Deepwater Disaster: Day 101

posted by / News / July 29, 2010

These man we're called in by BP to clean up the oil spill.

These man we're called in by BP to clean up the oil spill.

SURFING’s weekly stream of news regarding the Gulf Coast oil catastrophe.

By Matt Walker

“Human error.” For the past 101 days, that’s how defenders of drilling have both explained the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and brushed off safety concerns for the future, answering critics with a philosophical mix of “shit happens” and “go f–k yourself.” Meanwhile, every new discovery shows that what led to America’s worst environmental disaster wasn’t so much a series of unfortunate accidents by innocent people as it was bad choices by company heads who are inherently greedy, self-serving or just plain stupid. In other words, it’s not human error — it’s human nature.

For example, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was told last week that the alarm system meant to warn of an incident had been partially disabled. Not for repairs, but because “the company didn’t want a false alarm waking people at night.” Perhaps that’s one of the reasons behind BP’s decision to change humans in charge. No longer will Brit Tony Hayward be CEO come Oct. 1; he’s being replaced by red-blooded American Robert Dudley, who told reporters the spill has been a “wake-up call, not only for BP, but the oil and gas industry overall, and we will be looking deeply at our review of operational safety and what we have learned from this spill.”

As proof of that promise to learn from such chilling mistakes, we now know BP is firmly committed to at least appearing more than vigilant, as a slew of doctored photographs were posted on the company website. In some cases they filled empty TV monitors. Others added a few flying helicopters. None are probably as insidiously Photoshopped as your average surf mag cover. And they certainly aren’t as funny as the options suggested here.

Meanwhile, in another half-assed effort to make amends — and cover their own asses — both BP and the government have been offering lucrative consulting contracts to Gulf Coast scientists. The catch? Researchers can’t release their findings for three years, which only keeps the public in the dark and slows down the scientific process. (Perhaps that’s how both Big Oil and Big Gov can paint a rosy picture of environmental safety even as Federal records show a steady stream of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico since 1964.) So while the University of South Florida conclusively linked the vast plumes of underwater oil to the Deepwater Horizon, nobody can say how much is out there for real. And the more it disappears from the surface, the harder it is to track.

What do we know? We know that more than 600 miles of coastline has been oiled. And that we’re at least two weeks away from a permanent solution. We also know from regulators to rigowners. And there are two pieces of legislation moving through Congress, complete with stronger safety standards and bigger fines.

They’d better move quickly. As these words were typed, a tugboat off Louisiana ran into an oil platform, shooting oil and gas up 20 feet into the air — proof that as long as humans are involved, there will be errors, making offshore drilling a constant threat to coastal residents. So join Cory and Shea Lopez in speaking out against opening new waters to offshore drilling. Phone the White House (202-456-1111) and ask President Obama to reinstate the federal moratorium. And show that humans can make the right calls.

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