The House Energy and Environment Subcommittee holds a hearing today with
the CEOs of the five largest oil companies to discuss drilling safety
and regulatory standards in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The issues to be discussed are multiple and complex, but there's one that seems to connect many of them: walruses. BP and other companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico reportedly all submitted emergency response plans that, in addition to being "virtually identical
," nearly all reference the safety of walruses. But that animal does not
live in the Gulf of Mexico at all. What does this bizarre detail reveal about big oil and congressional Democrats' mission to reform their
- Oil Companies Don't Care About Safety Mother
Jones' Kate Sheppard writes, "as
the executives testified about their safety and preparation,
congressional Democrats pointed out that their companies' plans for a
similar disaster were basically 'cookie cutter' copies of BP's spill
plan, all prepared by the same group, the Response Group. The plans
include an assessment of the impact of a possible spill on walruses
(which don't live in the Gulf) and the phone number of an expert who
died in 2005 (well before the plans were submitted). 'ExxonMobil,
Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell are as unprepared as BP,' said Rep.
Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). 'The only technology you seem to be relying on
is the Xerox machine,' echoed Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)."
Can't Yet Lift Moratorium The Associated Press' Justin Pritchard writes, "Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.,
asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar during a Senate hearing Wednesday
about findings in the AP's reporting, specifically that BP's response
plan included references to walruses and what Barrasso called a minimal
discussion about how to stop a worst-case scenario. Considering such
obvious problems with plans already on file with the U.S. government,
Barrasso wondered whether a six-month federal moratorium on offshore
deepwater drilling after the spill should be lifted even that soon."
- Regulation Not Working The Financial Times' Kate Mackenzie points out, "Just how badly this
reflects on the industry alone is up for debate, of
course - the Minerals Management Service presumably approved all those
plans. At pixel time the opening statements were rather bogged down in
politics; with Republicans arguing the Gulf oil spill shouldn’t be used
to opportunistically push through new regulation or other measures, and
turning the focus onto the current administration."
- Self-Regulation Doesn't Work Liberal blogger Chris in Paris writes,
"Let's just say there was very little reality built into BP's disaster
planning. I wonder if Steven Pearlstein is still impressed with BP. Once again, the GOP
self-regulation theory is a failure. The Democrats would be wise to
start getting a lot more aggressive about flogging this point because
it's critical to how this disaster became a full scale disaster."
Did Walrus Reference Come From? Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) explains. The
report "lists 'Sea Lions, Seals, Sea Otters [and] Walruses' as
'Sensitive Biological Resources' in the Gulf, suggesting that portions
were cribbed from previous Arctic exploratory planning."
Where It's Due Science blogger PZ Myers bring the snark.
"The walruses in the Gulf of Mexico are all safe. I repeat, the
walruses are safe. This part of their plan was executed perfectly. We
have to give them credit here."
- Dems Citing Walruses in Reform
Push Subcommittee chairman Democratic Rep. Ed Markey mentioned the
walruses in his opening statement, indicating that this could become a
standard attack line for Democrats. "What we found was that these five
companies have response plans that are virtually identical. ... The
covers of the five response plans are different colors, but the content
is ninety percent identical. ... Like BP, three other companies include
references to protecting walruses, which have not called the Gulf of
Mexico home for 3 million years. Two other plans are such dead ringers
for BP’s that they list a phone number for the same long-dead expert."
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