You are in the current Gulf Watchers BP Catastrophe - AUV #472. ROV #471 is here.
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Gulf Watchers Diary Schedule
Monday - evening drive time
Wednesday - morning
Friday - morning
Friday Block Party - evening
Sunday - morning
Part one of the digest of diaries is here and part two is here.
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Our old buddy Thad Allen (the Thadmiral) is back, and will testify at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on improving oil spill response and energy security today.
The hearing will also include testimony from two members of the national oil spill commission, which released its final recommendations last month. The commission was critical of the administration’s initial response to the spill, including efforts to calculate the flow-rate of the oil spewing out of the Macondo well.
The atmosphere on Capitol Hill has changed significantly since Allen was a regular fixture on the evening news. It has even changed in the weeks since the co-chairmen of the oil spill commission testified before two Congressional committees.
With renewed turmoil in the Middle East, rabid pro-drilling lawmakers are ramping up efforts to reduce US reliance on foreign oil with domestic drilling, including increased offshore, with total disregard to problems inherent in extreme conditions in deepwater and Arctic environments.
"The National Petroleum Council estimates we have upwards of 40 billion barrels of oil locked away in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, on- and offshore Alaska, that are currently off-limits for production," Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who chairs the panel’s energy subcommittee, said at the hearing. "These resources could easily double our domestic production capacity and replace our imports from the Middle East."
Republicans also called on the Obama administration to approve a pending pipeline that would carry Canadian oil sands from Alberta to Texas. "This would not be as much of a dangerous situation if we accessed our resources in the Gulf and if we accessed the oil from our friends in Canada," Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said at the hearing.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich at a speech to CPAC called for dumping the Environmental Protection Agency and replacing it with the "Environmental Solutions Agency", and for opening up huge chunks of offshore for unrestricted drilling, and fast-tracking the building of nuclear facilities.
Gingrich said the Obama EPA is "made up of self-selected bureaucrats" that are seeking to pass wide-ranging regulations that would harm the economy. Instead, he called for an agency that focused on "science, technology, markets and incentives."
It’s not the first time that Gingrich has called for getting rid of the EPA, but it’s certainly the most high-profile speech he’s delivered on the subject. CPAC is watched closely by conservatives all over the country and Gingrich’s recommendations are certain to make waves. "For thirty years, we’ve had the worst possible domestic energy policy in energy and it’s time we stopped it," he said.
Personal note - In my early years I worked in radio news, and was a stringer for the Associated Press (when it was the gold standard for unbiased news - i.e., before it was co-opted by wingnuts) and later for United Press International (RIP). I mostly shy away from editorializing. But this story got the best of me, and I have to ask... How the hell does this arrogant rat bastard excuse for a human being sleep at night?
Rep. Steve Scalise leads GOP attack on global warming regulations. Scalise is the GOP congressman from Jefferson Parish. You know Jefferson Parish, right? Nearly eradicated by Hurricane Katrina; deeply affected by the BP gusher... Both disasters with an environmental component. But he still feels the need to lead the charge to gut the EPA...and bar the agency from imposing new carbon emission standards under the Clean Air Act. Demanding a "yes or no" answer, he pressed Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Lisa Jackson on whether she agrees with then-Senator Barack Obama who once predicted cap and trade legislation would substantially raise utility costs.
Jackson said that her agency isn't implementing cap and trade legislation, which failed to pass the Senate in the last session. The new EPA regulations, she said, would not adversely impact jobs and likely would save companies money by making them more energy efficient.
Scalise said he was very disappointed that Jackson, in arguing why the nation needed to come to deal with carbon emissions that lead to climate change, suggested "global warming" was a factor in the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina when Scalise said everyone knows that the real damage from that storm was caused by failed federal levees.
Jackson said she had done no such thing, but was simply pointing out what many scientists have said -- that global warming leads to rising water levels and increased storm surge that can have devastating impact on flood-prone areas such as "my hometown" of New Orleans.
Scalise and other Louisiana lawmakers have raised particular concern about the regulation's effect on oil refineries that are a large part of Louisiana's economy.
Scalise's questions drew a rebuke from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Waxman said Scalise wasn't giving Jackson a chance to reply, though Waxman has been accused of that same thing in the past.
Under EPA plans, industries that are large emitters of carbons linked to global warming, would be required to implement energy efficient measures when they build new facilities or make major modifications in existing plants.
Cap and trade, the policy mentioned by Scalise that was rejected by the Senate, would set mandatory caps on reducing emissions, though industry would have the flexibility to reach the goals by getting credits from businesses that exceed the new standards.
Rep. Joe Barton (BP stooge - TX) said that the EPA regulations would put the "economy in a straitjacket" at a time when creating jobs is the nation's No. 1 priority. Waxman, who chaired the committee until November 2010, said the GOP is ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming is real and a major threat. The GOP bill, called the "Energy Tax Prevention Act", which Waxman dubbed "total nonsense".
"What this bill should be called is the Big Polluter Protection Act," Waxman said.
Jackson said that there is no doubt that global warming is real.
"Eighteen of America's leading scientific societies have written that multiple lines of evidence show humans are changing the climate, that contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science, and that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and the environment," Jackson said.
In a White House draft memo obtained by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Obama administration could disagree on a regulative proposal that includes a separate offshore safety agency within the Department of the Interior. The concern appears to be that an independent agency would impose demands on the oil industry that run contrary to those recently devised by the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
(Read the memo here...warning, pdf.)
From the Times-Picayune: The White House memo suggests the agency proposed by the commission could work in the future, but not right now. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has said publicly that he would take the recommended safety agency into consideration, but that it would take an act of Congress. But the document suggests the administration is considering opposing any legislation that could take the mantle for safety reforms away from its leaders on this issue, which are Salazar and BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich.
