No major oil spill legislation passed. Off-shore drilling, one year later

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PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We will absolutely continue to hold BP and any other responsible parties accountable. We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again.


UYGUR: That was President Obama last June, promising to hold accountable anyone responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It was a year ago today that the explosion ripped through the Deep Water Horizon rigged killing 11 workers. Almost five million barrels of oil spewed into the gulf causing an environmental and economic crisis whose impact is still big felt. The scary thing is that it‘s hard to argue which much safer today, cannot report—explosion. Lawmakers have proposed more than 100 different bills to improve government oversight. But they haven‘t passed a single major piece of oil spill legislation. As of today, oil companies still are not required to update their spill response plans ahead of receiving new permits to drill.

And unbelievably, rigs still depend as a last line of defense to stop blow out on the well, on exactly the same faulty machine called the blow up preventer that failed in the BP disaster. Last month, a government commission report found that the blow up preventer didn‘t failed because it was broken, it failed because of a fundamental design flaw. A flaw that still haunts blow up preventers today. This week, the Obama administration said, he‘s going to introduce new rules to improve the safety of those devices. But that‘s down the road. For now, it‘s business as usual.

Still, in recent months, officials have approved 46 new shallow water wells and ten permits for deep water drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Projects just like the one in the gulf water disaster. That despite, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar statement this year, the systems that contain oil spills are still quote, “a work in progress.” In other words, they are not ready. Maybe this shouldn‘t be a surprise since the drill baby drill crowd was pushing for new permits even when oil was still gushing from the well.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We need to drill baby drill.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We must continue to drill.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If we lift the regulatory burdens and let people go and drill, we will end up with plentiful and cheap energy.


In the middle of the spill.

All right. With me now is Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts Ed Markey, he‘s the ranking democrat on the House Natural on Resources Committee. And a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He warned this week that because of the lack of safety improvements, a disasters oil spill could happen again. Congressman, talk to me about how did this happen? How did we go a year and we don‘t have any piece of legislation on this at all?

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, we passed the comprehensive safety bill in the House of Representatives when the Democrats controlled Congress last year, but the Republicans in the Senate killed it. Now, in 2011, as the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, no safety legislation has any chance of passing, even though the Blue Ribbon Independent Commission came back with a whole long list of things that should be put on the books to make drilling safer. Instead, they have revised history instead of revising the safety rules so that they can just say drill baby drill. And they have passed legislation now to open up drilling off of the California Coast, off of the East Coast of the United States, right up to Martha‘s vineyard and just kind of pretending that everything is safe and it‘s OK to go back on the water again and nothing really bad enough that would require a comprehensive review and change in safety regulations ever happened in the first place.

UYGUR: Congressman Markey, I have a theory as to why this might be happening. Let me show you some facts here. First, I want to show you the donations that BP has made to different Republicans and republican committees. They‘ve given to Speaker Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton, National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee. Gee, I wonder if that had an effect. And I want to give you a sense of the overall problem here. The oil and gas industry, they have done $146 million in lobbying of the federal government and they spent $28 million to directly give to federal campaigns. Any chance that that‘s part of the problem?

MARKEY: Look, not just this year but every year, GOP does not stand for the Grand Old Party, it stands for the gas and oil party. They, in their budget, did not cut any of the tax breaks for the oil companies even though at $108 a barrel, they are poised to record some of the highest profits of all time. And they don‘t need those tax breaks anymore than a fish to swim or a bird to fly would need a subsidy. At the same time, in their budget, they slash the wind and solar and renewable energy budgets by 70 percent. And so, it‘s all part of a pattern where this rear-view mirrored you of how we should be generating energy in our country, not only wants to preserve itself from any new safety regulations that they have to comply with. But they aggressively go out to kill the alternatives that should be our future in the 21st century. So, the Republican Party adopts that agenda and legislatively, that is what they are trying to implement this year.

UYGUR: Well, Congressman Markey, it‘s funny you bring that up. Because BP was actually getting a subsidy on the Deep Water Horizon. It was a subsidy that gave them over $200,000 a day. Why in the world—they are not even an American company. Why are we giving them a subsidy for something that was so enormously profitable? And then when you turn to what can you do about protecting the American people, protecting the gulf, protecting the workers, well, apparently, the Republicans have three different bills out now. One is called putting the gulf back to work act, the other one is called restarting American offshore leasing now act. And the other once is reversing President Obama‘s offshore moratorium act. It appears that all three of these do not add actual protections, they take away protections. So, it look like we are going in the wrong direction.

