EPA Gives BP ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ on 4th Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster

bpoilspill

Today is the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and dumped more than 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a three month period in 2010.

bpoilspill

BP’s critics say that the Deepwater Horizon disaster and other accidents were not just a run of bad luck, but the result of an ingrained corporate culture which routinely put profits above safety.

You wouldn’t think that the London-based company that spilled the oil would get an anniversary gift from the federal government. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just given BP a big one. The EPA ruled that the corporation could start bidding on lucrative new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico after having been suspended from doing any new business with the government ever since the accident.  

That suspension was lifted on March 13 less than a week before the yearly government auction for drilling rights. The company whose negligence was responsible for the worst marine oil-spill in history won 43 new leases in the Gulf that is still fouled by million of gallons of unrecovered crude. 

The Deepwater Horizon disaster was not the first time that BP was found culpable in a major accident. In 2005 the company was deemed criminally liable for a refinery explosion in Texas City which killed 15 people. Yet again in 2006, a Justice Department investigation found that BP had willfully ignored evidence of serious corrosion in its pipeline, which led in Alaska to the largest oil spill ever in the Arctic. 

BP’s critics say this was not just a run of bad luck, but the result of an ingrained corporate culture which routinely put profits above safety. In an interview, Tyson Slocum of the public interest group Public Citizen said: “If ordinary people are found guilty in three felony cases, they will be imprisoned—suspension from contracts is a kind of corporate imprisonment.” 

However, under intense pressure from BP, which filed a lawsuit challenging the contract ban, and the British government, which filed a brief in the case criticizing the U.S. for its action, the company was just granted a get out of jail free card by the Obama administration. 

Perhaps not coincidentally, the head of the EPA suspension and debarment office which ordered the original ban against the oil giant, “retired” just days after the administration caved to BP’s demand to end their 5-year criminal probation period early. 

After the Gulf oil spill, there were calls in the environmental community and in Congress to reform the outdated regulatory system. “The last time that regulations for offshore drilling were written,” says Slocum “was 1978. Deepwater wells, like the Deepwater Horizon were introduced in 1994. So what you’ve got is regulations for the typewriter age applying to iPhones.”

In the aftermath of the disaster, Congress passed a bill in the summer of 2010 which called for a comprehensive reorganization of the Offshore Oil Agency, and for tougher new environmental standards. But, under pressure from the American Petroleum Institute that bill died in the Senate. 

The Obama administration then took matters into its own hands calling for a temporary moratorium on drilling. By executive decree, the President reintroduced many of the same rules that had been included in the ill-fated bill. These rules, however, do not have the force of law and can be reversed by future administrations. 

Moreover, the central problem, according to Slocum, remains: “Remember, we all watched in horror over a period of two and a half months how one of the largest and most profitable multinationals on the planet with some of the smartest engineers in the world had absolutely no idea how to cap that well … We still do not have clear certification that any driller—whether they be BP or Exxon or Shell—has the right equipment and the proven technology to stop a deepwater blowout.” 

Slocum says drillers need to be required by law to have equipment on hand to drill a relief well in case of a future blowout. And we also need to require companies to thoroughly test in advance critical equipment—like the faulty blowout protector which malfunctioned to cause the Deepwater Horizon accident.  

However, we’re unlikely to get these critical regulations anytime soon. The American Petroleum Institute has said that they will oppose any efforts to impose new regulations on offshore drilling. One of the wealthiest and most powerful lobbies in Washington, the American Petroleum Institute generally gets what it asks for.

——–

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

4 Years After Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, EPA Lifts BP’s Gulf Drilling Ban

Evidence Finds BP Gulf Oil Disaster Causing Widespread Deformities in Fish

BP Disaster Recovery Through the Lens of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

——–

Robert Redford: President Obama, Put the Arctic Off-Limits to Big Oil

I'm calling on all Americans to stand up to Big Oil by asking President Obama to ban oil drilling in the Arctic and lead the way to a future powered by 100 percent clean energy.

rredfordFour years ago this week, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill platform exploded. Eleven workers died that day. Their bodies were never found. Over the next 87 days, 210 million gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico. It fouled fishing grounds, ravaged the coastline, and shut down tourism. The world got an ugly look at some of the terrible hidden costs of fossil fuels. Spill-related health problems plague the people and the wildlife of the Gulf to this very day.

I'm calling on all Americans to stand up to Big Oil by asking President Obama to ban oil drilling in the Arctic and lead the way to a future powered by 100 percent clean energy.

