Thursday, June 17, 2010

Study shows that MMS knew in 2009 of BP safety failures

A study commissioned in partnership with the MMS during the Obama Administration uncovered 62 instances of blow out preventor (BOP) failures including 4 that were considered critical and yet MMS took no action against BP, allowing the drilling to go forward despite being warned that the blow out preventors were suspect and could result in catastrophic failures.

While Obama has received heavy criticism for an inadequate response to the Gulf spill now in its 60th day, a response that those in Louisiana continue to find lacking, there is now evidence that the Obama Administration was just as negligent as the Bush Administration in dealing with the oil industry and safety standards.

There was ample warning that the blow out preventors presented a potential hazard for failure in any underwater environment but the fact that they were going to be used for the first time in water 5000 feet deep raised no concerns at the Obama Administrations's MMS.

It is specifically the failures at those depths that is the real cause of the environmental disaster in the Gulf. Had the same failures occurred in 200 feet of water, any of the remedies BP used to try and plug the leak would have worked. It is at depths of 5000 feet, depths at which those remedies had never before been tried, that made attempts to plug the leak virtually impossible.

Given the greater risks that drilling at those depths entailed, especially given the warnings of potential failures of the BOP's at any depths, much less 5000 feet, the evidence seems to be that the MMS under Obama did nothing more than continue the polices of the Bush Administration and that led to the disaster. Business as usual from the candidate who promised to change the way business was done.

Considering that Obama had announced a new policy of more off shore drilling only days before the explosion, ( a policy now on hold) its clear that prior to that announcement there was no review undertaken by the Obama Administration of the MMS and its regulations and policies before deciding to expand its drilling policy. Instead the MMS was allowed to ignore the safety concerns raised by the study as recently as June of 2009, and granted safety waivers to BP.

While BP is getting its well deserved share of blame for their cutting corners and being responsibile for the spill, the news media, once again blind to Obama's failures, have cut their own corners, so far ignorng the evidence that the MMS overseen by the Obama Administration, gave BP its waivers on safety, specifically on the blow out preventor at the heart of the problem, in spite of warnings it had of the dangers.

Whether Obama will pay a political price for the safety violations that were ignored under his watch is hard to say. But the fact that MMS was notified of potential failures of the blow out preventor in June of 2009, which did in fact fail, may give Obama even bigger problems to deal with politically than his failures at getting help to the Gulf for the clean up.

A new opinion poll by CNN now shows 60% of the country disapprove of Obama's handling of the spill. The poll was taken after the announcement of a $20 billion escrow account BP will establish to pay claims.

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