Center For Biological Diversity Suit Seeks Notes From Salazar Meetings With Big Oil

Finally, the Center for Biological Diversity does what our media and/or government should have been doing all along—probing Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s involvement with big oil. Salazar has been pushing for offshore drilling without a major overhaul first of Minerals Management Service, an agency under his watch. The story about, sex, drugs, and parties among members of MMS and oil industry employees was uncovered way back in 2008. And although Salazar assured President Obama he had done a cleaning of the agency, the news reported that Obama was surprised the division of the MMS that collects royalties from big oil, and also regulates the same had not been split up earlier. It should have happened right off as a way of ushering in a new administration in the White House and not an extension of the deregulated past that virtually allowed the foxes to watch the henhouse. As a result, of too much deregulation we’ve had increases in tainted food, tainted toys, tainted imports, tainted water, a monstrous oil spill, and 29 dead in a coal mining disaster. So much for more deregulation. It hasn’t panned out well for us. How a fox watching a henhouse ever would work well is beyond me, but hey we tried it anyway and should learn from that mistake.

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2010/05/minerals-management-service-to-be-split-up-after-oil-spill-its-about-time/.

What the CBD stated about the suit:

The biggest oil spill in the history of the United States is no time for the government to hide its closed-door dealings with the offshore drilling industry. That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday to release emails, phone logs, meeting notes and other documents related to his dealings with offshore operators. Back in May, we requested those public documents under the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the extent of oil-industry involvement in Salazar’s offshore drilling decisions. The public needs to know more about his decisions to expand drilling on the Atlantic Coast, eastern Gulf Coast and Alaska and to challenge a court order vacating BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling project before it began.

‘Secretary Salazar has been cozy with the offshore drilling lobby for many years,’ said Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling. ‘We want to know who Salazar was talking to, what was said and what deals were made.’

Yessssss! Now for Salazar’s dealings relative to the Cattle Industry and Endangered Species Act. Forge on.

Read it: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2010/e-and-e-news-07-12-2010.html.

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More Untested Technology by BP Planned for Oil Drilling in the Arctic

I read the General McChrystal article in Rolling Stone last night. It wasn’t as bad as the other article in the same magazine titled, “BP’s Next Disaster.” The article pushed me over the edge in recovering any kind of trust that we won’t continue business as usual, allowing the same scenario as the gulf to happen again and this time in the pristine Arctic Ocean. According to the article, and environmentalists, the current moratorium on drilling appears to be nothing more than a stall to cool everyone off about the gulf disaster before proceeding with new untested technology once again but in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic north!

Do you love it? And it’s on the heels of the latest report that the oil in the gulf is still gushing, the waters in the gulf are turbulent so skimmers only collected a total of 3 gallons of oil there today, and the oil has reached the Texas coastline making its arrival the farthest point yet that now spans 5 states in a 550 mile stretch.

What’s really bad about the plan to drill in the Arctic is that nothing much has changed as far as regulatory oversight, and BP has pulled a fast one to modify it’s operations in the Arctic so that it does not fall under the offshore drilling moratorium. Look out. It’s another unproven approach to extract undersea oil. According to the article: “This fall, [BP] plans to begin drilling for oil near Prudhoe Bay via an oil rig it created by building an island-a glorified mound of gravel-three miles out in state waters. Because the island rig is connected to the mainland by a causeway, BP and the Interior- [SALAZAR!!!]-agree that the ‘onshore’ facility is not subject to restriction as ‘offshore’ drilling.’” The article goes on to describe a new unorthodox way to extract the oil that again is pushing the technology “beyond its proven limits.”

BP calls the project ‘one of its biggest challenges to date’ that is especially dangerous because of its a year round operation in “what the company itself admits is ‘some of the harshest weather on earth.’” It has the blessings of the MMS that even gave BP a leadership award in “recognition of [their] visionary approach to drilling.” OMG! The MMS considers the island rig safe even though BP only has “the capacity to respond to a worst-case discharge of 20,000 barrels a day.” We now know that’s way short of what can really happen.

Shell Oil is no better. It has received “all environmental permits it needs to drill five exploratory wells in the Arctic.” Problem is that Shell has pretty much been given the same pass by the Interior as BP relative to disaster response. The Interior Dept. doesn’t believe there will be a problem with a spill. And Shell responded that it is only “prepared to respond to a spill of 5,500 barrels a day.” But Shell’s “operations in Nigeria spilled at least 100,000 barrels of crude last year alone.” And Shell “has never conducted an offshore-response drill in the Chukchi Sea.” The article says that’s perhaps because “there’s no proven technology for cleaning up oil in icy water, which can render skimming boats useless – much less to cope with a gusher under the ice.” Shell contends that because it would be drilling in shallow waters, “roughly 150 feet” that it somehow makes it safer than the well BP drilled in the gulf. But government data relative to blowouts shows that “most blowouts occur in shallow water.” It also reminded of a blowout in shallow water that happened off the coast of Australia last year – a 10 weeklong gusher.

The NOAA has warned the Obama Administration that drilling in the Arctic poses a grave risk to the environment. The article stated that the NOAA “urged the president to halt future leases in the Arctic, warning that federal regulators operating on Bush-era guidelines had ‘greatly understated’ the risks of drilling. Both industry and government displayed a ‘lack of preparedness for Arctic spill responses’ and had failed to ‘fully evaluate the potential impacts of worst-case scenarios.’” AGAIN.

Take into account where Shell plans to drill if anything disastrous did happen. It’s so remote that:

The closest coast Guard station is on Kodiak Island some 1,000 miles away.

The nearest cache of boom to help contain a spill is in Seattle – a distance of 2,000 miles.

