British Petroleum Gulf Disaster

Louisiana Recovery Rebuild New Orleans

bp-atlantis-offshore-platformNew Orleans This is not a public relations disaster for British Petroleum to try and manage from the Exxon Valdez playbook, but an environmental cataclysm of epic “worst-in-class” proportions that needs an immediate and stepped up response so that we do not have a Katrina II catastrophe sweeping not only Louisiana but once again parts of the entire Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. It’s off the chain, literally! BP is acting contrite but this is not a simple contractor problem, especially when a critical safety device was missing that could have prevented this. What the frick?!?

I’m oil field trash, born and raised in oil camps in Wyoming, Colorado, Kentucky, and finally washing up in New Orleans during the Gulf oil boom. I have an uncle who now in his 80’s is still a wildcatter studying geological surveys. What shook me a little was a Franklin High science project, where working with the geologists at Chevron, I found foraminifera – oil bugs – in polluted samples all around Lake Pontchartrain even before the Lake was later closed to swimming. Won some ribbons, but didn’t connect the dots at the time, but I have now. I’m not anti-oil or oil companies, but, damn, this is ridiculous!

The rough outlines are clear: major explosion, 11 dead, a nearly $400 million rig sunk, and now a steady flowing oil river shooting into the Gulf that BP now agrees with the U.S. Coast Guard is 4 times the earlier estimate, so at 5000 barrels and over 200,000 gallons will be MANY times worse than the Valdez or Santa Barbara spills. Remember, this is no spill. There’s no “over” on this one until the pipe is capped or the entire reserve leaks out into the Gulf over coming months. In the meantime the winds will blow oil, now touching the shore in Louisiana, and put thousands of fisherman and others out of work, and potentially cripple the rich estuaries that are best shrimp, oyster, and crab grounds in the country. Modest damage and recovery efforts are already couched in terms of decades. How can we allow this to ever happen or certainly ever happen again?

We need a huge campaign and a bigger than the waterfront and enviro coalition! The Food and Water Campaign directed by our old friend, Wenonah Hauter, working with A Citizen Voice in Louisiana has already been the leader in raising attention to engineering problems in the BP Atlantis rig elsewhere in the Gulf. We need more now!

I’m not sure what, but the CEO of BP Hayward already understands and even seems to agree that there has to be (1) more regulation, (2) more inspections, (3) better safety, and (4) more and better equipment and engineering. In the Wall Street Journal he also seemed to understand that some would call for a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf until this is all sorted out, and that could be just what we need as well, despite the body blow it would mean to the economy.

We need more, and the list should include some of these things:

  1. BP needs to put up $20 billion now against the price tag on the cleanup and rehab. Exxon spent 20 years in court to pay $4 billion, and $20 B is just the ante on this mess that will dwarf Valdez.

  2. The Waxman hearings need to be immediate and need to result not in headlines, but in legislation that doubles down on all requirements for drilling in the Gulf.

  3. President Obama needs to back off of his earlier announcements of allowing drilling in Alaska and other areas until there is 1000%, not 100%, security and technical and equipment redundancies that are preventive.

  4. The feds need to hire Coast boats, captains, and fishers to aid in the anti-oil slick mop up and protection to offset the loss of fishing income.

  5. Training needs to be beefed up for all offshore personnel in prevention for the future.

This is just the start of such a list, but we need a campaign. Who is ready and able?