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Failure of Rig’s Last Line of Defense Tied to Myriad Factors
By David Barstow, Laura Dodd, James Glanz, Stephanie Saul and Ian Urbina | NY Times
Excerpt: An examination by The New York Times highlights the chasm between the oil industry’s assertions about the reliability of its blowout preventers and a more complex reality. It reveals that the federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure.
It also shows that the Obama administration failed to grapple with either the well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers or the sufficiency of the nation’s drilling regulations even as it made plans this spring to expand offshore oil exploration.
“What happened to all the stakeholders — Congress, environmental groups, industry, the government — all stakeholders involved were lulled into a sense of what has turned out to be false security,” David J. Hayes, the deputy interior secretary, said in an interview.
Even in one significant instance where the Minerals Management Service did act, it appears to have neglected to enforce a rule that required oil companies to submit proof that their blind shear rams would in fact work.
As it turns out, records and interviews show, blind shear rams can be surprisingly vulnerable. There are many ways for them to fail, some unavoidable, some exacerbated by the stunning water depths at which oil companies have begun to explore. Read more, watch video.
A poem by Gary Lindorff
(This poem appeared first in ThisCantBeHappening)
Looking out across the gulf
Of our mistakes, accidents and crimes
I see a murky horizon
Blurred by the brine of a tear
That is taking its time
Gaining enough weight
To trail down my cheek.
The deep horizon of this grief
Is far deeper than I thought.
Was I foolish to come?
Didn’t I know that any space so hollowed
And left empty,
Even for an instant,
Fills with the tears of those
Who wept before us?
Such a weight, such a gulf,
Such a deep horizon.
Even the crabs, the flattest of nations,
Cannot squeeze beneath
This mile-deep grief.
Fish roast in the sun
Like blackened shavings
Of silver and copper;
I mimic their down-turned mouths.
. . .Sickened by the smell of the air we have made. . .
I come here to wade knee deep
Into this ruined place
And try to feel what we’ve done,
By David Swanson
Way back in January, the ocean was still ocean, oil still oil, and combining the two had not yet occurred to us. The Conch Republic, the Florida Keys, was -- in retrospect -- a secure and pristine paradise.
The danger was of sunburn, not of crude oil on your skin or toxic chemicals in the air you breathed.
While I was there with my family, we enjoyed the sand, sun, and sea. But we wanted to see more pelicans. We wanted to see lots of pelicans.
So we went to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center.
Local power: tapping distributed energy in 21st-century cities
By David Roberts | Grist
Residents of Hammarby Sjöstad, a district on the south side of Stockholm, Sweden, don't let their waste go to waste. Every building in the district boasts an array of pneumatic tubes, like larger versions of the ones that whooshed checks from cars to bank tellers back in the day. One tube carries combustible waste to a plant where it is burned to make heat and electricity. Another zips food waste and other biomatter away to be composted and made into fertilizer. Yet another takes recyclables to a sorting facility.
Meanwhile, wastewater is taken to a treatment plant, from whence it emerges as biosolids for more compost, biogas for heat and transportation fuel, and pure water to cool a power plant, which also runs on biofuels grown with the biosolids. Looking at a chart of all this is enough to induce dizziness. "In terms of what you can do at the local level for energy efficiency and renewable energy, it's incredible. It's just amazing," says Joan Fitzgerald, author of Emerald Cities (Oxford University Press, 2010).
After they are done, district authorities hope Hammarby Sjöstad will produce about half its power independently, a task made easier by the fact that residents, thanks to a broad range of efficiency and conservation measures, will consume half the energy of the average Swede (who already consumes only about 75 percent as much as the average American). These intrepid Swedish urbanites are pushing the envelope on a phenomenon catching on in cities across the developed world: "distributed energy."
Appalachia mine permit system suspended; coal miners angry
By Steve James | Reuters
Federal authorities suspended the mine permitting process in six states on Thursday, prompting the coal industry to charge the Obama administration was targeting surface mining and that the change would hurt the economies of the poor Appalachian region.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency that issues permits relating to waterways, said it is suspending the NWP 21 permit system that covers dumping of earth and rocks in rivers and streams.
The system is in effect nationwide, but will be suspended in parts of traditional mining states of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Companies proposing surface mines in that region that discharge dredged or fill material into waterways will now have to obtain an individual permit from the Department of the Army under the Clean Water Act, it said. That will prolong an already long and costly process, mining experts said. Read more.
