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Topics: Where the fines from the oil spill will go. Federal spill investigation report delayed again. BP rig supervisor excused from testimony for "medical reasons". Faster permits to drill mean more jobs... Reform at BP falls short.  Feds' power covers contractors. Who cleans up tarballs after a storm now?

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After much wrangling, stepping on toes, and leaving in a huff - nine senators representing Gulf Coast states have come to agreement on how money BP, et. al., has paid in the form of fines will be distributed - and as you might expect, environmental concerns get the crumbs...well, not really crumbs, but much less of a share than it's more noisy big brother ECONOMIC IMPACT...

Oil spill fine proposal: Most money would go for economic recovery along Gulf.

Under the Restore the Gulf Coast Act of 2011, the money will be distributed to all five Gulf states - although Louisiana maintained it was most directly affected by the gusher, other states countered that even though they did not have much oil on their beaches, they were affected economically and deserve a share of the pie...

The money - Clean Water Act fines assessed on the companies for violations incurred as a result of the Deepwater Horizon blowout - will not be distributed yet, but the general agreement moves the process along.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said that during discussion it was not clear if any agreement would be achieved.

"This was not easy. I can recall several difficult meetings in my office with various colleagues," Boxer said at a Capitol Hill news conference announcing the accord. "Looking at Bill (Nelson, D-FL). Looking at Richard (Shelby, R-AL)."

Shelby called the agreement "good news for Alabama’s environmental and economic recovery from the oil spill."

"This legislation allows for great flexibility in the allocation of recovery funds to ensure that the penalties our state is owed are distributed in the best interest of Alabama’s coastal communities," Shelby’s statement said.

Senator Mary Landrieu (DINO-LA) calls the act "important":

“The Deepwater Horizon explosion was a tragedy that took the lives of 11 men and devastated an already fragile coastline. While there are many things that must be done to respond to that horrific incident, the Restore the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 is one of the most important things that needs to be done.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said the compromise would bring speedy recovery to the Gulf Coast. (Sure, Roger... Anything you say... jerk...)

"It represents a balanced approach by all Gulf state senators to support economic and environmental restoration," Wicker said during the news conference.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was the only member of the group not signing the agreement. His office had no comment.

The federal Clean Water Act mandates that companies responsible for disasters such as last summer’s Gulf oil spill must pay penalties based on the amount of oil spilled. BP PLC and other responsible parties could be on the hook for between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion.

However, the law as currently written would send the revenue to a fund for the cleanup of future oil spills and to federal coffers for general use.

Obama administration officials, Gulf lawmakers and many others have expressed support for a rewrite of the law to send the money to the Gulf Coast.

That effort had stalled for months as Gulf lawmakers worked to find consensus.

A breakdown of the general distribution of funds from a press packet from the office of Sen. Shelby:

    35 percent would be divided equally among the five states. States could use this money for environmental or economic recovery projects.

    30 percent would be divided among the states according to a complicated formula calculating the severity of the oil spill’s impact on each state. These funds could also be spent on environmental or economic recovery projects. Senior aides to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, indicated that Louisiana would get about 10.5 percent, Alabama would get about 6 percent, Florida and Mississippi would get slightly less than 6 percent and Texas would get about 2 percent.

    30 percent would be allocated by the newly formed Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which would include representatives from each state and the federal government. The money would be limited to environmental projects, which would be chosen by the council without strict guidelines regarding how much goes to each state.

    5 percent would be used to fund Gulf science and fisheries programs. Each state would receive some funding, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would have leeway in determining how much money goes where.

As you might imagine, the lion's share goes anywhere but to environmental concerns. I guess 30-35 percent is better than nothing. But with this: ...projects...chosen by the council without strict guidelines regarding how much goes to each state there is sure to be continued disagreement as to what goes where, and delays made by arguing over money may be more costly for the Gulf environment.


Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood stated on Thursday that he hopes an upcoming audit by the US Department of Justice is in the best interest of Gulf Coast residents.

Hood’s comment came a day after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the audit in a letter to the fund’s administrator, Kenneth Feinberg. Holder stressed the goal is to balance the need for resolving claims quickly and fairly along with the need to start an audit before the end of the year.

Holder said the fund’s “highest priority” should be to achieve speed and fairness.

Holder made a June 30 trip to the Gulf Coast in which he heard concerns from Alabama officials and residents about the transparency of the claims process.

