Is the White House Derailing Efforts to Increase Oil Industry Oversight?


As underwhelming as it was, and as much as it virtually ignored the human health threat, the National Oil Spill Commission report does contain a few good recommendations, and now the Times-Picayune is reporting that the White House opposes one of the panel’s better ideas.

As we’ve said before, it’s incredible what a few massive campaign contributions will do for an industry.

The Commission offered the obligatory praise for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s shuffling of the deck chairs at the Department of the Interior’s former Mineral Management Service. But it went on to say that the new oversight structure didn’t go far enough to protest safety regulators from political and money-making pressures.

The Commission recommended a new commission outside the too-cozy relationship that helped get us into this mess.

But a White House memo obtained by the Times-Picayune “… suggests the agency proposed by the commission could work in the future, but not right now.” Says the memo: “We are also concerned about legislative proposals that would mandate specific drilling safety or environmental performance regulatory requirements by statute due to the need to maintain flexible, performance-based and cost-effective regulatory approaches…”

What? Does anyone believe that? This is a Congress that has yet to act on anything related to the BP spill. Case in point: the laughable $75 million liability cap for oil companies remains in place. And with Republicans in control of the House, there’s zero chance of any meaningful reform legislation anytime soon. So the real issue is keeping those pesky “outsiders” out of the Department of the Interior – because nobody knows what they might find.

Sadly, this is just another step back toward where we were before the BP spill, assuming we’re not already there. We still see first hand how Big Oil and the government work hand in hand, and there’s a reason many Gulf residents have long ago stopped trusting anything “official.” Others might be surprised that the White House would oppose a new layer of regulation, but around here we know that government agencies like to keep their secrets.

Read the Times-Picayune big story here:

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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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