Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oil Spill; Taking Charge: Whose Job Is It?

Okay I have spent the last couple of days reading..reading...reading, and the more I learn the more disgusted and discouraged I get about this situation.

I have previously expressed my disgust with the Obama administration for their handling of the situation and that hasn't changed.  So many have claimed that the law states that President Obama cannot just go in and take over the situation since the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 makes the "Responsible Party" responsible for the clean up and costs of any spill.  Here is the specific wording:

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) was signed into law in August 1990, largely in response to rising public concern following the Exxon Valdez incident. The OPA improved the nation's ability to prevent and respond to oil spills by establishing provisions that expand the federal government's ability, and provide the money and resources necessary, to respond to oil spills. The OPA also created the national Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is available to provide up to one billion dollars per spill incident.

In addition, the OPA provided new requirements for contingency planning both by government and industry. The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) has been expanded in a three-tiered approach: the Federal government is required to direct all public and private response efforts for certain types of spill events; Area Committees -- composed of federal, state, and local government officials -- must develop detailed, location-specific Area Contingency Plans; and owners or operators of vessels and certain facilities that pose a serious threat to the environment must prepare their own Facility Response Plans.

Finally, the OPA increased penalties for regulatory noncompliance, broadened the response and enforcement authorities of the Federal government, and preserved State authority to establish law governing oil spill prevention and response

Oil Pollution Act Overview

So if we look up the NCP or the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan this is what we find:

Key Provisions of National Contingency Plan
§300.110 Establishes the National Response Team and its roles and responsibilities in the National Response system, including planning and coordinating responses to major discharges of oil or hazardous waste, providing guidance to Regional Response Teams, coordinating a national program of preparedness planning and response, and facilitating research to improve response activities. EPA serves as the lead agency within the National Response Team (NRT).

§300.115 Establishes the Regional Response Teams and their roles and responsibilities in the National Response System, including, coordinating preparedness, planning, and response at the regional level. The RRT consists of a standing team made up of representatives of each federal agency that is a member of the NRT, as well as state and local government representatives, and also an incident-specific team made up of members of the standing team that is activated for a response. The RRT also provides oversight and consistency review for area plans within a given region.

§300.120 Establishes general responsibilities of federal On-Scene Coordinators.

§300.125(a) Requires notification of any discharge or release to the National Response Center through a toll-free telephone number. The National Response Center (NRC) acts as the central clearinghouse for all pollution incident reporting.

§300.135(a) Authorizes the predesignated On-Scene Coordinator to direct all federal, state, and private response activities at the site of a discharge.

§300.135(d) Establishes the unified command structure for managing responses to discharges through coordinated personnel and resources of the federal government, the state government, and the responsible party.

§300.165 Requires the On-Scene Coordinator to submit to the RRT or NRT a report on all removal actions taken at a site.

§300.170 Identifies the responsibilities for federal agencies that may be called upon during response planning and implementation to provide assistance in their respective areas of expertise consistent with the agencies' capabilities and authorities.

§300.175 Lists the federal agencies that have duties associated with responding to releases.

§300.210 Defines the objectives, authority, and scope of Federal Contingency Plans, including the National Contingency Plan (NCP), Regional Contingency Plans (RCPs), and Area Contingency Plans (ACPs).

Oil Removals

§300.317 Establishes national priorities for responding to a release.

§300.320 Establishes the general pattern of response to be executed by the On-Scene Coordinator (OSC), including determination of threat, classification of the size and type of the release, notification of the RRT and the NRC, and supervision of thorough removal actions.

§300.322 Authorizes the OSC to determine whether a release poses a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States based on several factors, including the size and character of the discharge and its proximity to human populations and sensitive environments. In such cases, the OSC is authorized to direct all federal, state, or private response and recovery actions. The OSC may enlist the support of other federal agencies or special teams.

§300.323 Provides special consideration to discharges which have been classified as a spill of national significance. In such cases, senior federal officials direct nationally-coordinated response efforts.

§300.324 Requires the OSC to notify the National Strike Force Coordination Center (NSFCC) in the event of a worst case discharges, defined as the largest foreseeable discharge in adverse weather conditions. The NSFCC coordinates the acquisition of needed response personnel and equipment. The OSC also must require implementation of the worst case portion of the tank vessel and Facility Response Plans and the Area Contingency Plan.

