Remember back on March 31 when Obama confidently announced he was reversing the offshore drilling moratorium put in place by that radical environmentalist Ronald Reagan? Now, I trashed Obama’s plan as a “Drill to Nowhere” at the time as a misguided political move lacking policy merit. Read through Obama’s pro-drilling speech, and you won’t see any specific qualifiers along the lines of “I know that my agency that oversees offshore drilling is an absolute disaster replete with cocaine and sex parties and oil companies dodging billions in royalty payments owed to taxpayers so before we open more areas to oil & gas production here is my proposal to completely overhaul this pathetic agency.” No, he didn’t say any of that. This shows the limits of a pro-corporate, compromise-first energy strategy that has now boxed Obama in, where he’s simultaneously trying to (rightfully) say the gulf of mexico crisis shows the need for transformation of our energy policy, while at the same time he continues to call for expanded offshore drilling, hydraulic fracking onshore and more public money for nukes. Obama’s support for nuclear power raises even greater questions about the risks associated with nukes and the lack of effective plans to deal with catastrophic incidents at reactors.
It is clear that as criminally negligent BP has been they have been aided and abetted at every stage by a federal agency that refused to regulate them, as the New York Times explains in yesterday’s excellent article. Weeks before the April 20 explosion, the crew on the rig knew the well had been experiencing “kicks” of gas pulsating into the well, and that the Blowout Preventor had become compromised. BP was more than a month behind schedule and $21 million over budget, and elected to cut corners on the cement casing job. And with this specific disaster, it was Obama’s team that looked the other way and granted BP waivers from stringent regulation at every turn: “Under a process called “alternative compliance,” much of the technology used on deepwater rigs has been approved piecemeal, with regulators cooperating with industry groups to make small adjustments to guidelines that were drawn up decades ago for shallow-water drilling” with MMS simply reviewing paperwork after the fact submitted by drillers like BP of self-administered tests.
As summarized by the Times, the Obama Administration:
1. Failed to Conduct An Adequate environmental Impact Statement when the agency waived a requirement for BP to assess the impact of its drilling on endangered species .
2. Waived review of the Blowout Preventor (BOP). These are supposed to be tested every two weeks, and MMS allowed BP to delay testing in March. When BP did test it, MMS granted BP a waiver to use a lower pressure, 6,500 psi, instead of the 100,000 psi that was used before the delay (when the BOP failed). And MMS had approved the use of the BOP even though BP failed to provide specific information about the adequacy of the BOP. MMS does not require companies to have emergency backup systems to remotely trigger BOPs, as they do in Norway and Brazil.
BP bears ultimate responsibility for the disaster, but Obama’s push to expand offshore drilling, combined with his agency’s lax oversight of OCS operations, give him little credibility in the cleanup and recovery efforts.