Earlier today I accused Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of a “cynical” approach to issuing deepwater drilling permits for the Gulf of Mexico. I did not realize how right I was. According to Kristen Hays of Reuters:
BP Plc, whose Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history last year, co-owns the well that was granted the first deepwater drilling permit since the disaster.
BP is Noble Energy Inc’s partner in the well, holding a 46.5 percent interest, BP said.
Noble operates the Santiago well that received a permit from U.S. regulators on Monday to resume drilling in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf, about 70 miles (110 km) south of the Louisiana coast.
I pointed out that the moratorium was a policy response by officials like Salazar who were hostile to deepwater drilling even before the BP disaster. His department’s subsequent foot dragging on the issuance of permits in defiance of a court order only confirms the administration’s ideological intransigence.
Instead of vilifying the entire industry, and treating BP no worse (and now better) than everyone else, why not accelerate the permitting process for safe operators and defer all BP drilling applications? According to a February 17 report by Fred Bartlit, the oil spill commission’s chief counsel, the Deepwater Horizon disaster was the fault of BP, and not indicative of an industry-wide safety crisis.
His conclusions are now echoed by a variety of other observers. If you want to read a real eye-opener about BP’s total recklessness over the years, check out an article titled “An Accident Waiting to Happen: The Untold Story of the BP Gulf Oil Disaster” by Fortune reporters Peter Elkind and David Whitford in the February 7 issue.
The reporters interviewed former BP CEO Tony Hayward who said, “I genuinely feel this could have happened to anyone.” Hayward claimed, “This isn’t BP. It’s an industry accident.” This is the precisely the conclusion on which current administration policy is based. And it is completely wrong.