§300.355 Provides funding for responses to oil releases under the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, provided certain criteria are met. The responsible party is liable for federal removal costs and damages as detailed in section 1002 of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). Federal agencies assisting in a response action may be reimbursed. Several other federal agencies may provide financial support for removal actions.

Subpart J Establishes the NCP Product Schedule, which contains dispersants and other chemical or biological products that may be used in carrying out the NCP. Authorization for the use of these products is conducted by Regional Response Teams and Area Committees, or by the OSC in consultation with EPA representatives.

Hazardous Substance Removals

§300.415(b) Authorizes the lead agency to initiate appropriate removal action in the event of a hazardous substance release. Decisions of action will be based on threats to human or animal populations, contamination of drinking water supplies or sensitive ecosystems, high levels of hazardous substances in soils, weather conditions that may cause migration or release of hazardous substances, the threat of fire or explosion, or other significant factors effecting the health or welfare or the public or the environment.

§300.415(c) Authorizes the OSC to direct appropriate actions to mitigate or remove the release of hazardous substances.
The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan Overview

I highlighted the important points in Green so you'd see that we've got authorization to be "In Command" despite what claims have been made. Yes, BP is the "Responsible Party", but that does not preclude the government from taking action.

Now as to the question of  who is "In Charge" of this ongoing situation in the Gulf.  That is a good question, and we do have some answers.  Some anyhow.

So we've been told that U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen is the Incident Commander and Rear Adm. Mary Landry is the Federal On Scene Coordinator, and "Unified Command" is the Coast Guard & MMS working with BP who is called the "Responsible Party"

Press Release:
 The unified command, consisting of the Coast Guard and Mineral Management Service, in collaboration with BP, the responsible party, are working round the clock to determine options to contain and secure the spill.

Obama tapped Allen last month to be national incident commander when he labeled the spill an "incident of national significance." Such incidents -- usually a natural disaster or terrorist attack -- require the president to appoint a federal official to coordinate the government's response.

So now we have established "chain of command" by virtue of the public record.

No where have I seen that the government officials must defer to the "responsible party" for anything.  There is nothing I can find that states that the government officials cannot take charge of this, in fact it seems to state just the opposite:

§300.135(a) Authorizes the predesignated On-Scene Coordinator to direct all federal, state, and private response activities at the site of a discharge.

Deferring to the "expertise" of BP, with the history of non-compliance in safety issue they have should not have happened for the length of time it has.  It should not have taken a month to start getting independent verification of the lies about the size of the discharge.  BP should not be getting away with refusing to cooperate with turning over documentation, and refusing to change dispersant's to something less toxic at the request of the EPA, especially considering we know that there are ties between BP and the maker of the dispersant currently in use by BP. 

Yes, I am absolutely frustrated with the way this is being handled.  I am not suggesting that BP isn't trying to stop this, but it is obvious that they haven't got a clue as to what to do and are now to the point of throwing out every idea that *might* work.  If they have no ability to handle this kind of catastrophe, especially after claiming that they could, they have no business refusing to cooperate with anything at this point in time.  It also comes across that they would prefer to try cap the well in order to get at the oil later than to just shut it down permanently in order to stop the flood of oil pouring into the gulf.  Trying to save oil for themselves is just beyond galling at this point when people are going to lose everything they have due to this, and our sea life is going to be forever changed due to this, and the gulf of mexico is going to take a long time to recover from this disaster.  

They are absolutely looking to minimize the damage to themselves and our government officials who are allowing them to do it are just as guilty.  Barring reporters from documenting the spill, demanding (and getting no less) that they be the ones who decides where dead and dying wildlife will be taken and how they will be handled.  Telling workers to never talk to the media.  This is all designed to lower their liability in this disaster and frankly our representatives allowing it to happen is  beyond disgusting.

Now the administration claims they have been involved in this situation from day 1 and of that I have no doubt.  I have no hesitation in stating I believe wholeheartedly that they have been kept abreast of what was going on.  My problem is that they have allowed the lies and misrepresentations go on with no push back, or at least not publicly which is where it was needed.  Another issue I have is the fact that it was 27 days, yes, 27 days before public hearings were held getting information from independent scientists who stated unequivocally that BP was lying about the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.   27 days!  Why in the hell did it take that long for someone in the administration to ask outside independent scientists for an impartial and realistic evaluation of the situation?   

