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Is Deepwater Horizon Rig Owner Trying To Blame Victims For Gulf Oil Disaster?

A new report released by authorities in the Marshall Islands says that the failure of oil rig workers to properly address safety issues led to last year’s catastrophic blowout and explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The Deepwater Horizon was registered in the Marshall Islands by rig owner Transocean. Much like large ships, oil rigs are often registered in overseas territories for tax purposes.

The Marshall Islands report is one of the first to explicitly put the blame for the disaster on workers rather than the companies involved – BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron International. While the new report is not the first to claim that communications broke down in the moments leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it is the first to place the blame mostly on the backs of the people who did everything in their power to avert the disaster, while only casually mentioning the fact that BP’s actions and those of the other companies with a stake in the rig might have also helped cause the disaster.

Transocean Report Blames BP For Gulf Oil Disaster

Offshore oil drilling giant Transocean released the results of an internal investigation this week on the causes of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. The investigation concluded that well owner BP was to blame for the explosion and the resulting 3-month oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico.

Transocean claims that BP’s actions led to the blowout, as they were in charge of most of the decision-making on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Transocean says that BP’s poor decisions caused a succession of problems ranging from the well design itself to the construction process of the Macondo rig. Transocean officials also fault BP for causing a breakdown in communication during construction, which they claim led to many of the failures aboard the oil rig. Here are a few highlights from their report:

Tom Ridge Claimed "I'm Not a Lobbyist" on Colbert Report, But The Facts Prove Otherwise

Tom Ridge, on the Thursday, June 9 edition of the Colbert Report, claimed he is “not a lobbyist.” A quick glance at his resume shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

Ridge, now 65 years-old, has worn multiple hats throughout his extensive political career. Among them: first ever head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Bush Administration from 2003-2005, former Governor of Pennsylvania from 1995-2001, and former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from from 1983-1995.<--break->

Upon leaving the DHS in 2005, Ridge commenced his career as a lobbyist, opening a lobby shop known as Ridge Global, located in Washington, D.C, an entity he still currently heads. Beyond this stint, though, Ridge is also a paid “consultant” (a.k.a. lobbyist) for the Marcellus Shale Coaltion. This Coalition is a “trade association” in disguise, for in reality it is a gas industry-funded lobbying organization.

That aside, one must look no further than the Pennsylvania Department of State’s lobbyist registry for the real smoking gun evidence. (See attached lobbying disclosure for Tom Ridge.)

Lawsuits Fly And Fizzle To Mark Anniversary Of Deepwater Horizon Explosion

BP is attempting to shift the blame for last year’s oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico onto Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig. BP has also announced plans to sue Cameron International, the manufacturer of the blowout preventer on the rig, claiming that the poor design of the blowout preventer led to the device’s failure. In all, BP is seeking $40 billion in damages from the two companies.

BREAKING: Pennsylvania Fracking Spill A Haunting Reminder on BP Anniversary

On the anniversary of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the fossil fuel industry has another out of control leak happening right now. Does this sound familiar? An oil and gas company is “attempting to kill the well” and working to contain a major spill.

According to WNEP-TV, a fracked gas well in rural northern Pennsylvania has blown, causing a major spill of fracking fluid into the environment. Bradford County emergency officials say thousands of gallons of tainted water have spilled from the Chesapeake Energy Corp. well site in LeRoy Township near Canton since early this morning.

Crews were fracking when the well blew out near the surface. A massive operation is underway in Bradford County to deal with the spill. Seven families have been evacuated so far.

Bonuses After Blowouts: Transocean Rewards Executives for Shoddy Safety

Nearly a year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed eleven workers and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. A presidential commission blamed Transocean, the owner of the rig, and both BP and Halliburton for cost-cutting that caused the blowout. The BP blowout’s ravages continue, and it may be many years before we understand the full impacts of the oil disaster including the health implications of Corexit, the dispersant that was used to break apart the oil to minimize the (visible) damage. 

Transocean leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, and 9 of the workers killed in the blowout were employees of the offshore drilling giant.  Given that, it seems curious that the company awarded its executives $400,000 in “safety” bonuses for 2010. According to the company, 2010 was “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history”. Yes, we’re talking about the same company that helped cause the industry’s highest-profile accident since the 1989 ExxonMobil Valdez spill in Alaska.

According to the company, executive bonuses are calcuated based on two satefy critera: the rate of incidents per 200,000 hours that employees work, and the potential severity of those incidents. By their estimations, in 2010, the rate of incidents dropped by 4% from 2009.

