Oil Spill Disaster — Update on June 22

In the interest of giving all sides of the issue some air time, see Heritage Foundation report titled Stopping the Slick, Saving the Environment: A Framework for Response, Recovery and Resiliency; June 15.  Some good points in here.  But I see only an indirect reference to the possible use of a Presidential Disaster Declaration under the Stafford Act, and no listing of the Ixtoc Oil Spill in their list list of the 10 worst spills to date.

From the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Group, formed in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, suggestions re useful resources for researchers and community groups. This is a useful, practical source of information.

One more call for Presidential action, in the style of Post 9//11:
Clean the Gulf, Clean House, Clean Their Clock, NYT 9/20, by Frank Rich

In this 9/11, it’s not just the future of the gulf coast, energy policy or his presidency that’s in jeopardy. What’s also being tarred daily by the gushing oil is the very notion that government can accomplish anything. The current crisis in that faith predates this disaster.

Rich also cites “…a scathing account of Obama’s own Interior Department by Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone.” See The Spill, the Scandal, and the President (June 24, 2010). This is a detailed account of problems at MMS and Interior under both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

Oil Spill Update – June 18

Latest news this am:

Obama’s spill recovery chief will be part-time.  Yesterday, I noted his lack of experience with long-term recovery from disaster and today we learn he will keep his existing, demanding job. This appointment does not make good sense, in my opinion.

President Barack Obama’s point man charting a new future for the oil-poisoned Gulf Coast  will do the job part-time. Some environmentalists said the job demands someone’s full attention.

His job is no less than rebuilding a region that was still suffering from Hurricane Katrina and beset by decades of environmental problems even before the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Why Living Wills Fail. NYT June 17.  In my view, this articles points out one more reason not to use template plans for emergency response.

At the Tuesday hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment,  the committee posted  the Gulf of Mexico spill-response plans of five companies (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Shell) “… that demonstrated striking, peculiar and disconcerting similarities.

… it turns out that all the plans were written by the same subcontractor. All contain some goofy details — including how to protect walruses, sea lions and seals, which don’t actually live in the Gulf. More worrying, given the apparent and complete failure of the BP response at Deepwater Horizon, it appears that none of the major oil companies are more (or less) prepared for such events. [The firm was identified as The Response Group.]

President Obama is now experiencing a form of backlash against years of regulatory capture — and against the pathetic nature of “living wills” for failed deepwater oil wells. If he is able to draw any more general lessons — and this remains far from clear — the president would be well advised to reflect on other activities that are simply so dangerous that our obvious and repeated regulatory weaknesses mean we would be better off simply prohibiting those activities (e.g., some kinds of drilling, or having big banks).

BP oil spill: MMS shortcomings include ‘dearth of regulations’. According to the Christian Science Monitor, June 17,  a new report got to the core of problems at the Minerals Management Agency.

The federal agency charged with overseeing the offshore oil and gas industry was ill-prepared to do its job because of a severe shortage of inspectors, a “dearth of regulations,” and a “completely backwards” approach to investigating spills and accidents.
Mary Kendall, acting inspector general for the Interior Department, shown in this May 26 photo, testifying about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Oil Spill – June 17- new people and systems for consequence mgmt.

Yesterday, I noted the two new personnel changes (see below) that were announced by the President in his major address to the nation. Although both are experienced leaders/managers,  they do not have experience with oil spill disaster recovery.  I think that  Mr. Mabus will have to create procedures and systems for the consequences of the oil spill, since the oil spill event is being managed under the National Contingency Plan. In my opinion there is no specific guidance under the NCP  nor is there a precedent for dealing with the aftermath of such a large spill.  The pertinent section of the NCP is titled: Criteria for State, Local and Regional Oil Removal Contingency Plans Overview. I would like to hear from readers on this topic.

Obama chooses Navy secretary to lead Gulf recovery; CNN June 16.

Mabus was selected by President Obama on Tuesday to help draw up the government’s plan for recovery efforts in conjunction with officials in the Gulf Coast states.

President Obama taps Michael Bromwich as watchdog for offshore oil drilling, Wash Post 6/16

The man appointed Tuesday by President Obama to oversee offshore oil drilling has no experience with oil and gas issues, but he has a reputation for cleaning up embattled organizations.

Bromwich’s assignment… “is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog — not its partner.”