Journalism in the Public Interest

Lawmakers Attempt to Roll Back Expanded Oversight of Offshore Drilling

After millions of gallons of crude gushed into the Gulf during last year’s oil spill, the disaster triggered a continuing blame game between BP and its many contractors. It also got regulators pondering the need for expanding oversight to such contractors. Currently, operators of off-shore rigs are subject to safety regulations, but regulators don't have direct oversight of the contractors that work for those operators. 

In recent months, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management signaled that this could change. As we reported in April, the agency's head, Michael Bromwich, said that the limited oversight of contractors made “absolutely no sense." He suggested that the agency could move to bring major offshore oil contractors—like Transocean and Halliburton—under the agency’s enforcement reach and impose penalties if warranted.

But the Republican-led House Appropriations committee is having nothing of it. The committee passed a bill today that—in addition to stripping billions in funding from the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency—seeks to limit the offshore drilling agency’s ability to oversee contractors.

Here’s the language from the committee’s report accompanying the bill, first noted by the Hill:

The Committee is concerned with the Bureau’s stated intentions for the expansion of regulatory authority over non-lease holders under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The authority and need for this action has not been explained or justified to the Committee, nor how this diversion of limited resources would impact the Bureau’s current mission and objectives identified in the fiscal year 2012 request. The agency is directed to use all the resources provided toward the regulatory efforts presented in the fiscal year 2012 request and that no funds be expended for other purposes until the agency has fully explained its authority, intentions and objectives to the Committee and the public.

The beleaguered drilling agency underwent a major overhaul after the spill. But there are still questions about whether its inspectors have been adequately trained and are knowledgeable enough to handle their existing responsibilities—let alone take on new ones.

With a potential 2012 budget cut on the horizon, prospects are looking even more doubtful for expanded authority. Nonetheless, the agency is still recruiting and hiring new inspectors and this week announced it would start using teams of inspectors—as opposed to individuals—to conduct safety reviews.

I don’t have expertise in the field but do remember Speaker Boehner saying the Republicans planned to stop regulation, health care, etc. by not funding them.  Shame on them.

Stephanie Palmer

July 13, 2011, 3:47 p.m.

Do these Republicans ever, ever do anything that’s beneficial for residents? It was a redundant question. And yet, the residents of their districts keep voting for them. How about that. Amazing.

The origninal investigators were experienced but were demonized by the media and the administration for being too close to the industry. (Yes the obvious question-where did they get their experience?)

Perhaps the $2 billion promised to Brazil would have been better spent training inspectors and increasing their numbers.  If one wants to play the blame game on budget I would start with that piece of political strategy.

Follow the campaign contributions to find out “why” our trusty politicians would do something so stupid. Only public funding of campaigns will get these jerks to vote for the people instead of their pocketbooks.

Jack Lohman

Follow the campaign contributions to find out “why” our trusty politicians would do something so stupid. Only public funding of campaigns will get these jerks to vote for the people instead of their pocketbooks.

Jack Lohman
http:// MoneyedPoliticians .net

It seems the republicans are determined to “make Obama a one-term president” - they don’t publicly say this often - but every action they do is targeted at that from “talking points” to just saying “no.” This may bring about the end of democracy - but they don’t care because they appear to be in office only for the money and desert real public service like investigator support.

Can you investigate the financial gains the republicans will get from NOT solving problems and sabotaging policy that could solve problems—especially about their manufactured budget crisis?

The answer is very simple.  Most of those elected in Congress are in the wealthiest 3%, if not 2% of the population in the US.  These lawmakers, who are beholden to these special interests, play with Americans by making misleading and false statements.  Their campaigns are funded by and for the interests of those industries who need legislation that favors their industry’s profit, mismanagement and regulatory interests.. They are rewarded with perks we can’t imagine.  Congress corrupts itself. 

We are letting foxes control the henhouses and we expect healthy egg laying hens.  I don’t think so..

What’s going on today is nothing less than a wholesale civil war between the shrinking middle class and Big Money - who’se bellicose mouthpieces are the teabaggers and right wing evangelical nut cases. Congress has devolved into a cesspool of sociopaths whose only concern is where their next big lobbyist check will come from. It may well be that things will not begin to improve without the total collapse of the government and the economy. In the parlance of 12 step programs, America will probably need to hit a pretty catastrophic bottom before the citizenry are motivated to revolt - in whatever form that may be.

Although most of the nutcases and teabagger are also middle class, they tend to act by emotion rather than critical thought and so have swallowed hook line and sinker the intolerant right’s transparent sophistry. I am absolutely confident that after all the dust settles with the gulf spill, there will be even less governmental oversight over big oil. At least that will undoubtedly be the goal of our frighteningly destructive Republican party.

Truly you all jest? 
The oil spill in a conspiracy kind of way could have been the best excuse to strangle the oil and gas industry.  Nothing positive came out of the moratorium.  Yes regulators made more paperwork, slowed down offshore exploration and production, caused the forced transfer and layoffs of industry personnel (middle class), and sent the money to other investment opportunities.  The regulations call for more oversight and better preparation for disaster response and mitigation.  But sadly most people who never get their hands dirty for their paycheck, have no sense of the economic impact not this year or next— The real impact is 4 to 5 years from now when those offshore projects are still not online for the American economy.  The impact will be the increased reliance on foreign oil imports.

I am sure some will argue that we will be saved by wind and solar.  Sorry but the economics are not their yet.  Do the math—if a northern state solar plant produces electricity at 45 cents per Kwh, and Texas power costs 11-18 cents per Kwh, which power solution has the least impact on consumers, the middle class, and the poor, oh and all industries?  We will not be saved in today’s dollars.

When you have environmental groups developing strategies for filing lawsuits for the single purpose to harrass and delay domestic exploration and production, and a young and inexperienced electorate not yet able to discern the economic costs and time impacts of the green hype; then we will all suffer shortages in energy becasue extreme rationalizations of developments have no room or margin for error or transition.

Quite frankly, I suspect the people jeering most loudly about the evils of oil, republicans (whom they deride as nutcases), and so on, will also be the ones screaming about the evil profits of the investors who own not only the oil stocks, but also the green stocks.  Then I still suspect they will be crying loudest against the emplacement of windmills on every piece of high ground across the country, especially if it is in their back yard.  Please do the numbers for the consumption of land area for solar and wind, and the nationalization or imminent domain filings that would be necessary for replacing all hydrocarbon energy with wind and solar.  What a lousy sea scape people will have as they look out upon thousands of windmills just off the beaches, or on the beaches.

I suggest Pro Publica take a tour with regulators and report back on the real numbers of personnel needed to inspect the oil and gas indutry, and the sad reality that it will take more to train inspectors than an orientation program.  Hopefully they will also report on the extreme safety measures that are routinely taken already by most decent and hardworking men and women in the oil and gas industry, who are also somewhat conservative, and quite upset about the threats to their jobs.  They are part of our middle class and a lot more wise and tolerant than those who agitate to blame the oil industry at a drop of the hat.

I hope none of these oil rig workers blow the whistle on safety because there is almost no protection.I know first hand just view the you tube videos i posted last week after two years of going round and round with the goverment.if you view it in regards to the four lifts i locked out unsafe the company sent a second one from the group of four and sent it in to a sunoco refinery.OSHA had complete documentation and did nothing.My videos are on you tube under OSHA whistleblower(four part) and are only a part of what i went through and evidence i provided OSHA.Trust me there is almost no protection

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