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Gov’t Agency To Blame For Oil Rig Blast

This is as close to an admission that we will ever get from the Obama administration and their media outlet, the New York Times:

Officials with the Coast Guard and the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service take an oath before holding a joint hearing Tuesday, May 11, 2010 in Kenner, La.

U.S. to Split Up Agency Policing the Oil Industry

By JOHN M. BRODER

May 11, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed breaking up the agency responsible for both policing the oil industry and acting as its partner in drilling activities, seeking to end a decades-old relationship between industry and government that has proved highly profitable — and some say too cozy — for both

On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he planned to cut the agency that oversees the industry, the Minerals Management Service, in two. One office would be responsible for public safety and environmental enforcement and the other in charge of leasing and revenue collection. Details of the proposal are still being worked out.

“The job of ensuring energy companies are following the law and protecting the safety of their workers and the environment is a big one,” Mr. Salazar said, “and should be independent from other missions of the agency.”

Some in Congress and outside groups expressed skepticism that the organizational change alone would end what they called perverse incentives leading to rushed safety reviews and a regulatory system that largely allows the industry to police itself…

Decades of law and custom have joined government and the oil industry in the pursuit of petroleum and profit. The Minerals Management Service brings in an average of $13 billion a year

As the administration scrambled to respond to the unfolding environmental and economic disaster in the gulf, two Senate committees opened hearings into the cause of the April 20 accident. Executives of the three main companies involved in the spill — BP, Transocean and Halliburton — took turns pointing the finger at others for the failures of the systems designed to prevent a major blowout, even as they cautioned that the cause of the explosion was not yet known.

In their first testimony since the spill, top executives of BP, which owns the well; Transocean, which owned the drilling rig and did much of the work; and Halliburton, which provided various services, including cement work on the drill hole, all sought to shift blame…

Notice how The Times makes no mention of the fact that Halliburton blamed the federal Minerals Management Service.

Several senators complained of what they said was the Minerals Management Service’s lax enforcement of safety and environmental standards, saying that regulators regularly rubber-stamped drilling plans that lacked detailed environmental assessments.

Senator Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the agency had granted BP an exemption from filing an environmental impact statement for the well that blew up, accepting company assurances that the chances of a major spill were remote. Such waivers are routinely granted when an impact statement has already been filed for a wider drilling area, but some environmentalists contend that a statement should be filed for each well.

Notice that the only criticism of the MMS from Ms. Boxer and the other Senators is about their failure to require an environmental impact statement from BP for the well in question. (Though BP had filed one for the area.)

“I am concerned that reports of corruption at M.M.S. — including illicit activities — might have played a role in these decisions and this approach,” Mrs. Boxer said. “Clearly, stronger, more independent oversight of oil company activities is needed.”

She was alluding to revelations two years ago that some minerals management officials in Colorado accepted gifts, trips, drugs and sexual favors from oil company representatives. The Interior Department’s inspector general found numerous abuses and characterized the agency as an ethical wasteland.

In announcing his plan to split up the minerals service, Mr. Salazar said it had become clear that the agency’s two missions were often in conflict. He said that he had undertaken a number of steps to improve ethics and tighten safety enforcement at the agency but that he decided more radical steps were needed

Yes, the federal government – in this case, the Minerals Management Service – must take a more active part in offshore drilling.

Never mind that, as we noted yesterday, Halliburton officials and workers on the oil rig itself specifically blamed the blast that caused the leak on the federal Minerals Management Service.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Tim Probert, Halliburton’s president of global business lines, plans to testify Tuesday that his company had finished an earlier step, cementing the casing, filling in the area between the pipe and the walls of the well; pressure tests showed the casing had been properly constructed, he will testify…

At this point it is common practice to pour wet cement down into the pipe. The wet cement, which is heavier than the drilling mud, sinks down through the drilling mud and then hardens into a plug thousands of feet down in the well. The mud then is removed and displaced by seawater; the hardened cement plug holds back any underground gas.

In this case, a decision was made, shortly before the explosion, to perform the remaining tasks in reverse order, according to the expected Senate testimony of Mr. Probert, the Halliburton executive

A worker who was on the drilling rig said in an interview that Halliburton was getting ready to set a final cement plug at 8,000 feet below the rig when workers received other instructions. "Usually we set the cement plug at that point and let it set for six hours, then displace the well," said the worker, meaning take out the mud.

According to this worker, BP asked permission from the federal Minerals Management Service to displace the mud before the final plugging operation had begun

In other words, BP got permission from the federal Minerals Management Service to change the usual (safe) practice of doing things. Halliburton had no choice but to do what they were told by BP — and the MMS. And the deadly blast and environmental disaster ensued.

Of course British Petroleum is already being held responsible. Indeed, the Obama administration has its boot on BP’s throat. But will the lunkheads at the federal Minerals Management Service actually being held accountable for their bad decision?

Of course not. Government never is.

Indeed, the MMS’s only fault, according to Ms. Boxer and her ilk, is that they did not insist that more environmental impact studies were filed. They have nothing to say about MMS’s signing off on a decision that probably led to the death of 11 men and untold billions in damage.

Sure, steps will be taken to make sure that the MMS is no longer overly influenced by the evil private sector. But they will also be given far more power to oversee drilling.

That’s how government incompetence is ‘punished.’

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, May 12th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

5 Responses to “Gov’t Agency To Blame For Oil Rig Blast”

  1. mr_bill says:

    On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he planned to cut the agency that oversees the industry, the Minerals Management Service, in two. One office would be responsible for public safety and environmental enforcement and the other in charge of leasing and revenue collection. Details of the proposal are still being worked out.

    I predict that the the agency will be “reorganized” as follows:

    1.) It will become two agencies and they will be prohibited from communicating with each other, by law.

    2.) Both agencies will double the number of employees they currently have.

    3.) All new employees will be SEIU members: overpaid, and given exorbitant pension and healthcare packages, paid for by taxpayers. Employee contributions to these packages will be limited to less than 1% of salary.

    4.) The new employees will be forbidden from making any reasonable decision or otherwise doing anything that could be considered productive.

    5.) There will be a 2-year statutory “study period” for any proposed action reviewed by either agency. During this period, Greenpeace, Al Gore, and the Sierra Club will be asked to provide “scientific data” to demonstrate why any proposed drilling activitiy will destroy the world. The petitioning oil company will be responsible for paying for all said “scientific studies.”

    6.) The actual decision making authority will be lifted from both agencies, rendering them completely useless; except as follows:

    7.) Russia, China, Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina will be automatically granted approval for any drilling activity within US Sovereign waters, and will not be responsible for any consequences, taxes, or fees.

    That ought to bring any future offshore drilling (by a US company) to a complete halt and squander at least a few hundred billion tax dollars.

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      “It will become two agencies ..”

      So now we’ll have two corrupt, incompetent, and innefective agencies ‘stead of the original one amongst the very, very many!

  2. proreason says:

    So now we know that the government was not just responsible for screwing up the disaster containment by not having the equipment available to take early action, it was also responsible for creating the disaster in the first place.

    How inconvenient that BP is such a major contributor to Obamy.

    Thirdly, now we know why the cone of silence descended on the situation for a week. The administration instantly knew that they were responsible both before and after the accident. That’s probably what the swat teams were doing….show of force to intimidate people who knew and confiscate documents that can prove it. Except that Hallibuton was involved, it would have worked.

    No doubt, we will soon have an in-depth analysis from our hollow-cheeked information commissars.

    Just when you think things can’t become any more Orwellian, they trump themselves. The next step should be for the press to start revealing the heroic efforts the feds to prevent and contain the problem. I wonder if it will be revealed that the boy king personally managed the planet-saving rescue behind the scenes. Perhaps he personally scuba’d 5,000 feet below the surface to survey the situation.

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      BoyKing don’t need no scuba! Couple hits off his smokes and bingo .. he snorkels down!

      PR .. be careful not to marginalize the GreatWon’s greatness!

  3. GetBackJack says:

    Every problem our contemporary time is dealing with can be DIRECTLY traced back to a federal agency that wasn’t or isn’t doing its job.

    That can be bought off.
    That can be swayed.
    That can be lobbied, and

    Can be whored.

    From FNMA and FHLMC to the wild ravings of George Soros working our dollar like a two bit whore. From the insanely incompetent TSA and Homeland Security to the FBI screwing every forensic pooch available. From the Dept of Ag and their mind boggling rules on farmers and their utter lack of regulating chemical poisoning of our most valuable crop lands to the FDA routinely approving lethal pharmaceuticals but waging war on vitamins and nutrients while also routinely dragging their feet on life saving techniques and formulas. Don’t get me started on the Dept. of Commerce. And then there’s ICE.

    You cannot point to a problem in America, and how it affects the world but that there isn’t a federal agency and their malcontent f***ups in the mix evilly stirring the pot of their retirements taking money with one hand an denying responsibility with the other.

    Quote …

    “The thing that bugs me, is that people think the FDA is protecting them. It isn’t. The FDA is protecting the profits of the corporations that pay us and the politicians.”  Herbert Lay, M.D. Former FDA Commissioner

    “Eight decades of amendments… to [the] code have produced a virtually impenetrable maze… The rules are unintelligible to most citizens… The rules are equally mysterious to many government employees who are charged with administering and enforcing the law”.

     – Shirley Peterson, Former IRS Commissioner, April14, 1993 at Southern Methodist University

    You know the rest of the quotes I’d publish if I had the time …

    The problem is monkeys with hand grenades.

    That’s …. the federal ‘government’.

    The problem is Washington.


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