There are only two small airports in the region.

Even if relief supplies could somehow be airlifted to the tundra, there are no industrial ports to offload equipment into the water.

Relief equipment can realistically be brought to the region only by boat – and then only seasonally.

The Arctic is encased in ice for more than half the year, and even icebreakers can’t assure access in the dark of winter.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse cautioned Salazar at a hearing after the BP spill, ‘If it’s this hard to clean this up in the relatively benign conditions of the Gulf of Mexico, good luck trying to implement this sort of a cleanup in the Arctic.’ The worst-case scenario would have a blowout happen in the fall just as the water begins to freeze over. Relief wells couldn’t be drilled until the following summer. Frigid water doesn’t support the microorganisms needed to breakdown oil either. In the meantime the oil would spread under the ice fouling the coasts of Russia, Canada, and quite possibly those of Norway and Greenland. It’s one thing to screw up our own coastlines, but another country’s coastline could make for some mighty tense relations.

At stake are “polar bears, walruses, seals, migratory seabirds, gray whales, endangered bowhead whales and the native hunters that depend on the whales. Sylvia Earle, formerly of the NOAA believes, “There are values there that transcend the value of any fossil fuel we can extract-irreplaceable ecosystems that we don’t know how to put together again. There are some places you should not drill, period.”

Yet, Defenders of Wildlife finds the “new leases are based on the same fundamentally flawed and patently illegal environmental analyses used to green light the Deepwater Horizon.” Brilliant. We’ve learned nothing from our mistakes and continue with business as usual where oil is concerned.

Read the article: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/120130.

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Congress Grills BP; Pot Calls the Kettle Black

I watched the first part of the opening statements of the reps on the committee that’s set to grill BP. Without a strong clean energy bill anywhere in sight until next year, I have to say some of our representatives are flat out hypocrites. They refuse to recognize that increasing CO2 levels from fossil fuels may be a disaster waiting to happen, and basically tank any strong clean energy legislation that would put caps on CO2 emissions. They even allow the coal industry to write legislation meant to strip the EPA’s authority to regulate CO2 emissions. This is all happening simultaneously in congress as we watch this oil debacle play out where complaints and finger pointing about who dropped the ball abounds. What is that? We’re that stupid that we concern ourselves only with what we can see, smell, and touch that is destroying wildlife, clean water, livelihoods, and property values and only after the fact? I’m sorry but by the time hardcore pollution is in our backyards, it’s too late. Many that suffer now should have paid better attention to what congress did the past decade, deregulating industry across the board, allowing the foxes to watch the henhouses, which was a move to benefit big corporations. It seldom works out well for us. This should be a wake up call for a cleaner environment before it’s too late and adverse effects are in everyone’s backyard, yet that’s not happening.

Furthermore, the hypocrisy of the accusations regarding this administration’s role relative to Minerals Management Service and the Department of Interior is priceless. Some of the biggest finger pointers that didn’t hesitate to site the Obama administration for negligence relative to MMS were in congress in 2008 when reports of sex, drugs, and lots of intermingling between MMS employees and the oil industry came out. Why wasn’t anything done immediately? Oh that’s right, it was an exiting administration, so they never dealt with it at all, knowing full well there was a conflict of interest within the MMS and safety was probably lax.

For instance, Senator Blackburn of Tennessee didn’t hesitate today to admonish the Obama administration for lax regulatory oversight, but she became senator in 1998 where “she has a reputation for defending and expanding individual freedom and free enterprise,” according to .gov/bios. Sounds all right but expanding individual freedom and free enterprise usually means less government regulation. The idea being that the free market will regulate itself. And “Blackburn willingly accepts the responsibility of helping shape American fiscal policy as a member of the exclusive House Energy & Commerce Committee. For 208 years, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the oldest legislative standing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, has served as the principal guide for the House in matters relating to the promotion of commerce and to the public’s health and marketplace interests. The 111th Congress mark’s Blackburn’s third consecutive term on the panel.” Hmmm, the committee she is on acts as a guide relative to the promotion of commerce and to the public’s health and marketplace interests. Looks like the public’s health took a backseat to commerce and the marketplace a little too much while she was on that committee, because the public’s health is in jeopardy now as a result. See what I mean about hypocrisy? This woman sat on the committee that makes decisions about energy and commerce, which would be oil drilling, yet points fingers at this administration for lax enforcement of rules that were diminished the past decade while she was there.

http://blackburn.house.gov/Biography/.

Then there was Rep. Gingrey of Georgia pointing out that the past administration has been blamed for all the deregulation but this disaster didn’t happen back then. Why not? Well gee; I guess the Bush/Cheney administration just got lucky. It’s not like they did anything different to prevent oil spill disasters. It’s as if he is saying the deregulation couldn’t have caused this, it’s something else. Sorry but another U.S. policy from the past that doesn’t make mandatory the plans for disasters like this from companies like BP might be to blame too. Other countries make drillers produce those emergency plans of action, but the U.S. lets it slide. Both deregulation and lax policies have been in play for a while. I’ve been blaming Salazar for not changing plenty when he took the Sec’y of Interior’s job, but unlike myself, I’ll bet that Gingrey and Blackburn would have been some of the first to protest those changes on behalf of the oil industry if he did. Of course that would have been before this disaster happened and hindsight is always more brilliant. Gingrey went on to liken Democrats to the “forces of darkness during energy bill debates.” He stated: “Americans are watching as from Iran to North Korea, the forces of darkness are attempting to silence the forces of democracy and freedom,” regarding the debates.”

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/06/26/gingrey-forces-darkness.