On July 13, Hood sued Feinberg to get access to claims filed by coastal residents. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled in Hinds County Chancery Court on Sept. 15.

“It is a shame we had to file a lawsuit to try to force Mr. Feinberg to do the right thing,” Hood said in a statement Thursday. “I plan to speak with U.S. Attorney General Holder to ensure this audit is truly independent and in the best interest of the residents of our Gulf Coast.”

Hood said his office’s attempts to access the documents on Mississippi claims had failed; that BP and Feinberg have responded with some information but not all requested documentation had been received.

The BP fund has paid $4.7 billion to 198,475 claimants.

The total number of claimants stands at 522,506, of which many are multiple claims. The fund has nearly 1 million claims and receives thousands more each week.

Report from Federal oil spill probe is delayed again.

The joint investigation by the US Coast Guard and the BOEMRE of the Deepwater Horizon disaster will not meet the reporting deadline of July 27th, even after receiving two extensions, but team members say they are putting the final touches on their report as to what caused the blowout.

“To ensure that all evidence is properly weighed and considered, the JIT is taking additional time to finalize the report,” said Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the joint investigation team. “The team is in the final stages of completing its report and expects to release it in the near future.”

Although it is not clear when the government will issue its findings, Angelico stressed that the group “is working diligently to complete its report.”

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) said that the delays are unacceptable.

“The government has repeatedly delayed this report and we are well past the time when clear answers are needed,” Hastings said in a statement. “Congress and the American people expect the agencies to complete their work and tell us the facts they have discovered through the investigation.”

But Hastings' ire may be driven less by concern for environmental and human factors than a frenzy to get "reports" out of the way and resume frantic drilling.

“We have information from numerous other reports, but the Coast Guard and BOEMRE must move swiftly to issue their report to provide Congress and the American people with a complete picture about what happened,” Hastings said, and stressed that Congress needs “all the facts surrounding the cause of this tragic event before jumping to conclusions and passing reforms with long-term consequences.” He has insisted that major spill-inspired reforms be driven by impartial conclusions about what went wrong at BP’s failed Macondo well.

Along with the Coast Guard/BOEMRE probe, the National Academy of Engineering and the Chemical Safety Board are continuing their investigations.

BP rig worker excused from testimony.

One of the two BP well site leaders on the Deepwater Horizon at the time of the deadly April 20, 2010 blowout has been excused from testifying in the massive civil lawsuits surrounding the accident.

Donald Vidrine, one of the two BP workers on the rig overseeing the drilling operations, was excused from testifying “for medical reasons” according to a filing made by Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan on Thursday.

Vidrine’s medical records were placed in the court record under seal for the parties to review, according to the filing.

Robert Kaluza, the other BP well site leader on the rig, took the 5th in the depositions earlier this month.

Vidrine is best known for allegedly having an argument with Transocean manager Jimmy Wayne Harrell over procedures the morning of the accident. Harrell later downplayed the incident.

More than a dozen individuals have been interviewed by attorneys for the many parties involved in the suit, including former BP Chairman Tony Hayward. Others have taken the 5th, including Harrell and Halliburton cement engineer Jesse Gagliano.

Does anyone feel that this may be a bit fishy? Someone does not want Mr. Vidrine to talk? Maybe enough to slip him some cash not to talk? Just sayin'...

Faster drilling permits means more jobs.

Well, jobs could increase dramatically...after the next blowout and subsequent spill. Just think of all those boats laying all that f*king boom! (We miss you, Fishgrease!) And all those regular folks who would be on the beaches collecting tarballs. And all those newly-invented skimmer-sucker thingies! Wow! Lots and lots of jobs!

Faster permitting of offshore oil and gas projects could create nearly 230,000 new jobs in 2012 and boost the economy by $44 billion, including a surge in federal and state tax revenues, according to an industry-funded study put out today by IHS-CERA.

The job growth would extend well beyond the traditional Gulf Coast energy industry states, the study says, boosting employment indirectly as far away as California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Georgia.

The study, funded by The Gulf Economic Survival Team, a collection of largely Louisiana-based energy and business interests, looks at data on the pace of permitting by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement through April 30 – six months after the federal moratorium on offshore drilling was formally lifted following the Deepwater Horizon accident.

If you are so inclined, you may read the "study" here. (Warning: PDF)

And this is a really good read... Loren Steffy of FuelFix says that the new and improved BP - after they have implemented their "reforms" - falls far short of actually being an "improvement"...

BP’s strategy for returning to the Gulf of Mexico is going according to plan.

