Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So, Why Is This Company Drilling In the Gulf?

Aftermath of the 2005 explosion in Texas City

On this the one month anniversary of the BP explosion and oil spill in the Gulf, it might be useful to look at another incident that has gone down to oblivion in our collective memory.

Bob Herbert this morning reminds us of an earlier BP disaster, the 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City that killed 15 employees.

Here is a Chemical Safety Board video about the technical causes of the 2005 explosion. It should have a ring of familiarity about it:

The refinery in Texas City is the third largest in the country. BP acquired the refinery in a merger with Amoco. The CSB investigation found BP negligent in the events that led up to the explosion. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, imposed its biggest fine ever on BP, $87 million dollars. As high as that is, it is but an operating expense to such a massive international company. Civil suits by families of the victims are still in litigation. You can find more info here.

And now we are finding out that BP and other companies routinely got environmental waivers for deep water drilling, and that those waivers are still being issued after the explosion in the Gulf.

I wonder if anyone remembers that under President Bush/Cheney, the petroleum industry was the federal government for all intents and purposes. I wonder if that might still be the case in the so far tepid response by the Obama administration to a major environmental disaster that may turn out to be the worst ever.

This administration's response to this disaster is perilously close to the Clinton administration's response to the Valuejet crash of 1996, another disaster due to corporate negligence. Almost immediately, the FAA went to work, not to investigate (which they eventually did), but to defend Valuejet and the airline industry.

Money talks.

One month later, I'm puzzled by the tepid response from the rest of the country. I suppose it will take oily shrimp, or better, a big jump in gas prices and seafood prices, and closing down some popular resorts, for anyone to notice.


The Religious Pícaro said...

What would you propose the President do in immediate answer to the oil spill?

Counterlight said...

How about a real moratorium on off-shore drilling instead of continuing to license new wells while waiving environmental safety requirements? That would be a start.

The Religious Pícaro said...

That seems reasonable.

I asked because I have seen calls from progressives (and fake calls from the Palinites) for the administration to "take charge" of the cleanup itself, which seems unrealistic.

Counterlight said...

I support the administration. I cheerlead it all the time and want it to succeed. Part of that is calling them out when they fall short.

I'm not sure taking over the whole project and putting the Army Corps of Engineers (of failed levies in NOLA fame) in charge would be a good idea at all. But, perhaps leaning on BP harder, or even taking over the supervision of the clean-up from the corporate hierarchy and handing them the bill might be desirable.