Bush admin waives environmental assessments in public-lands energy rush

This past summer’s energy bill contained provisions making it easier to drill on public lands — and for the Bush administration, that’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The Bureau of Land Management recently told field managers to omit environmental reviews and public-comment periods for some oil and gas permits; instead, they’re to base decisions on past assessments, though some such studies are outdated. This guidance is expected to cover hundreds of new drilling applications, and it’s legal thanks to new “categorical exclusions” under the National Environmental Policy Act written into the energy bill. It’s yet another handout to wealthy energy companies, says The Wilderness Society’s Dave Alberswerth, which already “have thousands of more drilling permits in their pockets than they can even drill on.”