Oily decision

Most folks along the Gulf coast, regarding a view of an environmental apocalypse outside their figurative bay windows, might find it merely reasonable to insist on a halt to further drilling until what we suss out precisely what combination of inadequate technology, corporate arrogance and MIA government oversight and regulatory reach and enforcement led to perhaps the greatest man-made ecological catastrophe in U.S. history. But many coasters, in thrall apparently to oil interests, which seem by now masochistically bent on provoking federal overreach, have been loudly decrying President Obama's proposed six month moratorium on offshore development. The moratorium, as they say, will cost jobs in Louisiana. You know what else is costing jobs in Louisiana? Oil muck and disperants washing up on beaches. You know what will cost national taxpayers a fortune (Please don't tell me BP is going to pick up the whole tab for this) and will damage the ecosystem and tourist and fishing industries in ways we can't even imagine today? Yes, it's that oil spill again.

But these guys want to pick up the hammer and immediately bang it across their foreheads again by 86ing Obama's moratorium—surely the absolute minimum precautionary measure we should be committing to in light of a disaster of this scale—and they've found a federal judge willing to do their judicial drilling for them. Today U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans overturned the president's moratorium. "What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm," he wrote. If I understand the judge, he's arguing there's no evidence—yet—to conclude that other deepwater sites are as marginally run as Deepwater Horizon was, but isn't the judge making in his turn another assumption, an assumption of competence and safety? Isn't that what the federal government means to discover during the moratorium? We certainly have evidence that the other sites could be as poorly conceived as Deepwater Horizon and that the oil industry is woefully, even comically unprepared to deal with deep water blowouts and a lot of it is killing Brown Pelicans and lapping up on the shores in the judge's home state.

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I leave it for more lawyerly types to explain Feldman's deep, judgey thinking on this. To me his position simply seems preposterous, almost bought and paid for. I will say that based on the following information, Feldman had no business sitting in judgment over this matter and should have recused himself. From AP:

Feldman's financial disclosure report for 2008, the most recent available, shows holdings in at least eight petroleum companies or companies that invest in them, including Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon. The report shows that most of his holdings were valued at less than $15,000, though it did not provide specific amounts.

Kevin Clarke 


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Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 5 months ago
It appears as if the drive for immediate profit throws caution to the wind and outweighs any long range concern for the environment or future generations.
 
These are good jobs that pay quite well, and they will not be let go of easily.
 
On another note, the gossip from my part of the country is that anyone with a boat can make $1000 a day "skimming" the oil from the surface water.  A friend, who has been unemployed for quite some time, is applying.
7 years 5 months ago
"Isn't the judge making in his turn another assumption, an assumption of competence and safety?"
I don't know how long underwater drilling has been going on, but I know there are hundreds of wells, and this is the first accident I've heard of.  Prior to this accident, if one had filed a lawsuit to stop drilling, would not the court be reasonable to say that there is a 100% safety record, so the case is without merit?
Liberal thinkers always assume that people who suffer the consequences of an accident want to be treated as victims and want the government to step in and make everything better.  Many of the people on the gulf recognize that crap happens; they want to be justly compensated, but they don't want the nanny state to come in and fix things "for their own good."  Give these people some credit for avoiding making matters worse by taking away even more jobs.  
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 5 months ago
dunno, Michael, but I don't think "liberal thinkers" think like that (I'm a liberal thinker :-)
This spill affects not just the drill workers in the Gulf, but all of us.  I'm not thinking at all that the govt should step in make things better for these people - I know that things are going to be very hard for these people - but I'm hoping that the govt will step in and make sure this industry is SAFE and that this disaster never happens again!
Helena Loflin
7 years 5 months ago
There are 3,858 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.  President Obama's moratorium covered only thirty-three (33) "experimental" wells like Deepwater Horizon.  The remaining 3,825 oil rigs are not affected by Obama's moratorium.
ROBERT GORMAN
7 years 5 months ago
1. Michael, this accident was of such a magnitude that, to me, it doesn't matter that it was the only one. One is surely enough.
2. Does the choice have to be between a six-month moratorium and business as usual?  I know from experience how much our community relies on oilfield work - not just drilling itself, but machine shops, caterers, helicopter-servicers, and on. But we can't risk continuing without safety measures and concrete plans in case something goes wrong. I think that we could a) quickly put safety measures in place, and tell companies they can drill once they have emergency plans tested and on file, and b) direct oil revenues to investments in green technologies and green jobs, especially for the Gulf Coast.
I think that one of the ways "Big Oil" creates a stranglehold on us is by building communities who are dependent on oil for jobs.  I'd be all for reversing that decision to open new waters for drilling.  And we are all complicit in our reliance on petroleum not just for our cars but for our plastic baggies and shampoo bottles, too.
3. Beth, please don't send your friend down from out of state without a concrete offer of work and a place to live.  Our local fishers have registered their boats for the Vessels of Opportunity program and have not all been called. Meanwhile folks are arriving from across the country who have left everything behind assuming they will have a job when they get here, but when they don't they are left stranded. 
 
