ONCE AGAIN: Deregulation to Blame for Another Tragedy
The evidence is in: Halliburton, Dick Cheney, secret energy task force meetings and massive Republican deregulation has once again led to tragedy. The April 20, 2010 Gulf oil spill is yet another story of careless, reckless deregulation and corruption under the Bush administration which has led to loss of life, destruction of wildlife and the environment, loss of income, and more. The full impact of the oil spill is still unknown, but the environmental and economic fallout from the massive spill is mounting quickly.
Evidence is mounting up that the oil spill in the Gulf is the result of a tragic sequence of equipment failures – but ultimately, all of them should have and could have been caught, had the rig been regulated properly. It turns out that tens of thousands of offshore rigs are barely regulated, a result of Dick Cheney’s private energy meetings and interference with the Department of Minerals Management Services, which regulates the off shore drilling. The MMS is also responsible for collecting the billions in royalties from the oil companies and is the same agency that was investigated and found to be doing cocaine and having sex with oil executives. Their judgment regarding the necessity of regulations was clearly not impartial.
‘Wednesday’s hearings by congressional and administration panels in Washington and in Louisiana laid out a checklist of unseen breakdowns on largely unregulated aspects of well safety that appear to have contributed to the April 20 blowout: a leaky cement job, a loose hydraulic fitting, a dead battery.
The trail of problems highlights the reality that, even as the U.S. does more deep water offshore drilling in a quest for domestic oil, some key safety components are left almost entirely to the discretion of the companies doing the work.”
In the hours leading up to the spill, Halliburton was pumping cement into the well, which was supposed to block any oil or natural gas from surging out through the drill piping. They then capped with the (now infamous Halliburton) cement plugs, which are designed to stop gas or oil surge inside the pipe. The last plug was still missing just before 10 p.m. on the 20th when the oil began its now fateful surge through the pipes.
NPR reports that according to MMS spokesman David Smith, there are NO federal standards for the makeup of the cement filler. The government has been working to publish new guidelines later this year, but they are not mandates.
It’s important to note that in other industries, such as the housing industry, there are strict regulations and inspections at every step of the process. It is appalling that off shore regulations are not even equal to the housing industry, where cement footings have to be inspected before framing can proceed. While this may seem shocking, one needs only to ask themselves if the small business building industry had friends like Cheney or indeed, if Cheney was a stock holder of your small business home builder to understand why the standards are different.
Remember this the next time Republicans talk about how deregulation is good for the little guy, the mom and pop business owner. That is a fallacy, used to sell a corporatist agenda to the Main Streeters. Deregulation lines the pockets of the wealthy. Only the super wealthy can afford to buy off officials and buy off responsibility once the pseudo investigations begin. Your small business owner would be crushed under the weight of the lawsuits filed against him or her if he or she failed to regulate him or herself and caused so much destruction. Reasonable regulations actually HELP businesses, provided they are implemented and overseen. The only folks who benefit from no regulation are those who can afford to get the government to bail them out when they fail due to deregulation.
So, again, the next time a modern day Conservative justifies this sort of tragedy by saying you can’t regulate a free market or stop all “accidents”, remind them that this is NOT a free market. The government is bailing out all of the sectors that the Republicans deregulated. That is not a free market, it is literally socializing the downside of business. In a free market, those companies would be left to fail. As for the argument that you can’t stop all “accidents”, this was not an accident. This was preventable, at many stages along the way, before it became a tragedy. An accident is something you have no control over and can not prepare for. This was not an accident.
Here’s an example from Reuters of how Republicans are spinning this:
“Representative Joe Barton, the top Republican on the subcommittee’s full Energy and Commerce Committee, urged lawmakers not to restrict offshore drilling but still blasted the companies involved in the accident.
“We’ve had an accident. It is not an act of God,” Barton said. “It is something that could have been and should have been contained. The facts that we’ve uncovered … show that there was in all probability shoddy maintenance.””
So, while Barton admits this could have been prevented with maintenance but it was not, he still doesn’t think offshore drilling needs to be stopped until regulations are in place? Interesting how he changed the goal post from their usual argument that accidents will happen. Now, it’s accidents will happen but don’t stop drilling. It’s amazing that they can make these arguments with a straight face. They are still trying to sell us that the oil companies will and should police themselves. Just how long do we have to keep on giving this failed notion the benefit of the doubt?
And yet, as NPR reported: “… industry officials acknowledged a fistful of regulatory and operational gaps: There is no government standard for design or installation of blowout preventives. The federal government doesn’t routinely inspect them before they are installed. Their emergency systems usually go untested once they are set on the seafloor at the mouth of the well. The federal government doesn’t require a backup.
In one telling exchange Wednesday at a hearing of the Coast Guard and MMS in Kenner, La., Coast Guard Capt. Hung Nguyen asked a regional supervisor of the federal regulatory agency a question about blowout preventives: “It’s my understanding that it’s designed to industry standard and it’s manufactured by the industry, installed by the industry, with no government witnessing or oversight of the construction or installation. Is that correct?”
“That is correct,” replied Michael Saucier, the MMS field supervisor for the Gulf.”
Regulation and oversight were clearly MIA in this story. Dick Cheney’s secret energy meetings, the MMS suddenly deciding under Bush that they would not continue with the recommendations to update the regulations of the oil companies as began under Clinton (it should be noted that the regulations have not been updated since 1996 – this is how deeply the oil companies have infiltrated our government), the government allowing the MMS to both collect royalties and police the off shore drilling (which is akin to the rating agencies on Wall Street which take money from the companies they “rate”) – all of this is both predictable and profoundly shocking at the same time.
The question at this point is what will the Obama administration do about this, if anything? In other words, just how complicit were the Democrats in helping Dick carry out his Destroy America Plan? I have to ask myself why it always comes down to this: the moment when we all turn to the Democrats and scold them for allowing the Republicans to be the greedy, lawless monsters they have been for the last ten years. Perhaps this is like turning to the abused woman to ask her why she didn’t protect her children from the abusive man. Perhaps it’s our frustration with the lack of accountability in Washington that causes us to settle on the Dems, waiting for them to DO something to rein the cowboys in. Maybe it isn’t something they can do, maybe it isn’t something they want to do.
Maybe we’re stuck voting on social issues and the rest of it is a one big corporatacracy. The rage, powerlessness and helplessness we all felt during Katrina never went away. The Gulf Spill is just being added to the list. We wanted blood, but we couldn’t get rid of Bush or punish Cheney or Rove. And it looks like we are going to have to swallow another major injustice against humanity and the environment, all because the oilmen have more money than we do. Meanwhile, Cheney is filthy rich, Bush is all done playing cowboy now and can just hang with the elites, and Rove is happy on Fox News spewing his deceptions. They’re all free.
When you’re seething with rage, remind yourself that THIS is the America some people are dying to take us back to. What would be left, after another four years of Republican rule? What industry is still standing? What life still manages to eek by? It’s absolutely reprehensible what Republicans did in the name of free market capitalism. They’ve bastardized the meaning of their own ideology to such an extent that it can only be received with scorn until they man up and take responsibility for the consequences of their choices.
And I’m not holding my breath on that one.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.