BP oil-spill report identifies a failure of management -- and regulators

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A chronic whine from oil and gas interests has to do with the glacial, foot-dragging pace of government. But a presidential commission report on the British Petroleum offshore well explosion that killed eleven people blasts the now-extinct Minerals Management Service for moving too quickly to approve risky technology.

According to this account by the Associated Press, which obtained excerpts of the commission report slated for release next week, MMS officials took all of ninety minutes to approve BP's plan to set an "unusually deep" cement plug in the well. The rapid turnaround is one more startling illustration of a chain of dubious decisions made by the agency in its supervision of offshore drilling operations, including its routine award of "exclusions" that allowed companies to drill without detailed environmental analyses.

Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dissolved the scandal-plagued MMS earlier this year and divided its functions among three new agencies, hoping to alter a regulatory "culture" that had proven to be too cozy with the companies it regulated.

But the commission seems inclined to shovel blame rather generously among BP, Halliburton and other contractors, and the government. "The blowout was not the product of a series of abberational decisions made by a rogue industry or government officials... the root causes are systemic, and absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, it might well recur."

DOI officials insist the changes the report is calling for are already underway. But as pressure increases to resume offshore drilling with a vengeance, no one can blame Salazar and company for taking a few extra minutes -- maybe more than ninety -- to ponder the implications of the investigation and figure out how to stave off another preventable disaster in the Gulf.

More from our Politics archive: "Ken Salazar under fire: Can he survive the spill?"

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3 comments
chacesmith
chacesmith

BP could have switched their response to a non toxic alternative, however it appears the US EPA may have thwarted their efforts. See Coast Guard letter below.

There was a non toxic Alternative to clean up the spill that has been successfully tested by BP after 10 months of spill damages. The Coast Guard sent a letter from headquarters stating to the FOSC to take action with OSE II, and the EPA, Lisa Jackson stopped the Coast Guard from allowing BP from implementing OSE II. In fact the EPA stopped the application of OSE II 11 times denying State Senators direct request for use of OSE II from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. La Department of environmental requested the use of OSE II as well, EPA's Sam Coleman denied their request without reason. Governor Jindal tried to get OSE II demonstrated on the Chandelier Islands on May 6, 2010, and the EPA stopped the Governor as well. The EPA in fact stopped the use of OSE II 11 times, without a reason given. Had the EPA allowed Governor Jindal to allow the demonstration of OSE II on May 6, 2010, it is possible a significant portion of the environmental damages, including the shorelines and the seafood industry would have been spared. The toxicty test comparison between OSE II and corexit really cannot be compared since with corexit, the label states it can cause red blood cells to burst, kidney, and liver problems if a chemical suit and respirator are not worn. OSE II in contrast can be used to wash your hands and is non toxic. The BP Deep Horizon spill has proven that corexit only sinks oil and causes the same oil to be addressed a second time when it comes ashore as under water plumes, or tar balls, while OSE II has a substantiated end point of converting oil to CO2 and water. See Coast Guard letter below

U. S. Departmentof Homeland SecurityUnited StatesCoast Guard Commanding Officer 1 Chelsea StreetU. S. Coast Guard New London, CT 06320Research and Development Center Staff Symbol: Contracting Office Phone: (860) 271-2807

July 10, 2010

OSEI CorporationP.O. Box 515429Dallas, TX 75251

Attn: Steven Pedigo, President/Owner

DEEPWATER HORIZON RESPONSE BAA HSCG32-10-R-R00019, TRACKING #2003954

We are pleased to inform you that the initial screening of your White Paper submitted under Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) HSCG32-10-R-R00019 has been completed. It has been determined that your White Paper submission has a potential for benefit to the spill response effort.

Your White Paper has been forwarded to the Deepwater Horizon Response Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) for further action under its authority. Subject to the constraints and needs of the ongoing oil spill response, you may be contacted by the FOSC or the responsible party.

We appreciate your interest in supporting the Deepwater Horizon Response effort.

Contracting Officer /s/USCG R&D Center

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Interesting info, chacesmith. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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