May 17th, 2010
04:38 PM ET
10 years ago

Senate panel grills U.S. officials on Gulf spill

New York ( - Lawmakers on Monday questioned two federal officials about the government's response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Rear Admiral Peter Neffenger of the Coast Guard, are testifying before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs about how the government is handling the disaster.

The explosion of one of BP's deepwater drill rigs, located 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, has resulted in one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.

Full story on

Filed under: Energy • Janet Napolitano • Senate
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    Typical – don't punish BP for bypassing safety, punish the messenger.

    Is it a republican panel? Sounds like it.

    May 17, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  2. Henry Miller PHD is an idiot

    in brazil, all oil platforms have an acoustic switch. its a little pricey, but i guess you get what you pay for. here in the US, we have the "golf Ball Junk Shot". the leader of the free world using golf balls as a plan too stop an oil leak while brazil has higher standards than we do. the market will take care of itself. no oversight needed. i guess the ocean will clean itself and all of the animals and fish will clean themselves. "i'll have the oil covered fish" thank you. oh, and a dinner roll and a side salad.

    May 17, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. Gates9

    MMS Approved 27 Gulf Drilling Operations AFTER BP Disaster
    26 Were Exempted From Environmental Review, Including Two to BP

    Salazar's "Moratorium" on New Drilling Permits Allows Continuation of the Same Flawed
    Environmental Exemption Process that Allowed the BP Catastrophe

    TUCSON, Ariz.— Even as the BP drilling explosion which killed eleven people continues to gush hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has continued to exempt dangerous new drilling operations from environmental review. Twenty-seven new offshore drilling projects have been approved since April 20, 2010; twenty-six under the same environmental review exemption used to approve the disastrous BP drilling that is fouling the Gulf and its wildlife.

    “The MMS has learned absolutely nothing from this national catastrophe,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, “It is still illegally exempting dangerous offshore drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico from all environmental review. It is outrageous and unacceptable.”

    The MMS became embroiled in controversy when it was revealed on May 5, 2010, that it exempted BP’s offshore drilling plan from environmental review by using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act meant only to apply to projects with no, or minimal, negative effects such as construction of outhouse and hiking trails. The controversy deepened when it was revealed that MMS exempts hundreds of dangerous offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico every year.

    Two of the newly approved—and environmentally exempted—drilling operations were awarded to BP despite the fact that the new plans are based on the exact same false assertions about oil rig safety and the improbability of environmental damage even of oil spill occurs:

    BP drilling plan approved April 6, 2010 (this is the one that exploded):
    “2.7 Blowout Scenario – A scenario for a potential blowout of the well from which BP would expect to have the highest volume of liquid hydrocarbons is not required for the operations proposed in this EP.”

    BP drilling plan approved May 5, 2010:
    "II.J. Blowout Scenario – Information not required for activities proposed in this Initial Exploration Plan."

    (see table below for further comparison).

    “It is inconceivable that MMS could look out its window at what is likely the worst oil spill in American history, then rubber stamp new BP drilling permits based on BP’s patently false statements that an oil spill cannot occur and would not be dangerous if it did. Heads need to start rolling at MMS.”

    In response to the environmental exemption scandal, embattled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday that he had banned approval of new offshore oil drilling permits. The public, of course, assumed he was halting the approval of drilling plans and environmental exemptions since they are the heart of the MMS scandal. Today, however, the Interior Department acknowledged that environmental exemptions and drilling plans have not been halted. Salazar is allowing those flawed drilling approvals to proceed and is only halting the issuance of a last technical check off that does not involve any environmental review.

    Under Salazar’s “moratorium”, the environmental review process will continue to be completely undermined in the exact same manner as in the BP oil spill.

    “Salazar is playing a cynical shell game, making the public think he stopped issuing the faulty approvals that allowed the disastrous BP drilling to occur, when in fact he has given MMS the green light to keep issuing those very same approvals,” said Suckling. “The only thing Salazar has stopped is the final, technical check off which comes long after the environmental review. His media sleight of hand does nothing to fix the broken system that allowed what may be the greatest environmental catastrophe of our generation to occur.”