Thanks from a Gulf resident and social services worker! ><>
Helena Loflin
7 years 5 months ago
from "Think Progess":Like many judges presiding in the Gulf region, Feldman owns lots of energy stocks, including Transocean, Halliburton, and two of BP's largest U.S. private shareholders : BlackRock (7.1%) and JP Morgan Chase (28.3%). Here's a list of Feldman's income in 2008 (amounts listed unless under $1,000):BlackRock ($12000- $36000)Ocean Energy ($1000 - $2500)NGP Capital Resources ($1000 - $2500)Quicksilver Resources ($5000 - $15000)Hercules Offshore ($6000 - $17500)Provident EnergyPeabody EnergyPenGrowth EnergyRPC IncAtlas Energy ResourcesParker DrillingTXCO ResourcesEV Energy PartnersRowan CompaniesBPZ ResourcesEl Paso CorpKBR IncChesapeake EnergyATP Oil & GasIn his opinion today, Feldman wrote, "Oil and gas production is quite simply elemental to Gulf communities."  Indeed, it is so elemental that the justice system is invested in the oil and gas industry. As TP's Ian Millhiser has written, "Industry ties among federal judges are so widespread that they are beginning to endanger the courts' ability to conduct routine business. Last month, so many members of the right-wing Fifth Circuit were forced to recuse themselves from an appeal against various energy and chemical companies that there weren't enough untainted judges left to allow the court to hear the case."
Mary Kennedy
7 years 5 months ago
You're very sanguine, David. I take it you've not been to the gulf to observe, and your own family's survival does not depend directly on the health of the ecosystem. And as for the "lesser" of God's creatures, well, stuff happens.
7 years 5 months ago
I am a Louisianian, a New Orleanian & a lawyer.  This post is an absolute smear job both against a very good federal judge and the good people of Louisiana who DEPEND on the drilling industry for their very livelihood.  But the worst part of this post is the not-so-subtle jabs you have chosen to take at the people of this region who are long-suffering.  Yes, the oil spill is threatening and destroying a way of life for so many of us and our families.  But the moratorium is ill-advised and wrong-headed, primarily because of the facts surrounding offshore drilling.  First, immediately after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, EVERY SINGLE deepwater drilling rig (in 1,000+ feet of water) was inspected thoroughly.  NO MAJOR safety violations were found on any of these rigs.  Therefore, there is NO reason to believe that any of these other rigs are in serious jeopardy of exploding.  We have been drilling these wells for years; this is the FIRST major accident in all of those years.  There is risk associated with every from of energy production.
 
