Archive for the ‘BP’ Tag
Turns out that Martin Feldman, the judge who overturned the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, is HEAVILY invested in the oil industry in general, but BP in particular.
Rachel Maddow has this excellent report:
I’m sure I’ll come up with something interesting to say about this, but right now I’m really quite speechless.
Just standard operating procedure for the GOP……
Several weeks ago, the Obama administration announced a six month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the catastrophic oil leak caused by the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig. This past weekend on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu argued that this policy was a mistake. Barbour went so far as to say that the effects of the moratorium will be worse than the leak itself.
They have a point.
Barbour and Landrieu are from the Gulf area. They represent the very people who are the most directly affected by this disaster. As such, they feel like they have their fingers on the pulse of their constituents and what they want. What they argued is that the people in the Gulf region want the oil companies to continue to be able to drill, despite the environmental disaster that surrounds them, and despite the fact that so many of them have had their lives quite literally put on hold and their livelihoods devastated because of the spill. And when you think about it, they make some sense.
After all, as of January 2009, the oil industry directly employed nearly 70,000 in the region, and as many as 100,000 in 2008. A drilling moratorium will in effect put most of those people out of work. Shutting down these companies will have a ripple effect in the region–they hire contractors that will be put out of work; they buy supplies from local merchants; restaurants and bars serve workers on their way to and from their jobs. These companies pump a lot of money both directly and indirectly into the local economies of the Gulf.
There is also a vested interest in seeing BP continue as a going interest—if they go out of business, then they can’t be held liable for the damage they’ve caused and they can’t be held responsible for the cleanup and recovery efforts. In other words, it is in the best interests of the Gulf region for BP to remain profitable.
Those residents breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when federal judge Martin Feldman issued a ruling that blocked the administration’s moratorium, allowing deep water drilling operations to continue…….for now. Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar vowed to reissue the moratorium, refining it to include details on why certain drilling operations pose an unacceptable risk, and outlining the conditions where the moratorium could be lifted.
It should also be noted that Judge Feldman reported significant investments in the oil industry in 2008, including at least $15,000 in stock in Transocean, the company who owned the Deepwater Horizon rig operated by BP. He also reported investments in Halliburton.
But here’s the thing about allowing drilling to continue: The BP oil leak was caused, in part, because during the George W. Bush years, oversight of the industry was lax at best. Some would say it was nonexistent. We now know that inspections that were filed were, in some cases, never even conducted; that the oil companies filled in the paperwork themselves in pencil for the MMS inspectors to trace over in ink at a later time. We know that operators were allowed to cut corners and virtually ignore safety regulations. And we know that the MMS largely turned a blind eye.
We know that the MMS was riddled with corruption. What we don’t know is what kinds of inspections were done on the more than 700 active drilling platforms in the Gulf. How many are plagued with the same kinds of problems that sunk the Deepwater Horizon? And since we can’t trust the inspections that were done, then there’s no way to know how safe those operations are, creating an unreasonable risk for yet another Deepwater Horizon.
So a choice has to be made: To allow drilling operations to continue at a greater risk of another spill, or shut it down until such time as the safety of the rigs can be verified.
What the moratorium does is allow Ken Salazar and the MMS to embark on a mission to revisit the rigs and re-inspect them, making sure that their operations are up to standards. The oil companies cannot be trusted, and it has to be assumed that given the recent history of the MMS, all of the previous inspections are questionable. Which means that they essentially have to start all over. Which will take time
Put it another way: Is making a few bucks worth the risk of doubling or even tripling down on the mess that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean have already created? Yes, the people in the Gulf are losing their incomes and having their livelihoods taken away from them by shutting down operations. But things are bad enough in the region as it is. How many more lives would be destroyed if there’s another accident that could have been prevented? And who will be responsible the next time, given that there is no reliable record of safe operations?
This is one of those cases where it’s better to be safe than sorry. The residents of the Gulf have suffered enough. But by proceeding recklessly, as Judge Feldman, Republicans in Congress, and the industry are insisting on doing, their troubles could get a whole lot worse. And next time it will be the Obama administration’s fault because they could have taken steps to prevent it, but didn’t.
Look, I get it. People are frustrated that “he hasn’t acted quickly enough” on a lot of issues. They want action, dammit! Not words!
OK, fair enough. But maybe try to take a step back and look at exactly what it is that he’s doing.
For example, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The overwhelming majority of his supporters wanted that archaic and ridiculous rule done away with the moment he took the oath of office. He wants it gone, and had pledged during his presidential campaign to make it gone. I want it gone, and it has no effect whatsoever on my life. I mean, why shouldn’t an able-bodied and willing individual be allowed to serve in one of our country’s most noble professions? Hell, just about every reasonably intelligent American wants it gone, so the conventional way of thinking questions why it’s taking to long to get rid of it?
