It really, really sucks to be a Louisianian now.
Then again, when is it ever easy to be a second-class citizen anywhere?
But the particular reason that's the case now is twofold -- BP and the United States government. The former doesn't care about anything but profitability, and the other cares about a lot of things -- keeping up a politically correct appearance being first and foremost -- but a bunch of red-state bumpkins aren't among them.
Washington politicians, both Democrat and Republican, must get some sort of sick Big Man on Campus adrenaline rush from continually watching their Louisiana counterparts on their knees. It's been an ongoing thing since Katrina, and it's happening again, as documented by The Associated Press:
They contend that drilling is safe overall and that the moratorium is a knee-jerk reaction, akin to grounding every airplane in America because of a single crash. They worry, too, that the moratorium comes at a time when another major Louisiana industry — fishing — has been brought to a standstill by the mess in the Gulf.AND RIGHT HERE, I have the title -- Well, I don't have it on me; it must be in the pocket of my other pants, but trust me on this -- to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, the real deal, and I'm willing to let it go at a most attractive price. If you believe me on this, you probably buy Ken Salazar's fragrant load about BP compensating businesses for the losses brought on by the Obama Administration's shuttering of what's left of the Louisiana economy during a time of extreme crisis.
"For God's sake, don't finish us off with a moratorium," Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said this week.
The oil-and-gas industry is the backbone of the Louisiana economy, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue for the government and accounting for nearly one-third of the nation's domestic crude production.
It took a heavy blow when the government imposed a six-month offshore drilling moratorium in the wake of the spill that has sent upwards of 50 million gallons of oil into the Gulf in the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history. The government imposed the ban while it reviews the safety of deepwater drilling in light of the BP disaster.
Louisiana lawmakers have railed against the moratorium, saying it could put more than 100,000 people out of work, shutter businesses and destroy livelihoods. A bill asking the administration to shorten the moratorium passed the Legislature unanimously.
But persuading the administration to take such action could prove to be extraordinarily difficult at a time when globs of oil are fouling marshes and beaches, images of oil-soaked birds are a fixture in the news and no apparent end to the spill is in sight.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has acknowledged the potential damage to energy companies and their employees and promised a Louisiana senator the administration would demand that BP compensate businesses for their losses.
Obama and Salazar remind me of the convert's zeal of a reformed drunk. Only most reformed drunks are a lot more sincere in their zeal than these clowns.
Why, wasn't it just yesterday that the Interior secretary -- in the name of "reform" -- was still running his own brand of "service industry" for Big Oil? It's all right there in the latest Rolling Stone, a story by Tim Dickinson so thoroughly infuriating and despair-inducing that I can't bring myself to properly blog upon it.
BUT HERE'S just a taste, enough to show you exactly how disingenuous and cynical is the "hope and change" crowd in Rome . . . er, Washington:
The tale of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is, at its core, the tale of two blowout preventers: one mechanical, one regulatory. The regulatory blowout preventer failed long before BP ever started to drill – precisely because Salazar kept in place the crooked environmental guidelines the Bush administration implemented to favor the oil industry.AND NOW the Obama crowd, whose "change" agenda didn't exactly extend to one of the agencies needing it most, has found Environmental Jesus and is willing to put 100,000 more Louisianians out of work than already are (thanks to the BPocalypse) just to prove its newfound piety.
MMS has fully understood the worst-case scenarios for deep-sea oil blowouts for more than a decade. In May 2000, an environmental assessment for deepwater drilling in the Gulf presciently warned that "spill responses may be complicated by the potential for very large magnitude spills (because of the high production rates associated with deepwater wells)." The report noted that the oil industry "has estimated worst-case spill volumes ranging from 5,000 to 116,000 barrels a day for 120 days," and it even anticipated the underwater plumes of oil that are currently haunting the Gulf: "Oil released subsea (e.g., subsea blowout or pipeline leak) in these deepwater environments could remain submerged for some period of time and travel away from the spill site." The report ominously concluded, "There are few practical spill-response options for dealing with submerged oil."
That same month, an MMS research document developed with deepwater drillers – including the company then known as BP Amoco – warned that such a spill could spell the end for offshore operations. The industry could "ill afford a deepwater blowout," the document cautions, adding that "no single company has the solution" to such a catastrophe. "The real test will come if a deepwater blowout occurs."
Enter the Bush administration. Rather than heeding such warnings, MMS simply assumed that a big spill couldn't happen. "There was a complete failure to even contemplate the possibility of a disaster like the one in the Gulf," says Holly Doremus, an environmental-law expert at the University of California. "In their thinking, a big spill would be something like 5,000 barrels, and the oil wouldn't even reach the shoreline." In fact, Bush's five-year plan for offshore drilling described a "large oil spill" as no more than 1,500 barrels. In April 2007, an environmental assessment covering the area where BP would drill concluded that blowouts were "low probability and low risk," even though a test funded by MMS had found that blowout preventers failed 28 percent of the time. And an environmental assessment for BP's lease block concluded that offshore spills "are not expected to damage significantly any wetlands along the Gulf Coast."
In reality, MMS had little way to assess the risk to wildlife, since a new policy instituted under Bush scrapped environmental analysis and fast-tracked permits. Declaring that oil companies themselves were "in the best position to determine the environmental effects" of drilling, the new rules pre-qualified deep-sea drillers to receive a "categorical exclusion" – an exemption from environmental review that was originally intended to prevent minor projects, like outhouses on hiking trails, from being tied up in red tape. "There's no analytical component to a cat-ex," says a former MMS scientist. "You have technicians, not scientists, that are simply checking boxes to make sure all the T's are crossed. They just cut and paste from previous approvals."
