Posts Tagged ‘offshore drilling’

Here’s what we know: On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 2, an oil and gas rig owned by Mariner Energy, Inc., operating in about 340 feet of water on the continental shelf experienced an explosion and subsequently caught fire, resulting in all 13 workers on board to flee into the water.

This incident is different from BP’s Mancondo disaster because BP’s fiasco occurred on a floating rig operating an exploration well in ultra-deepwater a mile deep, whereas this Mariner Energy operation was in shallow water (340 ft) on a rig that is permanently fixed to the ocean floor below (and not a floating rig).

While we wait for details, here are two things to think about: (more…)

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Today marks the start of rallies across the country organized by the oil and gas industry to block Congress from passing much-needed measures to address problems that came to light during the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which is organizing the events in Texas, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado, claims to speak not only for industry workers but for “countless consumers” who are concerned about the proposals.

Don’t be fooled. This is phony grassroots. Americans were aghast at the BP oil disaster and what they learned subsequently: that the government exercises little oversight over offshore oil drilling, that there is a ridiculously low (more…)

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If you’ve already had breakfast this morning, I’d advise that you skip Juliet Eilperin’s and Scott Higham’s piece in today’s WaPo on “How the Minerals Management Service’s partnership with industry led to failure.” It really will make you sick to your stomach.

Before the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, you probably never heard of the obscure Minerals Management Services, the former federal agency that until recently was charged with regulating offshore drilling leases. Now we know that  during its sordid 28-year history the agency was more facilitator than regulator. From the WaPo:

Top officials and front-line workers routinely referred to the companies under their watch as “clients,” “customers” and especially “partners.” As the relationship became more intertwined, regulatory intensity subsided. MMS officials waived hundreds of environmental reviews and did not aggressively pursue companies for equipment failures. They also participated in studies financed and dominated by industry, more as collaborator than regulator. In the face of industry opposition, MMS abandoned proposals that would have increased costs but might have improved safety.

Here’s one thing I didn’t know about the MMS, though it now makes perfect sense: the agency was created in 1982 by (more…)

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While President Obama’s call to hold BP accountable for the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was tough talk, the devil is in the details and in this case,  the details seem to be set up to limit BP’s liability in civil cases, while allowing the company plenty of wiggle room to avoid harsh penalties for its criminal behavior. Public Citizen President Robert Weissman and Tyson Slocum, director of our energy program, have an op-ed in Politico that urges President Obama to step up and fix the slew of  problems with BP’s $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the tragedy.

Weissman and Slocum write:

BP has sought to maintain control over the crisis response at every stage. Though it seems to have spared no expense congratulating itself with TV advertisements about its good efforts and deep concern for the Gulf ecosystem and the people who rely on it, BP has bungled just about everything it has touched here.

Things improved only when the government insisted that it supervise what’s going on.

Now BP aims to control the terms of payout and penalty. Like everything that came before, this is a public problem. It demands engagement by the administration.

There’s no easy way to clean up the Gulf. But it’s easy enough to clean up the trust agreement mess.

It’s time for the administration to act.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0810/41411_Page2.html#ixzz0xYEbqyzY

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The mystery of the disappearing oil — the government and BP’s fantastical claim that 75 percent of the spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico had disappeared — will remain a mystery for at least another couple months, writes Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones (“Return of the BP Cover-Up“). It seems the NOAA scientists who authored the study have told congressional staffers that they aren’t ready to release the data that might support their claim. Sheppard smells a rat:

This, of course, raises the question of why the initial report was even released on Aug. 4 if it hadn’t been peer reviewed and couldn’t be substantiated with data, methodology, and full disclosure of the kind of assumptions that went into reaching this conclusion. The explanation of why the report was released by the National Incident Command and touted by administration officials seemed to indicate that the White House may have jumped the gun on releasing the initial report before the entire documentation was available.

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Where’s the cleanup?

From Project Gulf Impact. The oil gusher may be contained but the hard work is just beginning. Learn what you can do.

