Experts Warn: US ‘on Course to Repeat’ BP Gulf Disaster

“The risk of another blowout is real,” write former MMS head Elizabether Birnbaum, Oceana’s Jacqueline Savitz

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig ablaze on April 21, 2010. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. is “on a course to repeat our mistakes” and face another oil disaster like BP’s Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, two experts warn.

The chilling cautionary words are given by former offshore drilling regulator Elizabeth Birnbaum and Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. Oceans at conservation organizationOceana, in op-ed published in the New York Times days ahead of the fourth anniversary of the epic oil catastrophe.

Birnbaum was head of Minerals Management Service at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but in a move seen by some as “scapegoat firing” was ousted from the position weeks after the well began to spew oil into the Gulf. She is now a consultant at SEB Strategies.

Birnbaum and Savitz write that the Obama administration has yet to act on recommendations which could make offshore drilling safer.

“We would never have imagined so little action would be taken to prevent something like this from happening again. But, four years later, the Obama administration still has not taken key steps recommended by its experts and experts it commissioned to increase drilling safety. As a result, we are on a course to repeat our mistakes,” they write.

One the remaining threats Birnbaum and Savitz highlight has to do with blowout preventers, a point outlined in a “detailed and damning” December 2011 report of the National Academy of Engineering. The report found fault with the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer, and indicated that that same equipment “may be present” at other drilling operations. Yet new standards for blowout preventers have yet to be enforced, deepwater drilling continues, and new drilling leases in the Gulf are issued each year.

“The risk of another blowout is real,” they write.

Rather than scale back drilling, oceans face another assault with the administration’s proposal to allow the use of seismic air guns for oil exploration along the Atlantic coast, which Oceana has warned could amount to “death sentence” for marine mammals.

“We have seen this pattern before. The expansion of drilling into deeper water and farther from shore was not coupled with advances in spill prevention and response,” Birnbaum and Savitz write in their op-ed.

This captures the ‘risk addiction’ award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein described in her TED talk delivered months after the Macondo well blowout. Klein said that “even more striking than the ferocious power emanating from that well was the recklessness with which that power was unleashed — the carelessness, the lack of planning that characterized the operation from drilling to clean-up.”

“If there is one thing BP’s watery improv act made clear, it is that, as a culture, we have become far too willing to gamble with things that are precious and irreplaceable, and to do so without a back-up plan, without an exit strategy,” Klein continued.

That reckless gamble is all too real for the wildlife in the Gulf still suffering and community members still awaiting compensation for the catastrophe that is far from over.

“The request by coastal residents four years later is the same as in 2010,” stated Colette Pichon Battle, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy. “Clean up the oil. Pay for the damage. And, ensure that this never happens again.”

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Did You Hear About that Big Oil Spill That Just Happened? No, Not That One, No, Not That One Either!

7 Deadly Amendments That Would’ve Protected Dirty Energy And Trashed The Climate

— by Ryan Koronowski, Tiffany Germain, Guest Blogger, Dan Weiss, Guest Blogger and Jessica Goad

Over the weekend, Senate Democrats passed a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2014. In order to do so, Senate rules allow for consideration of any amendment that is brought to the floor. Senators introduced hundreds of amendments, which resulted in a “vote-o-rama.”

Many conservatives offered amendments to undermine existing and potential public health safeguards, particularly those that would attempt to reduce climate pollution. Below are seven deadly amendments to curtail protection for our children’s health and heritage. As usual, these conservatives are focused on protecting dirty energy companies profits at the expense of public health.

