Conflicts of interest continue to mount down on the Gulf. A few notable episodes leap to mind. We saw BP put in charge of the post-spill response, supposedly because it was the only entity with the expertise to do it. We saw institutions with strong financial ties to the oil industry doing critical spill-related research. We see the Coast Guard in charge of government sampling that will determine if that same Coast Guard screwed up by rubber-stamping BP’s dispersant use when the EPA said not to. The list goes on and on.
Well, here’s the latest outrage – and it’s really hard to accept this one. For the vital “autopsy” of the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventor, the Interior Department plans to hire the same firm, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), that inspected and re-certified the rig’s safety procedures. Worse, the firm has longstanding business ties with rig-owner Transocean.
A Washington Post story hits the high points: “[The firm] inspected and recertified the Deepwater Horizon’s safety procedures. In 2009, Transocean hired DNV to study the reliability of subsea blowout preventers. That same year, DNV named a Transocean vice president, N. Pharr Smith, to be chairman of DNV’s rig owners’ committee, which provides ‘input’ to DNV’s rule-making process.”
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), which usually investigates major incidents like the BP spill but has endured a turf battle with Interior, is calling bull: “‘It’s of particular concern that DNV has done a specific analysis of the rig back in 2007, has opined separately on the reliability of BOPs and specifically taken the position that a second blind shear ram would only marginally make a difference,’ said Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the Chemical Safety Board. ‘We think those positions are a conflict that should have been reviewed early.'”
Some might note that the Interior Department is, no doubt, in “cover your ass” mode here, and it gets worse. The Post also reports: “The CSB, asked by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to conduct its own inquiry into the Deepwater Horizon blowout, has recruited four veteran experts who have no conflicts of interest, CSB officials said. Interior chose one who had extensive drilling experience at Exxon, excluding another with pipeline and welding expertise.”
Given that it was a too-cozy relationship between regulators and industry that helped get us into this mess, we can surmise that the regulators are “doing a Tony Hayward.” They, clearly, are back to their old lives.
Read the “sad state of affairs” story here: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/11/firm_that_certified_safety_of.html
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