    “For Secretary Salazar to allow MMS to exempt 26 new oil wells from environmental review in the midst of the ongoing Gulf crisis shows an extraordinary lapse of judgment. It is inconceivable that his attention is apparently on providing BP with new environmentally exempted offshore oil wells instead of shutting down the corrupt process which put billion of dollars into BP’s pocket and millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”

    May 17, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Senator: There's oil spilling in the Gulf.
    BP: I know.
    Senator: Well, thank you for stopping by. Sorry about any
    inconvenience. How are Sue and the kids?

    May 17, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. Gates9

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Exxon) has blocked action on a new bill to raise the cap on damages related to the Gulf Oil Spill from $75 million to a proposed $10 billion. There you go, folks. The move we were all waiting for.

    May 17, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. Gates9

    Aside from the fact that it is the world's biggest offshore drilling contractor and was the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, here are three things worth knowing about Transocean:

    1. In 1999, Transocean moved overseas, leaving its headquarters in Delaware to incorporate in Switzerland (which is bordered on all sides by land) to dodge U.S. taxes. As a result of its move, the company reduced its tax burden by 50%.

    2. Just yesterday, Transocean cited an 1851 law in a court filing requesting that its liability be limited to $27 million. Transocean claims the law in question limits the total liability of maritime operators to the cost of the vessel that sunk. It has already collected hundreds of millions in insurance.

    3. Deepwater Horizon was one of 35 Transocean rigs sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, known to have weaker safety standards than other nations.

    Also, BP is based in London, and Halliburton is based in Dubai. Taken together, you have to ask this question: why in the world should we let Transocean, and other FOREIGN CORPORATIONS continue to operate in our national waters?

    May 17, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Does the government get involved or as many believe the government shouldn't be involved. The Governors of the coastal Gulf states sure aren't involved.

    May 17, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. Squigman

    I can think of three companies that should be held responsible, the owner of the rig, the company leasing the rig, and the company responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the rig. But, do you the public believe these companies will be held accountable? Why were government standards, and safety rules bypassed, or ignored since the year 2000? Why is it important to dilute the truth to the American people? Could the answer to this be that many individules have filled their pockets from lax enforcment of standards? follow the money, and you'll find the guility. Good luck.

    May 17, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Bushes fault, Cheney made him do it. Standard Obozo line. Am I right libertard? Wait Palin has got something to do with this as well as the Tea Party. The libertard mentality on display.

    May 17, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  10. Darko

    BP is drilling in risky mile deep waters because the govt will not lift drilling bans on shallow areas. In response to this spill, they have banned all future leases indefinitely. There's govt logic at its finest...

    This is another 'regulation' from the govt that has failed. Once again, we see that regulation, in name only, doesn't work and often will actually promote the actions they are trying to stop. People feel like there is a safety net below, but no one is bothering to see if the net has a hole.

    May 17, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. keith in Austin

    Remember how you liberal democrats crucified Bush after Hurricane Katrina? When the BP disaster was reported, Barry wasted 13 days playing golf like a girl but no big deal to NBC and the NY Times right?

    Clearly, Homeland Security Director Napolitano was asleep at the wheel again! Total incompetance but nothing unusual regarding Bozo's administration!

    May 17, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  12. ib

    All you libs can continue to blame Bush but I'll say one thing if Bush was still president you can bet that something about stopping the leaking oil would have been done by now. Bush would have seen to that instead appointing commissions to look into it like your messiah Obama is doing.

    May 17, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. Jeff in Houston

    All well and good. Nice window dressing. Humiliate them in public. Now, will you actually DO something about these companies, or will it be more Democrating Congress/Obama ineffectiveness? I'm betting on the latter.

    If any individual did something 1/1000th as bad, that individual would be in jail. These guys will get a golden parachute.

    Does anyone else see a problem here?

    May 17, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  14. Dan

    Napolitano, Holder, and all these administration's green clowns have been grilled on so many subjects; this administration is a Bar B Q for congress!

    May 17, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |