The Federal Government's Role In BP Oil Spill : NPR
BP and US Government Negotiations Analysis literatures of oil spill devastations in relation to the negotiations process and application of the. The federal government and the Gulf states may jointly elect to accelerate the civil penalty and natural resource damages payments in the. The BP oil spill is becoming an issue in US-UK relations. June 10 “I completely understand the US government's frustration because it's an.
And yet there is one big difference now: Both are world leaders in health research who recognise the serious threat to public health posed by climate change, but they both hold significant holdings in fossil fuels.
They now face an uncomfortable choice between finding new business models, or clinging to the status quo of fossil fuel dependency and coming increasingly to be seen as enemies of the national interest.
Documents from the Foreign Office reveal government policy that still barely distinguishes between the British national interest and the commercial interests of its main oil and gas companies.
Tensions were running high at the time.
Morrell to lead merged BP comms, government affairs
Russia had annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in March. The implications for western energy security and a company like BP were profound.
BP was in a fix. The British government was there to help. The coalition agreement in promised — at Liberal Democrat insistence — to help move to a low-carbon economy. But the Foreign Office was being refocused by Conservative foreign secretary William Hague away from diplomacy towards the promotion of British trade.
It upgraded its presence to a full consular office in Calgary, Canada, in to support UK businesses investing in the region — BP and Shell both have major tar sands projects in the area. Tar sands are among the dirtiest, most-carbon intensive of fossil fuels to exploit. You can also join the conversation on our website. And we begin with questions about whether the administration did everything it might have on prevention. Nice to have you with us. Thanks for having me. And let me quote your first sentence: Federal regulators responsible for the oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed industry officials several years ago to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil and then turn them over to regulators who later traced over them in pen.
It's a fairly damning report.
It is a report that focuses on inappropriate and potentially illegal behavior that occurred between and mostly, so before this administration came into office. But it does show real problems in the office and the way that the inspectors were handling themselves.
We should point out that similar, maybe even more lurid charges emerged earlier about the MMS office in Denver. What's different about this report from the prior three inspector general reports is that it's focused on the area that we all are fixating on, namely the Gulf region. And the previous reports focused on the royalties collection arm of the Minerals Agency, and this focused more on the inspectors who handle safety issues and environment issues in the Gulf.
And does the inspector general's report mention BP in particular or Transocean, the company that was doing the drilling, or the Deepwater Horizon rig? It doesn't, because again, all the misbehavior that they were focusing on seems to have stopped aroundso before this administration took over. But it finds that a number of inspectors were not only involved in what you cited but also apparent drug use with industry officials.
They took free meals and sporting tickets paid for by company officials. And it just seems that there was a culture during those years of misbehavior. Hunting and fishing trips as well. And as you say, this was perceived as general practice, and indeed one of the main concerns that some raise is the revolving door, where inspectors - one inspector was apparently lobbying for a job in one of these companies as he was going out inspecting one of their rigs.
That's right, and at least seven individuals that were the focus of the investigation still work for the agency, but last night, when we presented the story to the Interior Department, they immediately said that they planned on putting those individuals on administrative leave until they could investigate further. Well, that raises a question about - as you say, all these activities that this report speaks to were before this administration.
What has this administration done at MMS to change the culture and indeed change the efficacy of this agency in the year or more since Ken Salazar became secretary of the Interior? A couple things, the biggest of which is it got rid of the Royalties In Kind Program, and that's what you referenced before, the Denver office, and that was the program that concerned collection of payments from the industry for the leasing of drilling rights.
He also put forward a new ethics code for the entire agency, which were fairly strong.
Has BP oil spill damaged the US-UK 'special relationship'?
And then most recently, after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he divided up the agency in a way that hopes to get rid of the apparent conflict of interest between those who collect money and those who are supposed to police the industry.
But after the Deepwater Horizon, some might say too little, too late. There has also been the resignation of Chris Oynes - I don't know if I'm pronouncing that correctly - who was director of the Gulf of Mexico office and the MMS service for about 12 years, until he was promoted to a senior position in Washington in I mean, there was a lot of speculation about that resignation, which occurred earlier this month.
It occurred in a way that the department - it was somewhat curious. The Department of Interior wouldn't answer questions as to why he was resigning.
And as you mention, he is the official who was overseeing the Gulf region of this agency at the same time that there were all these things going on, both the misbehavior among staff, as well as problems in the collection of money and the realization that proper collection had not occurred and there had been lots of unpaid money that was owed to the federal government that had never been paid.
It's important to remember this agency is the second-most-important source of income to the government other than the IRS. There's a lot of money at stake here, and it's one of the reasons why I think the administration has to move pretty carefully in whatever reforms they put forward, but it's also probably one of the reasons why there's so much technical difficulties between the industry and the regulators. In retrospect, are people concerned that maybe Secretary Salazar and President Obama could've moved faster?
There are some who are saying that. I think it's a little overstated to cite this as President Obama's Katrina. Much of the misbehavior that's cited in this report and elsewhere predates this administration. But yes, as the disaster sort of draws out longer and longer and wider and wider, I think the stakes get higher and higher for the administration to solve it.
Ian Urbina, thanks very much for your time today. Ian Urbina, national correspondent for the New York Times, where his article, "Inspector General's Inquiry Faults Regulators," ran yesterday, or this morning's paper, actually.
We posted a link to our site at NPR. He joined us by phone from his office here in Washington, D. David, good of you to be with us today.
Has BP oil spill damaged the US-UK 'special relationship'? - omarcafini.info
Thanks so much, Neal. And this all took on far greater urgency when the oil really started hitting the coast in noticeable quantities, and not that thin sheen but the thick goopy stuff.
Yeah, the thick goopy stuff is here, and it's infiltrating in a lot of the pristine, very sensitive, very fragile marshlands, barrier islands, estuaries, wetlands. It's just a really devastating thing. You know, for the last month or so they've known it's out there. All the people who make their living on the water and who live on the water have known that the oil is out there and now it's here.
And now seeing it here, seeing the impact, it's really devastating to a lot of folks here. We should note BP is scheduled to make another attempt to plug the gusher tomorrow.
Right, and you know, that's one of the big things that really sticks with people now. You know, okay, a couple of days, a couple of weeks, now five weeks in and no end in sight. You know, they're seeing the first oil go out in big, black sort of masses that seep into these reeds and grasslands and things, and they're thinking, okay, well, is this it?
And they know it's not. And there's more and more evidence that this stuff is floating out there, and it could be floating out there for not just a couple more weeks, even if they stopped it today - months, and that's really what's unnerving people here, is how long the impact may last. There are a lot of people who are saying the long-term impact to them and their livelihoods may be much greater than Katrina.
And some are asking: Why is the government letting BP continue to run this after repeated failures? Well, you know, there's some people who feel that way and feel very strongly that, you know, BP has done enough damage, get them out of the way.
And the cold reality is, you know, a lot of these people do -they've lived with the oil and gas industries. They've worked in the oil and gas industries. In fact, the Plaquemines Parish president, Billy Nungesser, he's been one of the most outspoken leaders locally in terms of criticizing both BP and the federal government for their response to this, he used to work for the oil industry and has had a pretty comfortable and decent relationship with them in the past.
They understand what's going on. They understand how complicated this is, at least some folks here do, but there are quite a few others who are just so angry and so fed up that - and every day it seems like the frustration level just burns a little bit more and a little bit deeper. Let's see if we can get some callers in on this conversation.
Hi, thanks for taking my call. I believe that the federal government was supposed to declare this a national disaster and take it away from BP or take control of what BP was doing right away, and the reason they're not doing that is BP can be considered criminally negligent, and so can the government, because they gave BP an exemption from environmental studies under outhouses and hiking trails to put this rig in.
And that is why they're dragging their feet. But they ought to be careful because the federal government can also be sued by these various states for negligence, as I said. So they should just be taking it - taking control. David Schaper, Robin is certainly not alone. By that she's going back to our conversation about MMS, the minerals agency, the federal agency.
Well, unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, as Commander Thad Allen said yesterday, okay, if not BP, then who? The government really doesn't have the expertise to, you know, cap a spewing oil well 5, feet below the surface of the sea.
You know, the government doesn't have all of the resources necessarily to skin oil out of the water and to lay boom and do the necessary things to get the oil out of the water and out of the marshlands. Yeah, and they have to rely on BP, even if they don't want to.
Robin, thanks very much for the call. More with David Schaper in just a moment. He's covering the oil spill along the Gulf Coast.
We'll also talk about the politics here in Washington a bit later. This is NPR News. BP said this morning its next attempt to stop up the oil gusher in the Gulf will come tomorrow. Crews will try to fill the open well head with cement and heavy mud that's designed to plug the hole. A fleet of robotic submarines is on hand to help orchestrate the maneuver, known as a top kill, a mile underwater.Political Parties: Crash Course Government and Politics #40
Even if BP succeeds there's no way to know whether it will or not millions of gallons of crude oil already flowed into Gulf water.
