TOPIC: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement

How the revolving door leads to weak regulation

You’ve heard about the FCC commissioner, Meredith Baker, who has taken a job with NBC Universal (as senior VP for government affairs, of course) just four months after voting to approve the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal.  Then there’s the the too-cozy relationship between regulators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the power companies they are supposed to regulate, because many employees at the NRC are aiming to land top jobs in industry when they leave government service.  And let’s not forget that beyond-cozy relationships in the oil and gas regulation business helped create a culture of permissiveness that made catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon explosion more likely. (more…)

Will California reach down deeper for renewable energy sources?

Tidal Farm

Less than five months after California voters strongly rejected a Republican effort to neuter the state’s commitment to renewable energy, the California legislature doubled down yesterday, advancing a bill to the governor’s desk requiring a sharp increase in the use of renewable energy. (more…)

Preventive Journalism update: WSJ on aging oil platforms in Gulf

More warnings about the dangers of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico — this time focused not on super-deep drilling or the poisons that still remain in the water there, but on the ancient and decrepit oil platforms standing in the Gulf of Mexico, some of which have been there for more than fifty years.

Ben Casselman writes in the Wall Street Journal about the threat of fires, explosions, and spills from aging Gulf of Mexico oil instrastructure, which one expert says “is at a point now where we’re not going to be able to ignore it any longer.” (more…)

From Rush Limbaugh straight on up the food chain: thoughts on the BP oil disaster

The beauty of this article from Julia Whitty in Mother Jones is that it gives us reason to worry about the Gulf of Mexico after the BP disaster.  Worry’s not wonderful, but its cousin Ignorance is definitely a problem.  Over the summer, some odd people — people like Rush Limbaugh, who is a lot of things, but who is definitely not an ichthyologist, ornithologist, or any kind of biologist — were telling us that because the spill had dissipated on the surface, we shouldn’t be concerned (Limbaugh said “oil is natural…as natural as the ocean water is.”)  Whitty explains just how healthy it is for the planet if we do worry, and moreover, if we try to understand what’s really going on in the ocean’s depths — with the help of actual experts. (more…)

Assessing legal blame in the Gulf

Deepwater Horizon

Wayne Andersen, a retired U.S. District Court judge in Chicago, has started to preside over a federal board investigating the Gulf oil spill, reports the Chicago Tribune’s Ameet Sachdev. The public hearings will determine who was at fault when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Andersen is largely unfamiliar with the oil-drilling process, a contrast from a federal panel that is mostly made up members from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. He got the job because (more…)

Minerals Management Service: the Novel

Set aside some time to read Juliet Eilperin and Scott Higham’s insightful (and long) look in the Washington Post at the culture of permissiveness that developed over many years at the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency (now disbanded) that was responsible for overseeing mining and drilling of natural resources on federally owned lands.  MMS’s “consensus-based” approach to oil regulation, beginning in the 1990s, led to a decision to end royalty payments for certain deepwater drilling leases that required larger investments by oil companies. The Deepwater Horizon was built on one of those leases.

Another ‘BP Squad’ should investigate dispersants

The Obama administration has deployed the ‘BP Squad’ of federal investigators to the Gulf to probe whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of government regulators or private companies related to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

As Peter Henning points out in The New York Times, the criminal probe focuses mostly on (more…)

Better regulation needed because oil and water don’t mix

Ever wonder why more aggressive government regulation makes sense?  Read Ian Shapira’s minute-by-minute account in the Washington Post about seafood buyers for major supermarkets who are trying to make sure Americans have fresh, safe fish to eat.  Just the hint of petroleum in the fish Americans buy every day is enough to force seafood purchasing overseas, where suppliers don’t maintain as high food safety standards as U.S. companies.  The money goes abroad.  The fish may be worse in quality and come from rapacious fish harvesting practices. (more…)