Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

MMS continues to issue shallow-water drilling permits

Posted in Barack Obama, offshore drilling, regulation, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 3, 2010

OMFG Photo: AP

The MMS granted a drilling permit yesterday to Bandon Oil and Gas that will allow the company to drill 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in a water depth of 115 feet. Reports of MMS banning drilling for six months apply only to depths greater than 500 feet. Nonetheless, the fact that MMS is still issuing any permits has angered some people.

“I’m outraged,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Tucson, Ariz.,-based Center for Biological Diversity, after a reporter told him of the new permit. “How is it that shallow water drilling suddenly became safe again?”


Suckling said the administration was misleading the public by quietly resuming work in shallow waters while acting as if it was taking a tough look at deepwater work.

Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff assures everyone that anyone drilling in shallow-water operations will have to meet certain specified standards.

“All operators who are drilling or intend to drill in shallow water must first meet applicable interim safety standards announced last week by the president,” Barkoff said. “Those operators who are already drilling must stop at a safe place and implement the safety requirements before continuing.”

It’s difficult to take any assurances coming from ID or MMS seriously, since the startling mismanagement and deregulation trends began under their watch. It’s a bit like if a surgeon severs a patient’s pulmonary vein, and as blood shoots up like a mini-geyser, asks the entire OR to “just trust” them.

It’s easier to trust people who haven’t massively fucked up everything.

Even though BP is the most heavily fined energy company in the United States, the MMS allowed the oil company to run circles around its employees. A recent IG report revealed the MMS adopted a “lax culture of complacency and arrogance,” which included executives accepting gifts, money, sports tickets, drugs, vacations, and jobs from numerous oil corporations – not just BP.

In one case, a MMS inspector conducted inspections of four offshore platforms while negotiating a job with the company, the report said.  Others let oil and gas company workers fill out their inspection forms in pencil, with the inspectors writing over those entries in ink before turning them in.  Also, a confidential source informed investigators that a MMS inspector abused drugs, including crystal meth.

I’m sure meth-addicted, corrupt liars are good for a lot of things, but advising the country on the safety standards of offshore drilling probably isn’t one of them.

Let’s say all the “bad guys” got caught, and now the MMS is operating in the real world, and knows for a fact that this shallow-water drilling is safe (even though we heard lots about very “safe” offshore deep sea drilling, too). Even if that’s true, this just looks really bad.

I’m not sure people know the difference between deep and shallow drilling, and right now, permitting any drilling looks like a callous dismissal by the administration of the 11 workers who were killed in the Deepwater blast, the ruined lives of coastal citizens and fishermen, and the catastrophic toll on the environment.

It’s bad enough BP CEO Tony Hayward is — for some reason — allowed to talk to anyone, and had the stone gonads to bitch about how this icky business is interrupting his Zeppelin race around the world (or whatever rich asshole do in a typical week,) and that he just “wants his life back.” BP looks really, really bad in all of this for reasons I’ve been documenting for the past few weeks.

But the administration is a close runner up in the “Evil Douche Bags” race. Everything BP got away with happened under the supervision of the federal government. And yes, before I receive your lovely cap-locked emails, I know a lot of this happened under Bush’s watch. But now Bush and Co. are gone, and the permits keep rolling down. There’s no need for the attempts by the Obama administration to outswagger Tony. BP’s reputation is only slightly less of a train wreck than the environmental disaster left in its wake.

All parties must adopt a minute pinch of humility. The problem with Obama asking the media to heap all of the blame on his shoulders  — (IMHO, a mistake. He should be sharing the blame with BP) — is that now he owns everything that follows Deepwater, including these new drilling permits. It will be up to Obama to convince the American people shallow-water drilling is safe, and necessary, an argument that has already been challenged at numerous fronts.

The U.S. uses 23 percent of total world oil consumption, but has only 3 percent the world’s oil reserves within its borders. Drilling off every coast in the U.S. won’t resolve that issue. Even the most productive portion of the new area opened to drilling in the March announcement, a 24 million acre area of the eastern gulf, is expected to yield only 3.5 billion recoverable barrels of oil. The U.S. consumes 19.5 million barrels of oil per day, which means that these wells would only produce about 180 days worth of oil – hardly worth the catastrophic situation we face in the gulf today.

I don’t see how shallow drilling will yield more oil than deep drilling (though I could be wrong, and please correct me if oil pocket placement is counterintuitive in this way). So this means the administration has committed itself to shallow drilling using a depth loophole in the ban  — for purposes of extracting an almost negligible sum of oil (when compared to the U.S’s foreign oil addiction) — in what will almost certainly result in a PR nightmare.

Obama better hope Tony keeps flapping his gums just so he looks less dumb standing next to the arrogant twat.

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