"Implementing the (commission's recommended) change now could actually be disruptive to the safety reforms being undertaken by DOI," the memo says.
Kendra Barkoff, an Interior Department spokeswoman, responded on behalf of the Obama administration, saying it is considering input from the "commission and other independent reviews" as it works to remove conflicts from the regulatory structure.
Last month, Bromwich told reporters that it would be up to Congress to implement a more independent agency than the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement recently established by Interior.
"We are by no means foreclosing the possibility that down the road we may move to the model that the commission recommended," Bromwich said.
The Oil Spill Commission declined comment on the memo Thursday.
Pressured by complaints from petroleum producers that permits for new wells are impossible to acquire, Bromwich has said the government is waiting for proof that operators have the capacity to respond quickly in case of subsea blowout.
But the White House appears worried that Congress might go too far in stifling an oil and gas industry that has already been dazed by the regulatory upheaval and uncertainty since the spill.
"We are also concerned about legislative proposals that would mandate specific drilling safety or environmental performance regulatory requirements by statute due to the need to maintain flexible, performance-based and cost-effective regulatory approaches ...," the memo says.
The document also suggests that if new requirements don't come from Salazar and Bromwich they could clash with the flexible regulatory philosophy Obama laid out last month in an executive order.
Top Obama administration officials call for Congress to direct the Clean Water Act funding penalties enacted upon BP after last summer's gusher. Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Jane Lubchenco, administrator of NOAA, said Wednesday that a dedicated financing stream is crucial.
"It is important for Congress to direct the Clean Water Act penalties to support restoration and recovery in the Gulf," Lubchenco said.
"It remains essential that Congress act on that," Barnes said.
Both officials addressed an afternoon gathering at which the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America unveiled a report, "Beyond Recovery: Moving The Gulf Coast Toward a Sustainable Future."
Building on recommendations by the Obama administration, the report also backs legislation introduced by Louisiana lawmakers to devote 80 percent of the penalty money to helping the coast not just recover from the spill, but to help heal generations of environmental degradation.
The president named EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who grew up in New Orleans, to chair a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, and Barnes said that economic and environmental recovery efforts ought to complement one another.
"We don't have to view it as either-or; it's not economic or environmental restoration," she said.
The report recommends legislation to create a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund and Gulf Coast Recovery Council with a 3-percent escrow of Clean Water Act fines, about $500 million over 10 years, dedicated to Gulf Coast restoration - not necessarily for environmental concerns, but for innovation in restoration industries and activities.
Van Jones, who worked briefly at the White House as the president's adviser on green jobs, and is now affiliated with the Center for American Progress, noted that the Gulf Coast, after Katrina and the oil disaster, have become "part of the moral imagination of America." He said that America had been horrified by the consequences of the "sink or swim" ethos in national political culture that was exposed by Katrina, and that, with the synergy of forces converging on the post-spill response, "I think we actually have a chance for a happy ending down there."
Everyone who joined the discussion at the Center for American Progress offices talked about the urgency to move quickly before national attention to the spill drifts away, and some Louisianians in attendance seemed worried that the moment has already passed.
"I don't think there's enough political will to bring back the Gulf," said Denise Byrne, acting executive director of Friends of New Orleans. "I don't think the American public realizes how important the Gulf is."
Sadly, Denise, your observation is probably correct...
Mining regulator issues safety 'alert' to prevent future deaths. The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration issued an "alert" for miners Thursday outlining the reasons 71 miners died last year in U.S. mines. The administration released the information in hopes of protecting miners from future accidents.
"We must all learn from these tragedies and act to prevent additional fatalities," Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in a statement. "Fatalities are not inevitable. They can be prevented using effective safety and health management programs, workplace examinations for hazards, and effective and appropriate training so that miners recognize and understand the hazards, and how to control or eliminate them."
Murkowski calls for U.S. drilling on heels of Saudi report. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday that a news report on questions about Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves should prompt expanded U.S. drilling.
"If reports that Saudi oil reserves have been inflated are true, it would be irresponsible and downright dangerous for us to continue to rely so heavily on foreign energy suppliers, while our own resources remain under federal lock and key," said Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a statement.
"Alaska could be producing over a million and a half barrels a day more right now, if we were able to access our resources offshore and in ANWR. Instead, federal agencies are forcing Americans to buy that energy from unstable regions, which frequently do not have our best interests in mind," she said.
Like we don't have enough trouble in Mississippi with BP and Haley B., they're trying to cover us with coal-haze. Come Out and Say 'NO' to Kemper Coal From Raleigh Hoke, the Gulf Restoration Network's Mississippi Organizer: Late last year, I had the pleasure of visiting Kemper County, Mississippi, the proposed site of Mississippi Power’s dirty, expensive, and unnecessary coal-fired power plant and mine. There, I explored beautiful Okatibbee Lake and Wildlife Management Area, which is located directly south of the massive coal mine, and wandered around some of the rustic pine forests that that will be destroyed by the mine.
Take a stand on Monday, February 14th, in Gulfport.
Since Valentine's Day is Monday, can we have some matchmaking among polluters? Are you a lobbyist for the coal industry, looking for the best way to meet members of Congress who will put your dirty energy money ahead of modern environmental standards and their constituents' health? Maybe the chairman of a powerful congressional committee, seeking yet another industry lobbyist to join your staff and help roll back the Clean Air Act, choosing polluters over children's health? Or a giant oil company who wants everyone to forget about that devastating oil spill and need some insiders to pull the strings in the halls of power?
If so, then you need to check out Polluterharmony.com - the #1 matchmaking site for polluters, industry lobbyists, and politicians!
(No, really. This is from Greenpeace, and it actually makes a point very well...)
PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!
Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
The last Mothership has links to reference material.
Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.
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