Tag Archives: oil spill

Regulations, Contractors, and the Gulf Oil Spill

BP blame game

BP blame game

New Orleans The wave of news comments was provoked by the release of an almost 400 page report by the National Oil Spill Commission in Washington head by former Florida Senator and Governor Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William Reilly during Republican administrations.  In the inimitable words of Aaron Viles of Gulf Restoration Network, this commission was “not a bunch of bomb throwers.”  Their recommendations included improved regulations, dedication of a significant percentage of the BP settlement money to Gulf Coast restoration, and raising the liability cap on companies making Tr mess.  Reasonable observers might even say that the Commission had not gone nearly far enough, especially when the front page picture on my hometown paper, The Times Picayune, had a fisherman on his knees begging Kenneth Feinberg, the fund administrator, to release promised money since he was without heat and utilities now.   Even Senator Mary Landrieu, who Lord love her, almost never misses an opportunity to apologize for the oil companies, expressed herself satisfied with the report, so how could anyone be against moving forward on what is bound to be weak tea.

Most interesting to me were Reilly’s comments about contractors where a lot of the accountability needs to be increased.  He noted that the big companies “dependency upon contractors who operate in virtually every one of the world’s oceans” is at the core of the problem.  He reasonably doubts that this could be anything but a “systemic problem,” because to do so we would have “to believe also that Halliburton would only have supplied faulty cement to BP.  Or that Transocean, on any other rig but a BP rig, would have detected gas rising in the drill pipe.”  The problem of down-the-chain lack of accountability and reliance on contractors keeps cropping up everywhere whether in the Gulf or Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere on the service and production chain.  This is huge, unanswered problem in modern social and economic society where responsibility and accountability is totally sacrificed at the altar of cheaper pricing, shady dealing, and “who me, not me, who you, not you” finger pointing and foot shuffling.

So much is at stake in every endeavor that we just have to do better!


Why So Little Change Won from BP Gulf Crisis?

oil-spill1New Orleans Fingers are crossed, breath held, and hopes soaring that finally there may be an interim fix on the British Petroleum BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  An article by David Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post yesterday asked in a timely fashion why this oil crisis has not produced environmental changes and victories?  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/11/AR2010071103523.html).

Good question!  They have a lot to say about, some of which is probably on point (general recession) and some of which is not (too far…huh…Louisiana is way closer than Alaska!).  I worry that there is more to this though.

Woefully part of the problem has been the total inability of the environmental organizations and the movement as a whole to speak with anything resembling one voice.  Many times there seems to be more jockeying for position and resources among the groups that real mobilization of support for change.  But, clearly there is a real lack of consensus on what the changes should be.

Perhaps the largest divide is over calls for a ban on oil drilling.  The ban is opposed by 77% of the American people who have been sold for decades that there oil is important and it is better for it to come from “home” than the Middle East and elsewhere.  The divide is also stark in the Gulf where the support for oil workers and the oil service industry is significant because of the jobs and impact on the economy.  The oil companies have also just been better by miles for decades in keeping any of the environmental problems of drilling off of their shoes.  The best example is the well documented problem of canal dredging by the companies along the bayous which has led to tremendous coastal erosion with no real consequences to the companies.

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