Estimates from at least two sources have determined the cost of cleanup for the BP oil disaster at up to $100 billion, while Moody’s on Friday lowered BP’s credit rating amidst concerns that the initial $20 billon escrow account to be funded by BP would only be a fraction of what is needed for the cleanup. Standard and Poor’s lowered BP’s credit rating on Thursday citing numerous “challenges and uncertainties.”
Reuters reported on Thursday that Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy stated that the total cost of the oil spill could be anywhere from $40 billion to $100 billion. Read more.
I was sent an article yesterday that presented a worst case scenario in the BP Gulf oil spill which described a possibility that sounded too horrifying to be true. The report said the BP drill site is directly over a massive underground reservoir of methane that could result in a huge explosion that would create “a supersonic tsunami” that “would literally sweep away everything from Miami to the panhandle in a matter of minutes. Loss of human life would be virtually instantaneous and measured in the millions.”
Sounded like exaggerated fear mongering to me, until I saw this report from AP today: Read more.
AIR DATE: June 18, 2010
OK Hockey Puck, where ya at, oh wonder woman of oil and so much more, Snark, quick go to your talkin points think? tank and see if they can give ya an update!!!
We're bicycling from San Francisco to Washington, DC between 24-July and 22-Sept, 2010, without motorized support. Cynthia McKinney, six term Member of Congress and 2008 Green Party nominee for President, is riding. The ride will demonstrate the bicycle as a transformational tool to solve the problems of Climate Change, Oil Wars, the Health Crisis, and the Economic Crunch. Along the way, riders will facilitate community discussions around the question "How can we support each other to live true to our best values?"
We're now learning more people plan to converge with us in Washington, DC, for World Car-Free Day. Malik Rahim, co-founder of Common Ground will be riding up with a group from New Orleans and Atlanta. Others will ride from Seattle/Portland, Boston/New York, and Toronto/Detroit/Boston. Lots of folks will ride in from Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware or bring their bike by mass transit to meet at the Capitol 10:00 AM on Wed-22-Sept,2010.
Our route, schedule, and discussion group are open to anybody with a free Google account. Please join us. If you would like to bicycle all or part of the route, plan a convergence ride, or host riders passing through your community, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward this and re-post to others who might be interested.
Since taking office, Obama proved himself a machine politician, not a man of the people, an earlier article explaining it this way:
He promised peace and delivered war; real health and financial reform, not same old, same old; help for millions losing jobs, homes, hope and futures, not handouts to Wall Street and other industry favorites; regulatory oversight, not the usual incestuous government-industry ties, making disasters like in the Gulf possible, and when they happen conspiring with offenders in coverup, distortion, lies, and a total disregard for the environment, wildlife, and way of life for thousands - let alone permanent damage to a vital ecosystem.
At the same time, Big Oil gets billions in subsidies, special tax breaks and other financial benefits, besides being free to operate recklessly in a regulatory-free environment. Little wonder that a disaster now threatens to become the greatest ecological one ever, gushing oil that's potentially unstoppably from multiple sea floor ruptures, worsened apparently by BP fix attempts done as PR stunts, the company and administration knowing they wouldn't work but used them anyway as a charade to fool the public.
In addition, for nearly two months, company officials:
How Halliburton is profiting from the Gulf oil spill
By Matt Rocheleau | CSM
Shortly before the Deepwater Horizon blowout, Halliburton bought an oil spill prevention firm. The oil-services industry is consolidating, which is not necessarily good news for quality, experts say.
Eleven days prior to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon blowout, Halliburton Co., the contractor in charge of cementing the rig's well, agreed to purchase a little-known company.
The firm, Boots and Coots, focuses on oil spill prevention and blowout response. Now, it is assisting with the relief well work – under contract to BP – to help stop the Gulf oil spill.
What appears to conspiracy theorists as more than a coincidence is nothing out of the ordinary, say oil-industry experts. Increasingly, oil-industry titans are buying up smaller companies that provide all manner of services.
But this trend is worrying in itself, the experts say. As companies grow and work both to drill wells and potentially clean up their own mistakes, the result can be unintentional, but riskier decisionmaking over time due to a lack of focus – particularly in an industry that is poorly regulated. Read more.
It is an overlooked danger in oil spill crisis: The crude gushing from the well contains vast amounts of natural gas that could pose a serious threat to the Gulf of Mexico's fragile ecosystem.
The oil emanating from the seafloor contains about 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits, said John Kessler, a Texas A&M University oceanographer who is studying the impact of methane from the spill.
That means huge quantities of methane have entered the Gulf, scientists say, potentially suffocating marine life and creating "dead zones" where oxygen is so depleted that nothing lives.
