The sickening, staggering truth revealed

Two new accounts of both the shortcuts BP allegedly took before the spill and then the shoddy response following the accident are sickening. The Washington Post reports that members of Congress have released a letter detailing what they said were five decisions the oil company made in order to "speed finishing the well," which was running behind schedule. Brett Cocales, one of BP's drilling engineers, sent an e-mail to a colleague noting that the usual steps necessary to center the steel pipe in the drill hole had not been taken. "[Who] cares, it's done, end of story, will probably be fine and we'll get a good cement job," wrote Cocales just four days before the explosion.
 
In late May, after the accident, The New York Times reports, two fleets of fishing boats that were supposed to be laying boom off of Grand Isle, La., were instead found by local officials to be anchored "idly" on the wrong side of the bay. When contacted, BP officials on the spill response team said they had no way of contacting the workers on the boats. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said critical information is failing to flow and the damage is worse as a result. "The decisions are not timely. The resources are not produced. And as a result, you have a big mess, with no command and control."
 
The Times story also quotes a private contractor who specializes in oil-spill response who said that federal oversight has not thus far demanded that oil companies demonstrate or prove their response capability so much as state that they are prepared. Take their word for it, basically. "Their plans don't say, 'Within X amount of time it has to be controlled and industry needs to prove how the heck you're going to do that,' " said Leslie Pearson. 
 
Pearson also noted that states have limited tools for dealing with drilling in federal waters. Plus, federal regulations are often weaker. The California Office of Spill Prevention and Response regulations, for example, go far beyond federal regulations. Drilling off of the Canadian Arctic requires standby ships to drill relief wells quickly; while the United States requires them to be drilled, those requirements don't include strict timelines.
 
The more you learn, the more horrified you become over what our government allowed of BP and other oil companies drilling in our waters. And no matter how much money we try to wring from them to compensate and to clean up, it will be up to our government — to the U.S. Congress — to make sure a new system actually works next time.
 

WILL UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE SOON BE A THING OF THE PAST?Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, June 22nd. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.