Here’s a shocker: BP didn’t plan for disasters

UPDATE: A satellite image from yesterday shows the slick’s dangerous drift toward the loop current, which would take the spill down the Keys and into the Atlantic (h/t Deep Sea News):

Yesterday, the oil slick was dangerously close the "loop current" (blue arrow)

Yesterday, the oil slick was dangerously close the "loop current" (blue arrow)

It’s too bad it took a cataclysm like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to show the perils of virtual industry self-regulation, but, at least, the rational among us will now concede that the federal government needs to have tough rules to govern businesses and needs to have the personnel equipped to enforce those regulations. (When I say “the rational among us,” I am, by definition, excluding tea partiers and those with a belief in an extreme interpretation of the 10th Amendment.)
Why? Because businesses don’t focus on safety. They focus on profits. From the WSJ:

In 2004, managers of BP PLC, the oil giant involved in both incidents, warned in a trade journal that the company wasn’t prepared for the long-term, round-the-clock task of dealing with a deep-sea spill.

It still isn’t, as Deepwater Horizon demonstrates and as BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward said recently. It’s “probably true” that BP didn’t do enough planning in advance of the disaster, Mr. Hayward said. There are some capabilities, he said, “that we could have available to deploy instantly, rather than creating as we go.”

It’s a problem that spans the industry, whose major players include Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell and Petróleo Brasileiro SA. Without adequately planning for trouble, the oil business has focused on developing experimental equipment and techniques to drill in ever deeper waters, according to a Wall Street Journal examination of previous deepwater accidents. As drillers pushed the boundaries, regulators didn’t always mandate preparation for disaster recovery or perform independent monitoring.

The brief, roughly two-decade history of deepwater drilling has seen serious problems: fires, equipment failures, wells that collapsed, platforms that nearly sank. Since last July, one brand-new deepwater rig—among the 40 or so operating in at least 1,000 feet of water in the Gulf—was swept by fire. Another lost power and started to drift, threatening to detach from the wellhead. Poor maintenance at a third deepwater well led to a serious gas leak, according to regulatory records.

By some measures, offshore drilling has become safer in recent years. Industry backers argue that major accidents are rare. The rate of serious injuries in U.S. waters fell 71% between 1998 and 2008, and the number of serious oil spills has also been falling once hurricanes are taken into account. Moreover, deepwater drilling is by some measures safer than drilling in shallower waters, where rigs are often older and operated by smaller companies.

Still, drilling for oil at depths no human could survive presents special risks when something does go wrong. The water pressure is crushing, the seabed temperature is almost freezing, the underground conditions explosive. The rapid push into deeper water means that some projects rely on technology that hasn’t been used before.

Under the Bush administration, the Minerals Management Service didn’t even try to regulate Big Oil. A 2008 investigation found that MMS employees used drugs and had sex with business reps. And, as several Obama administration officials have conceded, they didn’t act quickly enough to change the culture at an agency far too cozy with the industry it regulated:

As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.
In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.

“A culture of ethical failure” pervades the agency, Mr. Devaney wrote in a cover memo. . .

The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.
The report says that eight officials in the royalty program accepted gifts from energy companies whose value exceeded limits set by ethics rules — including golf, ski and paintball outings; meals and drinks; and tickets to a Toby Keith concert, a Houston Texans football game and a Colorado Rockies baseball game.

The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”

For now, we’ve learned our lesson. For a while, most Americans will insist on tighter regs on Big Oil (even as we donothing to wean ourselves from our addiction to petroleum), and we currently have a White House that understands that business needs to be regulated.
But we’re paying a huge price for that lesson.  Some scientists fear that the oil slick is rapidly moving toward the Gulf’s “loop current,” where would take it around the Florida Keys and into the Atlantic. CORRECTION: As one of my regulars noted, the oil spill won’t reach the Panhandle AFTER the Keys. (I’m hoping it doesn’t reach the Panhandle at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see tar balls off the coast of my favorite   playground.)

