Despite the ongoing U.S. government shutdown, some agencies continue to work to issue oil drilling permits on federal land and in the federal Gulf of Mexico waters, and hold public meetings on potential new oil developments in areas in Alaska.
According to former federal officials and environmentalists who spoke to Bloomberg, during this shutdown, the Administration is not treating all industries equally, giving preference to the U.S. energy sector in a period that could undermine transparency because websites and information on public meetings and hearings concerning oil development are not being updated.
The shutdown has suspended the environmental reviews for major energy projects such as Keystone XL and Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). But the Department of the Interior continues to issue drilling permits and its Bureau of Land Management held last week two public meetings to discuss if it should allow drilling or pipelines near wetlands in Alaska that are home to rare birds, Bloomberg reports.
In its contingency plan for use in a shutdown, another agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), says that “During the shut-down BSEE will continue critical permitting and oversight activities associated with energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, so as to allow the bureau to continue to support the sustained exploration and development of energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf during the shut-down.”
“BSEE will have personnel available to oversee drilling and production operations. They will continue to process applications for new permits to drill and they will perform routine inspections and inspections needed to begin new drilling activities. They will process permit modifications on a case-by-case basis and will respond to requests for permit modifications that are needed to ensure drilling safety and occupational health and safety,” the bureau said.
According to Matt Lee-Ashley, a former deputy chief of staff at the Interior Department, not every industry is treated fairly during the shutdown.
“The oil industry is still getting business as usual and everybody else is getting shut out, so it’s fundamentally not fair and it may be illegal too,” Lee-Ashley told Bloomberg.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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