Steinzor BP Spill Op-Ed in Baltimore Sun: Learning and Acting Slowly

by Matthew Freeman | April 21, 2011

Right about this time a year ago, Americans were learning about a massive explosion aboard an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico called the Deepwater Horizon that had occurred the day before. Video footage of the flame-engulfed rig began splashing across television screens, and we were told that 11 workers on the rig were “missing.” (In fact, those workers had been killed.)

Also unclear or unrevealed was the extent of the environmental harm that was being done. In the day-after stories, BP and the federal government expressed the view that pollution was not much of a concern. Here’s what the New York Times article said,

Officials said the pollution was considered minimal so far because most of the oil and gas was being burned up in the fire. “But that does have the potential to change,” said David Rainey, the vice president in charge of the Gulf of Mexico exploration for BP, which is leasing the rig.

And change it did. The months-long ooze of crude oil from the well beneath Deepwater Horizon eventually came to be the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

We learned the facts about the BP oil spill slowly, as presumably did BP and the federal government. And according to an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun this morning by CPR President Rena Steinzor, we’re acting on the lessons of the disaster even more slowly. ...

The BP Oil Spill: Hollow Regulation Meets Hobbled Law

by Sidney Shapiro | March 11, 2011
This coming April 20 will mark the one-year anniversary of the first day of the BP Oil Spill – a three-month polluta-polluza that eventually became the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the world. That was the night that a long series of failures finally came to a head: failures aboard the Deepwater Horizon by BP and its contractors, failures in the enforcement of regulations intended to prevent such disasters or at least limit the damage from them, ...

BP Oil Spill: CPR's Flatt Calls for Realistic Worst-Case Planning

by Matthew Freeman | July 05, 2010
In an op-ed in this morning's Raleigh News & Observer, CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt describes why it is that BP was allowed to drill its Macondo 252 deepwater well -- the one that is now spewing oil into the Gulf -- without conducting a serious analysis of the risks of a blowout, and providing a detailed and realistic plan describing what it would do in such a scenario. Flatt writes: The National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal agencies analyze the environmental ...

Judge's Injunction Blocking Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling Discounts Statutory Intent

by Rebecca Bratspies | June 25, 2010
Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls. On Thursday Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana refused to delay the effect of the preliminary injunction he issued on Tuesday, overturning the U.S. Department of Interior’s May 28, 2010, Temporary Moratorium on deepwater drilling. (Related court documents available here.) Several facets of the June 22 decision are truly astonishing. Nowhere in the decision is there any recognition of the unique, emergency circumstances or the grave threat to the ...

The People's Agents: Steinzor Op-Ed on Regulatory Reform in Baltimore Sun

by Matthew Freeman | June 18, 2010
CPR President Rena Steinzor has an op-ed in this morning's Baltimore Sun on the various regulatory failures at work in the BP oil spill. She writes that important questions need to be answered "about how the federal regulatory system allowed BP and other oil companies to drill in waters so deep without effective fail-safes," and continues: In truth, this is just the last in a string of profit-driven tragedies that have horrified us recently. Consider the 29 workers smothered in a West ...

BP Oil Spill: The Media, the President, and the Blame Game

by Matthew Freeman | June 15, 2010
It’s fascinating to listen to the media, with lots of encouragement from the right wing, inch its way toward blaming the BP Oil Spill on President Obama. Apparently the President’s job description includes a previously unknown provision about deep-sea plumbing expertise.  Let’s follow the media’s path for a moment here. First we heard media whining that the President was insufficiently engaged in the crisis, on the strength of no evidence whatsoever. Then the press went through a "false equivalency" phase, with a wave ...

Verchick’s ‘Facing Catastrophe’: A Roadmap to a Safer Future

by Daniel Farber | June 11, 2010
Rob Verchick’s new book, “Facing Catastrophe: Environmental Action for a Post-Katrina World,” might help avoid future disasters like the Deepsea Horizon blowout.  Verchick views wetlands, lakes, forests, and rivers as a kind of infrastructure, providing ecosystem services that are just as important as the services provided by other infrastructure, such as roads and dams. For instance, Gulf Coast wetlands provide a buffer against storm surges (protecting not only people but key oil facilities), and nurtures vast numbers of birds and sea ...

International Law Implications of the BP Oil Spill

by Yee Huang | June 08, 2010
Hundreds of offshore extraction platforms dot the world’s oceans, funneling millions of gallons each day of oil, natural gas, and other extracted resources to the surface. While these operations are regulated by the country where they’re located, they have the potential to cause international environmental disasters when located near boundary waters or near large currents. The New York Times looked at the international law implications of the ongoing BP Oil Spill and came to one conclusion: the international law governing oil pollution ...

Looking Beyond Deepwater to the Horizon: Government-on-Demand Doesn't Work (Surprise!)

by Alyson Flournoy | June 02, 2010
In following the oil spill disaster, it can be hard to think beyond the control effort du jour to the bigger picture. I was riveted by the latest of BP’s seven failed efforts to stop the flow of oil, hoping it would succeed and that the underwater tornado of oil devastating the Gulf, the coast, and the people whose livelihoods depend on these natural resources, would be contained, at least. And now that the top kill has failed, we’re all ...

Socializing Risk: The New Energy Economics

by Frank Ackerman | May 26, 2010
Cross-posted from Triple Crisis. Despite talk of a moratorium, the Interior Department’s Minerals and Management Service is still granting waivers from environmental review for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, including wells in very deep water. Until last month, most of us never thought about the risk that one of those huge offshore rigs would explode in flames and then sink, causing oil to gush out uncontrollably and befoul the oceans. The odds seemed low, and still do: Aren’t ...

Assessing the Federal Response to the Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe

by Joel Mintz | May 25, 2010
The recent horrific events in the Gulf of Mexico have presented immense challenges to the Obama administration and many of the federal career officials who are responsible for regulating the safety of offshore oil extraction and responding to spills like the one that continues to gush from the remains of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig at great volume. To their credit, a number of presidential appointees and career officials with duties regarding spill countermeasures have been working very hard to ...

What if MMS Had Followed the Law When Considering the Deepwater Horizon Permit?

by Dan Rohlf | May 19, 2010
As millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, the Washington Post and New York Times reported that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) – the agency within the U.S. Department of Interior that oversees offshore oil and gas leasing and development – mostly ignored some of the country’s most important environmental laws when it gave the green light to Deepwater Horizon and other offshore drilling. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to consult with ...

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