167 comments Add your comment

Peadawg

May 18th, 2010
8:23 am

“When I say “the rational among us,” I am, by definition, excluding tea partiers and those with a belief in an extreme interpretation of the 10th Amendment.”

Couldn’t help it could ya, Tucker? It seems you’re a little obsessed with the tea party. They probably appreciate the attention, ya know? Maybe, like Sarah Palin, if you stop talking about them, they’ll go away.

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
8:30 am

Without a plan for disaster, the rigs should be shut down.

Scout

May 18th, 2010
8:30 am

…………. and neither did Obama.

Scout

May 18th, 2010
8:33 am

Well, well ………. talk about a disaster:

“Rev. Wright Trashes Obama in Letter”

“In his strongest language to date, Obama’s controversial former pastor says the president ‘threw me under the bus’.”

Peter

May 18th, 2010
8:36 am

The lack of disaster plan is in Cheney’s “Energy Plan for America”…… something that should be opened up for all American’s to read.

Now it is Obama’s turn to put the heat on big oil, and if he doesn’t he will look bought off as well.

Kamchak

May 18th, 2010
8:39 am

Talk about industry getting into bed with regulators…

Joel

May 18th, 2010
8:40 am

Obama reports wealth of up to $7.7 million

An elite country run by elitist for the elitist- will we ever wake up or are we going to simply nod and believe he and others in DC understand the issues of the common folk

Dee keith

May 18th, 2010
8:42 am

(When I say “the rational among us,” I am, by definition, excluding tea partiers and those with a belief in an extreme interpretation of the 10th Amendment.)

The ignorance of the tea party along with conservatives/unthinking SHEEP on this blog is the reason companies like BP will always be able to make a profit at the expence of others by any means neccessary. I’m convinced as long as the conservatives/unthinking SHEEP believe that free for all capitalism is good for the country, even though they continue to be victims of it.

DWTOO

May 18th, 2010
8:42 am

Ms. Tucker – did you put the Tea Party line in here just to bait the right wingers amongst your readers? Very sly – you know they’ll rise to it.

Actually, you have a very good point – businesses will do nothing regarding anything but profits. Any enviromental law has had to be forced upon them from the Clean Air and Water Acts to Superfund cleanups. These people would trash the planet for a quarter. It’s evident there has been malfeasence on both BP’s and MMS’s part. What we need is a new attitude from everyone – if we don’t take care of this world they’ll be nothing left but garbage for future generations. Unfortunatley noone appears to realize this fact.

Keep up the good fight!

May 18th, 2010
8:45 am

So when they ran the car into a ditch, they apparently still had the gas hose stuck in the tank….

Peacawt

May 18th, 2010
8:47 am

Peadawg suffers from C.Tucker derangement syndrome….

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 18th, 2010
8:47 am

BP probably did not plan for the Obama economy either. Many fail to see disasters coming.

Peadawg

May 18th, 2010
8:48 am

With all the regulations you think we should have, Cynthia, KUTGF, Kamchak, Granny, do y’all agree with what Woody Allen said the other day?

Citizen of the World

May 18th, 2010
8:50 am

This whole time I’ve been thinking, didn’t they have contingency plans? Like, if this happens, we’ll be ready to do this, or if that happens, we’ll be ready to do that. Instead, they were, like, duh, uh oh, hmmm, what’ll we do now?

Keep up the good fight!

May 18th, 2010
8:54 am

Enter this number from your receipt, type in your plan to save the Gulf and the Atlantic, and you could win a $1000 shopping spree — bp-dont-need-no-stinkin-plan. We need your ideas.

Dee keith

May 18th, 2010
8:54 am

(An elite country run by elitist for the elitist- will we ever wake up or are we going to simply nod and believe he and others in DC understand the issues of the common folk)

Joel when at least 50% of the country is conservatives/unthinking SHEEP, simply acknowledging the average human being has 5 toes on one foot will make you elitist. I agree that Pres. Obama has the responsibility now of correcting the problems with big oil oversight, but i’m not very optimistic, b/c the Supreme Courts citizens united decision was put in place to make sure the elitist will always get what they want.