But did we ever stop to think that, like most things in modern life, it just isn’t that simple? There are a lot of different laws and policies that have to be considered, and possibly ultimately removed or changed. There’s the overall effect on the military that must be considered (even though just about everyone agrees that the effect will likely be very minimal)–better to err on the side of caution and know exactly what you’re doing before you simply dive in. And why not directly involve military leaders in the decision process, and let them do their due diligence in order to assure that they’re doing it the right way?
It’s going to happen, people. But it’s a lot more complicated than simply saying “oh, don’t worry about that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell stuff anymore!” And let’s face it, not everyone in the military is going to accept the changes and move on with their service. There will have to be new laws and policies that prohibit and punish discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. The UCMJ will necessarily have to be changed.
Then there’s BP and the oil leak: Everyone seems to be complaining that the Obama administration isn’t acting quickly enough. Well, maybe there are a couple of things that they could’ve done better and quicker. But for the most part, I think they’ve done everything they can given the circumstances. Yet the leak hasn’t been stopped, the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf region is being devastated like never before. And many are blaming the federal government for not having this mess cleaned up yet, criticizing Obama and his cabinet for being too deferential to BP.
What the hell do you want them to do? Don’t you think that if they had the answers, if they knew how to plug this leak, or had someone who did know, they would’ve done it by now? If the military had the expertise to stop this mess, does anyone think they would’ve hesitated for one second to send them in?
Well, they don’t have the answers, and neither does the military. BP and their Big Oil compatriots are the only ones who could possibly have the know how, and they in fact claimed they did. It’s not this administration’s fault that the MMS under the previous regime refused to question oil execs on their plans in the event of such a mishap; that they simply took them at their word that they knew exactly how to plug a leak of this magnitude. It’s not the Obama administration’s fault that inspections performed prior to 2009 were at best lax, and at worst completely falsified. And it’s not supposed to be the government’s responsibility to clean up the mess of a private entity’s malfeasance.
Those expecting an explosion of anger out of our president clearly don’t understand how the man works. He doesn’t rule from the gut like his predecessor. He’s not keen on kneejerk reactions and jumping to conclusions like his predecessor. Rather, he is very thorough and meticulous, and likes to have the unbiased facts in front of him before he comes to any conclusions. He wanted to wait until the results of the investigation into the causes of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig were available before he could assign blame. And legally, he has to give BP every opportunity to fix its own mess (with, of course, a forceful nudge from the federal government, and with federal authorities constantly breathing down their neck and looking over their shoulders). They are the ones, after all, that have the resources and technological know how (allegedly) to deal with it. They are the ones with the technical expertise on oil wells and rigs.
The truth is that the government doesn’t have the answers, and honestly, it’s rather refreshing to see them admit that. And quite frankly it irks me that this event is being called “Obama’s Katrina,” as if there is any comparison to Bush’s failure to act in the wake of a NATURAL disaster when clearly there was a LOT that could’ve been done to save lives and spare so many others so much misery. We know how to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane. But this is a man made catastrophe unlike anything anybody has ever seen in human history! No one knows what to do. But the feds were out there from the very start, mobilizing fleets with booms, mobilizing clean up crews, mobilizing investigators, gathering some of the world’s smartest people to look for solutions (although no solutions were found).
Unlike with Katrina, the feds leaped immediately into action, limited as they were in what they could actually accomplish, and limited as they were in resources. No one has the answers, unfortunately. And this will take time to fix.
How Obama deals with Congress: Many believe that he’s been far too conciliatory toward Congress, and that his administration needs to take a more active role in crafting legislation. I see things differently, and I think I understand what he’s doing.
In the 1930′s, during the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration began a White House tradition of hands on legislating. The administration would craft legislation, hand it to Congress, and direct its passage into law. Since then it’s become a tradition for Congress to wait for the White House to do all the heavy lifting. Being a constitutional scholar and a former Senator, Obama understands that it’s not supposed to work like that. He understands the idea behind the co-equal branches of government, and has attempted to restore that responsibility to Congress.
Instead of spoon feeding Congress and fostering the laziness that has plagued the institution for far too long, he is forcing them to do the job they were elected to do in the first place: Create legislation and send it to the President’s desk for approval. This way no one can accuse this Congress of being a rubber stamp for Obama. And, in theory, at least, we will get better laws because of it.
Look, I get it. We live in the information age where the answers to our questions are literally at our fingertips. The internet and cable TV has created this 24 hour news cycle and an insatiable thirst for an immediate response. But the cold, hard truth is that answers–REAL, viable, truthful answers to our problems–are not always immediately available. Personally, I appreciate the fact that we have a guy in the White House that isn’t afraid to listen to all angles, all opinions. We have a guy who is patient and isn’t afraid to wait until he has all of the pertinent information before he makes a decision, and ensures that what he comes up with is the best possible scenario out there based on ALL of the available resources. We have a guy who is not afraid to ask for the opinion of some very smart people, even and ESPECIALLY if they disagree with him.
