Seems what we have with the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a total, complete, massive failure of government. It started way before this rig was ever installed, was allowed to continue and the result was the massive blowout, fire and what may be the world’s largest oil spill disaster before it’s all over.
We have corruption, drug use, sex, inaction, delay, ineptitude, suppression of information and the Obama Administration to thank for this. It did start before that, but the reality is that Obama has been in office for 15 months now, and evidently things with agencies involved with the oil industry haven’t gotten any better, and this is the result.
Let’s start with Ron Gouget, former NOAA Spill Response Coordinator in Louisiana, who blasts the response to the oil spill. It has now been 10 days, we’ve had little action from British Petroleum (BP) and little action from the Obama Administration. As reported from AL.com in this article…
Federal officials should have started burning oil off the surface of the Gulf last week, almost as soon as the spill happened, said the former oil spill response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Ron Gouget, who also managed Louisiana’s oil response team for a time, said federal officials missed a narrow window of opportunity to gain control of the spill by burning last week, before the spill spread hundreds of miles across the Gulf, and before winds began blowing toward shore.
Sounds like we’re asleep at the wheel again in Washington, DC. People complained about the Bush administrations response to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, that was about 2 days. This is 10 days, going on 11 days, yet notice you don’t see the mainstream media saying a bad word. They evidently think sending Janet Napolitano down there to tell the press they’re on top of it, and sending Obama down to basically do nothing, is a terrific response.
He also said the heavy use of dispersant’s, which cause oil to sink, has likely knocked so much oil into the water column that portions of the Gulf may be on the threshold of becoming toxic to marine life. Add in the oil spreading into the water as it rises from the seafloor, and Gouget said he expected officials would have to think about limiting the use of the dispersant’s.
Well, yesterday they announced someone finally got off from sitting on their hands and decided to send two military planes to spray disperants, but again, it’s too little, too late, not to mention it sounds like it may create more problems than not.
“There was a threshold of about 35 part per million for oil in the water. Above that, white shrimp larvae died in the laboratory. I don’t know where the levels are now in the Gulf, but that is something they will have to keep an eye on,” Gouget said.
Does anyone in charge even know about this? Are they monitoring it if they do know? Based on what’s gone on thus far I’d bet they don’t. Seems someone should have jumped on this immediately and started burning this oil off. According to the interview…
“They had pre-approval. The whole reason the plan was created was so we could pull the trigger right away instead of waiting ten days to get permission,” Gouget said. “If you read the pre-approval plan, it speaks about Grand Isle, where the spill is. When the wind is blowing offshore out of the north, you have preapproval to burn in that region. If the wind is coming onshore, like it is now, you can’t burn at Grand Isle. They waited to do the test burn until the wind started coming onshore.”
If they had pre-approval then why in the hell did they not do anything? Call from Washington, DC perhaps telling them to sit and let BP take care of it? Or, it plain negligence?
Asked why officials waited for a week before conducting even a test burn, Gouget said, “Good question. Maybe complacency was the biggest issue. They probably didn’t have the materials on hand to conduct the burn, which is unconscionable.”
Or, was there another reason?
He said the NOAA officials involved at the Unified Command Center in Louisiana know how to respond to spills, and know burning should have started as soon as possible after the initial release was detected. Gouget said they may have been overruled.
“It may have been a political issue. The burn would make a big big plume and lots of soot. Like Valdez, the decisions to get the resources mobilized may not have occurred until itPPup was too late,” Gouget said. “This whole thing has been a daily strip tease. At first they thought it was just the diesel, then they said the well wasn’t leaking. It’s unfortunate they didn’t get the burning going right away. They could have gotten 90 percent of the oil before it spread.”
It isn’t too late to do something in spite of the massive amounts of oil that have leaked out over the previous 10 days because everyone is standing around, looking stylish and doing nothing.
Gouget said officials could still make a big dent in the amount of oil that will hit seashores over the next several months by burning.
“If they set up multiple boat/fire boom sets & begin a ‘bucket brigade’ grabbing fresh oil, they can set up a production system to remove huge amounts,” Gouget said. “They’ve got to ramp up the burn program. It’s one of the most important tools they have to limit the damage.”
Regardless who the responsible party is to stop the leaking and clean the mess up, the Federal Government is supposed to be able to respond to these things. They have a duty not only to the US taxpayers to prevent ecological disasters like this, they have a duty to clean them up, too. Yet, we have little or nothing going on in Louisiana other than press conferences, interviews and photo-ops by government officials including the President.
