The continuing Bushco assault on the environment (in favor of industry) knows no bounds.  In this go-round, the Interior Department, after only a limited review, intends to go ahead with an oil and gas lease sale despite the indeterminate status of the polar bear as endangered by the very same agency.  

Washington, DC — The Interior Department limited its environmental review of oil industry plans for drilling in Arctic waters to veil plans for building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility and establishing year-round tanker traffic, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The exclusion of these plans from agency environmental reviews allowed proponents to downplay potential effects on a host of marine species, including the polar bear, endangered bowhead whale, gray whale, Pacific walrus, seals, threatened eider, and other marine birds and fish.

The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has announced that it will hold Chukchi Sea Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 on February 6, 2008. Last week, the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that it would not meet a legal deadline for it to decide whether the polar bear, for which the Chukchi Sea is important habitat, should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

What was not announced is that MMS also decided to handle industry oil and gas development plans on a piecemeal basis. Agency documents show that MMS Regional Director John Goll ignored protests by his own staff in keeping follow-on developments that Shell Oil disclosed to the agency out of any environmental reviews. These plans include an LNG facility and deployment of icebreakers and supply vessels to facilitate regular tanker traffic through dangerous Arctic waters.

Staff warnings regarding environmental concerns go unanswered, industry reaps the rewards.  

The evironment is the biggest loser.

But it doesn’t stop there.  MMS is actively impeding any inquiry.

At the same time, MMS has denied requests by conservation groups filed under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for documents that PEER has now posted. In fact, MMS is withholding the vast majority of documents that provide the basis for MMS’s environmental impact analysis. MMS has declared that roughly 5500 pages out of about 5781 pages of responsive material are exempt from production. It has redacted hundreds of pages, consisting principally of emails from MMS employees, by deleting the entire text of each email and virtually the entire text of each attachment.

Redacted documents and deleted e-mails.  Are evironmental concerns now an issue of national security?  


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