Getting back in the Gulf has been the company’s focus almost from the moment the burning wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon slipped below the water’s surface, and everything it has done during the past year has been designed to make it possible.

Last week, the company took another step. Less than a year after its disastrous Macondo well was capped, it sent a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement outlining a series of voluntary performance standards that BP hopes will prove that it’s changed its ways since unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. waters.

Technically, of course, BP has been back in the Gulf for months. As I wrote in March, it’s the majority owner of the well that got the first new drilling permit since the disaster, but BP isn’t the operator.

Now, the company is itching to run its own projects again. Its voluntary standards, though, are an underwhelming response to more than a decade of operational and maintenance failings marked by more than two dozen worker deaths and scores of debilitating injuries.

Despite BP’s repeated promises to change, it hasn’t. And the voluntary standards it now offers in hopes of unlocking its lucrative prospects in the Gulf are tinged with a chillingly familiar sense of déjà vu.

If you aren't averse to bringing a little anger to your weekend, please check out the entire article...

Feds’ offshore powers cover contractors.

For decades, the U.S. agency that polices offshore drilling has had a laser-like focus on the companies searching for oil and gas in federal waters.

But now under the leadership of a former federal prosecutor, the agency is expanding its regulatory reach beyond oil and gas companies to the drilling rig owners, service firms and other contractors that work for operators.

“No one operating on the outer continental shelf should be immune,” argues Michael Bromwich, the head of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

And, Bromwich adds, it would be irresponsible for the government to turn its back on any “egregious” behavior offshore, just because it’s by a rig owner, cement contractor or any other service firm.

Bromwich insists that a new legal interpretation of the ocean energy bureau’s authority confirms that the agency can pursue fines and other civil penalties against offshore contractors that behave badly — even though he stresses that the chief focus will remain on operators.

Last year’s Gulf oil spill put a new focus on the way the oil and gas industry is regulated, especially after a presidential commission said the disaster was evidence of systemic problems and poor communication among the broad cast of characters involved in the project.


And since we have been sort of lucky with storms in the Gulf last summer, when we really didn't need them - and so far this year - what happens when a biggie roars through and churns up all that stuff still out there? What then?

If oil spill tar balls linger offshore, who cleans them up if a storm hits?

More than a month into hurricane season, there’s still no plan for what to do if storm surge washes oil onto Alabama’s beaches.

The U.S. Coast Guard will host a Wednesday meeting in New Orleans to hash out those details, the mayors of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach said, but the leaders of those coastal cities say they have been shut out of the discussion.

Tony Kennon, mayor of Orange Beach, said that BP has refused for a year to disclose any information about offshore tar mats — areas of solidified oil in near-shore waters — or how they’ll be removed.

Should a storm hit, Kennon said, the cities would not have the financial means to clean oil-stained debris.

"Can you imagine the nightmare that would be for us, having to sit there on our thumbs, waiting for the federal government to make a decision?" Kennon asked.

"Their No. 1, first and foremost responsibility is to clean up the mess, clean up the spill," he said. "And they have stonewalled and ignored us to get this tar mat issue swept under the rug. Is this a cover up or a cleanup?"

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Mr. Mayor. It was, is, and always shall be...a cover-up.

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:

7-17-11 01:29 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Judge Rejects RICO Charges Against BP - BP Catastrophe AUV #538 Yasuragi
7-15-11 08:11 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party--WTF? Nobody home? Phil S 33
7-13-11 03:50 PM Gulf Watchers Wednesday -Hey BP... We Haven't Recovered! - BP Catastrophe AUV #537 shanesnana
7-10-11 12:13 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Generating an Alternative Reality - BP Catastrophe AUV #536 Lorinda Pike
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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Comment Preferences

  •  Happy steamy, sultry, summer Sunday... (10+ / 0-)

    Please try and stay cool, wherever you are. And post anything new and/or relevant below.

    Du er ikke å ødelegge vårt demokrati og vårt arbeid for en bedre verden. (You're not destroying our democracy and our work for a better world.) --- Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

    by Lorinda Pike on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:10:15 AM PDT

    •  This is highly relevant -- though not (0+ / 0-)

      particularly new:

      I'm late!  And ashamed for being so!  I cower at your feet like a supplicant, begging absolution!

      Okay, okay.  Life got away from me again (slippery devil) and I just hacked my way through the jungle to here.  

      Great diary (so what else is new?), LP.  Thanks so much.