The only rep who saw the irony and hypocrisy of accusations was Griffith of Alabama, a former Democrat turned Republican that didn’t work out so well for him in recent elections. He wasn’t as hard on BP pointing out that this is not the worst environmental disaster for the U.S., cigarettes are. He is a surgeon and interjected that we pollute our own environment and those around us every time we light up a cigarette anywhere, but that is OK, even though millions die of lung cancer from it yearly. I see his analogy. We argue we have the right to subject innocent people to our disregard for health/safety by smoking. BP did pretty much the same and gets crucified forever. Neither the cigarette or oil spill scenario paints a concrete picture as to when it will all end for good either.

So we’re back to health and safety for all vs. individual freedom to pollute all over someone else whether with cigarettes, CO2 emissions, or oil spills. Big or small, pollution that intrudes on someone that has no input or recourse for the decisions of those that choose to pollute shouldn’t be tolerated and the perpetrator fined, no different than BP. It’s criminal to take a life whether in small increments or big disasters.

The last thing I noticed was a rush by some to point out that President Obama’s call for clean energy in the face of this disaster is opportunistic. So? What greater opportunity to direct some of the workers in polluting industry elsewhere for jobs when they have none at all? Oil is finite and so are the jobs in the oil industry. Pay the piper now or later. We’re not getting this yet.

Besides the biggest opportunistic move that will ultimately hurt us all is happening around us every time we hear a politician pit jobs against the environment in times of an economic disaster like this one from which we’re all trying to recover. It’s a dirty play to keep us dirty both energy wise and health wise for much longer than we need to be. Talk about opportunistic. It’s more in defense of big corporations than for the little guy’s job for sure.

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Scandals at Dept. of Interior Past and Still Present

My husband is usually pretty up on news. He reads all the different papers at work during break. When I ask him if he heard about just about anything, he usually has. So I was a little surprised yesterday when he came home ranting about the scandal at Minerals Management Service like it was all new. He evidently didn’t remember as vividly as I did that MMS was already investigated by Interior Department Inspector General back in 2008 for sex, drugs, boozing, and gifts. That was too juicy a story to forget. At that time, recommendations were made to then Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne. Here are those recommendations back in 2008:

(RIK is “Royalty in Kind” or practicing business with more than regulating the oil industry by the MMS).

1. Take appropriate administrative corrective action.

Some very serious misconduct is identified in these reports. While the OIG generally does not take a position concerning what administrative corrective action might be appropriate in any given matter, in this instance there may be significant enough misconduct to warrant removal for some individuals. Given the unwillingness of some to acknowledge their conduct as improper, the subjects of our reports should be carefully considered for a lifetime ban from working in the RIK program. Ya think? Maybe stay away from government altogether.

2. Develop an enhanced ethics program designed specifically for the RIK program.

Given the RIK culture, and enhanced ethics program must be designed for RIK, including, but not limited to, 1) an explicit prohibition against acceptance of any gifts or gratuities from industry, regardless of value; 2) a robust training program to include written certification by employees that they know and understand the ethics requirements by which they are bound; and 3) an augmented MMS Ethics Office.

3. Develop a clear, strict Code of Conduct for the RIK program.

A fundamental Code of Conduct with clear obligations, prohibitions, and consequences appears to be necessary to repair the culture of misconduct in the RIK program. This code should include a clear prohibition against outside employment with the oil and gas industry or consultants to that industry. Given the considerable financial responsibilities involved, MMS should also consider implementing a Random Drug Testing program specifically for RIK.

4. Consider changing the reporting structure of RIK.

The management reporting structure of the RIK program must be seriously reconsidered. Given the challenges that will be faced in rebuilding this program, it seems imperative that RIK have management oversight in immediate proximity, not some 1,500 miles away in Washington, DC.

http://www.eenews.net/public/25/12376/features/documents
/2008/09/10/document_pm_02.pdf
.

We don’t really think Kempthorne did anything about this at the end of 2008 do we? He was right in step with the Bush/Cheney administration, and they were all exiting shortly thereafter. Back then the NY Times stated: “It seemed inevitable that bad things would happen when President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney packed the top posts at the Department of the Interior with lobbyists who had spent their careers representing the very industries they were now being asked to regulate.” But the scandals go back even farther in the Interior Department when Gale Norton was in charge. Then Interior Department Deputy Secretary, and mining lobbyist, J. Steven Griles pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Abramoff scandal.

Remember Griles? Gale Norton was the head of the Department of the Interior at the time. Under Norton was Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles. Further down the line was Sue Ellen Wooldridge Deputy Chief of Staff to Norton. Griles was the highest-ranking member of the administration to be targeted for corruption. He resigned and went to work for, of all things, Conoco Phillips as a lobbyist. Meanwhile, Norton promoted Sue Ellen to Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources despite the fact she was grilled about her relationship with Griles during the Interior’s investigation of him. Senator Ron Wyden asked her about this in writing. She didn’t answer the question honestly even when her new position would actually oversee the department’s ethics office watching Griles while they were living together in a condo in Virginia!

At the time, an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found another love nest between Griles and Wooldridge with a third party, Conoco Phillips. It seems Conoco Phillips VP Donald Duncan, Griles, and Woodridge chipped in together to buy a million dollar plus beach vacation house in South Carolina. Duncan owned 50%, with Griles and Wooldridge pitching in 25% each. The house was purchased before Wooldridge allowed Conoco Phillips to postpone a half billion-dollar pollution cleanup. This was the most unethical love triangle in government yet. Wooldridge resigned. Gale Norton resigned. And Griles pleaded guilty.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/14/AR2007021401913.html.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/opinion/12fri1.html.

