misunderestimating the BP blowout
Russ Imrie August 26, 2010
Disclaimer: I think the BP oil spill is horrendous. I use a a car I…
I think our addiction to petroleum makes us all part of the problem too. Before attending the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling hearing #2, Regulatory Oversight of Offshore Drilling this morning, I took part in a protest in front of the very same Ronald Reagan Building a few blocks from the White House. Shortly I was inside where the hearing was taking place. Photos of THAT event are at flickr. Also, I joined the TEDx oil spill conference in June. Some very surprising photos of a presentation at TEDx are here – still researching this for more data on the nasty orange blobs! The BP Blowout catastrophe must not fade from the spotlight. It may already be having effects on the oil industry. On the North Sea oil platforms it is unclear why but there’s a spike in reported leaks. Is it because of carelessness or because people are paying attention so more leaks get counted? Read about it here. Shell’s Frontier Discoverer oil rig is stalled in Subic Bay since it’s become apparent that contingency spill plans approved by MMS really make no one accountable for a catastrophic Arctic marine spill. As Yoda would say, “I sense a hesitation in the force.” BP has also lost out on oil exploration prospects in Baffin Bay off Greenland. Interesting dynamics – that is except for the one metric that really counts today – gasoline demand is rising steadily.
This is merely a quick human account of a last-minute leap into a major Federal hearing event. The news, the spin, you will read that in the Post or NYT, or not. When I say “I ask” I mean I ask myself.
It was a mild hearing with none of the fireworks you might expect, despite three former MMS managers empaneled. MMS was responsible for the regulation (or lack of it) that fostered a careless industrial disaster that killed eleven men and let 4.5 million + gallons of crude oil to sicken the biosystem of the Gulf of Mexico, the BP Deep Water Horizon oil rig blowout. ATLANTIS, another BP rig even further offshore needs to come under stricter regulation – these hearings are part of the process of developing better rules for the strict regulation of extremely hazardous and difficult deep underwater oil wells such as ATLANTIS. Food and Water Watch organized a demonstration at the site and the link above leads to photos of that.
So I waded in just before 11 a.m., making my way through the Renewable Energy exhibits in the forum and signing in as an observer.
Makes me official
Blogging from Ronald Reagan Building, Washington DC.
Hearing of National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
I arrived about 11 a.m. forenoon testimonies going on as an observer – at least that’s what it says on my name tag
Committee: Terry Garcia, Frances Beinecke, Cherry Murray, William K. Reilly, Sen. Bob Graham, Fran Ulmer, Din Boesch, Chris Smith
I arrive during Panel 2 : Existing Regulatory Structure and Consulting Agency Roles 10:45-11:10 a.m. while the press were still filtering in and finding a good seat was easy. The front half of the nice hall is filling with suits.
Oil Spill Hearings press area
Part 1 “Statuatory Framework” with Meg Caldwell, Executive Director, Center for Oceans Solutions, Stanford University
some of the points she emphasizes,
PPT - Regulatory Layout at this Time
1. feeble regulation is complacent, unfocused, an old boy network?
2. the existing 30 day evaluation period is part of the problem and opens the gate for more – expediency rules as shortcuts become the only way to keep the oil flowing, cars running, jets flying and paperwork wonks satisfied. But wait…
3. EIR implementations are too brief and scanty and do not go deep enough – they MUST be set up to require passing before permit is okayed and…so
she says that as a result in general real thought is not given to regulation and that the whole affair [BP Oil Blowout Debacle] is an instance of “misunderestimating” the potential quantity and damages rendered of a spill. So, I must ask—what is appropriate underestimating?
Part 2 “Interagency Consulting & Planning” with Honorable Nancy Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator
Honorable Jane Lubchenco, NOAA
11:37 two protesters jump up with banner behind Lubchenco in video camera field – they are advised to leave and are helped to do so. Where they people from our demonstration earlier? It’s unclear. Security staff alert now. In my jeans I earn a few scans.
Sutley: process “lets decision makers focus on decisions to be made” WTF? such patterns of disjointed, narrow concentration lead to debacles like 9/11 intelligence snafus…
I ask: Who decides what is “fed” to the decision makers? — so they can decide. Is this a process of providing cover for their asses? Or in this realm of spin, pr, and politics, the feed is under a controlling agenda?
Sutley is a bureaucratic hairball – the pain one must endure to hear anything good : )
An anesthetic, administered by PA system via 12 speakers.
Lubchenco: “still concerned about disbursed oil”, at least (and here SOME acknowledgment that more than 25% of the oil is likely still out there in the gulf someplace) — she says that ¼ of 4.9 million gallons is missing, officially.
Yet she paints a rosy picture – evaporation, recovery/burning, bacteria and, “we believe” bacteria will not deplete ALL the dissolved ocean oxygen thus creating a dead zone. A bigger one.
…seafood seems to be ok but “we don’t know for sure”
I am hanging for:
Panel 3 : Meeting Regulatory Challenges with Tyler Priest (BO-RING), Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Global Studies, Bauer College of Business, University of Houston, Thomas Kitsos, Former Acting Director, Minerals Management Service (MMS) (nasty scandalized agency now DOA and dissolved), Randall Luthi, Former Director, MMS, S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Former Director, Panel 2 : Existing Regulatory Structure and Consulting
THESE ARE THE JUICE – THE SCANDALIZED FED AGENCY THAT SELF-DE-REGULATED AND CALLED Oil Companies “clients”, or “partners”
Priest: young, prof looking guy
C.T. Baur – missing?/absent?
Kilsus: “debate was quite lively” I ask how could a bureaucrat know what “lively” is? , debate on mission of agency
he seems frightened, providing hiding places in prepared remarks that sounds like a boiler plate talk at small town CofC meeting.
Kuthio Looks like Gene Wilder!!!! – I would not trust this guy with my welfare or health.
Birnbaum: 5 out of 8 commissioners are a) absorbed in texting?, b) carrying knives to plunge into Birnbaum’s back?, c) sleeping?, d) refusing to look into her eyes?, e) taking notes so they can justify asking questions bordering on the juicy?
Birmbaum is happy-happy – she was in charge when MMS were partying down with oil and mining company execs. Lots of tip-toing here, no refs to the nasty part.
S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, ex-director MMS
This environment that leads people to assure when they are not sure is why management is enjoying less and less respect in comparison to “tech” and “data-driven” analysis that makes more sense in a data-rich world. More accessible granular information technology and sensors/metrics will take over the world of management – watch out for what you pray for – you might get it! Sometimes our human administrations are likable, warts and all.
Fram Ulmer – “I am a mother of 2” – she could be a Merryl Streep impersonator
Senator Graham had lots of mild questions – all Commissioners watching now like pirañas – but no one attacks Birnbaum. Odd, if you ask me.
Russell Imrie is a sometimes content producer, webmaster and American Indian self-styled social critic now living in the Washington DC area.