The Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Dick Cheney’s Katrina

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The Gulf Coast Spill: Dick Cheney’s Katrina

Cheney the Oil Exec
Cheney the Oil Exec

While the Right furiously tries to pin the Gulf Oil Spill on President Obama, the facts tell a different story. This is the story of rampant deregulation in a never-ending ode to Profit as King, as propagated by the Bush/Cheney administration across all sectors of our economy, which didn’t end with Wall Street or mortgage lending or Enron. Indeed, the deregulation scandals extend now to off-shore drilling in the form of the missing Valve, a remote shut-off device called an acoustic switch. Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton (an oil-services company), may have had his hand in the Department of Interior’s decision not to mandate the valve for off-shore oil rigs.

ValveGate is coming to a theater near you.

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“An official for BP said Tuesday night that a remotely operated underwater vehicle has successfully cut and squared the end of a leaking pipe 5,000 feet beneath the surface in preparation for fitting it with a valve. Once the valve is in place and closed, the leaks beneath the ocean will be down to two.”

A remote shut off valve for off-shore rigs is a regulatory requirement in Norway and Brazil, two major oil producing countries, and several other large oil companies find this valve so important that they use the acoustic switch at the cost of $500,000 a pop even though it is not mandated.

Reuters explains:

“A $500,000 acoustic trigger may have allowed workers escaping from the burning rig by boat to send a remote signal 5,000 feet below the water’s surface to close the valve and stop the oil. Instead, BP (BP.L) is using submersible robots, whose tiny metal arms so far have been unable to move the lever that would cut off the flow of crude.”

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn’t have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.The lack of the device, called an acoustic switch, could amplify concerns over the environmental impact of offshore drilling after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig last week….. regulators in two major oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, in effect require them. Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since 1993. The U.S. considered requiring a remote-controlled shut-off mechanism several years ago, but drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, according to the agency overseeing offshore drilling. The agency, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, says it decided the remote device wasn’t needed because rigs had other back-up plans to cut off a well.”

A report commissioned by the department of Minerals Management Service (MMS) in 2003 said that remote acoustic systems were useful when the primary shut-off pipe device has failed and are also useful in depths greater than 10,000 feet. What changed their minds? Environmentalists postulate that Dick Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force influenced this critical decision not to mandate the acoustic switch. It’s also worth noting that The Dept of Interior MMS under the Bush/Cheney administration were busted for doing cocaine and having sex with oil industry executives, a fact that may have um…impacted their objectivity, shall we say? As well as their willingness to be persuaded to see things in a manner advantageous to the oil companies (and by oil companies, I mean Dick Cheney “Maximization of oil profits is a stated goal of his (Cheney’s.”).

Environmental lawyer, Mike Papantonio, said on the Ed Schultz Show that Cheney’s Energy Task Force determined that the shut off valves were a burden on the industry :

While many countries do not require this switch, many oil companies use the switch without being required to do so. At the cost of $500,000 per switch, the fact that several companies use this switch willingly gives weight to the valve efficacy argument and makes the Dept of Interior’s claim that the switch has not been proven effective suspicious.

Congressman Bill Nelson (D- FLA) has initiated an investigation regarding the energy industry’s lobbying regarding deregulation and the House Oversight and Investigations Reform Committee is also investigating the Interior Department MMS, to determine why they didn’t mandated the shut-off switches.

If it is determined that Dick Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force worked to fight mandating the remote shut off valve, then this disaster should rightly be determined Cheney’s “Katrina” if it is to be anyone’s “Katrina”, though it’s distressing that both the media and the Right are obsessed with finding another President to be as incompetent as Bush — both for different reasons; one to grab eyeballs and one to make a desperate false equivalency in order to justify the scathingly horrific Bush/Cheney administration. At the very least, the Bush regulators need to explain how they determined that the cost of the valves was not justified, in light of the 6 million dollar a day clean up cost of the Gulf Spill.

Updated: Dick Cheney’s Deregulation to Blame for “Obama’s Katrina”

16 Replies to “The Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Dick Cheney’s Katrina”

  1. This is another excellent article. This is the kind of information that you would think the news agencies would actually be focusing on. Thank goodness for Ed’s show. I’m glad you mentioned that incident with the MMS and the Oil execs. I just remembered that this morning, but I couldn’t remember all the details. I know it was a scandal when it first broke under the Bush administration but it seemed to die down quickly. I wonder why? Sex and deregulation seem to go hand in hand with greed when robbing the American people just to end up spending a billions for the fixes. I wish the misinformed Tea Party members would stop getting so much play so that real research can get the air time needed to turn this country around and get it out of the corrupt power plays of the GOP. Even though the Coffee Party boasts of 200,000 members, what does it take to get some real coverage? Thanks for your research, awareness and sense of humor.

  2. @F Joy,

    Yes, it’s sad that the MSM is not focusing on everything that went on in the past that actually led to this tragedy. Thanks so much for your positive feedback– my sense of humor is all I have left in the face of such disingenuous rhetoric from the Right.