We've heard that BP was refusing to release video of the spill.  Well, why was that allowed?  If it was readily apparent from the outset that Washington was not getting cooperation from BP was was not more done sooner?  BP is refusing the orders of the EPA to change to less toxic dispersant's.  What will be done about that?  Nothing as has been the norm so far?  BP has been allowed to call all the shots in this situation even though we know that they are going to do everything in their power to ensure that less information if publicized so they can mitigate any damages brought on by future lawsuits and fines & penalties they may face.  They are going to protect themselves and their company first and foremost, so I ask, who is going to protect us and our interests first and foremost?  So far this administration seems to have been content with allowing BP to call the shots.  It that going to change?  After a month of having oil gush into the water of the GOM will it matter now if someone else takes over?  The damage is done.  Waves of oil are washing ashore.  Marshes are coated in oil killing off the area as we speak.  Toxic dispersant's are flowing freely in the water.  Birds, turtles, dolphins, fish are already dead and dying.  Even if the well was capped right this minute, the damage is unprecedented and will continue to expand.  Toxic fumes are rolling in.  Shrimping and Fishing are banned and we have no idea when it may be safe for them to start again.  Not for a long, long time at best.  Decades and longer at worst.  Business are failing.  People are losing more and more everyday.  Talk of suicide is occurring amongst those who are losing everything and can do nothing but watch it happen. 

We've discovered in the last month a lot of things about both BP and our own oversight, or lack thereof,  of the Oil & Gas industry and none of it is pretty.  We've seen how the MMS (minerals management service) has not just fallen down on the job, but has more or less allowed the Oil & Gas Industry to regulate itself by and large due to the failure to follow through with its job.   We are going to pay dearly for this mess and for decades.  We may never get the Gulf of Mexico back in our lifetimes, it at all.  The damage that has been done and continues to be done is nothing short of catastrophic and we all have the stain of oil on us and we all must share in the blame.  We have become too reliant on the Oil & Gas Industry and we have not put into thought let alone action into finding and funding alternative forms of energy.  

I am going to end this post for now as it is long enough already, but I will be putting up several more due to the amount of information that is available. 


  1. Stumbled upon this blog when looking for some why to voice my disgust over this whole situation. Great post Eye. Thanks for all of the useful information.

  2. 5:40:
    I agree, and did the same thing.

    What has stunned me...A)are their any groups doing anything, 2)is media not covering them,
    C)why does it seem to be small groups asking questions with so few larger groups, visibly, doing much?

    So many interviews and comments about studying this and that, the money it costs to study this/that. Where are the tankers to suck surface oil? Where are the skimmers, so many are needed? More booms? Berms? What has BP PUT UP for this they have ANY of these craft on scene? WHAT is BP doing?

    I can say same for pols as well, sadly:
    Why hasnt someone called for these ships to come in and do what they do. This is not a time to study, it is a time to act, at least as far as containment is concerned.
    I fully agree with the parish head, who said he was going to start berming and not wait for
    permission. That is what you have to do in crisis situations: You have to start doing something.

    This gusher is so so awful.

  3. Apparently tankers are in the area, media does not get to see them. For some reason. You would think BP would want people to know they are actually DOING something.

  4. BP is in damage control spin mode. It does not do well to let the general public see what is really happening as that would cause outrage and panic at the depth of the damage that is truly happening.

  5. I caught this today, after wondering why the media cannot get in. If the casing is blown there is no way to stop this. There are also 19 munition/ordinance dumps right in the area of the wellhead. Anyone hoping for a 'nuc-shot' must be INSANE.
    "05/29/10 05:25 PM | AP
    Gulf Oil Spill: Media Access 'Slowly Being Strangled Off'
    Charter pilots say they have been denied permission to fly below 3,000 feet when they have reporters or photographers aboard.

    Those special flight restrictions, imposed on May 12, cover thousands of square miles of the Gulf and a broad swath of Louisiana's coast. Normally there are no restrictions on flying. ..."