Sunday, May 30, 2010

Headline: Top Kill Fails…But….

Headline: Top Kill Fails…But….

There are really “buts, ands, or ors” about the entire disaster. Spending time and energy on wordsmith blame fixing and pundit pontificating finger pointing does no one any real good.

Who is to blame: Bush, Obama; hell the blame belongs with a Congress and the people of this nation who have permitted Corporate America to become the primary branch of government, above the law, beyond oversight and usually held to account with fines written off as the costs of operation.

When are we going to wake up to the fact that is no altruism in Corporate America and that corporations will anything to maximize their bottom lines, and public and the law be damned!

BP is guilty as hell of major violations of the law and should pay through the nose for years to come and corporate officials ought end up behind bars. Americans on the other hand need to shake off and cause the break off of the Cozy Congressional Corporate bed fellow’s affair.

A Divorce is in order.

ROBERT, La. (AP) — BP Admitted Defeat Saturday in its attempt to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by pumping mud into a busted well, but is readying yet another approach after repeated failures to stop the crude that's fouling marshland and beaches.

BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said the company determined the "top kill" had failed after it spent three days pumping heavy drilling mud into the crippled well 5,000 feet underwater. More than 1.2 million gallons of mud was used, but most of it escaped out of the damaged riser.

In the six weeks since the spill began, the company has failed in each attempt to stop the gusher, as estimates of how much oil is leaking grow more dire. The spill is the worst in U.S. history — exceeding even the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster — and dumping between 18 million and 40 million gallons into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

"This scares everybody, the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven't succeeded so far," Suttles said. "Many of the things we're trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet."

The company failed in the days after the spill to use robot submarines to close valves on the massive blowout preventer atop the damaged well, then two weeks later ice-like crystals clogged a 100-ton box the company tried placing over the leak. Earlier this week, engineers removed a mile-long siphon tube after it sucked up a disappointing 900,000 gallons of oil from the gusher.

Frustration has grown as drifting oil closes beaches and washes up in sensitive marshland. The damage is underscored by images of pelicans and their eggs coated in oil. Below the surface, oyster beds and shrimp nurseries face certain death.

President Barack Obama visited the coast Friday to see the damage as he tried to emphasize that his administration was in control of the crisis. He told people in Grand Isle, where the beach has been closed by gobs of oil, that they wouldn't be abandoned.

After BP announced the top kill failure, Obama said from Chicago that the continued flow of oil into the Gulf is "as enraging as it is heartbreaking."

Suttles said BP is already preparing for the next attempt to stop the leak that began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, killing 11 people.

The company plans to use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser from which the oil is leaking, and then try to cap it with a containment valve. The effort is expected to take between four and seven days.

"We're confident the job will work but obviously we can't guarantee success," Suttles said of the new plan, declining to handicap the likelihood it will work.

He said that cutting off the damaged riser isn't expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly.

The permanent solution to the leak, a relief well currently being drilled, won't be ready until August, BP says.

Experts have said that a bend in the damaged riser likely was restricting the flow of oil somewhat, so slicing it off and installing a new containment valve is risky.

"If they can't get that valve on, things will get much worse," said Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama.

Johnson said he thinks BP can succeed with the valve, but added: "It's a scary proposition."

Word that the top-kill had failed hit hard in fishing communities along Louisiana's coast.

"Everybody's starting to realize this summer's lost. And our whole lifestyle might be lost," said Michael Ballay, the 59-year-old manager of the Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, La., near where oil first made landfall in large quanities almost two weeks ago.

Johnny Nunez, owner of Fishing Magician Charters in Shell Beach, La., said the spill is hurting his business during what's normally the best time of year — and there's no end in sight.

"If fishing's bad for five years, I'll be 60 years old. I'll be done for," he said after watching BP's televised announcement.


John Boehner Dreams Of A Rebellious November

By Kathleen Parker : Sunday, May 30, 2010

On domestic issues, House Minority Leader John Boehner is unequivocal in his support for three items: Quench, Dawn and OxiClean.

Quench refers to the body lotion, Dawn the dishwashing liquid and OxiClean the laundry stain remover -- the first two are products of Procter & Gamble, one of the largest employers in Boehner's Ohio.

These state secrets surfaced when I asked the perpetually tan Boehner, who insists he was "born tan," how to treat my sunburn. Firing up a Camel Light, his first of three during our 40-minute interview in his Capitol office, he said, "Ah, I'm a Quench believer."

Before we moved on to more pressing concerns, Boehner riffed on other favorite products. Dawn works not only on dishes but on oil-slicked birds, as the manufacturer's Web site boasts. As for OxiClean, look no further than Boehner's dazzling white shirt.

You have to admire a man who can juggle both Heloise and Nancy Pelosi in the same paragraph. You also can't help noticing that Boehner is at once commanding and preternaturally laid back. What he doesn't show (but others tell) is that he is savvy, a man of his word, and has a coach's eye for others' talent and is happy to hand off the ball.

So why should Americans trust Republicans in light of the GOP's profligate ways when they controlled Congress? Boehner's answer might be his party's bumper sticker this year: "We learned our lesson."

"Are people leery? Oh yeah. But we're winning 2 to 1 with independents today."

For Boehner, being called the "Party of No" isn't a regrettable invective. It is a strategy aimed at highlighting the contrast between those running things and those who want to run things. That deafening silence you hear from Republicans about the gulf oil spill? All the better for Americans to hear the glubglubglub of Democrats and the administration going down the drain.

Boehner & Co. are busy, meanwhile, conducting a massive digital listening tour via the GOP's new "America Speaking Out" Web site, where voters can submit and vote on ideas. It's user-friendly to a fault, with undertones of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," such that Dick, Jane and even Spot can play.