A 2008 article on thinkprogress.org also described the Interior Dept. as “Scandal-Clad” and also a bunch of thieves. The IG previously found that the Department under-collected billions of dollars of revenue owed the U.S. taxpayer from oil companies that produce and sell oil and gas from public lands and waters. Government workers ‘routinely failed to seek out legal advice on complicated deals and that the agency used outdated computers and a $150 million software program that resulted in royalty money going uncollected.’”

So we had a Federal Department that routinely bilked the U.S. taxpayer out of money. I don’t think things have changed much. Where was Salazar that he didn’t see the recommendations given his predecessor and why was the MMS still functioning as usual with regulators also the money collectors? Surely Salazar knew of the reports of scandal within the MMS. They were in the Washington Post and all over. But current Sec’y of Interior Salazar continues to point fingers at Congress and elsewhere.

There isn’t an environmentalist around that likes Salazar. He’s a reminder that little has changed at the Department of Interior, until now. And it’s a little late.

http://pr.thinkprogress.org/2008/09/pr20080912.

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Oil Spill Sensationalism

Since footage of the underwater oil leak was released, I think the sensationalism about it in the mainstream media is waaaaay out of control to the point it will hurt tourism far more than necessary. Many, many beaches that have not as of yet been impacted by the spill are already empty as are some seafood establishments. For instance, a few days ago it was reported that tar balls had washed up on a Florida beach. Those few tar balls had nothing to do with the spill. If anyone wants to get a much clearer, calmer, intelligent overview of what is and has been happening watch PBS News Hour in the evening. PBS has a dedicated page on the Oil Spill and has also been monitoring reported amounts of spillage on a timeline with a meter updating those estimates by the second:

Following PBS’s meter are several other outside estimates. Looking at those, it’s easy to see that no one knows for sure how much is actually leaking. In a PBS interview with Bob Dudley of BP on the 19th, Dudley stated that an enormous amount of gas is still coming out of the pipe. He was pretty clear that it was unusual. He described it, very succinctly, as being the same as shaking up a can of pop and then opening it. If all the spray could be captured then perhaps one would get a good idea of how much liquid exploded out otherwise it’s anyone’s guess. So it appeared to me this morning, the morning after the release of the video, that the media jumped to the conclusion that all that spewed out of that pipe is a gush of oil when in fact it’s still a fizzy explosion of oil and gas happening. One would also assume then that the most reliable source for the amount of oil spillage would be relative to the amount being siphoned, but then again that siphoning may be sans the gas and a more direct flow from the well itself than what is actually exploding out of the pipe into the ocean. Watch the interview with Dudley at the link below. He explains things very well, and then a video of the leak from ABC news, while thinking of the shaken soda scenario. That is indeed what’s happening:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/jan-june10/bp2_05-19.html.

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There are also a lot of accusations going around that the government has allowed BP to make all the decisions, which is not true. The U.S. coast guard has been involved from day one alongside BP. The finger pointing now about using a toxic dispersant called “Corexit” is a really a big “right back atcha” to another of our government agencies, the EPA. Since our EPA still approves Corexit as a dispersant and our EPA gave BP the thumbs up to use a dispersant on the source of the spill, BP used Corexit because they have a big stockpile of it. Now BP’s getting a big “STOP THAT” while assumptions that Corexit was used to hide what’s really down are running rampant.

I think Corexit should not have been used by BP, since it is British Petroleum and Great Britain stopped the use of Corexit for environmental reasons and BP knows it, but the EPA should not have this on its “OK to use” list either. Why the use of Corexit then? Well, funny thing, according to Mother Jones website, “Corexit 9500 and Corexit(R) EC9527A—[are] compounds created by an Illinois-based company called Nalco. [] In 1994, Nalco and Exxon’s chemical division, Exxon Chemical Company, formed a joint venture focusing on oil and gas products like the dispersants in use in the Gulf. Daniel Sanders, and a vice president, Steve Taylor, both came from Exxon. So that’s pretty much why Corexit is floating around with the oil. The EPA ok’d dispersants. Corexit was on the EPA’s approved list, BP had stockpiles of it. It’s out there now, some 600,000 gallons of it.

http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/05/epa-bp-dispersants.

As far as masking the spill, dispersants whether safe or not do as they are defined, they break up the oil like Dawn detergent does with greasy dishes. So I imagine the plumes are like the diluted floating grease we see in dishwater, they are not solid oil. The oil needs to be broken down at this point, because there is no stopping it. The oil has reached the grassy marshes/wetlands along Louisiana’s coast. Breaking the oil down will help natural microbes to break it down farther and faster. It’s sweet crude without a lot of sulfur as I said in another blog, which helps. However, knowing Corexit was toxic was a big, big mistake the EPA shares with BP. Watch the video about Corexit and read the Examiner article that says we’ve known for 20 years that it should not be used.

http://www.examiner.com/x-4002-Green-Living-Examiner~y2010m5d21-Oil-dispersant-Corexit-known-to-be-toxic-20-years-ago-videos.

I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the current video of the leak or the one I first saw when this happened. Why the sudden excitement and escalation to 100,000 barrels of spillage a day by some? 100,000 barrels per day amounts to a little over a barrel per second, or 69 barrels per minute. It’s a 19.5 inch pipe. I have a round side table next to my couch exactly the same size. I stood and looked at it and can’t imagine that size of an opening spewing a barrel a second under water pressure at a depth of over a mile without some enormous thrust that would seem to want to blow the hole open even larger if it was that great. Fact is “the 19.5-inch pipe’s opening was narrowed by about 30% in the accident, plus the flow has been reduced by 10% from a broken drill pipe inside the riser. About half of the flow coming from the pipe is natural gas, not oil,” according to BP, (the shaken soda can scenario again). Also in the article on marketwatch.com, “The U.S. government set up a Flow Rate Technical Team to develop a more precise estimate of the flow. Agencies involved in the project include the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Minerals Management Service, the Energy Department and the U.S. Geological Survey. The team’s mandate is to produce a report by close of business on Saturday,” May 22nd. So we’ll see. My husband the plumber said the amount discharged depends on the thrust and he thinks it might be what I said before that this is the mother lode of wells that’s feeding others, some sort of back pressure happening to give one well this much thrust. Just my thought.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bp-says-study-due-saturday-on-size-of-gulf-spill-2010-05-21.

