Potpourri: the oil spill edition

1. Gulf Oil Spill: Who’s in Charge? per The Washington Post

On his blog, Joel Achenbach delves into the question of who’s in charge of plugging the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP or the government? His answer is that the entire operation is really complicated, with the government responding to the initial emergency, BP having the equipment needed to access the sunken rig, and the two trying to collaberate because it’s now the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history:

Federal authorities have been on scene from the very beginning — since the first hours of this disaster when it began as a search and rescue mission. Second, the National Incident Commander, Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, and the Federal On Scene Coordinator, Rear Adm. Mary Landry, are directing efforts and are accountable for this response. Third, at the Unified Area Command, we are working to ensure that BP, the responsible party, is meeting its obligations, pursuing all possible contingencies, and bringing the right resources to respond to this spill.

Achenbach’s response:

I think I understand. BP is the ballerina and the U.S. government is the Stage Mother.

It’s a mess. Read the updates, and you’ll see that no one really can give a definitive answer. I think they’re more focused on plugging the leak, which is fine with me. They are currently showing some progress.

2. Risk and Climate Change, per The Washington Post

Ezra Klein points out that ignoring the risks until something catastrophic happens is not good policy — and it shows how problematic our dependence on oil is:

The last few years have also been an ongoing seminar in the many ways that we ignore risks that we don’t like to think about, and the role that our evasions play in making the eventual catastrophes worse than they needed to be.

He hits the nail on the head when he says we ignore things we don’t want to think about, because why bother with worst-case scenarios or the fact that technological failure — or more likely human error — can lead to death. Eleven people died because of this explosion, 29 in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, and these could have been preventable had companies not pushed the envelope and risked safety in favor of profits.

3. MMS was troubled long before oil spill, per CNN

Big scandals have a domino effect, and this oil spill is no different — it is bringing to light how the Minerals Management Service, which is supposed to oversee offshore oil drilling, has accepted gifts from companies they are supposed to be monitoring and let the oil companies decide how they’d score on inspections:

In one case, an inspector in the MMS office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, 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.

The report also alleged employees at the same office received tickets to 2005 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl football game from an offshore production company.

There are also some sex and drug abuse scandals going on, but isn’t it great to know that government regulators are taking their job so seriously? Perhaps it’s not just that these companies have no concern for the safety of their employees or the planet, but that some MMS employees who are supposed to double-check this also don’t make it a priority. I mean, are free tickets to a baseball game worth this oil spill and the lives it took?

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