Thursday, May 13, 2010

“Bush administration allowed safety precautions to be circumvented”

The Observers de France 24

BP oil spill: “Bush administration allowed safety precautions to be circumvented"

While US senators grill BP over the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it has emerged that it was the US government itself - under George W. Bush - which allowed oil companies to leave out a safety device which would have prevented the explosion on 20 April. An American environmentalist tells us: "Our politicians are beholden to the oil companies".
Almost a month after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers, operator British Petroleum (BP) has yet to find a way to stop oil escaping from the rig, which sunk to the sea floor two days after the incident. The US Coast Guard originally estimated that 1,000 barrels of crude oil were leaking per day, but that number was increased to 5,000 barrels per day on 28 April.
On 5 May the US government put in place a fishing ban in the area, and a day later, oil reached the shores of the Chandeleur islands, 100 kilometres off the Louisiana coast. BP has made several attempts to block the ruptured well; its latest plan comes into force on Thursday, when it will try to seal the rupture with a new, smaller "top hat" containment dome.
The company has sprayed over 1.5 million litres (400,000 gallons) of dispersant onto the slick in the hope of it breaking down the oil components. But environmentalists and fishermen say that the solvent will do further harm to sea life.
Meanwhile executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton - the three companies involved with the rig - face US senators at congressional hearings in Washington, where it was revealed on Tuesday that BP knew that there was a problem with the faulty well after doing pressure tests just hours before the explosion.

“Most of our politicians take money from the oil companies and therefore are beholden to them”

John Wathen, an environmentalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, flew over the oil spill on 7 May to film the scene. He posted his findings, in this video, on his blog: Gulf Oil Slick.

There's enough oil in the sea to coat the coast from Florida to Texas. In terms of area of impact, this spill has far exceeded previous spills, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. There simply aren't enough booms in the world to stop this amount of oil.
They say that 5,000 barrels a day are seeping out, but they have no way of proving it. To put a fixed number on the amount of oil that's escaping is making it up. The people at BP, the Coast Guard and all those releasing information are wilfully participating in a campaign of misinformation.
As for the dispersant, I think it's a serious mistake. For one, the product [Corexit, which contains the solvent 2-butoxyethanol] is a danger to sea life. Secondly, although the dispersant might break up the oil, the components then sink to the bottom of the ocean. That's where sea life begins!
Traceable to George Bush and Dick Cheney?
This has happened because most of our politicians take money from the oil companies and therefore are beholden to the oil companies. The US is one the most technologically advanced countries in the world. But we do not secure our oil rigs with acoustic switches - an automatic shut-off device attached to the blowout preventer that stops oil escaping in the case of an explosion. Operators in places like the Persian Gulf and Norway have them [in Norway and Brazil they are a legal requirement], but not in the US.
That's because the Bush and Cheney administration allowed safety precautions to be circumvented. [The US discussed making acoustic switches a legal requirement several years ago, but it was decided by the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which is closely tied to the oil industry, that the devices, which cost 500,000 dollars (400,000 euros) each, were an unnecessary cost].
Potential catastrophe
This is not just an American disaster, it's an international disaster. If - or rather, when - the spill gets into the Gulf Stream, it will be transferred to the Atlantic. That means it's going to hit the Everglades National Park in Florida, Jamaica, the Bahama Islands, Cuba...
Another potential hazard is that if the light sheen on the edge of the slick is evaporated then the oil will be rained down on the south coast.
Even worse: a hurricane - and we are entering hurricane season here - would blow the oil ashore. The debris line from a serious hurricane like Katrina is 30-40 yards wide and 30 feet high. In the event that we coat that debris with crude oil and it catches fire, we would have a coastline of burning debris.
The quality and safety of life in the Gulf Coast was compromised for BP profit. And I believe that that quality of life, for both the people and sea life, will not return to normal in our lifetimes."
John Wathen's picture
  • United States
  • Environmentalist


1 comment:

  1. Dear John,
    This afternoon I saw your video of your trip around a portion of the area covered by the oil spill. It was the video with the pods of dolphins, many of whom were dying or were dead. Then there was the Sperm Whale which was coated with oil. I guess that in the case of the whale it would be fair to assume that it will die as he was coming up for air in the middle of a massive mess of oil.
    I thought I had seen it all as far as this mess BP has created. But thanks to you I was shown more of what the oil company would rather we did not see. It was heart breaking. Thanks John and keep on showing us whats really going on out in the Gulf.


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