We May Never Know the Truth About the Blowout Preventer


There’s more conflict on the official policy to let the “shooter” participate, so to speak, in the BP spill “blowout preventer” ballistics testing, with Congressman Ed Markey continuing to raise some righteous hell over the policy.

But the AP is reporting that federal investigators are “pushing back.”

U.S. Rep. Markey wrote a letter calling bull on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which had said that none of the companies involved in the spill were testing the device. Yet that same week, Mr. Markey complained, a worker for the company that built the device was allowed to “operate components” of the evidence – which is about as hands-on as it gets.

The defense? The Bureau says the employee wasn’t “testing” but was only “flushing.” It would be hard to devise a better “you’re not getting it” example, because, of course, it’s not the procedure but the hands-on access that is the point.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial accidents, has actually called kicking the companies – or suspects, if you prefer – out of he testing process altogether. Now the AP reports that “… the safety board, and now Markey, D-Mass., said employees from Transocean and Cameron have been getting preferential and sometimes hands-on access to the blowout preventer. That would pose a conflict of interest because Transocean was responsible for maintaining the blowout preventer before the disaster and Cameron made the device.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement sounds a lot better than the runner-up moniker: The “Discredited Mineral Management Service.” But re-naming an agency is not the same as re-forming the agency. It seems the same tone-deaf regulatory attitudes that contributed to the BP spill are still very much in place during the “investigation.”

Catch up on the AP coverage via the NOLA website here: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2011/01/feds_push_back_in_flap_over_bl.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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