May 1, 2010

Jason Leopold has the story over at Truthout. Another day, another story of a huge corporate behemoth running amok and roughshod over the most basic safety regulations and protocols.

In 2008, an employee of BP hired to oversee and maintain required document databases relating to regulatory safety requirements raised concerns about a related BP Gulf project, Atlantis.

The whistleblower, whose name has been withheld at the person's request because the whistleblower still works in the oil industry and fears retaliation, first raised concerns about safety issues related to BP Atlantis, the world's largest and deepest semi-submersible oil and natural gas platform, located about 200 miles south of New Orleans, in November 2008. Atlantis, which began production in October 2007, has the capacity to produce about 8.4 million gallons of oil and 180 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

It was then that the whistleblower, who was hired to oversee the company's databases housing documents related to its Atlantis project, discovered that the drilling platform had been operating without a majority of the engineer-approved documents it needed to run safely, leaving the platform vulnerable to a catastrophic disaster that would far surpass the massive oil spill that began last week following a deadly explosion on a BP-operated drilling rig.

The specifics are pretty chilling. Regulations require extensive preparation and analysis of potential hazards with signoffs by qualified engineers at each step. Part of the analysis is a detailed drawing of the project's piping and process flows. BP's were incomplete, which prompted a member of the BP team to alert BP officials to the risk that they could be assumed to be complete, leading to a complete failure of the system. According to the Truthout article, 85 percent of the drawings did not receive engineer approval.

Eighty-five percent. Stunning. And there's more.

Even worse, 95 percent of Atlantis' subsea welding records did not receive final approval, calling into question the integrity of thousands of crucial welds on subsea components that, if they were to rupture, could result in an oil spill 30 times worse than the one that occurred after the explosion on Deepwater Horizon last week.

The rest of the story is at Truthout. Go read it. It's chilling all on its own, but when read in the larger context of the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch disaster, Goldman Sachs revelations, Wall Street meltdowns and SEC shenanigans, the abject failure of conservative "small government, no regulation" philosophy is truly on parade for everyone to see.

Late-night editorial comment:

The Masseys, Halliburtons, BPs, and Wall Streeters do it because they expect to do it and get away with it. They do it because for 30 years we've listened to the drumbeat of a cadence: Profits over all. As the cadence quickened, the media joined the parade, morphing from objective observer to drum major. The beat grew louder. With each decibel increase, their arrogance and power grew stronger. In 30 years, the John Birch society has transformed from pariah to mainstream. How far will we let them go before we get out in the streets and "take our country back"?

We're not going to undo all of this in a year, two years or four years. It took them thirty years of sustained, over-the-top underhanded rhetoric and behavior to get to this point. I believe the 2010 elections are as much about whether we're willing to arm-wrestle corporate interests for control of this country as they are about any specific candidate or issue. They are about where our hearts are, and we can't afford to turn away or disengage. Not now.

Some contend Democrats aren't any better than Republicans, or liberals than conservatives. Whatever fits. Either way, I disagree. Under a Bush administration, this whistleblower's story would not have seen the light of day or Truthout's site. He went through standard channels first. Under Bush, he'd have been crushed in those channels before he ever had the chance to reach out to Jason. Democrats aren't perfect and neither is Obama. But on their very worst day, they're still better by far than what we can expect with conservatives in control.

Change isn't overnight. They spent 30 years bringing down everything progressives built in the 20th century. We're seeing the fruits of their labor on land, sea, and in the air. Conservatives have brought this country to the brink of ruin. When they can't win by the rules, they write their own. It's time for that to change.

This is where I live. If you were to look at the full-size image, you'd see two offshore oil derricks on the horizon. I don't know who runs them or manages them, but I know I've kicked and screamed for 2 years since Bush lifted the moratorium on drilling off the coast of California (yes, it was Bush, not Obama) about the danger to our coastline.


This is what's at risk here, along with newly revived groups of brown pelicans, migrating whales, and endangered plovers. It could just as easily happen here, and it isn't worth the risk. I believe this so strongly that I gave away my car and decided to walk or ride a bike everywhere I could over a year ago. I don't regret it, and I will fight back as long as I'm breathing for the right to see this coastline this way, to see pelicans dive into clear water and most of all, oil companies' power to diminish.

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