The company argued that they had an “exemplary safety record”. Perhaps they have a different understanding of “severity”, and of “safety” for that matter. 

‘Energy In Depth’ Was Created By Major Oil and Gas Companies According to Industry Memo

Update 11:35am PST: IPAA link is broken again, so use this link to view the memo.

Update 9:48am PST: It looks like the IPAA link works again. Here is the original link. In case similar access issues arise, I will continue to host the document at DeSmogBlog.

*Update 9:03am PST: It appears IPAA may have removed the memo from its website today in the wake of this report, so I have attached it to this post as a PDF and updated the links in the post so the memo is available for the world to see.

DeSmogBlog has uncovered an industry memo revealing that ‘Energy In Depth’ is hardly comprised of the mom-and-pop “small, independent oil and natural gas producers” it claims to represent.  In fact, the industry memo we found, entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing Under Attack,” shows that Energy In Depth “would not be possible without the early financial commitments” of major oil and gas interests including BP, Halliburton, Chevron, Shell, XTO Energy (now owned by ExxonMobil), and several other huge oil and gas companies that provided significant funding early on and presumably still fund the group's efforts.

According to the 2009 memo, Energy In Depth was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to…attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” using “new communications tools that are becoming the pathway of choice in national political campaigns.”

Energy In Depth (EID) is featured in the news a lot these days, chiefly for attacking the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, but also for its extensive efforts to malign the excellent reporting done by ProPublica, the Associated Press and other outlets. EID seems to attack everyone who attempts to investigate the significant problems posed by hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that have been shown to threaten public health and water quality across America.

What Was Missing From the Oil Spill Commission's Report

Earlier this week, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released their final report on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. For those of us who had been following the story, there was nothing new in the report – BP, Halliburton, and Transocean cut corners on safety measures; They received warnings from crew that there were numerous problems, and that the whole disaster should make us take a good hard look at offshore drilling. I’m a little sensitive about this subject because I am a lifelong Gulf Coast resident. While most people only read about the disaster or saw clips on the news, I was living through it, watching tar balls roll up on the beaches I’ve played on since I was an infant.

The report does point some fingers, but the pointing ends with companies like BP, Halliburton, and Transocean. That is the equivalent of blaming Ford if a drunk driver gets into a wreck. In that situation, you have a driver at fault, a bartender who didn’t take away someone’s keys – a collective group making poor decisions. In the Gulf oil disaster, the driver was Dick Cheney, and the bartender was Chris Oynes. Yet strangely enough, neither one of those people were mentioned once in the Oil Spill Commission’s 382-page report.

Experts Blame BP For Ignoring Warning Signs That Led To Gulf Disaster

An independent panel of technical experts released its interim report today, finding that BP and its contractors ignored clear warning signs foretelling the disaster at BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.  The report, compiled by a scientific committee of the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, criticized BP for an “insufficient consideration of risk” in light of “several indications of potential hazard.”

Convened at the behest of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the committee was instructed to carry out an independent and science-based investigation into the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion which killed 11 workers on April 20, 2010.

The experts note that BP and the other companies failed to learn from “near misses” in the past, and none of the companies or regulators flagged the flawed decisions that contributed to the well blowout.

While the U.S. government continues to allow offshore oil and gas operations following a brief deepwater drilling moratorium, the facts uncovered in independent analyses of the BP blowout point to a systemic industry problem with carelessness and a disregard for safety.  It seems cost-shaving and profit potential are the industry’s key concerns, not the safety of America’s ecologically sensitive coastal environments, and certainly not the safety of workers and affected communities.

Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling Over Fracking Threat

The Pittsburgh City Council today unanimously adoped a first-in-the-nation ordinance banning corporations from drilling for natural gas within city limits, a direct response to the threats to drinking water and public health posed by hydraulic fracturing methods used widely by drilling companies to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris said her biggest concern about natural gas fracking involves the threat to people’s health posed by water contaminated by Marcellus drilling. She noted that the gas industry’s claims about creating the thousands of jobs isn’t worth the risk.

“They’re bringing jobs all right,” Harris told CBS News. “There’s going to be a lot of jobs for funeral homes and hospitals. That’s where the jobs are. Is it worth it?”

Beyond its innovative approach to fighting the fracking threat, the ordinance - drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) - seeks to limit the claim of “personhood” by corporations and to elevate the rights of property owners and other living, breathing citizens above the interests of corporations.

According to Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, who introduced the measure, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights.  It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”


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