The more I research this, the more I see that governmental agencies share the blame for big, big missteps in this disaster for the sake of industry. Many things remain the same as the last administration and have not yet been fixed. When Sec’y of Interior Salazar took the hot seat in Congress the other day he pointed fingers back at Congress for not changing the laws. Excuse me but if a person is appointed a job overseeing an agency in a new administration, one that is far more environmentally friendly than the last administration that basically deregulated industry to the point the foxes were watching the henhouse, one would think that a good perusal of procedures/laws pertaining to that agency and a subsequent housecleaning would be in order first. Salazar should have had a list of suggested changes for congress. Instead, to many of us he has proved to be just an extension of the old administration much more so than the new. Nothing seems to have changed in the Department of the Interior until perhaps now (fingers crossed). And the EPA that was once ridden with polluting industry employees in the past should have done likewise to purge itself or we’re simply not progressing in the best interests of our world and everything in it.

While I’m on the subject of government agencies, where was the quick response from the Army Corp of Engineers to OK permits to dredge and recreate the barrier islands that once existed along Louisiana’s shoreline? Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal for a 350 million dollar dredging plan along Louisiana’s delicate coastline has been on hold waiting for approval by Army Corp of Engineers with Billy Nungesser, Plaquemines Parish president beseeching ACE on the news to hurry and OK the plan. The plan would create a shoal of sand that runs parallel to the shoreline to hold back the slick of oil at the surface protecting the wildlife refuge. Nungesser said the oil reached the edge of the marsh and if it got any farther in there would be no getting it out, so the dredge plan was urgent.

So far I’ve found nothing about that approval yet. So much for urgent.

http://www.dredgingtoday.com/2010/05/21/oil-spill-dredging-waits-for-approval-usa/.

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/louisiana-marshes-will-pose-challenges-for-gulf-oil-spill-cleanup/19485841.

On the bright side, the well may be shut down as early as next week when BP will attempt to plug it up again. I’m just wondering how that’s going to work with all the gas thrust still coming out. Could there be a bigger explosion of the sea floor itself? We’ll see about that too.

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Offshore Drilling Continues; 27 New Drilling Projects Approved w/o Environmental Review

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Minerals Management Service (MMS) “continues to exempt dangerous new drilling operations from environmental review. Since the BP oil-rig explosion on April 20, an investigation has revealed that the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service has approved 27 new offshore drilling plans as of May 7 — 26 of those under the same environmental-review exemption used to approve the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon project.” And 2 of them are to BP. How are they exempt?

MMS admitted using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act meant only to apply to non-damaging activities like building an outhouse or creating a hiking trail, not exploratory projects like BP’s current disaster. MMS not only exempted BP’s offshore drilling plan from environmental review using that loophole, [but] it exempts hundreds of dangerous offshore oil-drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico every year [that way]“. Loopholes are common and meant to benefit big industry. Alaska uses a loophole for aerial hunting. It’s not like our legislators don’t have a clue. They know what the weak spots in bills are and they exist because of intense lobbying by industry.

CBD stated: “In response to the review-exemption scandal, last Thursday Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he had banned approval of new offshore oil-drilling permits — but the next day, Interior acknowledged that environmental exemptions and drilling plans have not been halted. Salazar is still allowing those flawed drilling approvals to proceed, only halting the issuance of a last technical check-off that doesn’t involve any environmental review.” Salazar has allowed many things implemented in the past administration to continue that are far too industry friendly like the continued slaughter of our wildlife.

What really peaked my interest was that ABC News Good Morning America reported President Obama was surprised that MMS was still both in charge of collecting millions in royalties from the oil industry while at the same time in charge of regulating it. This is relative to Salazar’s recent urging to separate the MMS into 2 separate divisions. Does that mean that President Obama might not realize that Salazar is only a continuation of the past administration and that a growing number of us that are concerned about wild life, public lands, and conservation do not like Salazar at all?

Well, hope springs eternal that maybe enough emails from concerned citizens could help initiate a full review of all the agencies under the Department of the Interior. I’m always willing to write a few.

E mail any senator or rep @: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.

Besides your own senators/reps, I suggest an email to Senators Henry Waxman, Edward Markey, and Nick Rahall and of course President Obama and VP Biden to do a full review of all the agencies under Salazar and the Department of Interior relative to being too industry friendly.

Read about it:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2010/abc-news-05-12-2010.html.

Watch it:

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Minerals Management Service to Be Split Up After Oil Spill; It’s About Time

Well wonders never cease. The Obama Administration is finally going to split up the Minerals Management Services agency that oversees the Gulf oil drilling projects, and Sec’y of Interior Salazar is in full support. According to the AP news release, “One agency would be charged with inspecting oil rigs, investigating oil companies and enforcing safety regulations, while the other would oversee leases for drilling and collection of billions of dollars in royalties.”

MMS has been accused of being too close to the oil industry it oversees, while handling all that money. It’s long been viewed as a conflict and we can clearly see why oversight may become lax in an environment where workers are indulged by big oil. The article on yahoo.com reminded:

An internal investigation in 2008 described a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by workers at the minerals agency. The investigation by Interior’s inspector general found workers at the MMS royalty collection office in Denver partied, had sex with and used drugs with energy company representatives. Workers also accepted gifts, ski trips and golf outings, the report by Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said.

Devaney decried “a culture of ethical failure” and an agency rife with conflicts of interest.

More than half a dozen workers out of around 50 at the Denver office were disciplined — and several were fired — because of the scandal.

I remember that. That party should have ended long ago. Salazar is late on this one. But it looks like the Obama Administration is willing to move fast after this latest oil disaster. Offshore drilling is on hold and sale of new leases for drilling too. Unfortunately, some old leases for drilling in the Arctic held by Shell oil are coming up and Shell plans on forging ahead for now. Stay tuned.

Since Salazar is late on this call, I still think it’s a good time to give the once over to all the agencies/bureaus under the Department of Interior especially the cattle industry that’s near and dear to Salazar. There is too much room for conflict of interest and bad ethics whenever the same agency oversees some of the wealthiest industries around.

Read the whole article:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100511/ap_on_bi_ge/us_interior
_offshore_drilling
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Blame for Oil Spill Continues to be a Mix

Petro giant BP didn’t file a plan to specifically handle a major oil spill from an uncontrolled blowout at its Deepwater Horizon project. We know that from my last blog. The whole investigation is centering on “the blowout rules,” and a blowout preventer. It’s really the “blowout scenario rules” where a company files a plan for clean- up if and when a blowout occurs. BP didn’t file a plan for that because they evidently “didn’t fit at least one of five conditions” set by MMS for those rules to apply. Mineral Management Services changed its mandate two years ago in April 2008 “to exempt certain projects in the central Gulf region from having to file a specific plan for cleaning up an oil spill”, according to an Associated Press review of official records. Unfortunately, the article didn’t offer a pdf of those records. I’ve looked through tons of mandates on MMS website and can’t find those 5 conditions. I’d really like to see how a deepwater drilling project like this didn’t meet conditions to have a spill cleanup plan if the blowout preventer (BOP) didn’t work. BOP’s are known to be faulty. I think one condition for exemption was the rigs proximity to land. The reasoning by BP was that they were almost 50 miles out from shore in the Gulf. Evidently no one expected an oil slick to make it to shore easily from that distance. We know better now.

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2010/05/many-share-the-blame-for-the-oil-spill/.

http://www.pnj.com/article/20100506/NEWS01/100506044.

Meanwhile, a backup plan to activate the BOP’s shear ram (acoustic) in case the BOP fails to engage is not required in the U.S. either. It’s a requirement elsewhere, but not here. Evidently the 6 valves and pipe rams along the blowout preventer pipe should stop the leak, but they failed to do the job too. So this giant shear ram is supposed to engage through a control panel button acting like a cigar cutter or sideways guillotine that cuts through the drill pipe at the head with extreme force shearing through and then remains in place as a cap on the pipe. End of leak. The shear ram didn’t engage and since the U.S. isn’t required to have a back up plan to activate that shear ram, the oil keeps coming. Even if it did activate, it may or may not have the force at that depth to actually cut through.

According to an Associated Press (AP) review:

Reliability questions have long shadowed blowout preventers:

Accident reports from the U.S. Minerals Management Service, a branch of the Interior Department, show that the devices have failed or otherwise played a role in at least 14 accidents, mostly since 2005.

Government and industry reports have raised questions about the reliability of blowout preventers for more than a decade. A 2003 report by Transocean, the owner of the destroyed rig, said: ‘Floating drilling rig downtime due to poor BOP reliability is a common and very costly issue confronting all offshore drilling contractors.’

Lawsuits have fingered these valves as a factor in previous blowouts

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2010/05/08/general-energy-us-oil-spill-blowout-preventers_7588751.html.

The BOP on the Deep Horizon rig was tested, however, the test is obviously only for function or pipe would be damaged. A survivor of the explosion stated: “We had set the bottom cement plug, [and] at that point the BOP stack, the blowout preventer, was tested.” But the shear ram didn’t engage through the normal controls. Robots on the ocean floor tried for days to engage it.

So far, we know BP had a blowout preventer that was tested beforehand but failed, and a shear ram that fails to engage so far. BP didn’t go out of its way to fulfill any more regulatory obligations than it had to. And BP may have been negligent by removing the mud before the final cement plug was in place, that mud being the first, but probably too small to matter, defense against the gas explosion according to the very detailed and informational article on NOLA.com, a New Orleans news website.

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/safety_fluid_was_removed_befor.html.

Still, what caused the whole shebang was a giant methane gas bubble that made it way up. We’re back to Halliburton. They haven’t come under full scrutiny yet. BP appears to be first as the overall responsible party. So we have to leave Halliburton on the list of blame too. A bad cement job more than likely caused the bubble to come up in the first place.

We’re also back to Mineral Management Service (MMS), an agency that according to NOLA.com, and other websites “is known for its cozy relationship with major oil companies.” Let me just say this. Ever since I started researching and blogging during the Bush Administration until now, a lot of the bureaus/agencies under the Interior Department are industry friendly and at ethical odds with what they purport to protect. USFWS appears to love the sport/hunting industry more than the wildlife it seeks to conserve. The BLM has done a heinously cruel job of rounding up our wild mustang horses and slaughtering them on behalf of the cattle industry. The Office of Surface Mining relative to mountaintop removal favors the coal industry’s practices more than protective measures for the surrounding environment it invades. We’ve heard about mountain top removal destruction, especially in Appalachia. And the MMS favoritism and lack of oversight for the oil industry is being highlighted now.

As the current head of the Department of Interior, Ken Salazar is almost indistinguishable from the Bush Administration’s Gale Norton or Dirk Kempthorne, still killing off wildlife (called management), and absconding public land for big industry.