"This is the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history," Kessler said.
Methane is a colorless, odorless and flammable substance that is a major component in the natural gas used to heat people's homes. Petroleum engineers typically burn off excess gas attached to crude before the oil is shipped off to the refinery. That's exactly what BP has done as it has captured more than 7.5 million gallons of crude from the breached well.
A BP spokesman said the company was burning about 30 million cubic feet of natural gas daily from the source of the leak, adding up to about 450 million cubic feet since the containment effort started 15 days ago. That's enough gas to heat about 450,000 homes for four days.
But that figure does not account for gas that eluded containment efforts and wound up in the water, leaving behind huge amounts of methane. Read more.
Below are a few media reports from September 2009 discussing the BP Gulf of Mexico Tiber Oil Field find when it originally hit the newswires. This was the deepest oil and gas well in human history, going to a depth of 35,000 feet. Exploratory drilling began in March 2009. Deepwater Horizon did not commence until September 2009. Only the second story from Bloomberg hints at the "volatility" related to the find and the need for "caution."
This was a giant field and the third biggest find in the US after Prudhoe Bay, also a BP find and the older Spraberry Trend in West Texas. Ostensibly, quelling oil "volatility" ie reaping profits from oil price spikes is the impetus behind these kinds of risky projects. But, this field could not have been found or developed without the advent of deepwater drilling. BP used the Deepwater Horizon rig that was also used just months later for the deepwater drilling in nearby Macondo Prospect in Mississippi Canyon where tragedy struck. Read more.
An Exclusive (Somewhat Apocryphal) Interview With Stephen Hawking on the British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Event - Deepwater Horizon
An Exclusive (Somewhat Apocryphal) Interview With Stephen Hawking on the British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Event - Deepwater Horizon
By Gary Corseri
All this nambypambyism about the Gulf Oil Spill has got me down, so I figured I’d go to the smartest guy on the planet to get his what’s what.
I met Stephen Hawking at his perch at the Mt. Palomar observatory. It took me a few moments to get used to his computer-generated voice, but once I did, it was the only voice I could imagine being attached to that kind of cerebrum.
“I like to look at the stars,” he told me. “It puts our little mortal lives into high relief.”
“I would have thought they would shrink our little lives.”
“That, too. … It’s all a matter of perspective.”
The Sovereign State of BP - Down for the Count?
By Michael Collins | Election Fraud News | June 16, 2010
British Petroleum has operated as though it were a sovereign state since its inception. When they blew the well at their Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it never occurred to them that they would have to take orders from anybody. But that may change largely due to their inability to stop the flow of oil after nearly sixty days of gushing.
President Obama was clear in his speech last night. If any entity is going down as a result of the catastrophe, it will be BP. Today, Obama meets with BP's Chairman of the Board, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and the man he told the chairman to fire, Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward.
Two sovereign states will collide. The outcome is a foregone conclusion.
BP's Global Reign
British Petroleum began under another name in the oil rich section of Iran. Britain's William Knox D'Arcy convinced Iran's leader to grant an exclusive concession for the tidy sum of £20,000 in 1901 ($16 million current). BP grew on Iran, infecting its politics and economy to assure that the flow of oil never stopped.
By 1953, Iran's new democracy had a movement and leader that lost tolerance for BP's strangle hold on Iranian oil. The government nationalized BP assets. Undeterred by the will of the Iranian people, the company was the beneficiary of the British secret service-CIA staged Operation Ajax; a not-so-covert plan that deposed Iran's duly elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and installed a puppet regime.
Iran's emerging democracy was assassinated in the service of BP oil assets and income.
There was just one hitch in the post-coup arrangement with Iran. The Shah's government got 50% of the take and BP no longer had a monopoly. They had to share the concession with U.S. oil companies, thus ending their exclusive control of Iranian oil.
TomDispatch: Nick Turse: Kick Ass or Buy Gas?, How Taxpayers Are Subsidizing BP's Disaster Through the Pentagon
From TomDispatch today: a revelatory report on the staggering sums the Pentagon pays BP to buy the fuel it needs to conduct its wars -- and the unwillingness of either the Pentagon or the White House to make cutting off those contracts part of the response to the disaster in the Gulf -- Nick Turse, "Kick Ass or Buy Gas?, How Taxpayers Are Subsidizing BP's Disaster Through the Pentagon."