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 18th, 2010
8:55 am

Why didnt the Obama adminstration ask the tough questions with regard to Oil Companies being prepared for disasters of this nature.

This oil rig explosion and not almost month long spill issue lays squarely at the feet of Obama…its his baby.

Kamchak

May 18th, 2010
8:56 am

With all the regulations you think we should have, Cynthia, KUTGF, Kamchak, Granny, do y’all agree with what Woody Allen said the other day?

Why should I?

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
8:56 am

Peadawg

While it is reported that Allen’s comment was made seriously,
I don’t take policy advice from film directors. No I don’t agree
with them.

In fact I was very outspoken during the Bush years on the subject
of the Unitary Executive.

How did you feel about that?

Peadawg

May 18th, 2010
8:58 am

I think we all saw what happened with Hitler and that should be evidence enough. ‘Ol Woody has finally lost it I guess. I was just curious as to what y’all thought.

Keep up the good fight!

May 18th, 2010
9:01 am

Right.. Its Obama fault that there was no plan to deal with these issues for the past 10 years or that proper permits were not pulled, or that MMS was staffed with oil-seduced regulators being lobbied by former officials. Cleaning up after corporations and private enterprise is government jobs…It mean its in the 10th Amendment right? The problem is not the relaxed nature of permit issuance, no clean up plan in place for years, regulations not updated since the 70’s and remember, those chants: “drill baby drill” and “government is the problem”

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
9:01 am

Peadawg

Unitary Executive? Dick Cheney? David Addington?

Your thoughts?

Peadawg

May 18th, 2010
9:03 am

Granny, looking on wiki, I can’t tell what would be wrong/right with it. It says the President should have control over the executive branch. I thought he already did?

Peadawg

May 18th, 2010
9:04 am

Nevermind…hell no. :)

Peadawg

May 18th, 2010
9:05 am

It looks like it puts too much power in one man’s hand.

resno2

May 18th, 2010
9:05 am

Didn’t the EPA have billions in their coffers to come up with, or at least assist with, a disaster plan for this? What happened to that?

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
9:06 am

Peadawg

Perhaps wiki was not your best choice for data.

Some Guy

May 18th, 2010
9:08 am

Here’s a shocker: Barack Obama didn’t plan for disasters.

Look at the time line. It took the Administration 9 days to respond. Yet, from Barack Obama’s cabinet secretaries POV let me quote: “From Day One: All hands were on deck!” What a distorted sense of reality. How many times did we hear that on the Sunday monrning talking head shows! Barack Obama takes all the credit but none of the responsibility and blame. I will be glad when this experiment is over in 2012!

resno2

May 18th, 2010
9:08 am

The Office of President has control over the Executive Branch… obama doesn’t

Peadawg

May 18th, 2010
9:08 am

I had never heard of the unitary executive theory.

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
9:09 am

resno2

i may be wrong, but any fund the EPA had would probably have come from taxpayer $$$$

do you think you should pay for the clean up?

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
9:09 am

Some guy

9 days?

Dee keith

May 18th, 2010
9:10 am

(Why didnt the Obama adminstration ask the tough questions with regard to Oil Companies being prepared for disasters of this nature.)

(This oil rig explosion and not almost month long spill issue lays squarely at the feet of Obama…its his baby.)

You criticize Pres. Obama, because he is growing the GOVERNMENT, but yet it’s Pres. Obamas fault for letting the free Market resolve it’s own issues, which conservatives/unthinking SHEEP promote. I liken this to conservatives/unthinking SHEEP who believe Glenn Beck’s the Pres. ” HAS A DEEP SEATED HATRED TOWARDS WHITE PEOPLE” propaganda, while criticzing his association with William Ayers.

Joel

May 18th, 2010
9:10 am

Dee- I think making 7 million on a book about yourself and be born on third base from wealthy parents (Bush) makes you a little more elite than those with five toes. Nothing wrong but why does anyone think they are concernced abouth their issues. We have a real leadership issue. The problem I see is we are now bouncing from the far right to the far left-

Peacawt

May 18th, 2010
9:12 am

The govt. has zero responsibilty for BP’s spill….