  • Blunt #261: This amendment would have blocked future legislation to impose a carbon tax or fee to reduce industrial carbon pollution and raise revenue. Specifically, the amendment would create a “point-of-order” against any carbon tax measure that could only be overcome with a three-fifths vote of legislators. While it would have been a mostly symbolic move, the fossil fuel industry’s friends in the Senate are reiterating their opposition to government action on climate pollution. However, the impacts of climate change have already been felt across the country — in 2011 and 2012, the United States suffered from 25 climate related storms, floods, heat waves, drought, and wildfires that each caused at least $1 billion in damages, with a total price tag of $188 billion. The Blunt amendment would allow these damages and costs to grow unchecked. Result: FAILED 53-46
  • Coats #514: This amendment would have struck down key Clean Air Act protections by authorizing the President to exempt any industrial facility from complying with air toxics standards for two-year periods. Essentially, the amendment would have given a free pass to coal-burning power plants from EPA’s 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which were put in place due to the well-documented health risks of mercuryarsenic, and the millions of pounds of additional hazardous chemicals. Methylmercury from coal pollution accumulates in fish, poisoning pregnant women and small children. Mercury can harm children’s developing brains, including effects on memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills. Upgrades to the aged and dirty coal plants will also significantly reduce harmful particle pollution, preventing hundreds of thousands of illnesses and up to 17,000 premature deaths each year. “The ‘monetized’ value of these and certain other health benefits would amount to $37–90 billion per year,” the Environmental Protection Agency determined. Republicans are once again trying to protect the dirty energy industry over our children’s health. Result: FAILED 46-53
  • Alexander #516: This would “repeal … the wind production tax credit.” The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity to encourage investment in clean wind energy. A CAP analysis determined that “wind power helps lower electricity prices.” Along with state renewable portfolio or electricity standards, the PTC has enabled “the wind industry … to lower the cost of wind power by more than 90% [and] provide power to the equivalent of over 12 million American homes.” A Navigant Consulting analysis predicted that eliminating the PTC would cost 37,000 jobs. Some argue that we should end tax provisions for clean technologies, including wind. However, this ignores the fact that the oil and gas industries have received $80 in support for every $1 for wind and other renewable energy sources over the past 95 years. In addition, the Alexander amendment would ignore the annual $4 billion in special tax breaks for big oil companies. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Inhofe #359: This amendment would “[prohibit] further greenhouse gas regulations for the purpose of addressing climate change.” This would have prevented the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court, which ruled that EPA is required to regulate carbon and other climate change pollutants that endanger public health and welfare. EPA proposed the first carbon pollution standard for new power plants in 2012. After it is finalized, EPA must set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — responsible for two-fifths of U.S. carbon pollution. Such reductions are essential to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Result: FAILED 47-52
  • Cruz #470: This radical amendment would have limited the amount of land owned by the federal government in each state. It is yet another attempt by Republicans to give federal public lands over to states or private companies so as to better exploit them, and is in line with recent efforts of House Republicans to sell off “millions of acres” of public lands to private companies. Despite what this amendment implies, public lands provide tremendous economic benefits to local communities. For example, recreation and other uses of the 500 million acres of public lands managed by the Interior Department contributed two million jobs and $385 billion in economic activity in 2011. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Vitter #544: This amendment would have dismantled the president’s authority to protect America’s historical and natural treasures under the Antiquities Act. Since it was passed in 1906, 16 out of 19 presidents have used the act to protect places like the Statue of Liberty, Muir Woods, the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Acadia. Just this week it was reported that President Obama would create five new national monuments including Delaware’s first-ever national park. The Vitter amendment would have kept the president from answering local communities’ calls to protect such places for future generations. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Murkowski #370: This amendment states that it would “increase oil and natural gas production on Federal lands and waters,” despite the fact that oil production is at its highest level in 20 years. Additionally, the Congressional Research Service noted that over the last four years oil production from federally-owned areas was higher than in 2008, despite the fact that companies are choosing to “follow the oil” to shale plays on non-federal lands. Murkowski’s amendment isn’t the only one that would have sought to fulfill the wish list of the oil and gas industry — Sessions #204 would have opened the economically and environmentally vibrant coasts of Virginia and North Carolina to dangerous oil and gas exploration. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.