In a striking post this morning, Nick Turse offers a report on the extremely lucrative relationship BP has with the Pentagon. As he points out, America’s two spreading disasters -- in the Gulf of Mexico and Afghanistan -- are not only out of control and seemingly unstaunchable, but more intimately connected than we might imagine. The American disaster in Afghanistan runs, in significant part, on BP-produced fuel, and government payments for that fuel are bolstering BP while it lives through its purgatory in the Gulf.
Turse begins: "Residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are livid with BP in the wake of the massive, never-ending oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- and Barack Obama says they ought to be. But there’s one aspect of the BP story that most of those angry residents of the Gulf states aren’t aware of. And the president hasn’t had a thing to say about it.
"Even as the tar balls hit Gulf beaches, their tax dollars are subsidizing BP and so far, President Obama has not shown the slightest indication that he plans to stop their flow into BP coffers, despite the recent call of Public Citizen, a watchdog group, to end the nation’s business dealings with company. In fact, the Department of Defense, which has a longstanding, multi-billion dollar business relationship with BP, tells TomDispatch that it has no plans to sever current business ties or curtail future contracts with the oil giant."
The rest of this startling report lays out just how much fuel the Pentagon, one of the great gas-guzzling institutions in history, needs and how much it relies on the giant oil companies, despite much publicity about its efforts to "green" the military. Between 2007 and 2010, "BP received around $5.7 billion in federal contracts, according to official government data. In fact, the $2.2 billion the Pentagon paid to the oil giant in 2009, accounted for almost 16% of the company’s nearly $14 billion in annual profits. This fiscal year, the U.S. military has already awarded the company more than $837 million, inking its latest deal with BP in March."
This is one of the hidden BP stories that should truly see the light of day. Don't miss it. Read it now.
Why did the Obama administration just approve more than 400 new leases for oil companies to operate in the Gulf of Mexico?
At his long-awaited press conference on the Gulf oil disaster last month, President Obama announced a moratorium on new oil drilling and exploration for six months. "We can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again," he declared. But while existing rigs may be out of commission for the near future, the administration hasn't exactly put the brakes on new oil and gas drilling ventures. In recent weeks, the government has quietly approved the sale of more than 400 new leases for vast swaths of the Gulf of Mexico. And these contracts—which mark the first step in the drilling process—were subjected to the same slapdash environmental oversight that failed to prevent the BP catastrophe.
The region was included in a plan created by the Bush administration's Department of the Interior to lease new areas of the Gulf to the oil and gas industries. But it was Obama's Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who gave the go-ahead for the sale of Lease 213—6,800 tracts covering 36 million acres off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in November 2009. The sale—which was held on March 17 this year in the New Orleans Superdome—attracted $1.3 billion in bids. Since then, the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has approved the sale of 448 of those tracts, 198 of them in deepwater, which is defined as more than 656 feet below the sea. BP is the proud new leaser of 13 of those tracts.
The lease sale is the first step in the oil drilling process. Companies must first obtain the right to drill the tracts before they can devise exploration plans, which must be approved by MMS.
And that's where the problem lies. MMS has been notorious for rubber-stamping the oil industry's plans. The lease for the well that's spewing oil into the Gulf, the Macondo, was sold in March 2008. The exploration plan for that well was granted a "categorical exclusion" from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in April 2009, paving the way for drilling to begin. Read more.
Distraught Shrimper Disrupts BP CEO Tony Hayward Testimony | Press Release
Demanding Hayward’s Arrest and Permanent Moratorium on Offshore Drilling
Diane Wilson, a fourth generation shrimper from Texas, confronted BP CEO Tony Hayward during his testimony this morning, to advocate for his arrest as well as a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling. She stood up and shouted “Arrest this man, he is a criminal, his company is stealing the livelihoods of thousands of us in the Gulf and killing our coasts. Tony Hayward should be arrested.” Instead, Wilson was arrested and it is unclear when she will be released. Wilson was also arrested in Congress on June 9 for dousing herself with oil to protest BP's dumping on the shrimpers.
Before the hearing Diane made this statement: I came to DC to confront Tony Hayward for the devastation his company has brought to the fishing communities along the gulf. BP is a criminal company that has ignored safety regulations at the health of our oceans and even its own workers. Tony Hayward and BP need to be held accountable for their criminal activities as well as paying every last cent they may have to the families in the Gulf affected by their willful, criminal neglect. Our message to Obama, and Congress: BP must pay to clean up this mess and our government must move to end offshore drilling and move us into a new century of clean energy.” She added, “Pouring a jar of fake oil on myself I can get a year in jail. Tony Hayward’s company is pouring millions of gallons of oil into the gulf every day. He should be the one going to jail.”
