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Obama's new offshore oil drilling rules: too many loopholes?

The White House’s new guidelines for offshore oil drilling in deep water were intended to make it tougher for oil companies to avoid detailed environmental reviews.

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This Aug. 3 photo shows the Development Driller III, which is drilling the primary relief well, and the Helix Q4000, background left, the vessel being used to perform the static kill operation, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico.

Gerald Herbert/AP/file

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The Obama administration's new guidelines for offshore oil drilling, which are intended to require much more detailed environmental reviews for deep-water drilling, have upset not only the oil industry, but environmentalists, too.

The recommendations unveiled by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the US Department of the Interior on Monday were touted as ratcheting back widespread uses of "categorical exclusions."

That designation by the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) had exempted many deep-water drilling operations from detailed environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

In the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental and other groups found that BP's Macondo well that was gushing oil – as well as most other deep-water wells in the region – had been graced with a categorical exclusion.

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