EPA Grants DeSoto Canyon Drilling Amendment

elaine sargentThe Environmental Protection Agency has granted an Australian oil company a revision to its Gulf of Mexico drilling permit that allows for an increased amount of emissions. The decision follows an extended public comment period and June 27 public hearing in Pensacola.

“It seems like it’s already decided,” Elaine Sargent, of 350Pensacola, told EPA representatives at the local hearing.

BHP Billiton Petroleum was originally granted a permit for its Sake Drilling Project in May 2012. The project involves mobile oil and natural gas exploration drilling operations in the DeSoto Canyon area for a period of up to two years; no drilling has yet begun.

The recently granted amendment to the permit allows for increased emissions of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gasses. The company requested the amendment following source tests. EPA representatives at the June 27 public hearing called the amendment “relatively minor in the scope of the permit.”

Comments at the hearing, held at the downtown library, were overwhelmingly against the amendment and drilling in general. The drilling operation is based in federal waters, about 125 miles offshore from Pensacola.

“I will oppose all offshore drilling,” Sargent said at the hearing. “We oppose this permit, and we will oppose any permit down the road.”

To view the final permit, the EPA’s response to public comments and additional supporting information, visit http://www.epa.gov/region4/air/permits/ocspermits/ocspermits.html.