Monday, June 07, 2010

Obama Grants Environmental Waivers to BP Gulf Off Shore Drilling

The New York Times June 5, 2010 front page article "In Gulf, It Was Unclear Who Was in Charge of Oil Rig" by Ian Urbina includes:
Minerals Management Service
■ "Investigators have focused on the minute-to-minute decisions and breakdowns to understand what led to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 people and setting off the largest oil spill in United States history and an environmental disaster. But the lack of coordination was not limited to the day of the explosion."
■ "a hodgepodge of oversight agencies granted exceptions to rules, allowed risks to accumulate and made a disaster more likely on the rig"
■ " Of roughly 3,500 drilling rigs and production platforms in the gulf [of Mexico], fewer than 50 are in waters deeper than 1,000 feet. But the risks and challenges associated with this deeper water are much greater."
■ "BP officials [for] Canyon Block 252 in the Gulf of Mexico, they asked for and received permission from federal regulators to exempt the drilling project from federal law that requires a rigorous type of environmental review, internal documents and federal records indicate."
■ "BP engineers … had to get permission from company managers to use riskier equipment because that equipment deviated from the company’s own design and safety policies"
■ "when company officials wanted to test the blowout preventer, a crucial fail-safe mechanism on the pipe near the ocean floor, at a lower pressure than was federally required, regulators granted an exception'
■ The Obama administration Minerals Management Service "shares responsibility for oversight of drilling in the gulf with many others. The Environmental Protection Agency and others review offshore drilling for potential damage to wildlife and the environment"
■ "On the Deepwater Horizon, for example, the minerals agency approved a drilling plan for BP that cited the 'worst case' for a blowout as one that might produce 250,000 barrels of oil per day, federal records show. But the agency did not require the rig to create a response plan for such a situation."
■ "The rig’s 'spill response plan' … includes…the importance of protecting walruses, seals and sea lions, none of which inhabit the area of drilling. The agency approved the plan."
■ "Michael J. Saucier, an official with the Minerals Management Service, said that his agency 'highly encouraged' — but did not require — companies to have backup systems to trigger blowout preventers in case of an emergency.
■ "With the clock ticking, bad decisions went unchecked, warning signs went unheeded and small lapses compounded."
■ "BP skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe. Federal regulators also gave the rig a pass at several critical moments. After the rig encountered several problems, including the gas kicks and the pipe stuck in the well, the regulators did not demand a halt to the operation. Instead, they gave permission for a delay in a safety test of the blowout preventer.”
■ "at least a dozen federal agencies have taken part in the spill response, making decision-making slow, conflicted and confused, as they sought to apply numerous federal statutes.”
■ "For three weeks, as the giant slick crept closer to shore, officials from the White House, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency debated the best approach. They ultimately approved the use of only one barrier, called a berm"
■ "Louisiana state officials spent much of May repeatedly seeking permission from the federal government to construct up to 90 miles of sand barriers to prevent oil from reaching the wetlands."
■ "It took more than a week after the explosion for the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, to declare, on April 29, 'a spill of national significance' a legal categorization that was needed before certain federal assistance could be authorized."

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