What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

May 27th, 2010at 07:13am Posted by Eli

Inconceivable!

When it approved BP’s 2009 plan to start an exploratory well 50 miles off the Louisiana coast — the same well that is now spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf — the federal agency that oversees oil drilling assumed there would be little risk of a well blowout and likely no death to marine life if an accident were to happen.

BP estimated that in the worst case, a blowout at the well would spew out 162,000 barrels of oil every day, a massive figure that far exceeds any estimate of what is coming out now.

But in its exploration plan in March 2009, BP assured the federal Minerals Management Service that a well blowout was so unlikely that “a blowout scenario … is not required for the operations proposed.”

MMS then granted BP a “categorical exclusion” from a public review of the potential environmental impact of the drilling.

That was in line with the general view of MMS that a blowout was nothing to be feared. Before the lease of the oilfields in 2008, the MMS wrote a generic Environmental Impact Statement for the entire northern and western Gulf of Mexico that made the catastrophic well blowout that happened April 20 seem like a near impossibility.

MMS produced its blanket Environmental Impact Statement for 11 proposed leases, mostly off the Louisiana and Texas coasts. One of those planned sales was Lease Sale 206, which gave BP the right to drill at what is known as Mississippi Canyon 252 with a Transocean oil rig called Deepwater Horizon.

The MMS assessed everything from the possible impact of noise on marine life to the specific vulnerabilities of sea turtles and sturgeon, but through it all, the agency assumed any oil that might be spilled would be minimal and any leak would be quickly shut off.

(…)

When it comes to the type of oil well blowout that happened April 20, MMS was downright dismissive. The agency determined that fewer than six of every 10,000 wells would have a blowout that caused any oil to spill. Blowouts are “rare events of short duration,” the study stated, and “the infrequent subsurface blowout that may occur on the Gulf OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) would have a negligible effect on commercial fishing.”

That paved the way for BP to assert that its plans for drilling in Lease Sale 206 posed no real dangers.

After stating that 162,000 barrels a day is the worst-case scenario from a blowout of the well, BP certifies that it “has the capability to respond, to the maximum extent practicable, to a worst-case discharge.” Elsewhere in the document, the company states it could deal with a loss of well control by drilling a relief well, but states a “further discussion of response to an oil spill resulting from the activities proposed in this plan is not required for this Exploration Plan.”

I mean, how could anyone possibly expect that there might be an uncontrollable blowout in a well a mile underwater?  Why, that’s just crazy talk!

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Environment,Wankers


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