The Minerals Management Service appears to have blatantly ignored a law requiring new oil drilling operations to get permits from the agency that assesses risk to endangered species. The MMS gave the okay to the Deepwater Horizon rig and dozens of others without getting the permits, the New York Times reports, even though the agency that's supposed to issue them, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, kept protesting and issuing strong warnings about the wells' impact on the Gulf.
The MMS's own biologists and engineers also say they were consistently ignored when they raised safety or environmental concerns, and pressured to change findings predicting an accident or harm to wildlife. An MMS spokesman says the agency consults the NOAA, but wouldn't respond when pressed on specific rigs. “Under the previous administration, there was a pattern of suppressing science in decisions,” she said, “and we are working very hard to change the culture.” (Read more Gulf oil spill stories.)