Image via Ocean World
Earlier today, executives from other major oil companies engaged in offshore drilling testified before Washington. They attempted to convince the legislators that their drilling procedures and containment plans were much safer than BP's, and that they can be trusted to continue drilling safely in deep waters. But some disturbing details surfaced at the hearing: Especially that many of the major oil companies' response plans in the event of a major spill were actually identical to BP's, down to containing the same references to protecting walruses (which of course don't live in the Gulf) and citing the same long-dead expert.The hearings were, at least at first, painfully predictable -- according to the New York Times' story, the execs filed in, claimed that they each had followed proper drilling procedures that BP had not, that the American economy depends on the oil they provide, and that they each had containment plans that could deal with much bigger spills than the one that BP was currently bungling.
BP, if you recall, had a response plan that claimed it could handle a spill of 250,000 barrels a day -- far bigger than the one that it currently is clearly unable to handle in any way shape or form. Both Shell and Chevron claim that their plans can contain 200,000 barrels a day. If this is true, I suggest that they prove it -- right now, by helping to contain the 30,000 barrel spill that is soiling the Gulf. Or do their containment plans only magically work for their own spills?
Congressman Henry Waxman wasn't buying it either. He called such plans "paper exercises" and exclaimed that "BP failed miserably when confronted with a real leak, and Exxon Mobil and the other companies would do no better."
But buried in the Times' report on the hearing came this startling development, when Congressman Markey addressed the oil execs:
"In preparation for this hearing, the committee reviewed the oil spill safety response plans for all of the companies here today. What we found was that these five companies have response plans that are virtually identical. The plans cite identical response capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment. In some cases, they use the exact same words. We found that all of these companies, not just BP, made the exact same assurances."They had uncovered the fact that these companies' so-called response plans had apparently been hastily fabricated and circulated, like a sloppily completed homework assignment passed around and copied the day it's due, in order to appease sleepy regulators.
These "response plans" had meaningless references to plans to save walruses, and cited the opinion of the same expert, who had been dead for years. The companies clearly thought no one would bother to scrutinize them -- the Mineral Management Service, the agency that was supposed to be keeping tabs on the companies, clearly didn't.
And now, those same companies -- Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron -- that drafted such meaningless "response plans" are standing up and testifying before Congress that they're ready to contain a spill 5 times the size of the BP Gulf spill.