The lead investigator for the Gulf oil spill commission surprised a lot of people yesterday. Not only did he say he agrees with most of the findings of BP’s own internal report, but he also believes that no one on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig cut corners to save money.
Can’t ask, won’t tell: That conclusion by Fred Bartlit, a corporate attorney serving as chief counsel for the presidential commission, runs counter to what we’ve been hearing from various investigating panels over the past few months — that BP, way behind schedule on a well costing it at least $1 million a day, took dangerous risks to get it into production.
Bartlit later clarified his comments, pointing out that he was really talking about the workers on the rig. [Wall Street Journal]
I don’t believe people sit there and say, well, this is really dangerous, but the guys in London will make more money. I don’t think they think that way.
The fact that the commission’s findings so far haven’t been all that different from BP’s again raises the question of how much its investigation has been limited by the lack of authority to subpoena witnesses and have them testify under oath. Senate Republicans blocked the commission from getting subpoena power because they thought it might be biased against the oil and gas industry.
Still, Bartlit’s conclusion about not cutting corners left BP critics, including Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), incredulous. [AP]
When the culture of a company favors risk-taking and cutting corners about other concerns, systemic failures like this oil spill disaster result without direct decisions being made or tradeoffs being considered. What is fully evident, from BP’s pipeline spill in Alaska and the Texas city refinery disaster, to the Deepwater Horizon well failure, is that BP has a long and sordid history of cutting costs and pushing the limits in search of higher profits.
Here’s a rundown of from the Houston Chronicle on the commission’s 13 reasons for the explosion.
Chain of fuel: Meanwhile, scientists contend that much of the oil spilled into the Gulf was eaten by tiny organisms and worked its way at least part way up the food chain. [New Orleans Times-Picayune]
And in other green news:
He aims to squeeze: Unlike some of his Republican colleagues, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.) doesn’t want to deep six the House’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Instead he wants to use it — he’d be the new chairman — to squeeze the EPA. Here’s some of what he had to say in a Roll Call op-ed:
Now that the Democrats’ new energy tax has sputtered in Congress — and was rejected by voters — the EPA has accelerated efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by fiat. The EPA has already claimed the legal authority to regulate every manufacturer and energy producer in the country and has even suggested it has the authority to implement a cap-and-trade program similar to the one Congress recently rejected … Republicans won back the House in the recent elections because voters are demanding more responsible government. This means less government spending, but it also means serious oversight.
Oily, oily in free: Aside from a commitment to throttle the EPA and push for offshore drilling, it’s not easy to nail down the Republican strategy on climate and energy. One phrase that does keep coming up, though, is “all of the above,” which means they like oil, coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, biomass, and maybe even electric cars. [Politico]
Bait and switch: Republican leaders are reportedly dangling juicy committee positions in front West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin to get him to become a Republican. Late in his campaign, Manchin — elected to the Senate to fill the late Robert Byrd’s seat — did all to could to distance himself from Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, including a now infamous ad in which he was shown using a “Cap and Trade Bill” for target practice. [Fox News]
Good luck with that: A pair of senators — one Democrat, one Republican, believe it or not — are pushing the idea of raising the gas tax one cent a month to help pay for rebuilding America’s roads and bridges. But no tax increase is too small for Republicans to block. [The Hill]
Any tort in a storm: Policy wonks are looking at a backdoor approach to regulating some greenhouse gases: Amending a 23-year-old treaty. [The New York Times]
Then again, they don’t like most things: A research outfit in the U.K. says that one of the biggest threats to the growth of wind power is old people. They don’t like it. [Ecopolitology]
The sun conveys: Imagine a thin film coating your whole house and turning it into one big solar panel. [Discovery News]
On the flip side: How do you spot a BPA-free store receipt? (Hint: Look for red rayon fibers visible on the backside of the paper.) [Fast Company]