Dick Polman writes:
The real problem is that the federal watchdogs became lapdogs for the oil industry. BP and its subcontractors were drilling in deep water a mere 40 miles from Louisiana without any “tools” in their “tool kit,” because the feds who were supposed to protect us from such capitalistic excess were basically in bed with the drillers. It might be helpful, in the future, if the watchdogs actually barked when provoked. It might be helpful if the president required such training.
During the Bush and Obama administrations, the Interior Department agency in charge of oversight has worn blinders. The oil drillers weren’t required to prove that they were taking steps to reduce their environmental impact; nor were they required to prove that they had the means to deal with an unforeseen catastrophe. Federal environmental law has long required such things, but the agency, known as the Minerals Management Service, routinely waived the rules. Between 2005 and 2007, the MMS waived those rules for Gulf of Mexico projects roughly 750 times – while decreeing, in three reviews of its own, that the prospects for a Gulf disaster, and the consequences for marine life, were downright minimal, despite repeated scientific warnings to the contrary.
In those years, the MMS regulators even allowed their oil-drilling friends to fill out the government inspection reports; they reportedly praised their own work in pencil, and the regulators traced over the words in ink. But that behavior wasn’t nearly as chummy as the evidence, gathered in 2008 by Interior’s inspector general, that some MMS regulators “had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”
It’s not surprising, of course, that the oil industry ran rampant during the Bush era, given its cozy relations with Bush and Cheney. Obama, however, was elected in part because he promised a restoration of competent governance and a reinvigoration of the public interest. At least with respect to the oil-drilling issue, his promise has not been matched by performance.
Even now, the MMS is still wielding its rubber stamp; in the aftermath of the BP explosion, the agency has reportedly waived the environmental rules for eight new Gulf of Mexico projects, which means that the drillers were not required to spell out the risks and safety issues, or to detail what precautions they planned to take.
Nothing new there; BP got the same sweetheart deal on Obama’s watch 14 months ago. MMS exempted BP’s Gulf project from all those pesky requirements, essentially giving BP free rein to drill in deep water without any crisis tools in its tool kit – this, despite the fact that the Interior Department warned MMS six years ago that no such exemptions should be given to drillers who ply their trade in “relatively untested deep water.”
Obama finally did acknowledge, in a rare news conference 10 days ago, that he had not done nearly enough to eradicate the agency’s lapdog culture; as he put it, “There wasn’t sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes needed to take place.”
Well, there’s sufficient urgency now. He can’t control events in the Gulf, not unless he personally sends down Jack Bauer in a frogman suit. But he at least can make good on his new promise to clean house, to install a tough oversight regime that will halt the de facto privatization of our fragile national resources. Given the disaster we are now witnessing, few among us would argue that more deregulation is the answer. Indeed, on this issue, the new definition of a liberal is a conservative whose beach property is slathered in oil
As I was reading, “The American Debate: BP dug the hole, but Obama is taking the hit” written by Dick Polman, I found myself repeating something that I say ALL TOO OFTEN ,” it’s not that we don’t have regulations in place, it is that no one is enforcing the regulations”. When something tragic happens, majority of time, people jump the gun proclaiming more regulation, more regulation. What they really should be saying is, more ENFORCEMENT OF , more ENFORCEMENT OF REGULATION. After I read this article, I sat there literally laughing to myself. I am simply amazed at the utter failure of our countries regulators.
This article not only laid out what caused the catastrophe in the Gulf but what the route of all evil is in our country-money and power.
The money needs to be removed from politics.
Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com has a great blog post on the cozy relationship between regulators and BP. FYI, it is not just a Bush/Cheney issue, it has continued under Obama as well.