Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Environmental catastrophe

The oil gusher's timeline.

Who is responsible?
While BP does make a convenient target, other companies can consider themselves fortunate not to be caught up in the crisis. Of the 126 people working on the Deepwater Horizon rig, only eight were BP employees. The oil giant may have a 65% share of the well, but its partner, Anadarko, has a 25% share. The rig was owned and operated by offshore drilling company Transocean, which leased it to BP. Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, played a crucial role in carrying out cement work that was supposed to cap the doomed well. The failed blowout preventer was made by an American firm, Cameron. There is a bewildering array of potential bad guys to blame, not just one single villain. But that argument is unhelpful to those looking for a simple narrative to explain such an overwhelming catastrophe.
But what are others saying?
Internal BP documents, including an e-mail message calling the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon a “nightmare,” show a pattern of risky choices made to save time and money in the weeks before the disastrous April 20 blowout, according to a letter sent to the oil company by the leaders of a House committee on Monday.

The committee leaders cited five areas in which the company had made decisions that “increased the danger of a catastrophic well,” including choosing the design of the well, preparing for and testing the cement job and assuring that the well was properly sealed on the top.

Taken together, the documents offer the strongest case yet that BP bears much of the responsibility for the explosion that killed 11 workers and the still-unchecked leaking of millions of gallons of oil into the gulf.
Via Bryan of Why Now?, McClatchy says it's BP all the way:
From the company's uncommon well design to its fatal decision not to circulate drilling mud, which could have cleared out pockets of gas, and the lack of critical testing, which could have pinpointed problems with its cementing, the company had many points at which it could have prevented an explosion, investigators with the House Energy and Commerce Committee have found.

Instead, the company violated industry guidelines and proceeded "despite warnings from BP's own personnel and its contractors," said the chairman of the committee, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and the chairman of the investigative subcommittee that handled the probe, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.

Those decisions led to 11 deaths and the worst oil spill in U.S. history and will continue to have an effect on the environment and the future of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the two wrote in a letter to BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward that was released Monday.

"Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense," they wrote. "If this is what happened, BP's carelessness and complacency have inflicted a heavy toll on the Gulf, its inhabitants and the workers on the rig."
Didn't someone say they would be extracting the oil from the sand and the booms? Or did I hear that wrong? (my bold)
About 35,000 bags — or 250 tons — of oily trash have been carted away from this beach, said Lt. Patrick Hanley of the Coast Guard, who is stationed at Port Fourchon. And as of Monday, more than 175,000 gallons of liquid waste — a combination of oil and water — had been sent to landfills, as had 11,276 cubic yards of solid waste, said Petty Officer Gail Dale, also of the Coast Guard, who works with at the command center in Houma.

Michael Condon, BP’s environmental unit leader, said that tests have shown that the material is not hazardous, and can safely be stored in landfills around the region that accept oil industry debris. The checklist and procedures involved, Mr. Condon said, are part of a process “we do very well and have done for a long time.”

But some local officials, environmental lawyers and residents who live near landfill sites are not convinced.

“There’s no way that isn’t toxic,” said Gladstone Jones III, a New Orleans lawyer who has spent much of his career trying to get compensation for plaintiffs he says have been harmed by exposure to toxic waste.

In fact, waste from oil exploration and production falls into a regulatory no man’s land, neither exactly benign nor toxic on its face. The compounds in oil most dangerous to human health — like benzene, a carcinogen — are volatile and tend to dissipate when crude oil reaches the ocean surface, or soon thereafter. But some toxicologists say it is impossible to know whether the toxic chemicals are entirely gone.
And I'm sorry.... BP is now totally compromised as a believable player in this saga. Lies, deflection, and diversion are their known techniques. Why are they so anxious to prevent allowing reporters on the scene? Why are they scrambling frantically to remove animal corpses? Are they the last ones to realize what a complete and utter DISASTER this is?

Monkeyfister has been doing excellent work on the crisis.

Update: Help Not Wanted: BP rejects expert volunteers. Of course, this makes perfect sense. Incompetents will not want to be shown as incompetent by those who actually know stuff....

Update II: Don't forget under whose administration this screw-the-environment-just-get-the-fucking-oil policy started in the first place: MMS under Bush admin. loosened regulation of drilling, downplayed risk, ignored safety warnings

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