Did Feds Strike a Secret Deep-water Drilling Deal with BP?


It’s hard to imagine, but BP will apparently celebrate the one-year anniversary of its catastrophic oil spill with the realization that things are well on their way back to “business as usual.” Although reports vary on the breaking story of a secret Gulf drilling deal between BP and Obama Administration regulators, the Independent newspaper in the UK is saying BP CEO Robert Dudley has scored a “coup.”

The Administration is issuing strong denials of the “deal,” so cynics, like myself, figure there has to be something to it. Federal regulators are protesting far too much for there not to have been something in the works. Despite the fact that the source behind the “secret deal” remains unnamed, this kind of breaking news doesn’t simply construct itself out of thin air. Thus, we see denials at the highest levels. The old axiom “where there is smoke, there is fire” certainly applies here.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said: “There is no agreement with respect to BP, nor will there be any agreement with respect to BP or anybody else that isn’t within the normal process that we have.” Sounds great, but there’s always plenty of wiggle room in this kind of official denial. There are “workarounds” like issuing permits to BP partners but not the company itself, or not issuing a “new” permit but expanding a current permit, or even defining what a “normal process” is (because most of us have no idea what that would look like coming out of our federal regulatory agencies).

Listen, this is the Administration of lowball oil-flow rates. The Administration that setup “safety zones” around the spill to keep reporters and the public away. The same Administration that produced the “vast majority of the oil is gone” press spin. The same Administration that backed sniff-tested seafood safety. The same Administration that’s dragging its feet on testing the dead dolphins and keeping the process “confidential.” The list of pro-industry action is long and well documented.

So, at this point, a secret deal with BP wouldn’t – or at least shouldn’t – surprise anyone.

The Telegraph newspaper out of London reports that BP, and it’s many industry friends, have gotten the green light to expand production at 10 existing Gulf of Mexico wells “…following a deal with US regulators to continue work halted by a moratorium imposed after 200 million gallons of oil were leaked into the Gulf… the plans, which have angered environmentalists, are a coup for Bob Dudley, BP’s new American chief executive…”

Guess what one of the concessions from BP was, according to the Telegraph? Get this. BP officials will allow the U.S. government “24 hour access” to its records. Well heck, that’s darn nice of them, wouldn’t you say? This is particularly galling to those of us who, about a year ago, questioned if the oil giant could survive. Certainly, with the nation screaming for nationalization of BP’s U.S. assets, the time seemed right for real change.

Well, the jury is still out, to a degree, because we’ve yet to see what turns up in civil court once some of these issues surface at trial – and those potential criminal charges still hang out there. But so far, you have to score a win in the early rounds for BP and its cronies in the U.S. government.

Here’s the Independent story: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bp-back-in-business-in-gulf-of-mexico-ndash-a-year-after-deepwater-horizon-2261413.html

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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