Nowhere was the absurdity of the policy more evident than in the application that BP submitted for its Deepwater Horizon well only two months after Obama took office. BP claims that a spill is "unlikely" and states that it anticipates "no adverse impacts" to endangered wildlife or fisheries. Should a spill occur, it says, "no significant adverse impacts are expected" for the region's beaches, wetlands and coastal nesting birds. The company, noting that such elements are "not required" as part of the application, contains no scenario for a potential blowout, and no site-specific plan to respond to a spill. Instead, it cites an Oil Spill Response Plan that it had prepared for the entire Gulf region. Among the sensitive species BP anticipates protecting in the semitropical Gulf? "Walruses" and other cold-water mammals, including sea otters and sea lions. The mistake appears to be the result of a sloppy cut-and-paste job from BP's drilling plans for the Arctic. Even worse: Among the "primary equipment providers" for "rapid deployment of spill response resources," BP inexplicably provides the Web address of a Japanese home-shopping network. Such glaring errors expose the 582-page response "plan" as nothing more than a paperwork exercise. "It was clear that nobody read it," says Ruch, who represents government scientists.
"This response plan is not worth the paper it is written on," said Rick Steiner, a retired professor of marine science at the University of Alaska who helped lead the scientific response to the Valdez disaster. "Incredibly, this voluminous document never once discusses how to stop a deepwater blowout."
Scientists like Steiner had urgently tried to alert Obama to the depth of the rot at MMS. "I talked to the transition team," Steiner says. "I told them that MMS was a disaster and needed to be seriously reformed." A top-to-bottom restructuring of MMS didn't require anything more than Ken Salazar's will: The agency only exists by order of the Interior secretary. "He had full authority to change anything he wanted," says Rep. Issa, a longtime critic of MMS. "He didn't use it." Even though Salazar knew that the environmental risks of offshore drilling had been covered up under Bush, he failed to order new assessments. "They could have said, 'We cannot conclude there won't be significant impacts from drilling until we redo those reviews,'" says Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity. "But the oil industry would have cried foul. And what we've seen with Salazar is that when the oil industry squeaks, he retreats."
Under Salazar, MMS continued to issue categorical exclusions to companies like BP, even when they lacked the necessary permits to protect endangered species. A preliminary review of the BP disaster conducted by scientists with the independent Deepwater Horizon Study Group concludes that MMS failed to enforce a host of environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act. "MMS and Interior are equally responsible for the failures here," says the former agency scientist. "They weren't willing to take the regulatory steps that could have prevented this incident."
Had MMS been following the law, it would never have granted BP a categorical exclusion – which are applicable only to activities that have "no significant effect on the human environment." At a recent hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse grilled Salazar about Interior's own handbook on categorical exclusions, which bars their issuance for offshore projects in "relatively untested deep water" or "utilizing new or unusual technology" – standards that Whitehouse called "plainly pertinent" for BP's rig. "It's hard for me to see that that's a determination that could have been made in good faith," Whitehouse said, noting that the monstrously complex task of drilling for oil a mile beneath the surface of the ocean appeared to have been given less oversight than is required of average Americans rewiring their homes. "Who was watching?"
Not the Interior secretary. Salazar did not even ensure that MMS had a written manual – required under Interior's own rules – for complying with environmental laws. According to an investigation in March by the Government Accountability Office, MMS managers relied instead on informal "institutional knowledge" – passed down from the Bush administration. The sole written guidance appeared on a website that only provided, according to the report, "one paragraph about assessing environmental impacts of oil and gas activities, not detailed instructions that could lead an analyst through the process of drafting an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement."
"People are being really circumspect, not pointing the finger at Salazar and Obama," says Rep. Raul Grijalva, who oversees the Interior Department as chair of the House subcommittee on public lands. "But the troublesome point is, the administration knew that it had this rot in the middle of the process on offshore drilling – yet it empowered an already discredited, disgraced agency to essentially be in charge."
Because it's not like people in south Louisiana are actual people with actual human rights or anything. They're just "those people." People being a relative term, of course.
Here's how much the British oil giant thought of human life, again courtesy of Rolling Stone:
BP has also cut corners at the expense of its own workers. In 2005, 15 workers were killed and 170 injured after a tower filled with gasoline exploded at a BP refinery in Texas. Investigators found that the company had flouted its own safety procedures and illegally shut off a warning system before the blast. An internal cost-benefit analysis conducted by BP – explicitly based on the children's tale The Three Little Pigs – revealed that the oil giant had considered making buildings at the refinery blast-resistant to protect its workers (the pigs) from an explosion (the wolf). BP knew lives were on the line: "If the wolf blows down the house, the piggy is gobbled." But the company determined it would be cheaper to simply pay off the families of dead pigs.SOUNDS SIMILAR to the calculus the Obama Administration employs when it comes to a whole American state.
It's cheaper to let Louisianians go hungry as they languish in their soiled little state, where Barack Obama didn't get many votes to start with. And when you factor in the government's ballooning deficit and Americans' short memories, the math is pretty simple.
Let the funny-talking rustics die. And, for God's sake, don't let those damned journalists take any more pictures of Flipper lying dead and oil-covered on the beach.
People might start to care.