Moreno, the first Latina to lead the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in November 2009.
Her tenure spanned one of the worst disasters in U.S. history, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010. Eleven men died in that firestorm.
The Justice Department extracted a record $1 billion civil penalty from Transocean, the rig owner, earlier this year. And a civil trial continues in New Orleans over other environmental damages.
“To date, we have already achieved significant resolutions for liability in the Gulf,” Moreno said in an exit interview with NPR. “We are focused on holding those responsible accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The unit also successfully defended Obama administration regulations of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, winning a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year.
But veterans of the environmental unit worried it had lost some prestige by ceding ground in the massive Gulf oil spill case to the Justice Department’s criminal division, which led a federal task force and prosecuted giant BP and several individual employees in connection with the disaster.
Posts tagged deepwater horizon.
govtoversight: What BP’s Suspension Means
Breaking: Three mile oil slick in Gulf of Mexico. Could be from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well that blew up in 2010.
Update: See also regarding new federal investigation
Workers claim they got sick from chemical used to break up oil from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But, the company that makes Corexit, Nalco states it is exempt from a lawsuit because their chemical was approved by the Federal Government. It seems that hundreds of workers with medical claims will probably lose, and the corporation might win on a technicality…
Full story at MoJo
BP to invest over $40 billion in Gulf of Mexico oil drilling, beginning with the 6,800 foot 'Galapagos deepwater wells' ›
Two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion in 2010, BP will begin (with Obama’s approval) to accelerate drilling operations in even deeper waters off U.S. shores. BP, a foreign company, is the largest lease holder of U.S. oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re investing over $40 billion over the next ten years in
exploitation additional oil exploration, atop billions already invested in wells.
A move that is both bold and weak at the same time. Scientists say ‘oil pollution,’ government says ‘small shrimp.’ Smells like PR bullshit to protect BP and oil drillers from further payouts to local communities.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. [‘Official’ reason is now reported to be smaller than average shrimp.]
Two years, already? Now reading this excellent piece:
TODAY IS THE TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER IN THE GULF OF MEXICO
The following is an excerpt from Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster by Abrahm Lustgarten.
The burst of gas came from so deep within the bowels of the earth it may as well have come from another world. Thirteen thousand feet beneath the ocean’s silty floor and the earth’s crust and another five thousand feet underwater—a total depth farther than fourteen Empire State buildings stacked atop one another—hydrocarbons in the form of hot fluid saturated with dissolved methane seeped through the reinforced walls of a new oil well.
The well, an exploratory venture drilled by BP and called Macondo, was a three-mile-long tube of cement and steel that had been burrowed into the million-and-a-half-year-old rock in the weeks before. It was one of the industry’s most important new efforts to find oil in the deep waters off the southern coast of the United States, and, while not the deepest, the Macondo was pushing the limits of drilling technology and risk.
This particular well had been a cursed project from the start. Miles above, where the sun skipped along the lapping waves of the Gulf of Mexico, the Macondo project’s 126 oil workers had battled for weeks to control wild kicks of gas and to adapt to a series of setbacks doled out by this complicated and unpredictable well. Under stress and guided by conflicting mandates to drill quickly, drill safely, and drill cheaply, the workers had often made the wrong decisions. Now the Macondo was preparing to issue them one last challenge.
Inside the well, the gas, squeezed out of the earth by the natural pressure of the compressed rock and shoved upward by its own buoyancy, shot skyward at a pace that would bring it to the surface of the gulf in a matter of minutes. As it rose it expanded rapidly, the volume increasing the higher it got in the well, until the steel pipe and casing that channeled it upward could barely contain its explosive force.
On the ocean floor, the kick—as such a geologic burp is called in the oil industry—shot through the top of the well at the seafloor and continued upward through the mile-deep water in the long hose of steel called a riser pipe that connected the well to the surface. There, it slammed into the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, a thirty-story structure with a footprint the size of an average Walmart Supercenter floating in the Gulf of Mexico. With a burst like a canon, pent-up pressure from the oil and gas exploded from the twenty-one-inch pipe, which rose up out of the dark water. Bolts sheared off and valves were forced open. Drilling mud that had filled the well to cool the drill bit and balance the well pressure spewed across the deck of the rig, rushing against doors and spilling across stairways. With a roaring hiss, a cloud of natural gas began to envelop the rig.