I’m calling on all Americans to stand up to Big Oil by asking President Obama to ban oil drilling in the Arctic and lead the way to a future powered by 100 percent clean energy.

I personally hoped that we, as a nation, would quickly learn from this tragedy and move swiftly to prevent a repeat disaster in our most vulnerable coastal environments. So it boggles the mind that Shell Oil is still determined to drill in one of the most fragile and remote ecosystems on Earth: the Arctic Ocean—the last bastion of America’s polar bears, endangered bowhead whales and other rare wildlife. For Native Alaskans who live along the coast, this ocean has been the source of their food security and a way of life since time immemorial.

It’s sheer madness to drill in the Arctic—in treacherous conditions of gale-force winds, 20-foot seas, sub-zero temperatures, shifting currents—and for eight months of the year—solid pack ice. If the oil industry was utterly unprepared for a blowout in the balmy Gulf of Mexico, how in the world can we trust them in a treacherous environment like the Arctic? Nobody knows how to clean up oil there, even during the open water season. And once the ice and long Arctic night close in, there’d be zero hope of plugging a blow-out or containing a spill.

Those harsh conditions also guarantee human and mechanical error. During a disastrous 2012 attempt at Arctic drilling, Shell Oil experienced fires, leaks, slipped anchors, emergency gear that was “crushed like a beer car,” and a 30-mile iceberg that sent its ships fleeing.

A just-released Coast Guard report says Shell’s reckless and failed attempt to tow its Arctic Ocean drill rig in 2012 was riddled with poor planning and judgment—and involved numerous potential violations of the law.

Then, a couple of months ago, the Arctic caught a huge break. A federal appeals court ruled that in 2008, when the government approved drilling there, it wildly underestimated the risks of spills and other hazards. That has stopped all drill efforts for now. And it’s created a golden opportunity for President Obama to chart a new course by putting the Arctic completely off-limits to Shell and every other oil company—for good.

It also sets the President up to lead the fight against climate change. Left to their own devices, oil companies will drill and unleash every last bit of carbon-polluting crude they can get their hands on. Just two weeks ago ExxonMobil said it “takes the risk of climate change seriously,” but that they’d go right on digging and burning all their oil reserves.

To be blunt, that is crazy talk. There’s a clear scientific consensus that pumping that much carbon into the atmosphere will change life on Earth as we know it.

That’s why I made this video, calling on all Americans to stand up to Big Oil by asking President Obama to ban oil drilling in the Arctic and lead the way to a future powered by 100 percent clean energy. Please make your own voice heard at DemandCleanPower. But don’t delay. In a court filing last week, Shell indicated it’s counting the days till it can get back into the Arctic. We have to make sure that never happens.

——–

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

ExxonMobil Ignores IPCC Warning, Vows to Burn All Oil Reserves

4 Sources of Carbon Pollution That Would Dramatically Alter World’s Climate

20 Cities Shining Brightest With Solar Energy

——–

4 Years After Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, EPA Lifts BP’s Gulf Drilling Ban

Ud

Nearly four years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil and gas disaster in the Gulf of Mexico—an event that blew away the record books for the nation’s worst accidental oil spill—BP is fully back in business, and drilling is booming in the Gulf of Mexico.

780px-Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill_-_May_24,_2010_-_with_locator

NASA satellite imgae on May 20, 2010. Oil smoothes the ocean surface, making the Sun’s reflection brighter near the centerline of the path of the satellite, and reducing the scattering of sunlight in other places. As a result, the oil slick is brighter than the surrounding water in some places (image center) and darker than the surrounding water in others (image lower right). Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lifted the ban that prevented BP from engaging in any contracts with the federal government, paving the way for BP to resume bidding on leases for oil and gas development on public lands and waters, including the Gulf. 

BP already holds more than 600 lease blocks—more than any other operator in the Gulf—and they currently have ten rigs working to drill new deepwater wells, like the Macondo well that failed in 2010. 

But they’re not the only game in town. There are dozens of other operators working in the Gulf, in deep water and shallow. One of our fans just tipped us off to a nifty dataset that shows just how busy things are offshore here and around the world: the locations of active Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs). Here’s a look at the MODUs working right now in the Gulf of Mexico:

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 10.46.10 AM

Not to be confused with the thousands of fixed offshore oil and gas production platforms, MODUs are the rigs that get towed from place to place to drill new wells, and do maintenance operations on existing wells. They range from the relatively small and simple jack-up rigs that work in shallow water, to the huge and complex semisubmersible rigs, like the Deepwater Horizon, that handle the technically challenging deepwater work. 

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY and OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING page for more related news on this topic.

topnewsbanner131111