We have a guy who is smart enough to realize that he himself does not have all of the answers, who knows what he doesn’t know, but knows where to turn for that knowledge.
Former Chargers GM John Butler once told me that it was important to get more than one opinion on a player when considering him for the NFL draft, particularly on one of the more highly rated players. He said that this was especially true when you had divergent opinions, because we couldn’t all be exactly right every single time. And when you had differing opinions, the truth was always somewhere in the middle.
This president understands that the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Kentucky GOP/Tea Party Senate candidate Rand Paul has had a rough couple of days. On Wednesday he went on NPR and MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” and criticized the provision in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that makes it illegal for private business to discriminate on the basis of race. Today Dr. Paul declared the Obama Administration’s criticism of BP for their actions leading up to last month’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and subsequent incompetence in attempting to stem the leak as “un-American.” It’s not BP’s fault, he implied, and said “accidents happen.”
True, accidents happen. But it’s also true that many—if not most—accidents can be prevented, as certainly this one could have. Had there been proper oversight, had regulators not simply taken BP’s word for it that their operations in the deep waters of the Gulf were perfectly safe, and that they knew exactly what to do in the highly unlikely event that there was a spill and could easily clean it up, we would not be seeing the catastrophe we’re seeing now.
And yes, it is absolutely BP’s fault, because they skirted safety regulations, cut corners in testing, lied about their ability to contain a spill, and in partnership with Transocean (the doomed rig’s operator) and Haliburton (the installer of the “fail safe” blowout preventer) had they not skipped the step of filling the drill site with mud to prevent such leaks, and covered up and lied about defects and test failures in the blowout preventer, then this particular spill would never have happened.
But this compulsive need by Paul and many of his Republican contemporaries to exonerate Big Oil from any wrongdoing is what is really troubling to me. And the desire to protect these corporate entities from accountability is what is bringing this country to its knees.
Last week, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) blocked a measure in the Senate that would have increased the liability cap on oil companies from $75 million to $10 billion. Earlier this week it was Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) that stood in the way of ensuring that BP and all other firms are held financially responsible for the repercussions of their failures. It’s OK, they said; BP promised they’d clean it up and pay costs. We should just take them at their word, like we did when they promised us this technology was perfectly safe.
The result of this unwillingness to place accountability and responsibility where it belongs is what is going to end up costing the American taxpayer tens of billions of dollars to clean up this mess. Face it: BP didn’t get hurt (much) by this accident. But 11 people died on that rig, the Louisiana coastline is beginning to see gobs of oil staining its shore, fisheries have been closed down because of the massive oil slick putting countless fishermen out of work, creating a ripple effect that will devastate an already depressed local economy. And the smell that has to be endured by all that live in the Gulf region, lowering their quality of life.
And that doesn’t account for the sea life and marsh lands that will be destroyed. But it’s not BP’s fault, and they shouldn’t be criticized. It’s “un-American.”
This is the same attitude that led to the banking collapse in 2008. No regulation, no accountability; bankers and Wall St. execs are free to do whatever they damn well please with no regard to the potential consequences their actions will have on the rest of America. Even now Republicans are loath to put rules into place that will ensure such a monumental collapse will never happen again. We shouldn’t hamper private industry from doing whatever it wants in pursuit of profit. And when they fail and bring the entire economy to the brink of complete collapse, ruining the lives of tens of millions of people across the country, it’s ok. The government will be there to prop them up and make sure they don’t lose any of their fortune.
It was Republicans that insisted the deregulatory policies that led to the energy crisis in California, which led to the fraudulent and corrupt business practices at Enron, and which ultimately led to the collapse of that company and their accounting firm, Arthur Andersen.
It was the Republicans who were against regulating health insurance companies, out of fear that actually making them make good on claims and provide for the health care needs of their customers would have an adverse effect on their bottom lines. Never mind the billions of dollars in profits they make.
It is Republican policies, greed, and disregard for their constituents who are not Wall St. or Big Oil execs that perpetuate the need for the government to step in and bail these companies out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
“Trickle down economics” doesn’t work! It never has, and it never will! And allowing businesses to operate without any kind of rules or regulations always leads to disaster. And who ends up paying? The taxpayer does. So why are Repubs and their Tea Party compatriots complaining so much? This is exactly the way they wanted things! They got precisely what they wanted!
Maybe they should be a bit more careful about what they wish for.