On the drilling floor, the Deepwater’s driller on duty, Dewey Revette, had been monitoring the well readings and watching for a kick, but he hadn’t seen the signs. When the blowout came, Revette, a driller named Stephen Curtis, and the rig’s toolpusher, or drilling supervisor, Jason Anderson, scrambled to control the burst of gas. Anderson, cool-headed, had spent nine years working on the Deepwater Horizon and knew what to do. First, he diverted the spurting mud into a gas separator, thinking it would help capture the explosive materials from the messy mud. Then he triggered one of the emergency valved on the rig’s blowout preventer, a three-hundred-ton piece of machinery lying on the gulf’s floor meant to seal off the well in the case of a violent kick. But it was too late.
Two flights below, on the Deepwater Horizon’s second deck, Mike Williams manned the rig’s electronics shop, next to the engine room. A few feet away, diesel turbines generated the platform’s power and spun the drill bits miles inside the earth. Suddenly, Williams heard a deafening whine as the revolutions of the engines increased. But the danger—an envelope of gas that ballooned from the top of the riser pipe on the drilling floor above—was invisible. Neither Williams nor anyone else on the rig except the small group that had scrambled to drill deck had been told the Macondo was blowing out.
The rig had an extensive network of sensors that were supposed to detect a combustible cloud of gas before it could reach the engines and the control room and issue a warning. Those alarms were meant to trigger a series of closing valves designed to keep the gas from burning up in the engines. But the sensors didn’t react, and the valves never shut. The gas saturated the air, turning the rig’s engines’ normal cooling and ventilation intake into a source of gaseous fuel. The motors sucked the fumes out of the air, screaming higher and faster, their pistons whipping back and forth furiously. Another critical safety backup, the blowout preventer that Anderson had already tried to trigger in order to cut off the well, also failed, meaning the gas cloud on the rig would only get bigger. By the time Williams realized what was unfolding, there was little he could do to change it. He ran toward a fortified steel exit door, but as he reached it, one of the engines exploded. The six-foot-tall plate of metal blew off its hinges, striking him midstride. Dazed and bleeding, he slowly picked himself up, only to be slammed back down again by a devastating second blast.
On the deck above Williams, the Deepwater Horizon’s derrick was instantly engulfed in flames. The men on the drilling floor, including Jason Anderson, were killed quickly, but dozen of others were crushed or twisted or slashed by flying debris and were desperately crawling out of their own horrific emergencies, trying not to be entombed in an industrial grave.
Williams stumbled out toward a set of steel steps only to find that the walkway, which would have taken him up to the main deck, was missing. The engines were gone; the whole back of the rig was gone. Wiping away blood that blocked his vision, Williams sought another way. He heard a plea for help and stumbled over the body of an injured colleague. Above them a wall of black smoke drifted up from raging, seventy-five-foot flames. Williams couldn’t carry the man. All he could do was try to save himself.
A short time later, desperate to escape the searing heat and giant cherry-balls of fire, Williams leapt off the railings into the black night, tumbling ninety feet into the roiling, burning, oil-streaked water of the Gulf of Mexico.
ABRAHM LUSTGARTEN is a reporter for ProPublica and a former writer for Fortune. He covers energy and environmental topics, including natural gas, renewable energy, water resources, and energy policy. He lives in San Francisco, California. Follow him on Twitter: @AbrahmL.
Breaking: BP looks to settle Gulf of Mexico oil spill case (aka Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion). Federal trial originally set for Monday is delayed to allow negotations. ›
Over 225,000 claimants have already split nearly $20 billion from BP. The trial was set to begin in Louisiana Federal Court tomorrow. But, it’s being speculated that BP is looking to avoid a $100 billion liability.
