SHAME on Thad Allen: Admiral Continues to Shield BP During Spill Commission Questioning


Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen continued his months-long BP-Big Oil job interview this week. He actually told the Presidential Commission investigating the spill that a “third party” should represent future spillers to eliminate “… the perception that the responsible party is intimately involved in the response,” which he said raises questions about who is in charge.

Questions? For many of us down here on the Gulf, there has never been any question – everyone understood from VERY early on that BP was, and continues to be, in charge of the response.

Perception? A quick Google of “BP contradicts Adm. Allen” turns up 222,000 hits in 0.57 seconds. The lead item is a Yahoo News story with this headline: “Thad Allen contradicts Ken Salazar, asserts that BP is firmly in charge in the Gulf.”

One of the more memorable examples of the admiral serving as BP’s lackey – although tiny in comparison to Adm. Allen agreeing to dump toxins into the Gulf to hide BP oil liability – is when BP said it would agree to keep the admiral in the loop with IMMEDIATE information. And that turned out to be true – if you ignore the FOUR-hour time lag. That flagrant display of disrespect came after the company all but eliminated Adm. Allen from the well-capping process, which no doubt diminished his credibility as de facto BP spokesperson.

I hear they still let the admiral fetch coffee at HQ, but that can’t be confirmed.

Adm. Allen’s commentary to the Commission would be little more than another misdemeanor outrage if these hearings and statements were not, in effect, pre-trial depositions on steroids. But these transcripts, read back in courtrooms over the next couple of years, will be without our current context. They may even be taken seriously, and that’s just what BP is counting on.

And let’s remember that Billy Nungesser – president of Plaquemines Parish at Ground Zero of the spill – told the same presidential Oil Spill Commission that he STILL doesn’t know who is in charge of the response. He was quoted saying: “It became a joke…the Houma command was the Wizard of Oz, some guy behind the curtain,” Nungesser said. “We never got a yes or no, we just kept waiting and waiting.”

You can consider that to be merely incompetence if you like, but it’s actually strategy, as insidious as it is.

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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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