During this oil spill fiasco, there was confusion as to whether the Deepwater Horizon rig was covered by the regulation to have a backup plan in case of a blowout. According to the Pensacola New (PNJ) article: “Following a tour of a boom operation in Gulf Shores, Ala., Salazar said that he understood BP was required to file plans for coping with a blowout at the well that failed. “My understanding is that everything was in its proper place,” said Salazar. He didn’t know that he didn’t know. What’s Ken been doing? His Chief of Staff, Tom Strickland, sure couldn’t help him on this gas explosion/oil leak mess.

Right after the explosion, Tom, also the “Department of Interior’s Ass’t. Sec’y for fish, wildlife and parks, traveled to the Grand Canyon on official business on April 27, three days after the oil leak was initially discovered.

Strickland’s Grand Canyon trip focused on management issues, including water flows, beach erosion and endangered species, but Strickland remained in ‘constant contact by satellite phone with Interior HQ as well as Fish and Wildlife Service and NPS operations in the Gulf,’ Interior Department spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said.

So the oil spill couldn’t divert Strickland from his more pressing duty, there’s that word again, “management” as it relates to “endangered species” perhaps? If you’ve been reading my blogs you know management means “kill” for industry sake. As for endangered species this group in the Interior seems no different than the last and would probably like to see the list disappear altogether.

Jake Tapper of ABC News first reported the trip, but here’s the article about it.
http://www.pnj.com/article/20100506/NEWS01/100506009.

Most environmentalists or citizens that care about wildlife, parks, and public land see much of a change since Salazar took over, I say now is a good time to clean house at the Interior Department. The Obama Administration promised to be science based. There is no science behind the treatment of wildlife and our public lands at the hands of Salazar. He and his department are industry friendly period. The Department of Interior’s involvement with industry must end if it is to fulfill its mission statement. As it stands, that department has been detrimental to our lives, the lives of animals, and wildlife habitat, as well as, the public lands we pay to sustain.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Mission Statement says it “protects and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated Island Communities.”

Suuuure. I don’t see them protecting the American heritage that is wild mustang horses. And Alaska’s native population is currently in a heated battle to keep Shell Oil out of the Arctic. How about the science behind taking the wolves off the endangered list way before recovery population numbers were reached, leaving the wolves susceptible to individual state’s thirst for money from sport/trophy hunters? Wolves are supposedly hunted because they pose a threat to deer, moose, and elk populations. Well, the BLM “proposes to offer parcels for lease at its May, 2010 auction. These parcels were protested by Colorado’s Wildlife Federation because 2 impact greater sage grouse leks, and two are within a bighorn sheep migratory corridor. Others impact moose production areas, pronghorn and deer severe winter range, and elk winter concentration areas. The cumulative impact upon wildlife from these parcels and the cumulative effect of earlier leases in addition to these proposed leases is of great concern to the Wildlife Federation in Colorado.” It should be. Down the road when deer and elk populations decline because of these leases, wolves or some other wildlife predator will be blamed by the Interior.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103119177.

http://coloradowildlife.org/news/cwf-nwf-submit-protest-of-blm-proposed-lease-sale.html.

This Interior Department’s brand of protection and management leaves much to be desired in an intelligent, science based administration. According to the PNJ article, “U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has asked the Interior Department to turn over documents that explain why MMS decided to exempt some Gulf operators from being required to provide blowout scenarios. Rahall expressed concern Thursday that MMS ‘has become an enabler of bad practices by the industry.’” Really. While Rahall is at it, he should check out all the agencies under Department of the Interior.

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Many Share the Blame for the Oil Spill

There are many in the mix that contributed to the oil disaster that still unfolds and is threatening Florida’s coastlines now. If the oil slick catches the Gulf Stream our eastern seaboard could also have fouled beaches. BP is the overall responsible party and will pay billions for the aftermath. The media blames BP. Sec’y of Interior Ken Salazar blames BP. But look at all the hands in this mess that aren’t mentioned by the media. Transocean Ltd. leased the $600 million oil rig to BP from its inventory. Before oil drilling ever began Halliburton cemented the pipe into the hole. And 2 U.S. agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Minerals Management Services have varying degrees of oversight. The USFWS states that as part of its management goals for the wildlife refuge struck by the oil slick is “oversight of oil and gas development and production.” Minerals Management Services agency “determined there was ‘no discernible improvement by (oil) industry over the past 7 years’” relative to safety/drilling practices and ‘proposed taking a more proactive stance by requiring operators to have their safety program audited at least once every three years.’” One would think that before any more drills were placed, the new regulations would be in effect and current inspections completed especially with the U.S. announcing more offshore drilling. As it stands right now, the oil industry safety programs are “self-managed and voluntary for operators.” Ah, self regulation shows its ugly head. The foxes watching the henhouses or self-regulation didn’t work out too well for us AGAIN, while we continue the mantra-less government, less government.

Both “BP and TransOcean Ltd. aggressively opposed the new safety regulations proposed last year. And the oil industry launched a coordinated campaign to attack those regulations, with over 100 letters objecting to them”. Why? Minerals and Management Services estimated that “the proposed rule, which has yet to take effect, would cost operators about $4.59 million in startup costs and $8 million in annual recurring costs.” So there you have it. Ethics regarding safety takes a back seat to costs or MONEY.