The Devil You Say

May 18th, 2010
9:13 am

Here’s a shocker – Cynthia Tucker didn’t get a much needed makeover!!! However, BP will be out of business because of its mistakes. Cynthia Tucker will keep spewing her ’stuff’ for years to come!

resno2

May 18th, 2010
9:14 am

Do I think we should, or do I think we will?

The inflammatory headline “Here’s a shocker: BP didn’t plan for disasters” made me think that I thought I had heard that the EPA was given a couple Billion (taxpayer dollars of course) to come up with a plan to handle this type of disaster. If that were the case, where is the plan, or did another one of our government agencies pittle away a couple billion on administrative costs and have nothing to show for it?

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 18th, 2010
9:15 am

The govt allowed the drilling, hence, its the govts baby. Obi is in the whitehouse so its now his and the democrats baby.

ALL the blame is on Obi shoulders. Perhaps he could give a speech and make it go away. YEA>>>thats what we need, another nice speech.

Keep up the good fight!

May 18th, 2010
9:15 am

They can’t focus on the fact that “corporations can be the problem” and that government regulations are needed before disasters, so it is much easier to try to lay blame. Oh yes, let’s end this in 2012 and put some more oil people in charge….how is that oily drilly thing workin for ya?

resno2

May 18th, 2010
9:17 am

Dee’s derogatory words for the day: “conservatives/unthinking SHEEP”

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

Kamchak

May 18th, 2010
9:17 am

Didn’t the EPA have billions in their coffers to come up with, or at least assist with, a disaster plan for this? What happened to that?

The EPA has a role to play on the front end, also.

WASHINGTON — The federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.

Those approvals, federal records show, include one for the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in thousands of barrels of oil spilling into the gulf each day.

The Minerals Management Service, or M.M.S., also routinely overruled its staff biologists and engineers who raised concerns about the safety and the environmental impact of certain drilling proposals in the gulf and in Alaska, according to a half-dozen current and former agency scientists.

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 18th, 2010
9:18 am

DK knows its the oil rig explosion and spill is Obamas fault but doesnt wanna admit it. That and that he backed the wrong horse.

Keep up the good fight!

May 18th, 2010
9:18 am

Ahhh….here comes the entitlements for big oil right wingers. Government should take care of the lazy non-taxpaying big oil companies.

JKL2

May 18th, 2010
9:19 am

CT- A 2008 investigation found that MMS employees used drugs and had sex with business reps

Are you sure this wasn’t under Clinton? I can’t believe Big Willy would miss out on a party like this.

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
9:19 am

resno 2

you heard? got data?

Dee keith

May 18th, 2010
9:23 am

(Dee’s derogatory words for the day: “conservatives/unthinking SHEEP”)

resno2 I’ve gone from IGNORANT to BIGOT I think I deserve credit for compromising.

Dulu

May 18th, 2010
9:25 am

The president had activated a national response team on April 22, the same day the rig sank.

Granny Godzilla

May 18th, 2010
9:25 am

resno2

are you talking about the superfund?

now that’s an interesting story….

there are a number of superfund sites in GA.

Wait a min...

May 18th, 2010
9:27 am

Let’s hold up a second… the Dems. have been in office for how long now? They could have been working on this kind of thing a little bit sooner. The point is that really no group, Left, Right, BP, Deep Water Horizon workers, Free market, can be singled out. If you want to believe that some more regulations and the good ol’ government can fix things with some more regulations, then what happened in the financial sector? I mean that was a fairly heavily regulated sector, and our nation has been in trouble for a few years now. Sure they add more regulations to that as well. The theory that add more will fix anything just can’t be conclusively proven.

kayaker 71

May 18th, 2010
9:28 am

Mr. Keith,

You could benefit from a good course in English grammar and punctuation. Also, I would venture to say that a good percentage of the black electorate has a “deep seated hatred for white America”. Anymore breaking news?