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BP CEO Tony Hayward today faces what is sure to be a tough inquisition before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee.

Here are five questions Hayward should be forced to answer under oath: (more…)

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Weissman

BP generates enough cash to absorb its liabilities from the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.

But that doesn’t mean it will.

One of the benefits of the corporate form is that it gives giant corporations the ability to escape liability. BP may or may not choose to capitalize on such escapes, but it would be foolish to presume that it won’t. That’s why President Obama’s call for the company to establish a $20 billion escrow account is such a positive and needed — if still inadequate — step.

Consider first the liabilities that BP may face. No one really knows what the damage from the oil gusher or the overall costs to BP may ultimately be. Some analysts are now throwing around numbers of $70 billion on the upper end — but it’s not hard to see how the ultimate cost to BP could rise even higher.

The company faces civil fines of up to $3,000 per barrel of oil polluting the ocean. If the gusher lasts for four months at 40,000 barrels a day, the fine alone could hit $14 billion. If it is found that the actual oil flow is double that level, the fine could potentially approach $30 billion — more, if the gusher lasts for more than four months.

Beyond the payments the company is making, it is going to face massive lawsuits, with damages surely in the billions and quite possibly in the tens of billions. On top of that, it may face a massive (more…)

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From Eyes on Trade: Click here to watch Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, on the PBS show Ideas in Action. She discusses President Obama’s National Export Initiative.

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As the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history continues to unfold, author and progressive radio commentator Jim Hightower asks a good question: “Who the hell’s in charge here?” A good question. Consider that only two weeks before the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, Obama was touting the benefits of offshore drilling. Hightower (a member of Public Citizen’s board of directors) writes on AlterNet:

Thirty years of laissez-faire, ideological nonsense (pushed upon us with a vengeance in the past decade) has transformed government into a subsidiary of corporate power. Wall Street, Massey, BP and its partners — all were allowed to become their own “regulators” and officially encouraged to put their short-term profit interests over the public interest.

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In Mother Jones,  Bill McKibben takes President Obama to task for his lack of leadership in addressing climate change:

The president already has the podium he needs to start turning history, which means more than merely pushing for the climate and energy bill introduced last month by senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman—a prime example of baby-step politics. As with his health care bill, on energy matters, too, the administration and its envoys sought out in advance the industries most likely to raise a fuss and cut the deals those cartels wanted. Just as big pharma knew it wouldn’t face negotiated drug prices, so big oil and big electricity have been assured that there will be no serious opposition to their business model.

The bottom line: if you neglect all the offsets and loopholes, we’re aiming for a 4% reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Make your blood stir? Obama’s not proposing real solutions to real problems; he’s ticking off items on a list. He got a health care bill, and just maybe he’ll get an energy bill (though that’s an increasingly slim “maybe”). But we don’t need the bill, we need the thing.

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The April 20 explosion at a BP exploratory drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico – spewing as many as 210,000 gallons of crude oil each day – is fast becoming the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history.

On March 31, President Barack Obama announced a plan to open to drilling 167 million acres of East Coast waters and other protected areas in the northern waters of Alaska. While drumming up support for his expansion plan, Obama said, “Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.”

We see now that the technology failed. In fact, while you read this, response teams are still working to stop the leak and keep up with the ever-expanding oil slick, which now spans more than 100 miles and threatens coastal areas of three states. More than 400 species of wildlife are at risk. And people who make their living from fishing and tourism face economic ruin.

This catastrophe shows why we should do less – not more – offshore oil drilling. It is high time for Obama to reinstate the ban on the expansion of offshore drilling.

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico seriously challenges the administration’s claims that offshore oil and gas development is safe. Obama claimed that expanding drilling will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but now we see that domestic fossil fuel production threatens our workers, economy and environment too, reinforcing the urgent need to move not just away from foreign oil but away from all dirty and dangerous fuel sources and toward clean renewable sources and robust efficiency standards.

In 2008, Congress allowed a 27-year-old ban on offshore drilling to expire. The ban –enacted after the Exxon Valdez spill – was intended to protect our coastal wildlife and the communities that depend on them for their livelihood. If nothing else, the current disaster makes clear the urgent need to reinstate this ban.

Please help avert future environmental calamities: Urge Obama to reinstate an immediate ban on the expansion of offshore drilling.

Allison Fisher is the energy organizer for Public Citizen. Cross-posted at Citizen Energy.

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Yesterday, in honor of Workers’ Memorial Day, President Obama for the first time issued a proclamation observing the day.  Workers’ Memorial Day commemorates the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is charged with protecting workers from safety and health hazards.

Several recent tragedies have drawn significant attention to workplace safety.  On April 5, there was an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners.  And last week, an explosion on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf Coast off Louisiana, in which 11 workers are missing and presumed dead.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said that Massey Energy, the mine company that owned the Upper Big Branch mine, is “run like it was 1921.” The mine operator had been cited nearly 500 times in 2009 for violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act.  But despite being shut down 61 times since the beginning of 2009, the dangerous conditions at the mine were allowed to continue.

Improvements are needed to both the Mine Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).  In 2008, the House passed the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (S-MINER) Act, but it was not taken up in the Senate.  The S-MINER Act would have increased penalties and given the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) increased authority to shut down mines with a pattern of violations. But there are other problems the S-MINER Act would not address.  One of these problems is the backlog of 16,000 contested citations.

The OSH Act is also woefully out of date.  In a hearing in the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, witnesses discussed the need to update whistleblower protections contained in the Act.  The Protecting America’s Workers Act would upgrade these protections and establish other needed reforms to OSHA.

Lena Pons is a policy analyst at Public Citizen.

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Will President Barack Obama save his presidency and deliver the progressive change that so many hoped for when they voted for him? That’s the topic of author Robert Kuttner’s latest book, “A Presidency in Peril,” and of this recent discussion at Public Citizen.

Kuttner:

“This could have been a moment — it could still possibly be a moment — if the Obama that we’ve seen flashes of becomes the president who rises to the occasion for the next several years. But if he doesn’t, a moment to recreate a more balanced form of market and society will be lost.”

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Yesterday’s announcement by the White House that it would seek an end to the moratorium on oil and gas development off the eastern and gulf coasts of the U.S. has nothing to do with serving as a bargaining chip for stalled Senate climate negotiations, but rather is intended to blunt expected GOP campaign attacks that Obama the socialist environmentalist has caused gasoline prices to rise $1 per gallon since taking office. I see Obama’s move more about controlling the tone of the upcoming mid-term elections than about cutting a climate deal. So here’s my prediction: this drilling announcement marks the death of a climate deal for this congress.

Here’s why Obama’s political move to open up our coasts to more drilling is wrong: (more…)

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David Dayen at FireDogLake is as baffled as we are at President Obama’s decision to expand offshore drilling:

I think the Occam’s Razor conclusion is that Obama has no problem allowing very rich interests to go on with dirty energy production. He has made investments in solar and wind (and offshore wind may be a part of this exploration), sure, but he also flipped on drilling way back in August 2008, in the middle of the Presidential campaign. This announcement merely codifies that wish for an “all-of-the-above” energy solution. He has always supported clean coal, and corn-based ethanol fuels, and nuclear energy plants like Exelon; nothing new there. In fact, those elements often get MORE attention in Obama speeches than solar and wind. In short, he IS the midwestern coal-and-ethanol-state swing vote that he’s been courting. So why wouldn’t he go ahead and add drilling to the list as well?

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