  3. huh… it seems like we never heard of the accoustic trigger until bush got into office… and evil bush jr and his cohort mean mr cheney conspired against the american people. never mind the 8 years in office that clinton could have put this switch into affect, they didn’t actually exsist.

    I guess he was to busy drilling for something else?

  4. @a little perspective,

    Well, that’s actually untrue. The acoustic switch was suggested as a necessary safety feature and was being reviewed in 2003.

    As you are most likely aware, Bush had been appointed by the Supreme Court in 2000 and began his rulership in 2001.

    You may not like the facts, but you are not entitled to change them.

    Due to an accident ten years ago,

    “Ten years ago, the pipe from an offshore drilling rig came loose and the valve that is supposed to shut off the flow of oil did not work. The drilling rig above could not control the valve, called a blow-out preventer.

    There was no river of crude like that currently bearing down on the Gulf Coast. But it highlighted that the rig, a floating outfit like the now-sunken Deepwater Horizon, did not have a backup system for activating the blow-out preventer.

    That alarmed Minerals Management Service officials enough to to send out a “safety alert (pdf)” ordering companies drilling in deep water in the outer continental shelf to have good backup systems.”

    In 2000:

    “The MMS considers a backup BOP actuation system to be an essential component of a deepwater drilling system,” the March 2000 notice said, “and therefore expects OCS operators to have reliable back-up systems for actuating the BOP.”

    and in 2003:
    “”Acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly, and there is insufficient data available on system reliability in the presence of a mud or gas plume,” the 2003 report said. “However, acoustic communication in the form of verification of system status and remote arming should be considered.

    But MMS left it up to the companies to decide what kind of backup system to have. And Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wants to know why. Nelson has warned others about the possibility of spills for years as he fought growing pressure to allow drilling off the Florida coast. Now, he has gone from warning to pointing.”

  5. @srjones,

    “MMS’s regulation of the oil and gas industry has come under scrutiny before. In 2008, then-Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney found massive misconduct at the service, saying employees rigged contracts and engaged in illegal moonlighting, drugs, sex and gift-taking from oil companies. “

  6. @srjones, and that is a very interesting story in itself. It just seemed that this morning on the news. Oil companies are the least regulated corporations in the US and probably next to the bank should be the most. While they provide us with something we can’t live without, without regulation they would give us far more in the way of environmental disasters then we can live with

  7. @Shiva,

    Yes, this brings us back to reasonable regulations. The Right has gone off the cliff of deregulation in the last 40 years, the last ten being particularly brutal (they had help from Clinton, of course, but nothing like the reckless ride W took through oversight — AND, this is their ideology and it’s almost humorous to watch them try to disown it when things go awry).

    Funny how the MMS got busted for doing things that would get the rest of us fired, and yet…under W, they kept their jobs. I can’t help but wonder if new appointments to the Dept of Interior are one of the 72 the GOP is obstructing right now in their secret hold process.

  8. I echo F. Joy’s compliments on your excellent research and writing. And I again have to question the MSM’s lack of coverage. Just not sexy I guess. How pathetic.
    And thanks too for your schooling of A Little Perspective. Typical Bush/Cheney supporter — too lazy to dig for his/her own facts before spewing his uninformed blather. I advise him to join the Tea Party. He’s got the most important qualifications.

  9. Why hasn’t the great one obama done anything about these valves in the last two years if it was such a concern?

    Blaming this on a politician is insane!

    obama has a majority in Congress. If it was such a huge concern why hasn’t he shut down offshore drilling until these valves were put in place? Why did he recently call for more offshore drilling then stop the idea until better safe guards were put into effect?

  10. @frank,

    You need to educate yourself about how government works. The off-shore drilling that was going on was ordered by Bush.

    You can ask yourself why he didn’t shut it down, but a government does not work like that and b, you know the Right would have accused him of being a Fascist for daring to interfere in private business.

  11. And to add to Sarah Jones’ comment:

    c) Obama would have to have a SUPER MAJORITY to even begin the conversation since the republicans seem to be even more filibuster-happy than they are trigger-happy. And since there is more than one democrat from strongly conservative areas and you know damn well they would be under major attack in their district for trying to put “restrictions” on big oil and hinder their precious “drill baby drill” campaign.

    d) Because of the lack of real regulation, only the people in charge of the operation that were lying through their teeth knew how unsafe it really was. Do you really think that Obama knows all the ins and outs of offshore drilling? No, and when the people in charge of overseeing the operation give the big “thumbs up” and say everything is fine then what the hell do you expect him to do?

    Why did he stop until better safe guards are in place? Are you freaking serous? He stopped because it was very clearly illustrated that it was not as safe as everyone had been lead to believe. Only a moron would continue on as if nothing had happened. Geesh!

  12. @frank,

    Salazar was appointed in July of 2009, took over after the August vacation. He did actually take the first steps of cleaning up MMS, he deserves credit for that. No way could they have known the extent of the corruption at MMS for 8 years or been able to make drastic changes in 8 or 9 months. I think Salazar should be canned though.

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