      "Listen. Read more; type less." -- soothsayer99

      by Yasuragi on Tue Jul 26, 2011 at 07:25:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hi LP and GW's :) (7+ / 0-)

    Hunter posted an excellent diary a bit ago about some TeaBaggers Against Manatees...if anyone wants to check it out who has not already. It certainly seems like they are running the show even though they are a small minority. Why don't we on the "far left" have such power?
    Excellent diary! So, no one involved with drilling on the Horizon is able/willing to testify? No, I'm shocked! :( I have to believe something, somebody, will spill the beans...perhaps after next year's election?  Who knows, the whole thing is not only a ecological nightmare but a political one as well.
    Hope everyone is staying as cool as possible. After being in Key West (hot, gorgeous) last week for daughter's graduation trip we are heading to Northern Michigan for cooler beaches and nightly campfires before reality (we all go back to school) intrudes. I feel blessed to be able to make these trips with my grandkids before they, and I, get too old (and in my case, too broke) to go anywhere.
    Take care, everyone.

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:43:19 AM PDT

    •  Answer to one of your questions... (7+ / 0-)

      Because the Kochtopus is the natural enemy of the manatee...

      (And the small minority is funded by big money and is being played like a Stradivarius...)

      Sorry for the gallows snark - I love manatees. They are slow and gentle, and I love their faces.

      Envious of your past and upcoming trips - I would love to sit by a campfire for a while!

      Thanks for being here, JanL... stay cool...  :-)

      Du er ikke å ødelegge vårt demokrati og vårt arbeid for en bedre verden. (You're not destroying our democracy and our work for a better world.) --- Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

      by Lorinda Pike on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:59:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hi, LP-dropping in to read & get further disgusted (7+ / 0-)

    with more levels of stonewalling by gov't, Big Oil, T-Bagger GOP, etc.

    So fucking depressing!!!

    And, it's too damn hot to even drown my frustration in drinks.....

    I'm going the route of Inhofe/Barton types----burying my head in the sand, and pretending that everything is just hunky-dory!!!!!

    AC is still holding up-----maybe the gin/tonic won't be so bad, after all.

    Hope it is getting a little better down there in MS.

  •  "Gulf State Senators" and "balanced approach" in (6+ / 0-)

    the same sentence? Lorinda, you have my utmost appreciation for being able to diary these articles without going completely nuts - you are a pillar of strength.

    I'd rather the manatees decided where the money is to go.

    "Freedom from fear" could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights. - Dag Hammarskjold

    by DawnN on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:15:33 AM PDT

  •  Ms. LATE has arrived. Sorry again. This is (6+ / 0-)

    a most excellent diary. Deepest respect, my friend.

    Signed: Brain addled in the Northeast heat.

    Hello, all Gulf Watchers. Hope you are staying as cool as possible and are happy.


    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:12:43 PM PDT

  •  This is what I have to say to the whole lying, (6+ / 0-)

    thieving, greedy lot of them:

    Spanky and Our Gang

    Give a Damn

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:17:33 PM PDT

  •  I dread seeing how "environmental" restoration (6+ / 0-)

    ends up being defined when it comes to handing out checks. If past is prologue, the money will end up being a cash honey pot for politicians to hand over to their supporters rather than being used for legitimate environmental restoration. I also didn't see any mention in the story about any money being set aside to study how human health has been impacted by BP's black monster.

    I wonder what is causing the delay in the National Academy of Engineering and the Chemical Safety Board reports. The Joint Commission delay can be easily explained by political wrangling but lack of sufficient data is the only thing that comes to mine to delay NAE and CSB. I hope the delays don't mean that they are being shut out of the information loop because those are the only two organizations I trust to do honest, fact-based evaluations.

    Thanks, Lorinda, for another of your always terrific diaries. Hope the rain you are expecting gives you some relief from the heat. Tomorrow we will get a short break but things will be going right back to miserably hot. The ozone levels have been ghastly so outdoors is like a toxic sauna.

  •  Thanks Lorinda (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorinda Pike, Phil S 33, peraspera

    for another excellent summary of the new. Sorry to be so late; a virus has incapacitated my laptop, had to borrow an ancient one from hubby's work.

    I agree with Pera. I have no problem with money going into economic restoration...heaven knows that they need it... unless it means lining the pockets of local pols and their friends.

    Many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign. --Bill Moyers

    by shanesnana on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 04:31:24 AM PDT

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