Year Later, Little in Gulf Has Changed
May 2, 2011
One year and 206 million gallons of oil later, all that gushes from the wreck of the Deepwater Horizon is blame. Lawyers appear to outnumber the ocean microbes.
Everybody's suing BP, while BP sues the rig owner and the maker of the blowout preventer that failed to prevent the blowout. Some folks who barely got grazed by the disaster have received settlement checks from the oil giant, while others along the Gulf who got wiped out are still waiting for compensation.
The beaches have been cleaned, but miles of once-fertile marshlands in
In its own way, the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon accident is as messy and maddening as the spill itself.
The moratorium on deep-water drilling -- which affected only a fraction of the wells in the Gulf -- was denounced as a dagger in the heart of the
A stunted view, favored by those who rely on right-wing talk shows for political instruction, is that the government's role should have been to mop up the slop and then butt out.
But for many who live near coastlines where oil companies drill (or want to), it would be reassuring to think that the feds are using at least some of our tax dollars to protect us from future calamities. That was, in fact, a widely held assumption before the Deepwater Horizon blew up.
The truth, as we now know, is that the agency that was supposed to be monitoring offshore oil exploration had been neutered into basically a jobs program for ex-industry employees. In the wake of the Gulf spill, Obama ordered a makeover of the lame Minerals Management Service, and a more aggressive agenda.
Unfortunately -- and this is the scariest part of the BP story -- little has changed. Another major blowout could occur in the Gulf today, with the same harrowing results. On that point, the experts agree.
The Minerals Management Service is now called the
"They changed the name, but all the people are the same. It's embarrassing," said
During the 87 excruciating days it took to cap the Macondo well, the administration was forced to rely too heavily on BP's version of events. That's because the government was woefully short of expertise and technology. It still is.
Far from the beaches and bays of the Gulf, members of the new
The House is considering legislation that would expedite the approval of drilling permits along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Another measure would weaken environmental requirements for exploration in Alaskan waters.
Given the attitude in
Somehow the oil companies operating in those countries manage to cope with the regulations, and still make mountainous profits. How amazing.
Ironically, though, the BP spill cannot disappear entirely from the news as long as people are fighting over who gets the blame, and who gets the money. It will take years to clean up that part of the mess.
Of greater worry is a future in which coastal communities must depend on the
Only one year later, it's way too soon to start forgetting what happened and why.
Never is too soon.
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