Secondly, and most importantly, both this post and the comments contain the usual papblum about "big oil profits".  Well my friends, if you think this moratorium will have ANY impact on so-called "Big Oil" you are sadly mistaken!  These huge companies are already and will continue to simply move these rigs to other parts of the world, thereby employing others in Africa, etc.  Liberals on here are always baying about "off-shoring" American jobs.  Well my friends, your President has done that very thing with this moratorium.  If you bothered to understand the way the oil industry works down here instead of opining from whatever ivory tower it is you live in, you know that drilling is supporting by countless small, family owned business who own and operate supply ships, supply services, food, etc. and other types of businesses that support the drilling operations.  It is these very small, family-owned businesses that are being KILLED by a meaningless moratorium that is only in place because naive liberals howled at Obama and he needs to save face.  
 
I cannot overstate to you and to the readers of this blog how mis-informed and truly ignorant this post is.  You should be ashamed not only of how little you understand about the facts and the law on this subject, but for impugning the motives of a good people who want nothing more than to work hard and support their families. SHAME!
7 years 5 months ago
Oh, I should be remiss if I did not mention that the industry group that asked for the injunction is lead by a former Democratic Congressman!
William Kurtz
7 years 5 months ago
Jeff, there is one problem with the Louisiana viewpoint, which you ably summarized. If you're willing to foul your own nest to sustain your economy, that's one thing. But people in Florida, to cite one example, face THEIR economies being jeopardized because of Louisiana's blind faith in "drill, baby, drill," and willingness to shrug off oil spills as just the cost of doing business.
7 years 5 months ago
But that does not justify shutting down an entire industry.
Mary Kennedy
7 years 5 months ago
So Jeff, what of those New Orleaneans, and their neighbors in the gulf, who do not depend on big oil for their way of life?  What of the fishermen, shrimpers, those who work in tourism and hospitality, those who grow things in the now befouled climate?  And as a lawyer, you should realize that the suggestion that there is NO reason to think any other rig could present a risk is a violation of one of the most immutable laws - Murphy.
The sooner we can wean ourselves off an oil-based economy (assuming mankind can muster the will before his choice has become moot) the better off all of us on the planet will be, even if it means the loss of some of those stock premiums.
 
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago
 
They obviously  don't know how to deal with a disaster like this.  They should at least have to first develop AND demonstrate that they have a procedure that can deal with this situation. not THINK they do.  Also, the entire approach should be re-examined to determine if anything happens to the stability of the ocean floor.  These guys make their buck and then leave a mess for everybody else.
Inspections have been performed, but so what?  After this incident, it is obvious that the inspectors have to be inspected.  The whole system and people involved are untrustworthy.  Really, there is only concern here about short term profits. 
The last people I trust are judges.  Like the clowns in nearby Wilkes-Barre who put kids away in exchange for kickback from a private prison.  Here come da judge.
After the oil war in Iraq started, I bought a hybrid car to reduce the need for aggression.  After this mess, I'm looking into electric cars, solar driven Stirling engines and monolithic dome houses.  I'm getting off the grid because the grid is evil.    Should take me three years but I can do it.  I wish everyone could find a way.
7 years 5 months ago

Ms. Kennedy, as a gulf coast resident, you should know that opinion among the very persons you have mentioned (shrimpers, fishermen, etc,) runs strongly in FAVOR of keeping the oil companies drilling and working in the Gulf.  Public opinion is against you; now I know the typical liberal response: they just don't know any better.  We will not wean ourselves of oil anytime soon, no matter what bill passes Congress.  Eventually, the market will shift to ALL forms of energy.  BUT my SOLE POINT is the ONLY people hurting from this moratorium are gulf coast businesses and families, NOT "big oil" and you're not going to stop "short term profits" (whatever that actually means).

Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago
The purpose of the moratorium is not to hurt or punish anybody.  The purpose is to keep irresponsible entities from causing more damage until they can demonstrate that they know what they are doing.  They do not.  The past two months proves it.  The Gulf is open to the rest of the worlds oceans.  You can't screw up the world for the sake of BP, or Chevron, or Louisiana.
Shut them down until the technology to deal with these things is in place and PROVEN.
In addition, as I said before, I don't trust these people at all.  You have a mile of water pressure on top of salt domes that are to be emptied.  What will happen then?
Excuse me for asking scientific questions.  We should all not worry but be happy.
 

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