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The federal government and BP would have us believe that most of the oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico has dissipated. The Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center (a collaboration between BP and the Obama administration) issued a recent report that says only 25 percent of the oil that poured into the Gulf remains. The other 75 percent?  Poof! Vanished.  As Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, points out in truthout, this is a pretty ridiculous assertion.

Researchers with Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia released a report Wednesday that estimates that 80 percent of the oil is still in the Gulf. Hauter writes:

This independent analysis of the regulators’ claims raises some important questions about the Joint Information Center’s report. Is BP’s influence at play in presenting the findings in a more positive light? Was the report an attempt at crisis communications that simply backfired?

It’s  just another example of what happens when the government treats BP like a partner, rather than (more…)

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BP has – at least for now – stopped oil from pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.

But stopping the oil is only the start of the work that must be done.

Each day of the crisis has revealed new heartbreaking accounts of people affected by the oil and the extent to which the coastal ecosystem has been devastated.

Citizens have gotten a hard glimpse into the oil industry and the failings in the way the government deals with oil corporations like BP.

Citizens have also taken action to demand BP be held accountable.

Highlights of Public Citizen pressure include thousands of activists pledging to boycott BP, our citizen’s arrest action at BP’s lobbying office in D.C., on-the-ground work in Louisiana, advocating for the removal of a cap on liability for oil damages, calling for an end to BP’s federal contracts, and holding a public forum with BP claims administrator Ken Feinberg.

Public pressure is working! On June 16, President Obama announced that BP would set aside at least $20 billion to pay damages to victims of the oil spill. Both the House and Senate bills introduced in response to the oil disaster include provisions to replace the existing $75 million liability cap for oil damages with an unlimited cap. And BP is reassigning Tony Hayward to – no kidding – Siberia! (Bet that’s not what he meant when he said “I want my life back.”)

We must keep the pressure on to ensure that the summer of oil is followed by the autumn of reform, remediation and recovery.

Allison Fisher is the energy organizer for Public Citizen.

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Julia Whitty presents an in-depth look at the DeepWater Horizon disaster this week in Mother Jones. It’s a well-written primer on the worst oil spill in history and its tragic impact on the Gulf of Mexico. Whitty explains the complex biology of the Gulf and how BP has done just about everything wrong.  Carl Safina, co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, tells Whitty that it’s unconscionable that BP continued to use the dispersant Corexit even after it was told to stop:

. . . untreated oil quickly rises to the surface, where it can be skimmed with relative ease. But treated with dispersant, it becomes a submerged plume, unlikely to ever float to the surface, and destined to migrate through underwater currents to the entire Gulf basin and eventually the North Atlantic. “Oil is toxic to most life,” says Steiner. “And Corexit is toxic to most life. But the most toxic of all is oil that’s been treated with Corexit. Plus, dispersants may well kill the ocean’s first line of defense against oil: the natural microbes that break oil down for other microbes to eat.”

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In what amounts to a confounding conflict of interest, the U.S. government is considering a plan that would allow BP to use profits from its Gulf of Mexico drilling operations to ensure the solvency of the $20 billion escrow fund set up to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Why is this a bad idea? Because, as Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program points out, it gives the Obama  administration less incentive to prosecute BP for the recklessness and negligence that lead to the disaster and could make regulators less likely to deny BP additional drilling permits. Slocum says:

“The proposed arrangement is wildly inappropriate, as it will make the government and BP virtual partners in Gulf oil production . . . It will give the government a financial incentive to become an even bigger booster of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf – which was the fatal flaw of the Minerals Management Service at the time of the BP disaster.”

Slocum sent a letter to the administration today saying it should change the way the disaster fund is structured to ensure the government can remain unbiased and prioritize the public’s interest – not BP’s interests.

According to Monica Langley in The Wall Street Journal, the government would in essence hold BP’s Gulf oil production as collateral. But Langley says this setup could run into resistance in Congress:

Such a deal could provoke a backlash on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are moving to bar BP from operating in the Gulf.

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