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SALAZAR MUST GO

Updated on May 13, 2010

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO OBAMA'S CHANGE?

In January of of 2010 Ken Salazar spoke in very clear language about how he would conduct the office of United States Secretary of the Interior. While reasonable people can perhaps disagree about his approval of the Cape Wind project, there can be no doubt that it has been business as usual within the Interior department's Minerals Management Service (MMS). Unless it is stopped soon, the hemorrhaging of oil from BP's Deep Horizon drill rig in the Gulf of Mexico will become the worst ever oil spill in U. S. history, and perhaps in world history. This has happened on Ken Salazar's watch and it proves that he has changed nothing at MMS.

Ever since offshore oil exploration and drilling began in this country the power of oil and gas exploration companies and of the oil and gas industries as a whole have made paste out of law and regulation and the agencies charged with ensuring that offshore oil and gas operations will be safe for the environment. In January of 2010, newly sworn Interior Secretary Salazar said that he would hold people accountable and that he expected to be held accountable. The time for accountability to be determined is here; it is now.

On March 10 of 2009 BP submitted its Exploration Plan and Environmental Report to MMS. The 52 page document claimed that the possibility of a failure, a leak, a spill, a blowout were so remote as not to warrant concern or response preparedness. MMS itself determined that if there were an undersea spill it would amount to only as much as perhaps 1500 gallons. Deep Horizon's blown out drill pipe is now belching more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day. As of this writing it is estimated that more than 3 million gallons of oil are loose in the Gulf and headed for the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. While in Alabama inspecting response efforts as oil from the sunken rig hit the coast Salazar said, "those responsible will be held accountable." In at least one case, the search for responsibility will not require a congressional hearing or elaborate investigation. All Secretary Salazar has to do is to look in the mirror and then walk through the offices at MMS.

Also while inspecting spill mitigation efforts in Alabama Salazar said, "My understanding was that everything was in its proper place." Does the Gulf of Mexico, with an oil slick more than one hundred thirty miles long look as if everything was done right? Salazar has not only allowed a catastrophe of historic proportions to happen, he is now insulting our collective intelligence with his doe-eyed expression, showing no emotion, no guilt, no conscience. He has substituted a baseball cap for his long famous Stetson, but he is still the same man who promised that things would change. The disguise has not fooled anyone.

On Thursday, April ... Salzar announced a temporary freeze on the issuance of any new offshore drilling permits. On Friday, the very next day, yet another categorical exemption was approved by MMS, exemptions which will allow yet another offshore drill rig to escape thorough review before drilling begins. Someone just does not get it. Salazar also said at that time, "Those responsible will be held responsible." does he include himself?

Between 1992 and 2006 there were blow outs at 39 drill rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. As usual, we should probably just follow the money to learn how this happened. BP gave a half million dollars to candidates for federal office in 2008, more than half to Republicans. But, $71,000 was contributed to the Obama campaign out of that half million. BP is the largest drilling operator in this country. Also in 2008, BP spent $10 million lobbying efforts and in 2009 $15 million (Center for Responsive Politics). A bill playfully called the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 calls for more offshore drilling. While the entire environmental movement in this country spent a total of $21 million - $22 million for lobbying in 2009 the entire lobbying effort for the oil and gas industry cost was just under $170 million. Was there active lobbying by the drilling companies to avoid proper review and regulation?

Perhaps there is relationship between this river of money and the simple fact that the Minerals Management Service, which is ultimately under Ken Salazar's authority and control overlooked, failed utterly to deal with the many technical details which we now know could have been seen as clues to what might and did happen at 5,000 below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, after the fact, we hear of multiple problems on that drill rig, all of them possibly contributing to the disaster and all of them overlooked in BP's rush to commence drilling. Two of these problems being reported after the fact are a hydraulic leak in the blow out response mechanism and poor wiring, perhaps the spark that touched off the methane gas that blew the rig to pieces and incinerated eleven people. Did MMS or any federal authority maintain a presence on the Deep Horizon rig to inspect the rig's systems before drilling began? To ensure safe operations and sound equipment?

Pardon the expression, but it pays to know who your friends are.


Copyright 2010 By Peter A. Kenney


WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO OBAMA'S CHANGE?

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