"The Minerals Management Service has routinely issued drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico since 2009 without obtaining other federal permits needed to account for the toll energy exploration would take on endangered species and marine mammals, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post.
Since January 2009, the MMS has approved 3 lease sales, 130 permits to conduct seismic activities, 219 exploration plans and 137 production plans without obtaining permits under either the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Endangered Species Act. These permits, which are provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are required under law to account for the accidental harm exploration activities could cause to marine creatures, such as sperm whales.
When asked about the lack of permits this week, an Interior official referred questions to Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Christine Eustis, who said the department did conduct "an informal consultation" with NOAA about the small number of marine mammals that fall under Interior's jurisdiction. But she referred questions about all other permits to NOAA, which did not return calls seeking comment. NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.
The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, has filed notice of intent to sue over the lack of permits."
Juliet Eilperin reports in Post Carbon May 13, 2010.