Remember the Gulf Walrus! One Big Lesson from the BP Oil Spill

by Robert Verchick | April 23, 2015

Nearly five years ago, BP introduced a flippered mammal Americans never knew we had: the Gulf Walrus! If you don’t know the story, you should, because the tale of the Gulf Walrus tells you everything you need to know about what was wrong with deepwater drilling back in 2010, and worse, still is. 

The story goes like this: After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, leaving 11 workers dead and a gusher of oil billowing a mile under the sea, a watchdog group called the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility unearthed the regional oil spill response plan BP had submitted to the Department of Interior as part of the process to begin drilling. The document was riddled with omissions, errors, and implausible assumptions. There was no plan for a failed “blowout preventer,” no plan for oil reaching the coast, no plan for oil-soaked turtles and birds.  But, BP’s regional plan did pay lip service to such “Sensitive Biological Resources” as “Sea Lions, Seals, Sea Otters [and] Walruses.” The media howled. Congressional hearings were held. And in New Orleans, “Save the Gulf Walrus” t-shirts sold like fried oysters. What had happened, it turned out, was that BP had been so eager to gets its rig in the water, that it had cribbed from an earlier plan intended for Arctic drilling. No one had bothered to change the details, and the Department of Interior was happy ...

EPA Declares BP a 'Responsible Contractor' Makes It Eligible Again for Federal Contracts in the Gulf

by Rena Steinzor | March 13, 2014
A scant five days before the Department of Interior opens a new round of bids for oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA has blinked, pronouncing BP, the incorrigible corporate scofflaw of the new millennium, once again fit to do business with the government. To get right to the point, the federal government’s decision that BP has somehow paid its debt and should once again be eligible for federal contracts is a disgrace. Not only does it let ...

Too Big to Obey: Whether BP Is De-barred Up to DOD and (Hopefully) the White House

by Rena Steinzor | November 28, 2012
For a potentially earth-shattering move against one of the most notorious corporate environmental scofflaws in history, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sure hid its light under a bushel this morning. The agency’s scant three-paragraph press release announced simply: “BP Temporarily Suspended from New Contracts with the Federal Government,” adding that “EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, oil spill and response.” As ...

BP Spill: Perp Walk for Underling Shouldn't Satisfy Anyone

by Rena Steinzor | April 26, 2012
With considerable media flourish, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday the first and so far only criminal charges related to the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 workers, and did profound violence to the Gulf of Mexico and the local economies dependent up on it. One Kurt Mix, 50, an engineer involved in designing the failed “top kill” remedy, was indicted for obstruction of justice. More specifically, he's accused of deleting text messages from his phone that he ...

Too Big to Rein in, BP Continues Galloping Along, Unbridled and Unrepentant

by Rena Steinzor | October 19, 2011
In perhaps the most profoundly embarrassing development yet for the U.S. government’s star-crossed efforts to police offshore drilling, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced last week that it was asking BP, Transocean, and Halliburton to pay a total of up to $45.7 million in fines for 15 violations arising out of the catastrophic failure of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s million, not billion, by the way, and a total for all three companies, ...

EPA Moves Forward Toward Test Rule for BPA; Effects on Humans Still Primarily Outside Scope of Process

by Aimee Simpson | July 29, 2011
EPA made further progress this week in its efforts to move forward with a potential Bisphenol-A (BPA) Test Rule, publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register. Overall this progress is good news, though it’s not without its flaws. EPA completed a draft of the ANPRM in December and sent it over to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review, pursuant to Executive Order 12866. Despite a 10-working-day deadline for review of ANPRMs, OIRA spent ...

Holding its Legal (and Parental) Ground: EPA Responds to the American Chemistry Council's Request for Correction of the BPA Action Plan

by Aimee Simpson | July 26, 2011
Being a parent is not easy, but some of the most difficult moments arise when you know what needs to be done to protect your child and your child has other sentiments. Call it a temper tantrum, a battle of wills, or disobedience, it all evokes a sense of frustration, exhaustion, and, let’s face it, self-doubt. There is that brief moment when you think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to let them have their way? Maybe I am being too harsh ...

New CPR White Paper Tackles Industry Myths About BPA

by Lena Pons | June 02, 2011
For the last two decades, scientists have amassed evidence that bisphenol A (BPA) poses a threat to human health. BPA is a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, can liners for food and beverages, and thermal paper used for register receipts. It is used in so many applications that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found traces of BPA in 93 percent of people it tested. Although scientists have targeted BPA as a public health concern, plastics ...

Disaster Planning and Recovery: Verchick Op-Eds in Christian Science Monitor and New Orleans Times-Picayune

by Matthew Freeman | April 29, 2011
Robert R.M. Verchick recently completed a two-year stint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and returned to his work at Loyola University in New Orleans, and, happily, to the rolls of active CPR Member Scholars. While at EPA, he published Facing Catastrophe: Environmental Action for a Post-Katrina World, and just a few days after returning to CPR, he's published two op-eds on disaster preparedness and recovery. In the Christian Science Monitor on April 13, he asked whether Japan's recovery from the ...

