Friday, April 30, 2010

FBI Investigates Possibility That Massey Energy Employees Bribed Officials Prior To Mine Explosion

NPR reports today that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether employees of Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine that exploded in West Virginia three weeks ago, bribed mine safety officials and engaged in criminal negligence prior to the explosion.
Sources familiar with the investigation say the FBI is looking into possible bribery of employees of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that inspects and regulates mining. The sources say FBI agents are also exploring potential criminal negligence on the part of Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine.

Massey has been cited repeatedly for violations of federal safety regulations and unsubstantiated rumors have circulated for years that mine inspectors and other officials receive payoffs. The FBI declines comment and neither confirms nor denies that an investigation is ongoing.
It's more bad news for Massey Energy, which has been cited for violating the Clean Water Act 12,000 times (no, that's not a typo) and whose CEO Don Blankenship has some seriously strange views about the science surrounding global warming.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Limbaugh Thinks Enviromentalist "Whackos" Blew Up Oil Rig

Your Really?Seriously? Moment Of The Day. Gotta hear it to believe it:

(h/t Media Matters)

Despite Bragging About Safety, Transocean And BP Failed To Use Latest Safety Technology On Leaking Platform

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform that is currently leaking more than 5,000 gallons per day into the Gulf of Mexico lacked a major safeguard that is required in several other major oil producing countries -- but not in the United States.
The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn't have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.

The lack of the device, called an acoustic switch, could amplify concerns over the environmental impact of offshore drilling after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, hired by oil giant BP PLC, last week.
The revelations suggest that while BP and its rig operator Transocean may have complied with the letter of the law in operating the Deepwater Horizon, they certainly did not live up to repeated claims both companies have made as to the safety of their operations.

In Congressional testimony last November, BP Vice President for Gulf of Mexico Exploration David Rainey said that members of Congress and the public were not giving enough credit to the oil industry for the safety of its offshore drilling activities:
Contrary to popular perception, ours is a high-tech industry. To demonstrate this point, I would like to highlight three technologies which enable the safe and reliable production of offshore oil and gas.
Rainey then proceeded to discuss a list of drilling technologies that did not include acoustic switches, which are a required component of all new offshore rigs in Norway and Brazil. It's not exactly a new technology: Norwegian offshore rigs have been using acoustic switches since 1993.

For its part, Transocean wants to make its customers well-aware of its bulletproof commitment to safety. In a glossy brochure promoting its fleet of offshore rigs, the company says:
Transocean's diversity of people and assets is complemented by a Safety Vision of providing an incident-free workplace. All the time, everywhere.
It's a Safety Vision that's based on what Transocean later calls its "unparalleled technical leadership." That would unparalleled except in Brazil or Norway, where Transocean's operations would be considered outdated by about 17 years.

And in case you were thinking the world's major oil companies can't afford a little more dedication to the safety of their workers and the environment, consider this: while the burning hulk that was once the Deepwater Horizon continues to spew crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, ExxonMobil posted a profit today of $6.3 billion (up 38 percent from last year at this time) and ConocoPhillips surged to a profit of $2.1 billion (up 46 percent).
The oil spill also comes at a time when truly innovative and safe technology -- offshore wind power -- was just approved in the form of the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gulf Of Mexico Will Burn In Wake Of Oil Spill

As a destroyed oil rig continues to leak oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard is resorting to a drastic measure in order to stop the pollution from reaching the Louisiana coastline. They're setting the Gulf on fire.

Small, controlled burns come as a last resort in a battle to control the spread of a massive oil slick which is now estimated to cover an area of 100 by 45 miles (about as big as the state of Rhode Island).

The image of flames rising up from a body of water is a painful reminder of the Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1952.

Despite key differences between the two events (the river fire was obviously not intentional), the parallels point to a chilling realization:

In over 50 years, we still haven't cleaned up our energy policy enough to prevent environmental disasters like these.

Let this be a call to action - just as the Cuyahoga River incident kick-started the environmental movement and eventually led to the first Earth Day. It's time to stand up against dirty industries like oil and turn toward clean energy to protect our environment, security, and economy in the decades to come.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Photo Of 'Safe' Offshore Drilling

Sometimes a photo says it all. With Big Oil and allies like Sarah Palin pushing the "Drill, baby, drill!" line as a poor substitute to America's unhealthy dependence on foreign oil, it's worth taking a moment to take a step back (really, really far back) and evaluate the consequences of our oil addiction.

The offshore oil rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico has left an oil slick that covers more than 2,000 square miles of ocean and is visible from space.

Does this mean the Heritage Foundation, American Petroleum Institute and other oil-obsessed interest groups will be walking back their claims as to the safety of offshore drilling anytime soon? Don't bet on it...