Regulatory Failure: Feds Continue to Ignore Environmental Dangers – at Our Peril


How are recent environmental disasters affecting the way our government regulates the energy industry? They’re not.

The nuclear catastrophe in Japan? No change in U.S. nuclear energy rollout plans. The BP oil spill that dumped 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico? A hiccup, perhaps (with the brief moratorium), but now back to full steam ahead with doling out deepwater drilling permits. The radioactive contamination of drinking water from natural gas drilling operations (i.e., fracking)? The exemption of the controversial practice from clean water laws remains in place, and companies refuse to disclose the chemicals used in the process.

Boy, we’ve not seen this sort of laissez-faire attitude toward Big Energy since, well, the last Administration – and look at the mess that got us into.

Darren Goode, writing on the influential Politico website, is among those addressing how the BP spill is affecting U.S. regulatory policy, asking “…has the Obama administration turned a corner in terms of opening the spigot to offshore oil and gas drilling since last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill?”

Mr. Goode reports that “…the Interior Department has made a concerted PR effort to promote the four permits as well as Monday’s announcement of the approval of the first post-spill exploration plan. The plan is needed before a company submits a drilling permit application.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich said we’ve reached a “milestone” in business as usual, although I think he worded it slightly differently.

Even Randall Luthi says he’s encouraged. You may recall that Mr. Luthi, the former director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) under George W. Bush, is now pulling down the big bucks as president of a trade group called the National Ocean Industries Association. Imagine that, one of the guys regulating the industry is now working for a trade group. The revolving door continues to spin round and round. You could certainly make the argument that when Mr. Luthi is encouraged, the American public is about to get screwed.

The Politico story and other media reports paint a fairly dire picture. Instead of a moratorium or more robust oversight, what’s expected to become law are several pro-drilling rules. Clearly, the Obama Administration is signaling a roll-over on the push for an accelerated pace.

Sadly, this is to be expected. As a die-hard Dem, it pains me to say so, but this is the Administration of lowball BP spill estimates, suppression of research findings and “vast majority of oil is gone” announcements. Now it’s moving on to a resumption of drilling in the same week we have a Texas company reporting a “5 gallon” spill that somehow turns into a 100-square-mile oil slick.

History tells us that you can’t trust big polluters – but apparently our government is going to anyway.

Read the Politico column here:

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

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