MARKEY: Well, you know, this whole issue of what lessons we learned from the BP spill is something that is right at the heart of the energy agenda of the Republican Party. You know, right now, believe it or not, BP is arguing that instead of having to pay a $20 billion fine that they should only have to pay a $2.8 million fine. And they‘re saying they weren‘t negligent at all. And in fact, that‘s, we all know, why they hid the fact that it was not 1,000 barrels per day that were going on into the gulf, not 5,000 barrels per day, not 20,000 but 60,000 barrels a day. They were negligent right along the whole line. And what has happening here is that rather than making BP accountable, we are looking at ways of ultimately rewarding them.

And instead of trying to find alternative ways of generating electricity specially after Fukushima as well, the Republicans are out there, and believe it or not, in their budget that came out this year, they zeroed out the loan guarantees for the wind and solar industry even as they left them in for the nuclear industry and cut no tax breaks out that will going to the oil industry including BP.

UYGUR: Right.

MARKEY: So, that‘s the agenda. It‘s very clear what is going on. And that‘s why I think, once again, like Medicare, like Medicaid, they are stepping in it and the American public is going to fully understand what the real agenda of their party is.

UYGUR: Right. Well, of course. As Joe Biden literally apologized to BP when they‘re the once that caused the mess. So, we have seen this over and over again. Congressman Ed Markey, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

MARKEY: Thank you for having me on.

UYGUR: All right. Now, I want to bring in Bob Cavnar. He‘s a 30 year veteran of the oil and gas industry. He‘s currently the CEO of Luca Technologies, which is in the natural gas industry. He‘s also the author of the book, “Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout.”

All right. Bob, of course the question everybody is asking is, given the year that‘s gone by, can it still happen just like it did before?

BOB CAVNAR, FORMER OIL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE: You know, what‘s so sad, Cenk is that with this being the first anniversary of the blow-out, no one is remembering the 11 men who were killed on the rig that day. And no one is talking about the damage that‘s ongoing in the gulf now. That everyone on the republican side are pushing to go back to drilling. And really, no improvements have been made. The only changes to regulation and to safety that‘s happened so far are those that have related to training and third party certification of the same equipment that failed on the Deep Water Horizon. So, we are issuing drilling permits to drilling companies that have the same equipment that failed so badly a year ago today.

UYGUR: Well, you know, when Ken Salazar said, you know, it‘s a work in progress, I knew we were in a world of trouble. That‘s why I keep going back to that quote. That means they‘re not ready. So, are we still using the same blow-out preventers? And I‘m just amazed that the government says, yes, yes, yes, OK, just keep using the same thing that didn‘t work before.


UYGUR: How about is that?

CAVNAR: It‘s the same blow up preventer, Cenk. Same control system, same blow up preventer. Clearly, the—is going to be better because of the attention that‘s been put on these devices. But you can‘t deny the fact that there was a failure in this blow-out preventer. Now, the forensics report that was given to the Department of Interior had a lot of questions about it. It raised almost more questions than it answered. But we still don‘t know why that device failed, why it didn‘t close. There‘s a lot of speculation. But we are going back to work with that very same device, with the very same blanch—and the same set up as what failed before.

UYGUR: All right. And, you know, they did an oil spill commission and then they didn‘t do any of the things that they recommended. Even one of a former Republicans that were on the commission, former E.P.A. administrator for George H. W. Bush couldn‘t believe it. But now, they do have these three pieces of legislation that we just ask Congressman Markey about, that—has put together. Does that help or hurt the situation here?

CAVNAR: Well, it‘s just incredibly damaging. Instead of spending time working on increasing the budget for the BOEMRA (ph) which is the new agency that oversees offshore drilling and increasing safety regulation and raising standards for drilling, we are wasting time talking about going back to drilling, expanding into Virginia off the coast of California. And all of these areas that won‘t help gasoline prices at all in any form or fashion for ten or 15 years. And we‘re distracting ourselves from protecting the people who work out there and protecting the environment that we so damaged last year.

UYGUR: All right. Bob Cavnar. Thank you for your time tonight.

CAVNAR: Great to be with you, Cenk.

About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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