U.S. Coast Guard

The Department of the Interior has some harsh words for Black Elk Energy, the company responsible for last week’s explosion on an oil  rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Well, actually, not really harsh at all.

From a letter from Interior’s Lars Herbst to Black Elk’s CEO [PDF]:

This letter is to notify you that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has determined that the operating performance of Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC (Black Elk) must be improved immediately.

Or, ideally, a week ago.

The letter outlines things that Black Elk needs to do to improve worker safety, outlining previous incidents in which the company had safety issues — all of which has a distinctly “you shouldn’t have done that” feel. Like when you were a kid and you made a little ramp and rode your bike toward it and you wiped out and then your parents were like, “Well, that was a bad idea. You shouldn’t have done that.” Yeah? No kidding? Thanks, Mom.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course Black Elk should, at a minimum, upgrade its worker safety systems. A system under which an employee dies probably requires improvement. But, barring doing nothing, this is the absolute least that the government could do. Why let Black Elk keep operating until it submits its plan for improvement? Why not crack down on a company with repeated violations before contractors it employs are forced to leap off of a burning platform in the Gulf?

The letter ends with this:

In addition, in an April 2012 meeting, Lake Jackson’s District Manager warned Black Elk that it would be placed on notice if it did not improve its operations.

And now that you have blood on your hands, we’d like to reiterate that vague threat.