Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What About Saying No?

The image above is from the NY Times interactive BP spill map, the most depressing and informative thing on the internets as of this writing. In the light of the massive and still-expanding extent of the damage done to date, something in this developing story -- maybe a few things -- eludes me:
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans, Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday against the ban, which halted all drilling in more than 500 feet of water and prevented new permits from being issued. The White House said it would appeal the ruling.

President Barack Obama ordered the moratorium after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig off Louisiana. Eleven people died in the blast, which triggered an underwater oil gusher.

Brian Collins, an attorney for the Justice Department, insisted Monday that the suspension is necessary while officials conduct a safety review.
A hack judge with financial ties to the oil industry can find legal-sounding reasons to stop a moratorium imposed by the president. Yawn.

What eludes me is why the moratorium is decisive, or even relevant, here. What's legally decisive in drilling operations is permits, and regulators are empowered by law to either accept or reject permits. Prior to recent events, regulators (we now know) routinely accepted every half-assed application for drilling permits, sometimes waving entire types of reviews and skipping inspections to say yes. That was a mistake, but it doesn't take a presidential order to change it.

To change it, start doing it the right way. Use the powers available under current law. Use existing authority to reject the permits when there is reason to do so; conduct thorough environmental reviews; and oversee and perform thorough inspections of the operations and facilities, noting any discrepancies between the application's claims and the inspection's findings, and use these discrepancies as the basis for rejecting applications.

Federal authorities should stop crying over lost moratoriums and start denying the living fuck out of permit applications that stand to threaten gigantic swaths of ocean and coastal property. They should continue with a big red REJECTED stamp until such time as a would-be driller can propose a credible, proven, no-nonsense, no-bullshit, verifiable means of dealing with a disaster of the kind that, at present, no one on earth knows how to address.


Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

So, I'm sitting here, lil'ol' powerless me, one of the "little folks" and wondering, would it kill them to hold off on drilling in untenable situations for six months while we "little folks" try and figure out how were going to live with the world they're forcing us to help them create?

And the answer is apparently yes, yet it will kill them.

Dale said...

Yep. Can't wait six months to pull up some tiny fraction of that whopping 2% of the world's oil that's (maybe) within the territorial borders of the USA. At which point it will be sold on the world market along with all the other oil sold, and at the going rate.