Category Archives: Policy

How are local, state, and federal governments responding?

Should We Be Surprised? Commission Says Firms Knew of BP Well Flaws

Can’t say this is a shocker:

From”> the New York Times:

Firms Knew of Cement Flaws Before Spill, Panel Says

Halliburton and BP knew weeks before the fatal explosion of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the bottom of the well was unstable but still went ahead with the job, the presidential commission investigating the accident said on Thursday.

In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.

The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.

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Mission Accomplished?

Beware proclamations trumpeting the official “end” of somethings. Unless it’s the end of a book, it’s hard to imagine. From the New York Times

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No Political Will

The New York Times, on its Caucus blog tonight reports that Congressional Democrats have abandoned not only sweeping clean energy policy but also a whittled down version that would serve as a response to the BP oil spill, which was recently determined to be the largest accidental spill in history.

The piece quotes Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who worked on comprehensive energy legislation, characterizing America’s so-called oil addiction as a non-partisan issue:

“Ask anyone outside of Washington, and they’ll tell you that this isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, it’s an American issue,” Mr. Kerry said. “It’s American troops whose lives are endangered because we’re dependent on oil companies in countries that hate us. It’s American consumers who are tired not just of prices at the pump that soar each summer, but sick and tired of our oil dependency that makes Iran $100 million richer every day that Washington fails to respond.”

He’s right on all counts except for one: it’s very much a partisan issue when the obstacle facing clean energy legislation–the Republican Party–has absolutely no interest in clean energy.

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Pray For Oil

There are legitimate concerns when it comes to placing moratoriums on existing policy. They usually amount to nothing more than political gimmickry to give the appearance of fast action. Call me suspicious — I’m always suspicious when people call for a “freeze” on a certain practice, even if that practice, in this case, deepwater drilling, is in need of serious review.

So when a federal judge this ruled against the Obama administration’s ban on deepwater drilling, I agreed. I wasn’t enthusiastic about it by any means, but from a general policy perspective, I agreed. The thing is, that puts me, and a lot of other rational people, into some strange company. Mother Jones had an amusing, but frightening (as is the typical emotional reaction to anything having to do with the Tea Party) report about Louisiana Tea Partiers calling for more drilling.

This is how, according to the article, a recent rally began:

Things started sensibly enough. We bowed our heads and prayed that God would lift the drilling ban; the president of Terrebonne Parish (below) declared that Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium was an “economic disaster of biblical proportions.” Senator David Vitter’s state director, David Doss, read a statement from the Louisiana Republican, who said he was unable to attend due to a canceled flight but “looks forward to working with you all and we must push forward to end this devastating moratorium on drilling.”

Of course, the article notes the inevitable contradictions of the Tea Party movement, proclaiming that we don’t need government, followed immediately by complaining that if MMS had done its job, we wouldn’t be in this mess. This is the sort of irrational and sentimental stuff that used to be part of the PTA meeting that has somehow permeated into our national policy discourse. At the end of the day, it wasn’t God that lifted the drilling ban, but a federal judge who is just part of a bevy of active Gulf-area judges with financial connections to the gas and oil industry.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll indicates that the BP oil spill decreased Americans’ support for offshore drilling, as well as there is support — 58 percent — for a moratorium: a kind of six-month time out. There is also overwhelming support for increased regulation (68 percent) and even more support, at 72 percent, who favor the president’s call to develop alternative sources of energy and reduce oil production and consumption.

There is a serious popular will to be leveraged here. Say what we will about moratoriums, but they are not substitutes for aggressive policy change.

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Apologizing on Behalf of Big Oil Apologists

Rep. Joe Barton, whose commemorative bust was just cast awaiting placement on the oil industry’s proverbial mantelpiece for his shameless apology this morning to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the mutual agreement between the White House and BP to create a $20 billion claims fund, just apologized for apologizing. Now there’s a Congressmen with principle!

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Big Oil Apologists

Well, you knew that when real lives are affected by the oil spill in the gulf, it was only a matter of time before some key legislators not only put politics first, but also put Big Oil first. Today, just a day after the White House brokered, frankly, a monumental achievement that will result in BP putting together a $20 billion claims fund to “meet its obligations as a responsible party arising from the Deepwater Horizon spill,” and subsequent announcement that the BP board will not make any first quarters dividends, a chorus of usual suspects has balked at the deal, saying it’s akin to some sort of shakedown.

It’s memetic of many on the far right to characterize Democrats, and particularly the Obama administration, as government thugs, but it’s hard to say whose side they’re on here if it’s not the side of Big Oil. Considering the crisis management mechanism BP has assembled, I’d gamble to say that BP would be the first to say they weren’t bullied into anything here. The mere threat of junk status stocks was likely enough for them to acquiesce, as well as taking the appearance of being good corporate neighbors.

But that’s not enough. Politics, for some key Republicans, has taken precedent over the thousands of workers, families, and wildlife that has been impacted by the spill. This morning, as a House Energy and Commerce Committee were about to hear testimony from BP CEO Tony Hayward, Texas Republican Joe Barton, a ranking member of the Committee, apologized to Hayward, saying “it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.”

Even if this is his genuine belief (for which he should be ashamed), how a politician would say something so bald-faced and antagonistic to the people feeling the effects of the spill is beyond me. Even if his blind, pro-business political philosophy were genuine, and not rooted in unabashed opposition to anything the Obama Administration does (which it is), isn’t this, a mutual agreement, the right thing to do, rather than have lawsuits bottlenecked for years costing the taxpayer untold amounts of money?

You want to know something that does make sense when it comes to Barton being a Big Oil apologist? His campaign contributions. He’s taken upwards of $1.5 million from the oil and gas industry over the last 20 years.

So when you hear the right wing try, in breathtaking vain, to characterize the BP claims fund as “redistribution-of-wealth fund” (Rep. Michelle Bachman), a “slush fund” administered to “union activists” and ACORN (Rush Limbaugh), that it will “make them less able to pay us what they owe us” for concerns that BP won’t be able to capital their drill wells (Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour), and Fox News’ inevitable lies (Sean Hannity has already made some nice conjecture, speculating that the fund will be used as a political slush fund), remember who’s side they’re on. Because it’s not yours.

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