“A Blowout Scenario is Not Required”

By Larry J. Schweiger

BP convinced the federal agency that oversees drilling safety, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), that a well blowout like what has now occurred at the Macondo well was so unlikely that “a blowout scenario…is not required for operations proposed.” What’s so amazing is that not only did the MMS grant a waiver for the Macondo Well, which is now leaking oil at multiple times the Exxon Valdez with no viable plan for stopping it, but MSS approved this for operations in the entire northern and western Gulf of Mexico. The MMS gave a “categorical exclusion” exempting a huge swath of the Gulf from environmental impact requirements.

When approached by BP for their lease, MMS should have immediately insisted upon a full environmental impact statement. Given the scale of this enterprise and the inherent risk of deepwater drilling, MMS should have recognized this as a crucial opportunity to review the adequacy of the spill prevention and response technology proposed by BP. Instead MMS adhered to a legally flawed internal policy that was adopted by the Bush administration in 2004 and grated a categorical exclusion for a huge array of environmentally hazardous activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

As an example of the inadequacy of BP’s spill response plans, two weeks after the explosion, BP was training fishermen how to use booms to collect surface oil. This is like organizing a fire department after your house catches on fire.