we would point out that there aren’t many words in the English language that mean one thing and also its opposite. ‘Oversight’ is one. ‘Sanction’ would be another. Oddly enough, both terms are popular with the government.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

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