Steinzor BP Spill Op-Ed in Baltimore Sun: Learning and Acting Slowly

by Matthew Freeman | April 21, 2011
Right about this time a year ago, Americans were learning about a massive explosion aboard an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico called the Deepwater Horizon that had occurred the day before. Video footage of the flame-engulfed rig began splashing across television screens, and we were told that 11 workers on the rig were “missing.” (In fact, those workers had been killed.) Also unclear or unrevealed was the extent of the environmental harm that was being ...

The BP Oil Spill: Hollow Regulation Meets Hobbled Law

by Sidney Shapiro | March 11, 2011
This coming April 20 will mark the one-year anniversary of the first day of the BP Oil Spill – a three-month polluta-polluza that eventually became the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the world. That was the night that a long series of failures finally came to a head: failures aboard the Deepwater Horizon by BP and its contractors, failures in the enforcement of regulations intended to prevent such disasters or at least limit the damage from them, ...

Scientific Uncertainty About BPA Is the Inevitable Result of a Broken TSCA

by Matt Shudtz | September 08, 2010
In Tuesday's New York Times story, “In a Feast of Data on BPA Plastic, No Final Answer,” Denise Grady characterizes the continued development of new studies about the endocrine disrupting chemical as yet another dispute between environmentalists and chemical manufacturers over a ubiquitous chemical with uncertain health effects. While her assessment of the state of the science is accurate, she expends thousands of words parsing the uncertainty and profiling the scientists who’ve made it their work to reduce the uncertainty without ...

New NEPA Procedures for Offshore Drilling

by Holly Doremus | August 17, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. On Monday the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a report on the NEPA analysis that preceded exploratory drilling at the ill-fated Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, together with recommendations for improving NEPA analysis in the future. According to CEQ, the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (successor to the disgraced Minerals Management Service) has already agreed to implement the recommendations. The report offers a detailed look at the chaotic and uncoordinated NEPA ...

American Chemistry Council's Request for Correction on BPA Action Plan Exceeds the Limits of the Data Quality Act

by Lena Pons | August 06, 2010
The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade association that represents chemical industry interests and is heavily connected to the plastics industry, filed a Request for Correction Monday on the EPA's Chemical Action Plan for Bisphenol A (BPA). The request, filed under a provision of the Data Quality Act (also referred to as the Information Quality Act), is truly astonishing and bears noting. In addition to standard requests that EPA statements be toned down or removed due to conflicting studies, ACC makes several ...

BP Oil Spill: CPR's Flatt Calls for Realistic Worst-Case Planning

by Matthew Freeman | July 05, 2010
In an op-ed in this morning's Raleigh News & Observer, CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt describes why it is that BP was allowed to drill its Macondo 252 deepwater well -- the one that is now spewing oil into the Gulf -- without conducting a serious analysis of the risks of a blowout, and providing a detailed and realistic plan describing what it would do in such a scenario. Flatt writes: The National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal agencies analyze the environmental ...

Judge's Injunction Blocking Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling Discounts Statutory Intent

by Rebecca Bratspies | June 25, 2010
Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls. On Thursday Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana refused to delay the effect of the preliminary injunction he issued on Tuesday, overturning the U.S. Department of Interior’s May 28, 2010, Temporary Moratorium on deepwater drilling. (Related court documents available here.) Several facets of the June 22 decision are truly astonishing. Nowhere in the decision is there any recognition of the unique, emergency circumstances or the grave threat to the ...

The People's Agents: Steinzor Op-Ed on Regulatory Reform in Baltimore Sun

by Matthew Freeman | June 18, 2010
CPR President Rena Steinzor has an op-ed in this morning's Baltimore Sun on the various regulatory failures at work in the BP oil spill. She writes that important questions need to be answered "about how the federal regulatory system allowed BP and other oil companies to drill in waters so deep without effective fail-safes," and continues: In truth, this is just the last in a string of profit-driven tragedies that have horrified us recently. Consider the 29 workers smothered in a West ...

Farber on NewsHour: BP Liability

by Matthew Freeman | June 16, 2010
CPR Member Scholar Dan Farber was on the PBS NewsHour on June 14 discussing the Obama Administration's plan to force BP to establish an escrow fund to compensate victims of its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  You can see the entire interview with Ray Suarez, on the NewsHour site.  Here's a snip of the transcript: RAY SUAREZ: Daniel Farber, you're familiar with what's in that federal oil protection act. Is there a mechanism in there for the government to ...

New CPR Analysis: Chesapeake Bay TMDL Failure Looms

Freeman | Feb 04, 2016 | Chesapeake Bay

Legacy Goods and the Environment

Farber | Jan 28, 2016 | Environmental Policy

Maryland's Pressing Stormwater Infrastructure Needs

Isaacson | Jan 13, 2016 | Chesapeake Bay

President Obama’s Progressive Vision for the Future

McGarity | Jan 13, 2016 | Regulatory Policy

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