What does it mean that the Interior Department is clamping down on “categorical exclusions” for offshore gas and oil projects?

What is a “categorical exclusions” and why are they controversial?

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    “Categorical exclusion means a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment … and … for which, therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.” — 40 CFR 1508.4

    (http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/projdev/docuce.asp)

    The reason for the controversy is because “Regulators at the Minerals Management Service exempted 27 additional offshore drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico from performing an in-depth environmental analysis — even after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, according to reporting by McClatchy. One of those exemptions went to BP.”

    (http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/oil-gulf-mexico-offshore-drilling-plans-regulators-categorical-exemption)

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