Posts Tagged ‘BP’

BP Citizens Arrest

Rob Weissman at BP Citizen's Arrest Rally

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

The BP disaster taught us many things: namely, that giant corporations cannot be trusted to behave responsibly absent strong public oversight, and that if 11 workers die on your watch, or unprecedented ecological damage from your negligence occurs from your operations – that none of it matters: You can continue to operate, business as usual, securing more government contracts and enjoying record profits the same as before.

It reminded the American people about some essential truths relating to corporate behavior, the need for regulatory controls over corporations and the need for effective sanctions.

Congress and the Obama administration have refused to learn the lessons from the BP disaster. Exhaustive investigations showed that existing regulations are inadequate to prevent another offshore catastrophe. Yet deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has resumed, leaving workers and an already fragile ecosystem vulnerable. (See our tally of how many recommendations from the oil spill task force have been implemented, available at http://www.citizen.org/documents/BPScorecard4202012.pdf.) In fact, the bipartisan commission investigating the disaster just gave this Congress a “D” grade for failing to respond.

Regulations to enhance well design requirements and upgrade the emergency safety device that failed to contain the Macondo well blowout are still pending. But even before the ink dries on new regulations to address the safety failures that initiated the worst environmental and industrial disaster in U.S. history, some policymakers are working to weaken regulatory oversight of the drilling industry. In fact, several bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this year have contained provisions to weaken the lease review process.

New leases for more than 20 million acres of federal waters belie the fact that the industry has yet to prove that it can effectively contain the next well blowout.  In fact, new containment systems developed by the industry may not be able to be deployed under the intensive pressure of deepwater wells.

To protect our citizens and our environment, we need strong regulatory controls to curb corporate wrongdoing. Not only are we lacking strong drilling regulations, but we are handing out new leases to BP. We need tough penalties to punish corporate wrongdoers. The corporation that dumped 5 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico had net profits of $24 billion one year later.

Tell Congress to Pass Oil Spill Legislation

 

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Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

"Tyson Slocum" "Public Citizen" "Energy Director"

Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's energy program

The Obama administration’s announcement today to expand offshore oil drilling is a terrible idea: It won’t lower oil or gas prices, and it puts taxpayers on the hook for accidents.

The last time the president made such an announcement, the BP disaster occurred two weeks later. We all saw how that ended. Obama should not be laying the groundwork for history to repeat itself.

Current law caps accidental spill liability at $75 million, far below what actual spill damages would likely be. This translates into a huge subsidy for the industry and puts the American people on the hook.

Congress has yet to pass reforms in the wake of that disaster – including raising oil companies’ spill liability from the current $75 million cap.

Opening new areas to drilling while failing to hold oil companies accountable for fleecing taxpayers on existing drilling leases is unfair. Obama should know better than to hold Big Oil’s support above Main Street’s interests.

 

It is inexcusable for the Obama administration to grant BP millions of dollars in leases to conduct exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico without any substantial new safeguards in place. Has the administration already forgotten the devastation caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster?

The news that BP will be invited back into the Gulf comes on the very day that the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council said in a report that more needs to be done to prevent another Gulf drilling catastrophe.

And it is unforgivable that Michael Bromwich, the former head of the main offshore energy regulator, in October discounted the worst environmental disaster our country has ever seen as just “one incident,” saying that it did not justify “the administrative death penalty.”

Just one incident? Dismissing the BP disaster as “just one incident” is like calling Hurricane Katrina a little rainstorm.

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In 2010, corporate negligence and pursuit of profit at all cost resulted in two tragic accidents – the Upper Big Branch mine and Deepwater Horizon explosions. As we watch the subsequent investigations unfold, we don’t know what the final results will be, but we can draw one firm conclusion: Similar disasters will occur in future if corporations continue to escape serious consequences for putting profits over people.

Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion

On April 5, 29 mine workers were killed in the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades.  Federal regulators have reported that the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia was the result of a series of basic safety violations that were entirely preventable. Further, the report found that the former mine operator, Massey Energy, used “systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts” to conceal life-threatening problems.

In the year before the blast, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued more violation orders at Upper Big Branch than at any other mine and shut the mine down 48 times but had to let it reopen when the violations were remediated.

Deepwater Horizon Rig Explosion

On April 20, BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, triggering an explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers and setting-off the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Federal investigators have already identified 15 violations of offshore regulations in drilling, designing and cementing in the failed well. The investigation into whether the corporations involved in the explosion were criminally negligent are ongoing.

However, in January 2011, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, appointed by the Obama administration to review the accident and develop recommendations, cited failure of management and an industry culture that puts profits over safety as key causes of the explosion.

In the two years leading up to the Macondo well blowout, BP pled guilty to two crimes and paid more than $730 million in fines and settlements to the U.S. government, state governments and civil lawsuit judgments for environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety rules and penalties for manipulating energy markets.

In response to these tragic events,

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"Tyson Slocum" "Public Citizen" "Energy Director"The Department of the Interior (DOI)’s five-year offshore oil-drilling plan, announced today, is bad news for the environment and oil workers. Environmentalists and workplace safety advocates who reasonably anticipated regulatory reform of the oil industry in advance of any new offshore oil-drilling policy are deeply disappointed. According to the Obama administration, new areas in the Gulf of Mexico will be explored and drilled, as will the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in the Arctic Ocean and the Cook Inlet off the coast of Alaska.

This plan was made in the absence of new safety rules designed to protect workers and the environment. We haven’t updated offshore drilling laws since 1978 – well before we had a deepwater or robust arctic drilling industry. We already know what happens when the oil industry is inadequately regulated. For 87 days in 2010, the nation watched helplessly as millions of barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and killed 11 workers. Taxpayers remain responsible for major spills, because current law caps spill liability for oil companies at $75 million.

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