On Monday March 18, the GOP released its “Growth and Opportunity Project” or “autopsy” report that tried to determine why Republicans lost in 2012, and how to prevent future defeats. While the report did not mention climate or energy — or deal with much policy — it did talk demographics and messaging. The report urged that the Republican Party should change its tone, “… especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters.” They need to “promote forward-looking, positive policy proposals that unite young voters,” and “be conscious of developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women.” And finally, they stress the importance of “addressing the concerns of minority communities.”

In their effort to do the bidding of big oil and other major polluters, the authors of these seven deadly amendments blithely ignore the findings and recommendations of this autopsy. The groups most harmed by and concerned about climate change are most supportive of addressing the problem: young people, women, and minority groups.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center forAmerican Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

PBO Needs to Put His Appointment Where His Mouth Is

Tell President Obama: Don’t appoint fracking proponent Dr. Ernest Moniz to lead the Department of Energy

President Obama keeps saying we need to confront climate change. Yet it’s rumored he’s considering nominating Dr. Ernest Moniz to lead DOE.  "As a proponent of fracking, Dr. Ernest Moniz is the wrong choice for to lead the Department of Energy. Appoint an energy secretary who will move us away from toxic, climate-heating fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy." 

So why is he considering appointing a major proponent of fracking to lead the Department of Energy?

According to Reuters, President Obama is seriously considering appointing Dr. Ernest Moniz – the director of MIT’s Big Oil-sponsored Energy Institute and a big believer in expanding toxic, climate-heating gas fracking.1

At a time when the last thing we should be doing is undermining our progress against climate change, Moniz is the wrong choice to head one of the most important agencies in the fight for a sustainable energy future.

Tell President Obama: Stop promoting fracking, and don’t appoint Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy!

Moniz’s Energy Institute at MIT is sponsored by the likes of BP, Chevron and Saudi Aramco. So it is no surprise that the gas industry and pro-fracking groups welcomed the rumor of Moniz’s appointment to head DOE.2

Moniz is a strong backer of the deeply flawed notion that we should expand our fracking infrastructure and development to serve as a "bridge" to low-carbon sources of energy.

But fracking isn’t a bridge to a better future; it’s an expressway to climate change and toxic pollution. Expanding fracking will worsen its toxic air pollution and increase its huge volumes of toxic wastewater, will increase incidents of groundwater contamination, and will unleash an absolutely catastrophic amount of greenhouse gas3 — not just through burning gas, but through the tremendous leakage from fracking wells of methane, a greenhouse gas that has 20 times the heat-trapping power of C02 over 100 years, making fracked gas as bad for the climate than burning coal.

What’s more, heavy reliance on burning gas slows the implementation of the sustainable carbon-free sources of energy that will put a dent in our climate emissions.

Tell President Obama: Stop promoting fracking, and don’t appoint Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy!

Climate change won’t be solved by tradeoffs, compromises, or moderate-sounding catch phrases like "all of the above." President Obama cannot make a serious attempt at confronting climate change as long as he is pushing policies to "encourage" fracking and appointing administration officials who will undermine the progress he could be making.

This week, we delivered to the White House our open letter co-signed by over 240,000 people, calling on President Obama to lead on climate change and abandon his "all of the above" energy policy. But he still doubled down in his State of the Union address. By publicly protesting one of his rumored top picks for Energy secretary, we know that he’ll hear the message.

Tell President Obama: Stop promoting fracking, and don’t appoint Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy!

