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PoliGraph: Bachmann right on where BP buck stops

Accurate image.GIFBy Catharine Richert

Rep. Michele Bachmann has criticized President Barack Obama for the way he's handled the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Recently, she pointed out that BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling project was actually approved by Obama's administration.

"Remember, this was under Obama's Minerals and Management Service bureau with his appointed chief of MMS who actually issued the permits and wrote all the approvals for exactly what BP did," she told WCCO reporter Pat Kessler in a June 16, 2010, interview. "This happened under President Obama's watch."

Bachmann is correct: The Obama administration gave BP the green light to start drilling.

The Evidence

The story of the Deepwater Horizon spill starts in 2008, when the Bush administration leased new drilling tracts in the Gulf of Mexico to several oil companies, including BP.

The following year, BP submitted an exploration plan to the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the arm of the Interior Department that oversees drilling. It stated that the company could, in the event of an oil spill, "respond, to the maximum extent practicable, to a worst-case discharge, or a substantial threat of such a discharge."

MMS then had 30 days to review the plan. During this time, MMS could have asked BP to do an extensive environmental impact review - it's technically required for some drilling projects - but the department gave BP a waiver instead. In fact, such exemptions are common; according to an Interior Department spokesman speaking with the Washington Post, MMS issues between 250 and 400 annually for projects in the Gulf.

On April 6, 2009, MMS approved the plan.

The Verdict

The leasing process may have started under the previous administration, but it was Obama's officials who give the project a stamp of approval.

Bachmann's claim is accurate.


WCCO, Interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann, June 16, 2010

The Minerals Management Service, Central Gulf of Mexico Sale 206 Nets $ 3.67 Billion in High Bids, August 4, 2008

BP, Initial Exploration Plan Mississippi Canyon Block 252, accessed June 30, 2010

The White House, Remarks by the President on the Gulf Oil Spill, May 27, 2010

The Washington Post, U.S. exempted BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling from environmental impact study, by Juliet Eilperin, May 5, 2010

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, accessed June 30, 2010

The Department of the Interior, Salazar Launches Safety and Environmental Protection Reforms to Toughen Oversight of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations, May 11, 2010

Interview, Richard Charter, Senior Policy Advisor, Defenders of Wildlife, June 30, 2010

Interview, Rachel Horn, spokeswoman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, June 30, 2010

Interview, Kendra Barkoff, spokeswoman, the Department of the Interior, June 30, 2010

PoliGraph is a regular series of reports that checks the veracity of politicians' claims. It is a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio News and the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

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