Many in the region and now in Washington wonder why, five weeks later, crude oil continues to spew from the well. We want to hear from you. Is the federal government doing everything it can to contain the damage? Here are some emails we have.
Eric ph in Greensboro, North Carolina: The resources of rescue equipment, crowd control, food and water, other essentials for Katrina relief were within the province of the federal government to offer or withhold. By contrast, the U. Yes, it can give permission to create berms, but the government isn't in the oil-drilling business. It can only withhold permission and require all damages be compensated. And this from Beth ph: The major difference between Katrina and the oil spill is the former was caused by a natural disaster, and the cleanup was, naturally, the government's.
The latter was the result of corporate or many corporate snafus, and thus the cleanup is in the businesses and not the government. We should note that the Corps of Engineers and others responsible for maintaining the levees in New Orleans were later faulted, and many regard Katrina as a manmade disaster, the failure of the levees of course caused initially by the storm but nevertheless that the levees were to blame.
NPR's David Schaper is with us from New Orleans, where he's been covering this, and David, the frustration that you've been reporting on now includes, well, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, talking yesterday about the federal government's failure to send the kind of equipment they need to help skim and vacuum the oil that's available and indeed the failure of the Army Corps of Engineers to approve a series of barrier islands they propose to build that would have absorbed some of this oil.
Yeah, that's a real bone of contention with a lot of people down here, that the state came up with this plan and then forwarded an emergency permit application back I believe May 3rd or 4th to the U. Army Corps of Engineers to build what essentially would be new barrier islands. They're basically just sand berms, almost like a it wouldn't be very high, six feet, maybe, sticking out of the water, but dredging sand out of the Gulf and creating these sand barriers that could then the oil would stop there.
It could be cleaned much more easily from the sand than it is out of the marshes. It wouldn't get into the marshes. You know, it's one of the ideas that oh, yeah, that sounds great, but they've been talking a lot about coastal restoration here for a long, long time, and even before Katrina, and Katrina certainly elevated that discussion here.
But it's not a simple thing as it sounds, you know, getting the dredging equipment there to do it, getting the right type of sand, and there are long-term environmental impacts that the Corps wants to study before they approve something like this where but, you know, three weeks after they submitted the permit application, it's really sticking in the craw of a lot of the local parish leaders, a lot of the local fisherman and indeed Governor Jindal himself People want to know how could the long-term environmental impact be worse than what we're seeing now?
Well, that's exactly what they say, and what the Corps the Corps hasn't been very vocal in explaining why it wants to take its time. The only answer really and I've talked to some scientists from some of the environmental groups there.
A lot of people have certainly been pushing for a long time for coastal restoration projects to restore the barrier islands that used to protect this coastline. And they're a little apprehensive about this. They do want something done to restore the coastal areas that have been washed away.
I mean, this state has lost an enormous amount of coastline over the last number of years. But it's just not that simple. There are little currents that could trap the oil underneath.
These sand barriers might be somewhat susceptible to very rapid deterioration and erosion and thus the sand that they dredge up from somewhere would be gone in a manner of maybe months or years, depending on when the next hurricane could come through, and then that sand is gone for any long-term project that they wanted to do, and there's just not that much sand out there to rebuild the islands.
Is frustration building to the point, David, that you think that if effort by BP tomorrow fails, there is going to be a sharp increase in the pressure on the government in Washington to say enough already, we're taking control?
- Revealed: BP's close ties with the UK government
- The Federal Government's Role In BP Oil Spill
Yeah, I do think that we're getting close to a tipping point down here because I've talked to a couple of parish presidents who have said that the state has told them that if they want to go ahead and try to build some not on the grand scale that the state was talking in its plan but build some of their own sand barriers, go ahead and do it. Just, you know, we'll find the money. Go ahead and do it. If they don't get approval of this plan, they're going to start doing some of these projects, and in fact, there are some little projects already going on with sandbagging efforts to protect some shallower waters and those sorts of things.
But, you know, they'll find the dredging equipment, and they'll find the manpower and the money to do it on their own. David Schaper, thanks very much for your time, appreciate it.
The oil spill has now become, well, as we mentioned, a political liability. Republicans have taken to calling it Obama's Katrina.