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Updated on May 20, 2010

Nothing Has Changed

As is too often the case, the press have done it wrong from the beginning. When news of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico the first questions asked should have been whether or not this deepest-ever offshore drill rig had been properly reviewed by the lead federal agency responsible for such permits, the Minerals Management Service of the Department of the Interior. As we now know the answer is NO.

Running for the highest office in the land Barack Obama promised that his administration would place science over politics. Then, once elected, Obama reiterated this claim. It would seem, however, as we watch hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil belch into the Gulf of Mexico every day, that we have been given yet another same-old-story political promise. These promises have terrific curb appeal, all shiny and new, but inside they are empty, stale, even toxic. Still, time and again we are charmed by the flowing lines and solid features of these lies; these self serving, premeditated, public-be-damned lies. And we vote for the best liar. The old saw appears to be true, we deserve the government we get.

As Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was preening for the grand announcement in Boston of his approval of the Cape Wind project the Gulf of Mexico was being smothered by oil from a blown out deep water drilling rig owned by a foreign oil company. A barrel of oil contains 42 gallons; the Deepwater Horizon rig is blowing oil into the Gulf at the rate of 5,000 barrels every day. While it is certainly true that the fault lies with BP and its contractors and perhaps the rig's crew and operators, it is equally and more importantly true that our government allowed this disaster to happen, actually gave BP written permission to jeopardize the Gulf of Mexico and its people and its entire environment.

Ken Salazar allowed BP to operate the deepest offshore oil drill rig ever launched. It was on his watch as Secretary of the Interior that what may become the worst oil spill in history has happened. It was the U.S. Department of the Interior through its alarmingly corrupt Minerals Management Service that allowed this disaster to happen. Now Salazar and his staff of incompetents are parading around for the media expressing agonizing concern over the incident and promising to fix it while also declaring that they will place blame and enforce mitigation and cost recovery. The deceptions are flowing at more than 5,000 barrels per day.

Being deeply involved in the opposition to Cape Wind I followed Salazar's appointment and early activities daily and I was gratified to hear this from him on january 20, speaking of his administration of the department, "...will hold people accountable. We will expect to be held accountable." Mr. Secretary, I am glad to oblige. You allowed the BP disaster to happen. You have become the Secretary of the Inferior.

There are irrefutable facts in this case that establish beyond any doubt who the guilty parties are. During 2008 the Bush adminstration arranged for a relaxation of rules at MMS which set the stage for the type of extreme-depth drilling BP wanted to do. Then, on March 10 of 2009 BP filed a 52 page exploration plan and environmental report with MMS in which the company repeatedly claimed and declared that environmental damage was inconceivable because the technology of the drill equipment was far beyond any rational expectation of failure. Nothing could go wrong at the Deewater Horizon rig. There were no public hearings, no public comment period, no peer review of the science and technology on which BP was basing its claims.

Apparently MMS accepted BP's analysis because less than one month later, on April 6 of 2009, it issued a 'categorical exclusion' to certain rules for offshore drulling. The result was that BP was not required to develop and file a spill response plan. There is no complete inventory on file with MMS of the spill recovery/mitigation equipment on hand at the rig. There is no calculation indicating how far and how quickly a spill would spread. There is no proof that blowout prevention devices would work or that they are even in place. Ken Salazar's Interior Department and MMS director Liz Burnbaum allowed this disaster to happen by exempting BP from the usual rules.

Deepwater Horizon did not have to happen. Its destruction of the Gulf of Mexico is more than a problem of mechanical failure; it is the result of hubris in high places, of intellectual and political corruption, of ego and pride and a total lack of integrity. The burned wreckage of Horzin Deepawater should bear a plack: Here lies the BP Salazar Crematorium. Ken Salazar has blood on his hands, the blood of eleven dead and missing rig workers, yet we and our president continue granting him authpority to oversee such matters. How can we expect courage and integrity from him now as we struggle to deal with the unspeakable evil he has allowed. Ken Salazar must leave office.

Lurking all around us are disasters waiting to happen. It seems that the worst always can be shown to have had help from precisely those whose job it was to foresee and prevent them, individuals who sold their loyalty or who allowed their egos to take control of situations requiring intellect and integrity. Since the Nixon era we have often named such occurances .....gate. So, I propose that this calamity be named either Gulf Gate or Salazar Gate.

In Boston on April 28 as he announced his approval of the Cape Wind project Ken Salazar declared that the project had been properly reviewed. Really? Was its review conducted with same same diligence, the same level of political favoratism and scientific ignorance as what BP was allowed? Was it given the Salazar Wink, the Interior advantage? The BP Horizon project and Cape Wind have one striking thing in common: both are the first of their kind. Therefore they are precedent-setting and should have been given the most rigorous possible review. In fact, both have been given free passes to move forward. Cape Wind has also benefited from MMS failures and outright malfeisance. Cape Wind was required to file an oil spill response plan, but what they produced (DEIS Appendix D) is a bland listing of equipment that might be available but is not actually on-site. There has never been any attempt to coordinate such planning with any local fire department, harbor master or natural resources department. These would be the first responders in the event of an event.  And as always, the advantage in such situations goes not to the people, but to those seeking economic gain and political advantage.

Mr. President, what happened to that campaign over politics? fire Ken Salazar.

P. A. Kenney

Copyright by Peter A. Kenney, 2010


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