1. "EXCLUSIVE-Obama considering MIT physicist Moniz for energy secretary -sources," Reuters, February 6, 2013
2. "Will Ernest Moniz be the next Energy secretary?," Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 2013
3. "Bridge To Nowhere? NOAA Confirms High Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, Gutting Climate Benefit," Think Progress, January 2, 2013

Under the Reading Lamp — April 12, 2012

CAMPAIGN ISSUES:
The Choice in 2012: Social Darwinism or a Decent Society
imageRobert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog: “[Obama] kicked off his 2012 campaign against Mitt Romney with a hard-hitting speech centered on the House Republicans’ budget plan – which Romney has enthusiastically endorsed. That plan, by the way, is the most radical reverse-Robin Hood proposal propounded by any political party in modern America. It would save millionaires at least $150,000 a year in taxes while gutting Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, transportation, child nutrition, college aid, and almost everything else average and lower-income Americans depend on.”
Five Preposterous, Persistent Conservative Myths
by Paul Buchheit, Common Dreams: With the mainstream media in the hands of the mostly conservative wealthy, it’s difficult for average Americans to learn the truth about critical issues. The following five conservative claims are examples of mythical beliefs that fall apart in the presence of inconvenient facts.
CIVIL RIGHTS:
Labor Organizing as a Civil Right
Richard D. Kahlenberg, Moshe Z. Marvit, Dissent Magazine: “It is time for supporters of labor to try an approach to reforming labor laws … and instead focus on the fact that labor organizing should be written into our civil rights laws. The result of an amendment to the Civil Rights Act would be significant: just as it is now illegal to fire or discipline someone for race or gender or national origin or religion, it would be illegal under the Civil Rights Act to fire or discipline someone for trying to organize or join a union.”
CULTURE WAR:
Pregnancy, Sexual Congress and the (In)Visibility of Men
Ellen Dannin, Truthout: “When it comes to being an expert on birth control and women’s sexuality, men are apparently the experts, the go-to guys. Men are twice as likely as women to be pundits on birth control on cable news, and men were the sole panelists when birth control was discussed in Congress. However, except for commenting on women’s sexuality, and testifying, legislating, and deciding who can or cannot have birth control and who can or cannot terminate a pregnancy, men are invisible.”
ECONOMIC ISSUES:
Unmasking the GOP’s Faith-Based Economics
Faith based economicsJohn Kane, Truthout: “From Ron Paul to Mitt Romney, politicians consistently employ their own framing of why the economy is performing poorly, and thus, promote a consistent remedy for how to improve it. Government doesn’t need to do more, they contend, it needs to do less – less regulating, less spending, less taxing. They believe in these solutions, I argue, not necessarily because of some secret allegiance to the rich, but because of their longstanding blind faith in the ability of the so-called ‘free market’ to correct economic problems on its own.”
Whose Recovery? Many Americans Remain in Critical Condition
by Robert Reich, Common Dreams: The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy grew at a 3 percent annual rate last quarter (far better than the measly 1.8 percent third quarter growth). Personal income also jumped. Americans raked in over $13 trillion, $3.3 billion more than previously thought. Yet it’s almost a certainly that all the gains went to the top 10 percent, and the lion’s share to the top 1 percent. Over a third of the gains went to 15,600 super-rich households in the top one-tenth of one percent.
The Best Congress the Banks’ Money Can Buy
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Common Dreams: Here we go again. Another round of the game we call Congressional Creep. After months of haggling and debate, Congress finally passes reform legislation to fix a serious rupture in the body politic, and the President signs it into law. But the fight’s just begun, because the special interests immediately set out to win back what they lost when the reform became law.
EDUCATION ISSUES:
The Assault on Public Education
Noam Chomsky, Truthout: “Public education is under attack around the world, and in response, student protests have recently been held in Britain, Canada, Chile, Taiwan and elsewhere…. ‘In most states,’ The New York Times reports, ‘it is now tuition payments, not state appropriations, that cover most of the budget,’ so that ‘the era of affordable four-year public universities, heavily subsidized by the state, may be over.’ Community colleges increasingly face similar prospects – and the shortfalls extend to grades K-12.”
ENERGY ISSUES:
USGS Report implicates oil and natural gas drilling, aka fracking
Is your home insured for earthquake damage? It’s a special rider you need to purchase to cover such damage, and it they’re fracking anywhere near your home, well you might need to purchase such a rider. A US Geological Survey research team has linked oil and natural gas drilling operations to a series of recent earthquakes from Alabama to the Northern Rockies. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research team has linked oil and natural gas drilling operations to a series of recent earthquakes from Alabama to the Northern Rockies. (Image: EcoWatch.org). According to the study led by USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth, the spike in earthquakes since 2001 near oil and gas extraction operations is “almost certainly man-made.” The research team cites underground injection of drilling wastewater as a possible cause.
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:
Autism and Disappearing Bees: A Common Denominator?
by Brian Moench, Common Dreams: A few days ago the Salt Lake Tribune’s front page headline declared, “Highest rate in the nation, 1 in 32 Utah boys has autism.” This is a national public health emergency, whose epicenter is Utah, Gov. Herbert. A more obscure story on the same day read: “New pesticides linked to bee population collapse.” If you eat food, and hope to do so in the future, this is another national emergency, Pres. Obama. A common denominator may underlie both headlines.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS:
Report: Worldwide Opposition to Monsanto