We also get an analysis of the government agency that regulates oil rigs in this article from the ProPublica Blog. They had a duty to prevent this, but that didn’t happen either. I’d like to know what we pay these people for and why they still have jobs?
As The Wall Street Journal reported this morning, the oil rig lacked a device—known as an acoustic control—that would’ve served as a safeguard of last resort. While the effectiveness of the $500,000 device is debated, the Journal points out that it is used by other oil-producing nations, including Brazil and Norway. Regulators in the U.S. were also considering requiring it a few years ago, but after industry objections decided that the devices were expensive and needed more study.
Sounds like the tail wagging the dog here. $500,000 is nothing at all compared to the loss of life and ecological disaster at hand.
So which regulator oversees rigs and made that decision? It was the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service, an agency that has had a spotty record over the past few years.
I’ve heard of the Department of the Interior, but can’t say I’ve ever heard of the Mineral Management Service. I bet we hear about them now. Here’s an interesting tidbit about them.
In 2008, we pointed out that MMS was in quite a bit of trouble for ethical violations by its officials. The scandal involved sex, drugs and (quite literally) sleeping with the very industry it was regulating. Here’s how The New York Times summarized the government’s investigation:
The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.” The investigation separately found that the program’s manager mixed official and personal business. In sometimes lurid detail, the report also accuses him of having intimate relations with two subordinates, one of whom regularly sold him cocaine.
Kind of reminds me of the good old SEC and their people surfing porn on the internet all day while Wall Street burns. Or, Bill Clinton with little Monica under the desk. See? It’s true. History does repeat itself.
Here’s some more on these morons who are supposed to be safe-guarding against this type of “accident.” Actually, I should use “incident” as it wasn’t an “accident” at all.
That hasn’t been the end of MMS’s troubles. According to an audit earlier this month by the Government Accountability Office, the regulator has hardly been a straight shooter on offshore drilling and the risks involved. The GAO found that MMS withheld data on offshore drilling in Alaska from regional staff members at the agency involved in environmental analyses. The report also found that MMS lacked sufficient guidelines to properly analyze the risks of drilling in the region.
“We found considerable variation among MMS’s … regions in how they asses what constitutes a ‘significant’ environmental impact,” reads the report (PDF). And on the withholding of data: “Some of its own scientists have alleged that their findings have been suppressed.” (In a formal response to the report, the Department of the Interior said it “generally agrees” with the findings.)
She added that under Ken Salazar, who became secretary of the interior in January 2009, this may be changing, “but we have not seen material changes so far.”
How lovely we not only get sex and drugs and rock and roll, we get withheld data and suppression of information from scientists. Evidently the new guy doesn’t give a hoot. He’s Obama’s appointee, so don’t blame Bush, this guy’s had plenty of time to clean house, but evidently he hasn’t.
Evidently they didn’t do their job when this rig was approved either. (Do they do anything besides sex and drugs and rock and roll?)
The Huffington Post points out that MMS did not require BP—which owns the well that blew up—to file a plan for reacting to a “potential blowout,” meaning an uncontrollable spill. According to The Huffington Post’s reporting, the more limited plan BP filed with MMS predicted that if worse came to worst, a spill would release 162,000 gallons of oil. The Deepwater Horizon spill has already exceeded that prediction.
Had the Federal Government done its job, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. This disaster started long before this oil rig was even made. It is like “The Perfect Storm” for oil rigs.
The ineptitude or inaction continues. There are things that can be done, but from what I see on the news and read, they’re just going to wait until BP comes up with some magic trick to stop the oil flow. They’ll wait and see if this, that or the other, pans out, even if it takes days, weeks, or perhaps months (I’ve read could be 90 days before this gets stopped). Meanwhile we have thousands of barrels of oil per day pumping into the Gulf of Mexico. This will probably be an ecological disaster that will be unequaled.
I bet the aftermath will consist of endless investigations and feeble explanations. As usual, I bet no heads will roll over this either. It will just eventually die and go away, people will probably not forget, but it will be like the Exxon Valdez incident, it will fade from most people’s memories. I hope that people remember this at election time. Some of these clowns do not deserve re-election. A message needs to be sent that we’re tired of all the crap. Yet more CO2 Insanity.
Sources: AL.COM ProPublica