Accidents Will Happen
Okay, this is just the last straw:
BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg doesn’t have too many defenders these days, but he can count Mayor Bloomberg as one of them.
“The guy who runs BP didn’t exactly go down there and blow up the well,” the mayor said on his weekly WOR radio show today.
Uh-huh. And before that it was Rand Paul saying “it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.” And before that it was the head of FreedomWorks calling it “a natural disaster.” And before that it was David Vitter and some offshore drilling consultant comparing it to a plane crash.
I even had a conservatarian commenter spout the Bloomberg line in one of my posts:
To listen to the left talk of the spill you would think that BP purposely set this rig ablaze. It was a horrific accident that neither BP nor the federal government are prepared to deal with effectively.
Suffice it to say that I am well and truly sick of this “It was just a tragic accident that just happened and no one could have prevented” bullshit.
Consider all of the following and tell me whether this disaster sounds unavoidable to you: . . .
- MMS determined that BOPs are unreliable enough to require backup systems, but allowed the offshore drilling industry to police itself anyway. BP claims BOP failure was “inconceivable” and didn’t install a backup, even though BOP failures are an Actual Thing That Happens.
- MMS apparently forgot its own 2000 study on the dangers of offshore drilling and gave BP a “categorical exclusion” from performing a thorough environmental impact analysis because a major spill was just so damn unlikely.
- BP’s emergency plan for an accident at the Macondo site was a half-assed cut-and-paste job that references seals, sea otters, and walruses.
- BP sent Schlumberger engineers home without performing an acoustic test which “a top cementing company executive called ‘the only test that can really determine the actual effectiveness’ of the well’s seal,” apparently because it was too time-consuming and expensive. The well also lacked seals on either the annulus or the central bore.
- BP didn’t perform a “bottoms-up” test of the mud where the cement casing was to be placed.
- When BP lost “well control” and the BOP started leaking fluid, BP resisted testing the BOP, and when they finally did it was at a much lower pressure level. They also dismissed “chunks of rubber [BOP seal] in the drilling fluid” as “no big deal.”
- BP didn’t use a “liner” between the pipe and the cement, saving time and money but significantly increasing the risk that the cement would fail. It appears that BP was aware of the risk and ignored MMS’s and their own safety guidelines. Halliburton warned “that BP’s use of cement ‘was against our best practices'” and “that a ‘severe’ gas flow problem would occur if the casings were not centered more carefully.”
- The BP “company man” on the Deepwater Horizon ignored abnormal pressure readings and Transocean engineer warnings and went forward with replacing heavy drilling mud with seawater, making it much easier for gas to explode up out of the well.
All of this is consistent with BP’s Massey-like commitment to profits first and safety last – their record is appalling even by oil industry standards. This disaster was not some capricious whim of fate, it was actively courted by BP’s impatience, greed and arrogance and MMS’s complicit passivity. If a drunk driver runs over a kid, that’s not a tragic unavoidable accident; it’s a despicable crime committed by a self-important asshole who couldn’t be bothered to take a cab, and enabled by the friends who didn’t take away his keys.
That’s what regulations and regulators are supposed to be about – they may be a drag, they may be a buzzkill, they may cost time and money, but when they’re effective they protect us from disasters like mine collapses, poisonous food and drugs, financial meltdowns, and the extinction of entire ecosystems. If Republicans can advocate suspending huge chunks of the Constitution to supposedly protect us from terrorists, is it really so much for us to ask for some protection against corporations?