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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Minerals Management Service, which grants offshore drilling permits, set aside safety regulations for oil exploration in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, environmental groups alleged in a lawsuit on Tuesday.

In a 2008 notice to oil companies with drilling leases off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- areas now threatened by the spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig -- the agency known as MMS waived requirements for documentation on what would be done in case of a blowout or a "worst-case scenario" spill, the lawsuit said.

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