So what’s next, Dr. Paul? Should we not allow the government to make sure that the medications we take won’t kill us? Should we not allow the government to monitor whether or not the food we eat is poisoned? Should the government not be allowed to prevent manufacturers from spewing noxious gases into the air we breathe? Toxic chemicals from getting into the water we drink? Should there be no rules against businesses lying to or misleading their customers and stealing their money? Do private businesses always do the ethical thing, and do they never put the general public at risk? And how do you propose to stop them when they do if there are no laws to stop them? If government can’t act to protect its citizens, then how do we know that we can stay safe?
With all the crying and complaining about “government bailouts” you would think that Republicans would want to do everything possible to make sure that the government would not have to “bail out” major industries ever again. You would think that they would be all in favor of tighter regulations and increased accountability in American business, but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s Republicans that want to ensure that government continues to bear the responsibility of coming to the rescue of irresponsible American corporate interests. Of course they won’t dare say so, but it’s true. Facts are facts, and what we’ve seen recently–particularly since the inauguration of President Obama–only serves to prove the point.
President Obama today spoke in front of the White House about the deepening crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. In a politically correct manner he berated BP, Haliburton, and Transocean execs for their Teflon behavior during this past week’s congressional hearings on the oil spill in the Gulf.
Not a single one of the companies involved were willing to take responsibility for the utter, complete, and disastrous failures of their firms. And while BP claims that they’re willing to shoulder the responsibility to clean the mess up (yeah, right), all three companies are simply thrilled that the government has taken the lead in trying to contain the spill and prevent the oil from completely covering the Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi shore lines.
And you know who’s going to end up paying the majority of the costs? The United States taxpayer, that’s who. And while it’s perfectly reasonable for the U.S. Government to pitch in resources that private industries typically don’t have access to (like containment booms, a fleet of ships, and other equipment), it’s is totally UNreasonable for the government to have to bear the brunt of the cost because these companies irresponsibly cut corners and blatantly ignored safety regulations and procedures in order to save a few dollars. And it’s Republicans that insist on allowing that laissez-faire attitude toward protecting the environment and allowing safety standards–both for the workers involved and in prevention measures–to continue.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) yesterday blocked a bill presented by Senator Robert Menendez (R-NJ) that would have increased the liability cap on oil companies from $75 million to $10 billion. She was concerned that it will put too much of a burden on her corporate oil overlords and could drive them out of business. Never mind that last quarter alone BP realized profits of over $5 billion. Never mind that according to Menendez the top five oil companies saw $25 billion in profits in the first three months of 2010.
That’s profits! That’s how much they made after expenses, and how much they get to keep! Yet Murkowski claims that $10 billion will put these companies at risk. Better the public suffer than careless corporations.
So the government is left to pick up the tab, just like they were forced to pick up the tab after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. And Republicans are against bailouts?
The current spill happened because there was virtually no oversight. It happened because of the culture of allowing the oil companies to do whatever they want, of leaving them to make up the rules and decide how they are to be enforced. And this is not the first time that BP was grossly negligent in following and enforcing safety standards: In 2005 a refinery in Texas City, TX, exploded, killing 15 BP employees and injuring 170 others. That accident resulted in the largest fines in industry history, but apparently either BP didn’t learn it’s lesson or simply doesn’t care.
But it’s not just the oil companies that Republicans get chummy with and vow to protect from “crippling regulation.” Recently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) met with banking industry and Wall Street execs to ensure them that they would do everything they can to prevent the Democrats from passing any kind of meaningful reform. This shortly after House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) exhorted Wall Street execs to stand up to the “little punk staffers” and fight against financial reform. Never mind that it was the complete lack of rules and regulation that allowed Wall Street and the banking industry to nearly collapse the American economy.
It was Republicans who were against any kind of meaningful health care reform, desperate to protect insurance industry profits. And yet without meaningful reform, it’s the American taxpayer that gets stuck paying for the hospital visits of those without any health insurance. “Everybody gets healthcare” they tell us “They can just go to the emergency room and they get taken care of.” But who pays the hospitals for those emergency room visits?
Republicans are far more interested in protecting corporate profits than they are in protecting the public interest. Their opposition to any kind of meaningful reform guarantees that the government will be required to step in and pick up the tab when disaster strikes due to corporate negligence. It’s the government’s job to protect the economic interests of the country, yet right wingers won’t allow it to be done through regulation, so it must be done through bailouts.
Republicans insist on allowing their corporate benefactors to use their virtually unlimited resources to influence our elections, especially when it drowns out the interests of the every day average citizen. They want to make sure the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class all but disappears, and we were set firmly on that path during the Bush administration.
The only interests that concern Republicans are the interests of those who can put gobs of cash into their pockets. The fact that Republican lawmakers were hired by the voters to protect their interests matters little.
So just whose side are the Republicans on? Because it’s pretty clear that they don’t care a whiff about the constituents they’re supposed to serve. And the current stance guarantees that taxpayers will be left to clean up corporate messes.