Then again, Republicans finally have figured out the miracle of social media and are using it to engage voters angry that Washington seems to neither listen nor care what they think. Companion to the "speaking out" site is YouCut, unveiled by Rep. Eric Cantor this month, where Americans can vote on spending cuts. In one video, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announces the winner: pay raises for Congress and federal employees (except military personnel).

The sites have stirred some controversy among Democrats, who have their own ideas for spending cuts -- the money being used to underwrite the Web sites. While Republican leaders insist that the sites are vehicles for collecting ideas that will shape the GOP's agenda, Democrats have charged that public funding is being used for political purposes. Of course, Democrats did the same thing with their "Six for '06" effort. What is in the public interest, and what may also prove politically advantageous, is a blurred tightrope both parties have walked. Boehner's office says that no campaign funds have been used, nor is there a campaign component to the sites.

Boehner is reluctant to speculate about November, when 100 seats will be in play. If things should go bump on election night -- and should Boehner replace Pelosi as speaker -- expect to see lots of blood on the floor. First to get the hatchet would be health-care reform, which Republicans would seek to replace with "common sense" measures to reduce insurance costs and secure jobs. Other priorities would include line-by-line budget cuts, entitlement reform and restoration of the integrity of the House, which Boehner says has been damaged by previous speakers' emphasis on partisan gains. "That's why the Congress of the United States is broken and I aim to fix it."

That's a mighty high bar, especially given the significant "scar tissue" between the parties, as Boehner puts it. But when 43 cents of every dollar spent has to be borrowed, somebody, as President Obama described the oil crisis, has to "plug the damn hole."

Whether Republicans have the ways and means to do that remains to be determined by the voters, but while Democrats are scrubbing oil from the gulf, Republicans are greasing the gears for a much-anticipated rebellion.

Feds weigh a criminal probe of BP

The focus is on whether the oil company skirted safety regulations and misled the U.S. government about its ability to respond to a blowout.

Reporting from Washington —

A team of top federal prosecutors and investigators has taken the first steps toward a formal criminal investigation into oil giant BP's actions before and after the drilling rig disaster off Louisiana.

The investigators, who have been quietly gathering evidence in Louisiana over the last three weeks, are focusing on whether BP skirted federal safety regulations and misled the U.S. government by saying it could quickly clean up an environmental accident.

The team has met with U.S. attorneys and state officials in the Gulf Coast region and has sent letters to executives of BP and Transocean Ltd., the drilling rig owner, warning them against destroying documents or other internal records.

Underscoring the gravity of the inquiry, the team is headed by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ignacia Moreno of the environment and natural resources division and Assistant Atty. Gen. Tony West, who heads the Justice Department's civil division.

The move by federal prosecutors represents an escalation in the government's involvement in the oil spill — from coordinating the environmental cleanup to searching for possible criminal violations.

The Justice Department's inquiry is a standard preliminary step taken to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted. But even in this early stage, it has the earmarks of one of the largest investigative undertakings of the Obama administration.

In one sign of its potential scope, the Obama administration has asked for $10 million to be set aside to pay for the investigation. President Obama, in a letter May 12 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco), said the funding was needed "to hold BP, and other responsible parties in this spill, accountable for the crisis."

Oil company officials said they were conducting an internal review and had been sharing information with the government. The companies also have pledged to help clean up the oil spreading along the gulf and pay for damages.

"I understand people want a simple answer about why this happened and who is to blame," said BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward.

Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Welch said federal investigators were pushing ahead with their inquiries.

"The Department of Justice will take all necessary and appropriate steps to ensure that those responsible for this tragic series of events are held fully accountable," Welch said in a letter Tuesday to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Welch said the team had put the companies on notice about the investigation.

"The department has sent formal demands to British Petroleum, Transocean and other companies to ensure the preservation of potentially relevant information," he said. "These letters invoke federal requirements for preserving evidence in anticipation of litigation."

He said the team had spoken with attorneys for BP and Transocean "to ensure they are complying with these demands."

Welch was responding to concerns from Boxer after she said testimony and evidence presented to her committee suggested possible "illicit activities" involving the oil spill.

In a
May 17 letter to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., Boxer asked him and his department to "review this matter with respect to civil and criminal laws related to false statements to the federal government."

In describing the oversight work of her committee, Boxer said the panel had uncovered statements by BP that now appeared to be "false and misleading."

As an example, she identified a February 2009 document from BP to the federal Minerals Management Service. In it, she said, BP evaluated the company's ability to respond to a blowout.

BP said in the document that an oil spill would have little or no effect on fish habitats because the company would use "proven equipment and technology" to respond to a blowout and spill and quickly contain the damage, Boxer said.

"In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Boxer wrote in her letter to Holder, "it does not in any way appear that there was 'proven equipment and technology' to respond to the spill, which could have tragic consequences for local economies and the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico."

She also noted that after the oil rig explosion, BP said in a May 10 statement that all of its techniques underway to stop the spill "involve significant uncertainties because they have not been tested in these conditions before."

"BP said they were ready for this spill if it occurred," Boxer said in a committee statement. "Clearly they were unprepared — and dangerously so."

On Thursday, one of BP's top officials on the rig on the day of the explosion, Robert Kaluza, invoked the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination and refused to testify at a separate Coast Guard inquiry in Louisiana.

The company defended Kaluza, saying in a statement: "Bob is a dedicated, hardworking, conscientious man. Bob did no wrong on the Deepwater Horizon, and we will make damn sure that this comes out at the appropriate time."

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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