May 9th, 2010
01:21 PM ET
13 years ago

'Big Oil wants its way,' Dem says


Two senators - one Democrat and one Republican - slammed the oil and gas industry Sunday along with the federal agency responsible for regulating the industry. (Photo Credit: CNN)

Washington (CNN) – A Democratic senator whose state is in the bulls’ eye of the massive oil spill swirling around the Gulf of Mexico said Sunday that the oil and gas industry has used its political muscle to frustrate past efforts to tighten regulations and increase safety precautions.

Watch: Nelson, Shelby slam industry and its regulator

“’Big Oil’ wants its way,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said on CNN’s State of the Union, “They’ve been trying to bully their way to drill off the coast of Florida.” Nelson was responding to a suggestion from CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that Congress had failed in its oversight responsibility relating to the Minerals Management Service (“MMS”), the federal agency the regulates offshore drilling.

“’Big Oil’ has had its way among the regulators, the senator said. Nelson said the relationship between the industry and MMS is a “cozy” one and the Florida Democrat referenced embarrassing revelations about the MMS which both regulates the safety of oil and gas exploration and manages the federal government’s lucrative leases of federal land to the oil and gas industry.

Related video: MMS in bed with 'Big Oil'?

“But shouldn’t Congress have some responsibility?” Crowley asked Nelson.

“You doggone right, Candy. You doggone right. That’s exactly right and that’s what a number of us have been calling for and we could never get to first base because ‘Big Oil’ would flex its muscle and call in its votes and we could never get anything done. And, tragically, it’s going to take this disastrous oil spill to finally clamp down on them.”

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama suggested that perhaps the explosion that led to the massive oil spill had resulted from trying to cut corners in order to save money.

“But a lot of this could have been prevented. I don’t know where the regulators were on this. They certainly were asleep,” Shelby told Crowley. “Secondly, where’s BP? Were they trying to do this on the cheap? This reminds me – in a sense, it’s like a big truck on the Los Angeles freeway with no brakes. In other words, no safety.”

On the issue of regulatory oversight, Shelby faulted the White House.

“We’re not in charge of the regulators,” he said. “We have oversight of the regulators. [But] The Executive Branch is in charge of the regulators.”

But Shelby conceded that many of the oversight hearings that have been planned on Capitol Hill in the wake of the spill could have taken place earlier.

“Candy, you make a good point. This should have been long ago – every step.”

He added that if there were shortcomings with the failed oil rig and gushing well that are the source of this spill, “This was probably done to save money and look where we are today.”

After announcing prior to the spill that he was expanding the areas available for offshore oil drilling, President Obama stood by his new policy in the immediate aftermath of the spill. But late last week, the MMS announced that all plans for new offshore drilling under Obama’s policy were on hold pending a government safety review.

Filed under: Bill Nelson • Energy • Extra • Popular Posts • Richard Shelby • State of the Union
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Big Oil is America's Big Enemy. The rotten Bush administration did everything it could to foster Big Oil profits, including starting a bogus war in Iraq based on lies.

    All those GOP "Drill Baby Drill" morons need to take note of this latest disaster. Big Oil benefits no one but Big Corporations.

    May 9, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. Bill Hopkins

    Have to say Ms Candy Crowley held their feet to the fire getting their admission of failure. That's excellent interviewing. Political double talk was not going to help. If their was more time I'd like to hear how much money these politicians accepted to allow the short changing of safety regulation of "Big Oil".
    It is time to change energy soures. Is that not obvious by now. Wind
    Solar, water.

    May 9, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. JohnB

    As long as big business has lobbiests and the money to buy votes we will never truely have a free America. We will always be the slaves of the corporations. We need to return the favor and shakle big business with enough regulations to keep them in check and to have rock solid campaine finance reform. And we'll have to force congress to pass it because they won't do it on their own. So we will either continue to be slaves or we won't. Decide soon, before more of your freedoms are bought away from you.

    May 9, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    I've heard that Dick Cheney would NOT let someone pay a half million for a safety valve for each well. I can't find documentation.

    Can someone help me understand or clarify that accusation? Maybe one of you can PROVE one way or the other - I just want the truth – not gossip – not lies – the truth.

    May 9, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    The oil company will raise gas prices as high as they want make them pay for there oil leak

    May 9, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Oil is something we need to use less of; with all their profits, why can't they spend their money to clean up the mess that they made? They have been making huge profits; they can spend the money to support those that they have hurt with the mess they created.

    May 9, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. Gil

    Gee, and who gave them deregulations and cries of "Drill, Baby, Drill! The worst party on earth, the Party of NO! sarah pathetics party!

    May 9, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. Joe

    But of course Big Oil wants its way. So the other big companies, like insurance companies, and the automobile industry, Xerox, IBM and so on, about ten of them that control this country. And Obama in the White House wont shorten the list either.

    May 9, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. A keen observer

    It doesn't appear that drill baby, drill is working out too well for the gulf states and the environment. This illustrates what happens when you put big business and Halliburton in charge of regulating the oil industry.

    May 9, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Oh crap! now the US will create another war in the persian gulf to compensate for this oil loss!

    May 9, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. Alex

    Are the robber barons back? Maybe they never went away...

    May 9, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. Willy Brown

    Democrats rely to much on "Big Oil's" campaign contributions. Just more saber rattling from the hypocritical left

    May 9, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    There is so much back and forth on this oil spill until it makes me wonder what really caused the explosion. BP certainly didn't act quick enough as one would have expected, it's almost like they were waiting for the Feds to give them an explanation.

    May 9, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  14. ib

    We should be drilling more offshore with proper procedures to protect from oil spills and we should be using more coal; clean coal. I'm all for alternative energy but we are a long ways from being there and we must use what we have until we get there. People should not be forced to choose between heating their homes or food due to high energy prices brought on limiting the supply. We have the energy let's use it from our own country and put Americans to work not illegals.

    May 9, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. TOM

    Good thing Obama saw that we had a problem... after just 11 days. Now if he only would "notice" the flooding in Tennessee...

    May 9, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  16. Your Choice

    People want cheap gas but do not want to drill.....Remember, you can't have it BOTH ways!!! It will either be high priced gas and be slaves to the overseas suppliers that hate us OR we can tap into our own resources. If we don't do it, other countries will and we will still have disasters off our coastlines because I'm sure their regulations are not as stringent as ours is! America, take your pick.

    May 9, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  17. works for me

    "Big Oil" has been making big... I mean huge, profits for far too many decades. End the flex of their muscle by making them ALL pay up for disasters like this. End these so called tax credits, just for drilling.

    They've had their straw deep in this milkshake of Earth for way too many political and gigantic financial gains. They just know oil is a very much needed resource and they're hitting us hard, while they can.

    Lies, greed and collusion... the true fuel of America!

    May 9, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  18. Insanity!

    Minerals Mis-Management has been corrrupt for years. Like Interior has been during its entire history. It is time to shut down the entire unit, activate it as a combat unit, and send it to the Pakastani border
    for non-rotation of duty. No bigger bunch of losers outside of the U.S. Senate.

    May 9, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. Annie, Atlanta

    Maybe it's time to get corporations regulated, before they trash us and this planet, and definitely get them out of the halls of Congress. That may be a little harder with the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, however. Wonder if any of our representatives have the guts for it. We have to hope. What else have we got?

    May 9, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    Those 3858 wells in the Gulf were NOT built in the last 15 months - it took YEARS – why no regulation from Bush/Cheney????? They were big oil people – why no regulation from them for at least 8 years ?????

    May 9, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |