Deepwater Horizon disaster was no accident - it was a certainty

Deepwater Horizon disaster was no accident - it was a certainty

Arcata : CA : USA | May 31, 2010 at 2:21 PM PDT
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New Underwater Video Examines Multiple Leak Points Causing BP Oil Spill

By Dave Stancliff

Have you ever seen those old movies that ask you to “Follow the bouncing ball?” Using this analogy, let’s follow the bouncing ball that led to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Before we follow what led to this ecological disaster that took the lives of 11 workers on the oil rig, let’s take a quick look at the political climate regarding Big Oil. Ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a patriotic pal of the oil industry, told her followers the country still needs to “Drill, baby, drill” despite what happened in the Gulf.

Kentucky Republican Senate candidate, Rand Paul, wailed about Obama’s criticism of BP in the wake of the Gulf oil debacle and called it "really un-American." Then he told the press “accidents happen” to explain the catastrophic spill. A truly classic disingenuous statement.

Paul, already facing a backlash over remarks about civil rights legislation, defends Big Oil because he seeks financial support from the GOP to go along with his Tea Party backing. The GOP has been in bed with Big Oil since the first Bush took over the White House. That’s when the ball got rolling.

It was rolled on when his son, George Bush, ascended to the Oval Office despite losing the popular vote. After his eight years of providing tax breaks and other special considerations for American oil barons (like his family in Texas), and Halliburton, the lax attitude towards safety and other cozy relationships between the industry and it’s regulators spread like the oil still escaping into the Mexican Gulf.

The only ones watching, and trying to do something about it, were the environmental groups whose efforts to warn us of possible massive oil spills, like the Alaska Valdez, were ignored. Experts repeatedly went on record, saying it was just a matter of time.

Big Oil has been flowing through the halls of Congress for years, a loyal contributor to lawmakers who support the industry. It takes a legion of lobbyists in Washington D.C. for the oil industry to get away with what it has thus far. British Petroleum (BP) lobbyists are lurking in lawmaker’s hallways trying to mitigate their liability for the spill as you read this.

The ball bounced between BP, Halliburton, and Transocean when they recently testified before a congressional subcommittee and sought to shift blame for the accident. You can follow the bouncing ball by looking at flawed political appointments and the process that allows industry insiders to become regulators.

A perfect example is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Interior Department, Sylvia V. Baca. She helps oversee the Mineral Management Service, which regulates offshore drilling. Among her credentials for the position is the fact she worked for BP for eight years.

As we now know, that agency gave BP a “Categorical Exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEMA). BP drilled without proper safety guards and emergency plans in the case of a massive spill, and the ball bounced on toward Rand Paul’s “accident.”

It’s hard to follow the bouncing ball right now because it’s spinning crazily. The laboratory environmental officials have chosen to process virtually all of the samples of collected water, sediment and marine animal tissue, is part of an oil and gas services company in Texas that counts BP as it’s biggest client. Some independent parties believe this is a conflict of interest, since the results will be used in upcoming litigation against BP.

Perhaps the most alarming thing of all was that the spill was preventable. An independent researcher, Dr. Bob Bea, said the accident resulted from a series of mistakes and flawed decisions which compromised safety. Bea’s report to the Deepwater Horizon Study Group in Washington D.C. lists seven "Steps Leading to Containment Failure," also known as a "blowout."

He was adamant in his assessment safety shortcuts were taken due to time and economic pressures. The biggest underlying problem, Bea said in a recent interview, is "we horribly underestimated the risk."

As It Stands, as the bouncing ball in the old movies led us through the lyrics of a song, this song could only have one ending. Too many people put profit before safety.

dave59 is based in Arcata, California, United States of America, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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