Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Avoiding the Fine

So now BP has a scheme to pump mud into the new cap to stop the oil flow. This after repeated delays in collecting oil via the new cap, which was the original plan. In case everyone - especially administration point man and chief BP toady - Thad Allen forgot, the idea was to get to tighter seal to stop the leakage, but never to stop the oil from being collected. At least that was the fiction BP kept putting out there.

The original plan called for 48 hours of leak testing and then a resumption of bringing the oil to the surface via a maze of new pipes and hoses. That was the plan. Well, we are now almost 7 days into that 48 hours and BP keeps convincing Allen that this was their plan all along. Sadly, Allen keeps going along with whatever lies they tell him. Seems the former admiral is just like his boss in the White House - lacking in any kind of spine to stand up to anyone about anything.

While Allen keeps extending the time they can pretend the well is sealed, BP is quietly moving in ships to collect 80,000 barrels per day if they have to. That is 20,000 more per day than the highest bogus estimate. And estimates are all we have since BP - with Allen's tacit endorsement - continues to refuse to allow any type of empirical measurement of the oil flow. Thus the plan to pump mud into the new cap.

Before I get into the why, let me say that this cap does not seal the well. There are leaks. Allen describes them as drips. He calls them insignificant. Well, they are significant enough to warrant dispersant. Thad Allen simply reads whatever BP hands him. The oil coming from the floor of the Gulf? Not this well, according to Allen. Actually according to BP as relayed by Thad Allen.

So why is BP so determined to prevent any measurement of the oil flow? Because any fine or penalty will be based on how much oil was spilled. The maximum fine is $4,300 per barrel if gross negligence is proven, and it does look like BP was amazingly negligent. As long as there are just estimates based on video and partial collection, then BP can fight any fine in court until the dinosaurs return. Without an empirical measurement, the fine is negotiable and subject to challenge.

It is not like the government has not ordered BP repeatedly to put instruments down there to measure the spill. They have. Multiple times. But Thad Allen has repeatedly let them off the hook. He has claimed that there is too much submersible traffic around the well, that it would slow the work of closing the well and so on. All of which are pure nonsense. BP knows exactly how much oil is coming out of that well. They knew on day one and they know today. The new cap actually has measurements for that. But Thad Allen is not interested in enforcing the orders of the government he pretends to work for.

In fact he has allowed BP to dictate this process all the way. Remember his promise of transparency? Never happened. Remember how he promised to get the flow rate measured. Never happened. And on and on. It was Thad Allen that green lighted the dispersant despite the EPA's order banning it. And it has been Thad Allen that has extended the "testing period" for the new cap repeatedly. In 24 hour increments.

If Allen had stuck to his word and forced BP to start collecting the oil, we would now know exactly how much oil was running hourly or daily. But BP does not want that to ever be known. To them that is the big secret and the big cover up. That flow rate number is their worst fear since it will determine the multi-billion dollar fine.

I thought Thad Allen was supposed to work for us. Obama put him there to represent the government. He is supposed to make sure that BP is following the rules. Instead, Obama and Allen allow BP to make the rules. And break them when it is convenient. Allen refers to him and BP as "us" and "we" but never them. He does not have our best interests at heart any more than any of BP's executives do.

In this regard, Thad Allen has failed. Just like the blowout preventer failed on the well itself. The very thing meant to protect us has turned out to be the very thing that is doing the damage. Another in a growing line of failed Obama appointees allowed to keep failing. And another that seems to think transparency is synonymous with secrecy.

When history writes this sad chapter, it will be called, "When government fails and people suffer."

I am offering shirts with this design and will be sending the profits directly to the Plaquemines Parish Fund that is set up to help the folks most hurt by this mess.

I spoke to the good folks at Plaquemines and I have to say that for people living a horror show, they are some of the nicest and most grateful people you would ever want to talk to.

Please help out and get the message out at the same time.

You can order them here:

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