“Farmers worldwide are resisting for food sovereignty, but the rest of the world must join us.”

A report released today shows that worldwide opposition to the biotechnology giant Monsanto and “the agro-industrial model that it represents” is growing. “This new report documents the intense opposition to this powerful transnational company, which peddles its genetically modified products seemingly without regard for the associated social, economic and environmental costs,” said Martin Drago, Friends of the Earth International’s Food Sovereignty programme coordinator.

HEALTH CARE ISSUES:
SCOTUS Invalidates Breast Cancer Gene Patents
SCOTUS Invalidates Breast Cancer Gene PatentsThe Supreme Court set aside a lower court ruling that allowed a company to patent two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer and limit access to potentially life-saving genetic tests for at risk-women, giving women a rare victory over corporate interests and continuing a promising line of decisions that refuses to corporatize human genetics.
A Very Sick Country by David Michael Green, Common Dreams:
It looks now like the regressive majority on the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, his health care bill. That is so fitting. More than that, it is also a reminder of just how sick this country truly is. Imagine that the lab returned the results from your battery of blood work tests, and all the indicators were screaming out “Danger!” and “Broken!”. That’s us, baby. Get this patient to the ER!
JUDICIARY
Partisan Rulings on Strip Searches and Citizens United Could Put Supreme Court on Trial in 2012 (Video)
Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show: “Rachel Maddow reviews the details of a controversial 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on strip searches.”
Watch the Video
NATIONAL SECURITY:
The Real Costs of War
Bill Moyers, Moyers & Co.: “Most discussion about the ‘costs of war’ focuses on two numbers: dollars spent and American troops who gave their lives. A decade into the war on terror, those official costs are over a trillion dollars and more than 6,000 dead. But as overwhelming as those numbers are, they don’t tell the full story. In one of the most comprehensive studies available, researchers in the Eisenhower Study Group at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies looked at the human, economic, social and political costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as our military actions in Pakistan.”
TAXES:
U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Much Lower Than Most Other Developed Nations
imagePat Garofalo, ThinkProgress: “Republicans have been kvetching about the fact that, as of Sunday, the U.S. will have the highest statutory corporate tax rate in the world following a scheduled cut in Japan’s corporate tax. ‘The United States is a world leader in countless ways. ‘World’s Highest Taxes’ is a title we should give up as soon as possible,’ wrote Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) in a Fox News op-ed…. The U.S. both taxes its corporations less and raises less in revenue from corporate taxes than its foreign competitors.”
WILDLIFE
Stripped of Protection, Wolves Face ‘Second Extermination’ in US
Wildlife advocates are outraged by photos that show a captured wolf being tortured by a Forest Service employee in Idaho. The Center for Biological Diversity sent letters to both the Forest Service and Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, today requesting investigations into the actions of Josh Bransford, who posted photos of a wolf he had trapped in northern Idaho that had been maliciously and non-fatally shot by people who spotted the animal from a nearby road.