Tag Archives: offshore oil drilling

PEER: Time for a new Interior secretary

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER:

Dear Alan:

This week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar apologized to a reporter he had threatened to “punch out” for asking him pointed questions about the scandal-plagued wild horse program. His frustration may be understandable, as the wild horse program is one in a corral-full of knotty problems that Interior has not resolved.  In fact, Salazar’s tenure at Interior has been one fiasco followed by another.

One of his first major decisions was to embrace the Bush “Drill, Baby, Drill” offshore oil program. Then the BP Gulf spill happened.  Salazar’s first reaction was to scapegoat his ownMMS Director who had been told to stay away from the oil issues and concentrate on alternative energy. Next, he broke up MMS in ways that kept the same pro-development biases in place.

Even today, Interior rushed approvals for Shell to enter Arctic waters without doing basic safety checks and still relying on industry self-certification.  Serious environmental concerns are still being suppressed. Agency approvals were given despite the fact that spill response capacity in the Arctic remains a big unknown.

Salazar is often mistaken for the Secretary of Energy but not just for pushing oil and gas.  His zealous pursuit of an “all of the above” energy approach appears to have left no resource un-bruised –

One central problem is that Salazar thinks he is entitled to cut deals with public resources like they are his to bargain away. Consider two recent Salazar forays into blatantly political deal-making at the expense of Interior’s resources –

  • He intervened to undermine a Park Service decision to deny a permit for a professional bike race that would close down part of the Colorado National Monument.  Despite the fact that the Park Service had rejected the permit three times, Salazar met privately with proponents to lay out a plan to do a new assessment, later saying the parks “need to be better neighbors.”

In his press conference on Wednesday, President Obama made it clear that the environment (at least climate change) would not be a second term priority. If he does not plan to spend political capital on the environment, at least his administration should not make matters worse.  It does not seem too much to ask that for the second term he appoint someone who actually understands Interior’s mission and will follow the law.

So despite the reelection, some regime change is definitely in order.  Help us bring it about.

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director

Oil drilling off the coast of Virginia?

Sure, sure. Let’s despoil Virginia Beach, the Eastern Shore, more, more. A few million tar balls? No problem. Just pretend they don’t exist. And, best of all, we can keep motoring. Walking? Are you kidding? Read a nice letter to the editor on this whole notion.

pEER: BP stalling to see election results

More than two years ago, a massive blowout from BP’s Deepwater Horizon fouled the Gulf of Mexico in one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history.  Yet, no federal charges have been brought against the oil giant.

Instead, federal prosecutors and industry lawyers continue to negotiate behind closed doors.  Many are starting to suspect that BP is running out the clock in hopes that a Romney victory will strengthen its hand.

That suspicion is supported by a sweetheart deal BP cut late in the Bush administration.  In March 2006, a major BP pipeline leak went undetected for days, spilling a quarter-million gallons of oil on the Alaskan tundra, making it the largest oil spill in the history of the North Slope. The spill occurred because BP ignored its own workers’ warnings by neglecting critical maintenance to cut costs (sound familiar?)

Rather than throw the book at this corporate rogue, federal prosecutors short-circuited ongoing investigations by announcing a settlement that was stupefying in its generosity:

  • BP agreed to one misdemeanor charge carrying three-year probation and a total of only $20 million in penalties.  This meant no felony charges would be pursued and there would be no future prosecutions. No BP executive faced any criminal liability, let alone jail time;
  • The fines were only a fraction of what was legally required; and
  • This settlement was part of a package in which the Bush Justice Department secured only $50 million in fines for the BP Texas refinery explosion in which 15 people died – a slap on the wrist for a big multi-national corporation and an insult to the memories of the workers who died.

PEER asked the Justice Department Inspector General to investigate this travesty but the IG refused.  Had Justice taken strong action against BP then, it might have deterred BP’s Deepwater catastrophe just months later.

Will history repeat itself?  Based on the scant and incomplete testing for the key system for preventing a repeat of the massive Gulf of Mexico blowout in the sensitive waters of theArctic, our government has already forgotten the lessons we were supposed to have learned from Deepwater Horizon, even as its oil sheens keep surfacing.

Help PEER combat these recurrences of official amnesia.

Shell delays Arctic oil drilling until next year

Aw, shucks. Big Oil (and its moneyed supporters in Congress) had to have been salivating over Shell’s push to sink a well in the Arctic Ocean. Too damn bad the first plans didn’t work out. Here’s a report.

Offshore drilling in the Arctic? Ah . . .

Here are two opinions about the proposed drilling for oil in the Arctic waters off the north shore of Alaska. The Alaskan lefttenant gubbernator shills for it, as expected. After all, he would share in the payout of royalties. On the other hand, the top brass of the National Audubon Society speaks for wild nature, something the Alaskan elected leader could apparently care less about.

Offshore drilling fees pay for new national forest lands

Oh, so this angle means that is OK to punch holes in Earth in offshore places like North Carolina? This is sloppy journalism, among other things, and a dangerous connection for the nation’s conservation policy to become enveloped within.

No to Arctic offshore oil drilling

The head honcho of the well known Natural Resources Defense Council wrote a superb op-ed piece on this topic for today’s NY Times. Read it and weep, BP and all you other polluters.