Wilson is also a co-founder of the organization CODEPINK Women for Peace. She was in front of BP HQ in Houston, Texas two weeks ago to protest the oilspill and draw attention to BP’s legacy of negligence. Read her most recent article, “The BP oil gusher is just the latest in a long line of assaults on the Gulf of Mexico” published on Grist.com.
Barton Well-Funded By Big Oil, Including BP; Barton Apologizes to BP: "Sorry...Shakedown...Slushfund"
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, set off a mini-storm with his apology to BP for its dealings with the Obama administration.
Federal Election Commission records show that during the current 2009-10 campaign cycle, the oil and gas industry has been the second-biggest contributor to Barton, at $100,470, behind only the electric utility industry ($162,800).
FEC records show that BP has given Barton an average of $1,350 a year since 1990.
Public Campaign, which calls itself a nonpartisan advocate for reducing campaign costs, said its analysis shows that he has received $27,000 in contributions from BP since taking office in 1985.
Sit down. Get ready. Your life has begun to change. It will never be the same again. This gulf disaster is changing everything. Call your legislators. Tell them that they are now on notice. There are the constituents and there are planet killing corporations, ready to wipe out life on the planet for a profit. Those legislators have to choose whose side they are on. No more bullshit. No more lobbyists getting favors. This is not life or death.
Here's the latest report I just received from my contact inside BP:
Ok, here's the deal.
Size of reservoir - estimated by BP and its partner, Andarko to be between 2.5B and 10B bbl. (that's 100,000,000,000 gallons and 400,000,000,000 gallons.
Yes - all of those numbers are BILLIONS.
BP has admitted in at least 3 interviews that the well casing is compromised (broken). So, when they tried the Top Kill - and then the Junk Shot - the stuff shot out the sides and didn't go much down the hole. A REAL top kill should just take a few hours - or it's not going to ever work.
The casing was undoubtedly broken apart by the natural gas 'explosion' at the bottom of the well, which was the result of methane coming out of solution (ie. the methane hydrates melting and expanding dramatically). Much like when your washer's water line has air in it and you shut off the valve and the line 'hammers', the well 'hammered' when the BOP shut (the guess is 80%), and the dramatic upshot in pressure, as well as the acoustic shockwave, broke the casing.
The Question of the Day is: Did the explosion rupture the casing for its entire length?
If that is so, then a relief well will be unable to plug the hole. TEN relief wells would be unable to plug the hole. Read more.
Corporate Apocalypse vs. Solartopian Survival
By Harvey Wasserman
BP’s apocalyptic Gulf gusher has put our ability to survive in serious doubt.
We have no reason to believe the end is near---or even in sight. Nor can we begin to calculate the damage to our Mother Earth…to her oceans, to the core of her being…and to each of us as individual organisms.
Only one thing IS clear: we cannot ultimately survive without a rapid conversion to a Solartopian economy that is totally green-powered. That transformation will be forced by biological imperatives, not money or markets.
The powers that be studiously avoid the core reality that this disaster stems from the ability of large corporations to make all of us pay for their irresponsible greed.
The black poisons killing our global body are gushing from a system that grants corporations human rights but does not demand human responsibility.
BP: Eco-Terrorism Inc. They Should be Prosecuted, Tried and Convicted Under Eco-Terrorism Laws Passed by the Right Wing
For many years, as part of the right wing thuggish putsch in America -- and their great skills at "framing" public policy issues -- environmentalists trying to aggressively save our natural heritage and keep our lives free of industrial toxins have been increasingly classified -- with legal punishments -- as "environmental terrorists." This has included every one from people who sit in trees to try and prevent excessive and ruinous logging to Greenpeace activists merely painting messages against deep sea oil drilling or trying to prevent the killing of whales.
In fact, BuzzFlash just a short time ago awarded our coveted "Wings of Justice Award" to 7 Greenpeace Activists who -- during the height of the BP oil Gulf catastrophe -- were arrested and threatened with being charged as eco-terrorists for painting an anti-deep sea drilling message on the side of an oil company ship docked in a Louisiana port. As we noted on May 25 of this year:
7 Greenpeace protestors were arrested in Louisiana for an act of civil disobedience: painting an offshore drilling message on the side of a ship that will assist Shell Oil in drilling in the Arctic. They should have been given a parade and welcomed as heroes instead of being charged with "crimes" that could net them up to 7 years in prison. Read more.
"Halliburton & BP, You Suck!"