By Ben Geman - 05/06/10 12:23 PM EDT
Following a tour of a boom operation in Gulf Shores, Ala., Salazar said Wednesday that he understood BP was required to file plans for coping with a blowout at the well that failed.
"My understanding is that everything was in its proper place," said Salazar.
But an AP review of government and BP documents found that the company had not filed a specific comprehensive blowout plan for the rig that exploded April 20, leaving 11 workers dead and spewing an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day.
Instead, a site-specific exploration plan filed by BP in February 2009 stated that it was "not required" to file "a scenario for a potential blowout" of the Deepwater well.
When questioned about the exemption claim, BP spokesman William Salvin said provisions for handling a blowout incident were actually included in the firm's 582-page region oil spill plan, though he had difficulty pointing to specific passages.
He later maintained that the Deepwater location was not subject to the blowout scenario requirements because it triggered none of the conditions cited in the MMS's April 2008 notice to operators about a loosening of the rules.
Still, Salvin insisted the company was prepared to handle a blowout and catastrophic spill at the project through provisions included in its regional plan.
The AP story adds to a litany of questions about oversight by the MMS, an agency that has experienced numerous scandals over the last half-decade.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Interior provided BP’s lease for the deepwater project a so-called categorical exclusion from a full environmental impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.
* The spill’s effect on climate and energy legislation remains murky
The spill has roiled debates about offshore drilling and energy legislation, as we’ve been reporting.
Plenty of other outlets are looking at the same question, and no definitive answers have emerged.
The Denver Post reports that the spill “may doom the chances for passing climate legislation this year, potentially unraveling months of negotiations and spiking a delicate compromise at the core the bill.”
“The spill is testing the resolve of Democrats — Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado among them — who have embraced expanded offshore drilling in return for sweeping measures to expand the production of solar, wind and other forms of green energy,” their piece notes.
But this AP piece is headlined “Bid to enact energy bill might survive Gulf spill” and looks at various scenarios that could unfold in a new political landscape in which support for expanded drilling has waned.
* The use of chemical dispersants creates environmental problems of its own
The New York Times reports that as BP and federal officials try and contain the spill, they are also “engaging in one of the largest and most aggressive experiments with chemical dispersants in the history of the country, and perhaps the world.”
So far, 160,000 gallons have been sprayed on the surface, with an additional 6,000 gallons applied directly onto the undersea leak.
“Even in the best cases, dispersants are applied in what might be termed a lose-lose strategy. Scientists make the calculation that it is better to have the ocean filled with low concentrations of the dispersant chemicals — which are in themselves mild to moderate poisons — than to have dense oil on the surface or washing up onshore, places where it is most likely to harm wildlife,” the Times reports.
Another Times piece notes that while many are focused on threats to wildlife on the shoreline, the oil in the open ocean is also a major threat to species.
“Biologists are increasingly alarmed for wildlife offshore, where the damage from a spill can be invisible but still deadly. And they caution that because of the fluidity between onshore and offshore marine communities, the harm taking place deep at sea will come back to haunt the shallows, whether or not they are directly hit by the slick,” the story notes.
“The gulf’s deeper water harbors 10 species of threatened sharks, 6 species of endangered turtles, manatees, whales and innumerable fish,” it adds.