Just what the Gulf of Mexico needs: another oil well

Oil from BP’s blown-out Deepwater Horizon well continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and will do so until August at the earliest. In response, the Obama administration extended a moratorium on deepwater drilling for six months last week. However, the president also “quietly allowed a three-week-old ban on drilling in shallow water to expire” last week (hat tip Open Left). As a result,

Federal regulators approved Wednesday the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since President Barack Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water, even while deepwater projects remain frozen after the massive BP spill.

The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean’s surface. It’s south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.

Chris Bowers put it mildly when he described the Obama administration’s action here as “difficult to fathom.” The president gave a speech on the economy today and talked about investing in alternative energy, but like all my parenting books say, actions speak louder than words. The greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, and BP doesn’t know how to stop it, but it’s business as usual at the Minerals Management Service. Nor is today’s permit approval an isolated case:

In the days since President Obama announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells and a halt to a controversial type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted, according to records.

The records also indicate that since the April 20 explosion on the rig, federal regulators have granted at least 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits, most of which were for types of work like that on the Deepwater Horizon shortly before it exploded, pouring a ceaseless current of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Words fail me, so you’ll have to share your thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: In 1979 it took nine months to stop oil gushing from a shallow well in the Gulf of Mexico.

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