As Gov. Charlie Crist called today for a special session of the Florida Legislature to permanently ban oil drilling off Florida waters and members of the GOP claimed it was little more than political pandering, I watched as the Senate Environment Committee hearings on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill got underway in Washington.
Officials from BP, Transocean, and Haliburton were all there amid reports earlier in the week stating that they would merely point fingers at one another in an attempt to skirt blame for the explosion, deaths and the spill. They didn’t disappoint. Fingers were pointed. And pointed. And pointed….
When questioning got a little uncomfortable for them, proponents from the “drill, baby, drill” crowd were there to soften the blows. Among them? Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to name just a few, who all expressed the need to keep drilling, baby!
Murkowski said “we can’t look at this sad chapter and conclude we should increase the billions of dollars to foreign governments that run greater risk and use our money against us.” While stressing to the oil executives that finger pointing wouldn’t do any good, she said to them: “We’re all in this together.” Speak for yourself, Sen. Murkowski.
Barrasso added a little twist to his statement, questioning if “terrorists would have been able to sabotage the rig?” (Answer: “that would be very difficult,” or: “Ha ha, ha….uh no.”)
Mary Landrieu, whose own state is currently absorbing the brunt of the oil, perhaps finishing off what’s left after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, was all but begging that oil drilling continue. She stated that most of the victims were also from Louisiana. After expressing sympathy for those victims and their families, Landrieu made one of the odder statements of the day, asking those listening to think “of how much oil we’re losing while the spill continues.” She said this with a look of absolute desperation on her face; all but pleading. Maybe she was more worried that future contributions were drying up before her very eyes and faster than any oil spill ever could.
Speaking for Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson stated that the spill was one of his greatest nightmares coming true if the oil isn’t stopped. He spoke of the concern that if the oil strays into the loop current, it would send the oil down the west coast of Florida, and into the Keys where coral reefs would be destroyed, eventually taking it into the Atlantic and beyond. In his discussion of the economic and environmental devastation, he went further and called for no exploratory drilling and no new drilling. “My question is ‘Is it worth the tradeoff to our economy in Florida…for 10 percent of the undiscovered oil in the Gulf of Mexico?”
National Security is also a factor according to Nelson, due to the effects new drilling would have on military training in the eastern Gulf.
Finally, Nelson pointed out problems with the Minerals Management Service that need to be addressed. Of the agency that oversees the oil industry, Nelson said it needs to be cleaned up and that the agency has a “sorry record of incestous relationships” with the oil industry, citing “sex parties” and “pot parties” that occurred when they were supposed to be regulating. Finally, along with reforming the MMS, he said their liability cap, now limited to $75 million, should be raised upwards of $10 billion.
Republican Sen. (and placeholder for a future (?) Sen. Charlie Crist) George LeMieux also spoke. LeMieux, who some say is contemplating the “drill here, drill now” club, gave the oil companies credit for trying, but “Unfortunately, your efforts to stop the wellhead leak have not been successful.” While BP has given the affected Gulf coast states each $25 million, LeMieux says that amount is insufficient.“Accordingly, greater and more substantial action is required. BP must inject significant and appropriate upfront capital to the Gulf States so that they can properly prepare for this looming disaster.”
And now, because the suspense is probably killing you, let’s get back to the finger pointing, shall we? WHOSE FAULT WAS IT? Well, funny story….
While the “prepared” statements from each company were written with much attention to detail, and were read distinctly and by seemingly articulate people, the actual question and answer sessions were quite the little train wreck. Had this been a court of law the oil companies might well have been toast by now. If I may translate, there were a lot of “I don’t knows” and “well, um’s” and “eh…..uh…we…uh..” and lots of uncomfortable silence. In other words, these men are clueless and have no idea what they are doing. But then you probably figured that out already when you heard of their latest feat of engineering in which they will try to plug the leak with old tires and garbage.
BP: “The problem could have been the cementing.”
Transocean: “The failure was with the casing and cement.”
Haliburton: “Don’t rush to judgment.”
There was however, one question that got a a very clear answer:
Q. “How much will BP pay?
A: “All legitimate claims.”