Monday, June 14, 2010

The President's Moment, by the NY Times editors, The Inevitable Spill


The President's Moment

Published: June 11, 2010

If ever there was a test of President Obama's vision of government - one
that cannot solve all problems, but does what people cannot do for
themselves - it is this nerve-racking early summer of 2010, with oil spewing
into the Gulf of Mexico and far too many Americans out of work for far too

The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama
to put his vision into action.

The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of
Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are
on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve.

It is well within Mr. Obama's power to keep his administration and
Congressional Democrats focused on what the economy needs: jobs and
stimulus. Voters are anxious about the deficit. But the president needs to
tell them the truth - that without more spending the economy could remain
weak for a very long time.

Unless Mr. Obama says it, no other politician will. Just the other day, the
House passed an unemployment benefits extension from which Democrats, not
Republicans, had stripped vital measures that would have helped lots of
Americans, but did not close a tax loophole for billionaires.

Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like
detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or
stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed
when he told the "Today" show that he had spent important time figuring out
"whose ass to kick" about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)

Any assessment of the 44th president has to start with the fact that he took
office under an extraordinary burden of problems created by President George
W. Bush's ineptness and blind ideology. He has faced a stone wall of
Republican opposition. And Mr. Obama has had real successes. He won a
stimulus bill that helped avert a depression; he got a historic health care
reform through Congress; the bitter memory of Mr. Bush's presidency is
fading around the world.

But a year and a half into this presidency, the contemplative nature that
was so appealing in a candidate can seem indecisive in a president. His
promise of bipartisanship seems naïve. His inclination to hold back, then
ride to the rescue, has sometimes made problems worse.

It certainly should not have taken days for Mr. Obama to get publicly
involved in the oil spill, or even longer for his administration to start
putting the heat on BP for its inadequate response and failure to inform the
public about the size of the spill. (Each day, it seems, brings new
revelations about the scope of the disaster.) It took too long for Mr. Obama
to say that the Coast Guard and not BP was in charge of operations in the
gulf and it's still not clear that is true.

He should not have hesitated to suspend the expanded oil drilling program
and he should have moved a lot faster to begin political and criminal
investigations of the spill. If BP was withholding information, failing to
cooperate or not providing the ships needed to process the oil now flowing
to the surface, he should have told the American people and the world.

These are matters of competence and leadership. This is a time for Mr. Obama
to decisively show both.


Devastating BP Oil Spill was Inevitable as Government Failed to Learn from
Past Tragedies

by Juan Gonzalez
New York Daily News: June 11, 2010

A catastrophic oil spill was waiting to happen.

That's what one expert who has studied government data on the huge and
growing number of Gulf of Mexico spills is saying.

"There have been thousands of spills from 1990 to 2009," said Walter Hang,
head of Toxics Targeting, an Ithaca, N.Y., company that tracks and analyzes
federal hazardous spill reports.

While many were small, the sheer number of incidents is mind-boggling, Hang

They include scores of oil platforms and rigs that were destroyed by
hurricanes, wells that "lost control," deep-sea risers that became detached
or severed, boats that collided into oil platforms and sank.

Spills have increased dramatically under the Bush and Obama administrations.
The federal Minerals and Management Service has recorded some 330
significant spills - those over 2,100 gallons - since 1964. Nearly half
happened in just the past 10 years.

And you can guess which company suffered the most spills since 2000?

That's right, BP.

Federal records show BP reported 23 significant oil spills in that time -
including two within weeks of each other in 2003, on the same Deepwater
Horizon drilling rig that was destroyed in the April 21 catastrophe.

Here a few samples of those BP reports. As you read them, keep in mind that
the oil companies - and they alone - have historically provided the official
estimates of their spills. By now, the whole world knows by now how much we
can trust BP on that front.

a.. Jan. 19, 2000: "The weekly function test was performed from the remote
blowout preventer (BOP) panel in the off-shore installation manager's
office. Instead of testing the blind shear rams, the engineer inadvertently
pushed the LMRP [lower marine riser package].

"The control panel buttons for the LMRP did not have enough security to
prevent activating the wrong function. It was determined that 2,400 barrels
of 60% synthetic-based drilling mud [with approximately 60,000 gallons of
oil]" leaked into the Gulf of Mexico.

b.. May 21, 2003: "The spill occurred at Mississippi Canyon 778 ... The
drilling vessel was in the process of pulling up the [well]hole when it
experienced wave action heaving and jarring.

"The riser parted in two places ... There was a release of 2,450 barrels
of 58% Accolade synthetic-based drilling mud (SBM). It is estimated that
[it] contained approximately 1,421 barrels (59,000 gallons) of Accolade
synthetic base oil."

c.. June 30, 2003: "An emergency riser disconnect occurred when drilling
vessel failed to maintain station against 44 knot winds ... and
12-to-14-foot sea conditions." Approximately "944 barrels of Nova Plus
synthetic base oil" were "released into the sea."

d.. Aug. 3, 2003, on the Deepwater Horizon rig: "While drilling and using
mud boost line to enhance cutting transportation in the riser, the driller
noticed he was losing mud ...

"The mud pumps were shut down and it was confirmed that the losses came
from a leak in the boost line. At one point, the boost hose had ruptured and
there were several other locations along the hose that were badly worn. The
total losses were calculated to be 143 barrels ..."
In addition to human errors, frequent hurricanes in the gulf are a big
problem the industry prefers not to talk about.

"Given the egregious record of off-shore oil problems, the Deepwater Horizon
catastrophe was obviously forseeable and should have been prevented," Hang

As the number of spills mounted, no one paid attention. Now the big one is
here, and nothing can hide that gushing hole at the bottom of the sea.

© 2010 The New York Daily News

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