Waking America From the BP Nightmare
The spill cam, requested by Congress, has brought the horror into homes across the country, as we watch tens of thousands of barrels of oil billowing into the Gulf every day.
For years, the oil industry swore this could never happen. We were told that technology had advanced, that offshore drilling was safe.
BP said they didn't think the rig would sink. It did.
They said they could handle an Exxon Valdez-sized spill every day. They couldn't.
BP said the spill was 1,000 barrels per day. It wasn't. And they knew it.
Now the other big oil companies, testifying in Congress today, contend that this was an isolated incident. They say a similar disaster could never happen to them.
In preparation for this hearing, Congress reviewed the oil spill safety response plans for all the top five oil companies.
What we found was that Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell and BP have response plans that are virtually identical. The plans cite identical response capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment. In some cases, they use the exact same words and made the exact same assurances.
The covers of the five response plans are different colors, but the content is ninety percent identical.
Two other plans are such dead ringers for BP's that they list a phone number for the same expert - a man who has been dead since 2005.
The American people deserve oil safety plans that are ironclad and not boilerplate.
We now know the oil industry, and the government agency tasked with regulating them, determined that there was a zero chance that this kind of undersea disaster could ever happen.
When you believe that there is zero chance of a disaster happening, you do zero disaster planning. And the oil industry has invested nearly zero time and money into developing safety and response efforts.
The oil companies amassed nearly $289 billion dollars in profits over the last three years. They spent $39 billion to explore for new oil and gas.
Yet the average investment in research and development for safety, accident prevention, and spill response was a paltry $20 million per year, less than one-tenth of one percent of their profits.
First, Congress must ensure that there is unlimited liability for oil spills by oil companies. While we try to cap this well, we must lift the cap on oil industry liability.
Second, Congress must also enact wide-ranging safety reforms for offshore drilling. If oil companies are going to pursue ultra-deep drilling, we must ensure that it is ultra-safe and that companies can respond ultra-fast.
Third, the free ride is over. Oil companies need to pay their fair share to drill on public land. Right now every single one of the companies here today and dozens of others are drilling for free in the Gulf of Mexico on leases that will cost American taxpayers more than $50 billion dollars in lost royalties.
Fourth, we must ensure that new technologies are developed for capping wells, boosting safety and cleaning up spills. I will soon introduce the Oil SOS Act to go along with the SURF fund to ensure that we have 21st century technologies in place for 21st century drilling risks.
And finally, America must move to a safer clean energy future so that we don't have to rely as much on oil to power our cars and our economy. The House has acted, passing the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy & Security Act. Every day we delay action, Chinese moves ahead in wind technology. The Germans create more solar jobs. Worst of all, American consumers send half a billion dollars a day to OPEC and countries that wish us harm.
In overwhelming numbers, the American people are ready to start working our way to a clean energy future. They want to wake up from BP's oil spill nightmare to a future powered by clean, safe energy solutions.
OP: So, aside from the different shades of color, my initial thought was that these documents look to me as though they were created by, if not the same person, then certainly the same consulting firm. (Actually, it looks like the top three were probably created by one person, and the bottom two possibly by a second one....I'm basing this on the slightly different styles of placement and font) Since in my current job, I do technical/business writing and have spent a great deal of time where I create documents for various customers, this is something that kind of screamed out to me. Turns out, I was correct. See that little "wooshy" logo at the bottom of each document? That seemed to be the clincher, if one was even needed based on the graphics and virtually identical fonts used on the covers anyway.
After doing a bit of online searching, I located a link to this company called The Response Group.....and LOOK! There's the little "whooshy" logo! Who are they? Well, they describe themselves on their "about us" page as follows:
"Formed in 2003, The Response Group is an Emergency Response Consulting and Support company in a growing niche with operations in Houston, Beaumont, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Durango, and Anchorage areas. While the home office is in Houston, there are over 35 employees throughout our various locations. "
They even have a special page dedicated to the creation of Oil Spill Response plans! Wheee!
While it's certainly beyond my own research skills, I would love to see someone like Rachel Maddow get hold of this and do some digging. I'm curious to know why on earth the largest oil companies in the world would come to this seemingly rather tiny firm to create their oil spill response plans, and apparently put them into implementation (i.e. wherein they apparently sit on a shelf and gather dust anyway because they are so useless) without even reviewing their contents to see if they actually make sense (read: walruses). Who are the people running this firm? What are their qualifications? Do they have ties to big oil beyond the obvious ones with their business?
Even if they themselves are not part of the problem, I certainly think Congress should have folks from this company answer questions about their work with the oil companies and determine if their clients even cared about the contents of these oil spill response plans, or if they knew they were providing cookie cutter stuff and had no feedback or input from the oil companies. If that is the case, it certainly would speak to an industry-wide problem of negligence as it pertains to safety planning.
Also: I haven't yet found the response plan documents for the other companies, but here's BP's version of their oil spill response plan that was created by The Response Group for the Gulf of Mexico.