Earmarks were not the only government spending plans that died when Harry Reid pulled the Senate omnibus spending bill this week. So, too, did fees and rule improvements that would have helped the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the revamped agency overseeing offshore drilling safety, fund increased inspections and reviews. The omnibus bill contained $51 million of increased budget to fund inspections of offshore platforms and rigs, as well as increasing the statutory time limit for permit review from 30 to 90 days. The 30 day limit on government review was a key factor in the MMS’s poor oversight of offshore drilling permits, allowing operators to file environmental studies that included protecting walruses, which don’t live in the Gulf of Mexico. The stop gap funding bill that will follow to keep the federal government limping along for another few months more will not contain these badly needed reforms. After the new congress convenes in January, with resurgent Republicans controlling the House, these key improvements will die a quiet death.
The oil and gas industry, with collusion of the politicians on their payroll, have now successfully killed almost every proposed reform that could help prevent or at least limit the damage from another offshore blowout. Politicians have known for decades that the best way to kill reform is to de-fund it. They have done it to environmental reform, education and labor protections, and are threatening to do it to healthcare reform. They’ve now successfully done it to offshore drilling reform. In the meantime, oil, which the government would have us believe magically disappeared from the water last summer, continues to wash up on Gulf of Mexico shore lines. This video is of a huge submerged tar mat that washed up on Orange Beach, Alabama on December 3. Two weeks ago.
It’s now a virtual certainty that we’ll have to suffer another one of these catastrophes before we will have any prayer for any material safety and environmental reform. The industry has successfully bought their way out of increased safety requirements, and our elected leaders have once again neglected their constitutional duty to protect and defend the United States and its citizens.