TransOcean’s Deepwater Horizon rig was “placed into service in 2001. [] Working with BP, the Transocean crews on the Deepwater Horizon previously drilled a well to 35,050 vertical depth and 35,055 feet measured depth (MD), or more than six miles, while operating in 4,130 feet of water.” It set a record for this and so drilling extremely deep has all been done before. But:

Relatives of workers who are presumed dead in this disaster claim that BP and rig owner TransOcean “violated numerous statutes and regulations” issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a lawsuit filed by Natalie Roshto, whose husband Shane, a deck floor hand, was thrown overboard by the force of the explosion and whose body has not yet been located.

Both companies failed to provide a competent crew, failed to properly supervise its employees and failed to provide Rushto with a safe place to work, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

2001-2007 is the timeline for the study by Minerals Management Services that determined self operated safety programs/practices had not improved within the industry. But even though safety practices may have been lax, the drill supposedly never struck oil prior to the explosion.

http://www.deepwater.com/fw/main/IDeepwater-Horizon-i-Drills-Worlds-Deepest-Oil-and-Gas-Well-419C151.html

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/27-1.

When the explosion first happened, I blogged that ABC News reported BP had not yet struck oil with the TransOcean rig. The concern was mainly for the 11 missing crew members and the diesel fuel onboard the oil rig when it began to list. Homeland Security’s Janet Napolitano stated on CNN that the Coast Guard was there from the beginning, as well as BP, and a host of others to contain what should have been only diesel fuel spillage. So why the oil?

Halliburton was contracted to cement the pipe in the hole. The lawsuits filed by family members of the missing 11 workers “also names oil-services giant Halliburton as a defendant, claiming that the company “prior to the explosion, was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap and, upon information and belief, improperly and negligently performed these duties, which was a cause of the explosion.”

After digging around to learn more about it, I found an interesting article on seminal.firedoglake.com about known problems with cementing the pipe for drilling at extreme depths. It has to do with gas bubbles trapped in frozen crystals and a very interesting read. The article went on to say that late last year Halliburton did a presentation about cementing and there is admitted shortcomings in the process in deep water. According to Halliburton’s PDF of the presentation:

Deepwater Well Objectives

Cement slurry should be placed in the entire annulus with no losses
Temperature increase during slurry hydration should not destabilize hydrates
There should be no influx of shallow water or gas into the annulus
The cement slurry should develop strength in the shortest time after placement

Conditions in deepwater wells are not conducive to achieving all of these objectives simultaneously.

What? If they cannot achieve all of these objectives than something can definitely go wrong, is liable to go wrong especially when the frozen crystals of gas melt, releasing that gas. According to the diary on sentinel.firedoglake.com, “The problem is that when you drill into these formations, and then try to inject cement into the hole/gaps to prevent leakage, the curing process for that creates heat. That heat can, if not controlled, cause the gas to escape the frozen crystals. If a lot of gas is released all at once, as could happen during the cement/curing process, it can cause a blowout where the cementing is occurring.” In short, too many gas bubbles released = Kaboom.

Minerals Management Service’s 2007 study revealed that 18 out of 39 gas explosions on rigs were a result of improper cementing procedures.

http://www.aade.org/houston/study/Fluids/11182009/F%20Tahmourpour%20Deepwater%20Cementing.pdf.

http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/44259.
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/27-1.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB2000142405274870357250457521
4593564769072.html
.

Congress is investigating Halliburton too.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/01/nation/la-na-oil-spill-investigation-20100501.

And what about Ken Salazar’s statement, “Those responsible for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will be held accountable.” Um, the USFWS and Minerals Management Service are under the Dept. of the Interior, or Ken Salazar. Both agencies have degrees of oversight in oil production in the gulf. Those agencies knew the safety practices/programs for oil drilling were self-regulated, not effective, and had not improved in 7 years! It looks like Salazar’s Dept., once again gave more credence to industry’s stance than the overall protection of our wildlife and habitat the Dept. of Interior oversees. Let’s see, we have an ongoing and unscientific wolf and mustang horse slaughter on what appears to be the behalf of the cattle and sport hunting industry condoned by Salazar. Now we have a huge wildlife refuge ruined with thousands of animal, bird, fish, and reptile lives at stake on behalf of the oil industry. They only wrote 100 letters? Thousands of letters have been written to Salazar on behalf of wolves/mustangs.

http://www.newser.com/article/d9fdj21g0/salazar-those-responsible-for-gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-will-be-held-accountable.html

Finally, BP just wasn’t prepared for a deepwater spill. According to an article on Daily Finance:

BP’s 52-page exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon Well, filed with the federal Mineral’s Management Service, says repeatedly that it was unlikely an accidental surface or sub-surface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.

And while the company concluded that a spill would impact beaches, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas, it argued that due to the distance to shore, (48 miles), and that response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant, adverse impacts are expected.

Robert Wiygul, an Ocean Springs, Mississippi based environmental lawyer and board member for the Gulf Restoration Network didn’t see anything in the document that BP addressed the kind of technology needed to control a spill in water at that depth.

http://www.dailyfinance.com/article/document-bp-didnt-plan-for-major-oil/993853/.

This morning, BP made a statement on ABC’s GMA that they aren’t totally responsible for the accident. They do take responsibility for the oil and the clean-up, but… Watch it:

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ABC’s GMA also showed a picture of a dead sea turtle one of 20 giant DEAD sea turtles that have washed up on shore already. Some 5,000 dolphins are among the rigs in the Gulf this time of year. It is the birthing season for them. I’m waiting for dead baby dolphins to wash up next. Hopefully, dolphins are smart enough to get out of Dodge.

After what I’ve gathered and summarized here, I think BP is right to take a stance against ALL the blame. There were a lot of hands in the pot for this mess. Of this I am certain. What looks to be the largest environmental disaster in the U.S. was created by MAN. There is no brushing this one off as natural. WE DO AFFECT our world and everything in it.

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