More from USA Today
In one email, an Anadarko employee expressed disappointment that BP had not disclosed some information related to the damage, prompting another to respond: “Bummer. I’m amazed that they did not tell us about this.”
Shushan also granted BP’s and Transocean’s request to keep out a June 2010 email from Halliburton employee Ryan Haire questioning their reported findings regarding some tests, saying he had no personal knowledge of those findings.
The judge also granted Halliburton’s request to exclude an email from a BP geologist to a colleague in February 2010, offering “thanks for the shitty cement job.”
Halliburton contended that the email was no more than a casual, tasteless joke made by one friend to another. Shushan concluded that there was no showing that the email was a “business record” of the cement work that could be introduced into evidence.From “BP wins exclusion of emails from oil spill trial” by Jonathan Stempel in his coverage of the legal circus surrounding the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
A NOAA satellite image off Nigeria’s coastline shows the new Shell oil spill covering a 356-square-mile patch of ocean.
“Nigeria Oil Spill Raises Concerns About New Drilling Technology
By Deepwater Horizon mega-disaster benchmarks, it’s not so big — but it might be in the Exxon Valdez ballpark, and underscores the risks of a new deepwater oil-gathering technique that’s coming soon to the Gulf of Mexico.
“The significance here is the technology they’re using,” said John Amos of the environmental watchdog group Skytruth. “It’s a whole new source of potentially major oil spills.”
The spill occurred Dec. 20 at Shell’s Bonga deepwater facility, prompting an immediate temporary closure of the oil field. Shell estimated that up to 40,000 barrels of oil — about 7 million gallons, compared to 11 million gallons for the Exxon Valdez — leaked.
Unlike the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which involved the blowout of a wellhead 5,000 feet deep, the Bonga spill occurred at the surface during transfer of crude oil between ships. It was relatively easy to fix, which at first glance might seem reassuring.
“It is important to stress that this was not a well control incident of any sort,” said Shell Nigeria chairman Mutiu Sunmonu in a statement. But Amos says the spill is still troubling.
Oil in the Bonga deepwater field is collected by a method known as floating production storage and offloading, or FPSO, in which crude oil is piped to floating, mobile tanks, usually converted supertankers, rather than fixed platforms. Shuttle tankers collect oil from the FPSO and carry it to market.”
Read more at Wired
Absolutely worth reading in full. US calling for full accountability of the spill, including suing contractors. Companies aggressively appealing and could end up in the Supreme Court. Fines could reach $4,300 per barrel of oil leaked, up to $21 billion in fines.
U.S. offshore-drilling officials issued their first violations stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill Wednesday, accusing BP and two of its contractors of breaking several rules.
The citations were widely expected against BP, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig. But the government’s decision to pursue contractors Transocean and Halliburton for infractions jolted the contracting industry, which traditionally avoids liability in such accidents.
The decision to penalize the contractors “reflects the severity of the incident,” the Interior Department said in a statement. Interior officials are committed “to holding all parties accountable.”
The citations follow a months-long investigation by the Interior Department and Coast Guard. Interior said Wednesday it had identified 15 incidents of noncompliance with federal rules. Among them were the failure to perform operations in a safe manner and the failure to conduct accurate pressure-integrity tests.
BP spokesman Scott Dean said the violation make clear “contractors, like operators, are responsible” for their actions and “accountable to the U.S. government and the American public for their conduct.”
BP also used the findings to chide its partners in developing the Macondo well, which was being drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig.
“We continue to encourage other parties, including Transocean and Halliburton, to acknowledge their responsibilities in the accident,” Dean added.
A Transocean representative said the company “intends to appeal its citations.”
“A new government report by the U.S. Coast Guard and the agency that regulates offshore drilling blasts BP management for decisions that added risk and possibly led to last year’s devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon well exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP, the report says, was negligent in the placement of a cement seal that was put in place just a day before the explosion. Other investigations have blamed a variety of factors, including faulty data readings and the failure of the well’s blowout preventer. But this report places most of the responsibility on BP executives, who made decisions that complicated the sealing of the well and made the operation risky.”