Catholics are praying, the feds are mobilized, and BP is hiring local Louisiana fishers to help fight the massive and catastrophic BP oil spill.

Me, I’m frustrated, angry and agree with the suggestion that anyone who shouted “Drill, baby, drill”—especially Sarah Palin—be required to go down to Louisiana and start scooping up the oily mousse that’s beginning to devastate wildlife and destroy jobs.

I’m angry that all this was so damn predictable, including the fact that the federal agency in charge of permits for oil drilling—the Minerals Management Service—never required an oil spill plan from BP that anticipated a worst-case scenario. Why not? Seems no one at the agency thought there would ever be a worst case.


As an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department MMS may in theory represent the public’s interest, but in reality it functions as a cheering section for Big Oil. I know.

For several years, while I worked on a regulatory plan to protect the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, one of our big fears was that MMS would undermine our work to ban oil drilling in the Keys. Fortunately, we succeeded and oil drilling is banned within the 2,800 nautical miles of the sanctuary. When you consider that MMS and the agency which manages marine sanctuaries—NOAA—are both housed within the pro-industry U.S. Department of Commerce, the drilling ban was never a given despite the Florida Keys having the largest coral reef ecosystem in North America.

Here’s what is happening in the midst of a worst-case scenario oil spill that is only going to get worse:

From the Washington Post:
Among the animals that live along the Gulf Coast, this is the time for hatching and rearing: Species as diverse as pelicans, shrimp and alligators are all reproducing, or preparing to. That could bring sensitive young animals in contact with toxic oil or cause their parents to plunge into oily waters looking for food.

“I can’t imagine we’re not going to have some mass casualties” among these birds, said Michael Parr of the American Bird Conservancy. “It’s got to be about the worst time right now” for an oil spill to hit.

In the Gulf, some scientists worried about the marsh itself: In south Louisiana, the oil was hitting wetlands dominated by Spartina grass, with huge clumps of dead grass underwater. Thomas Shirley, a professor at Texas A&M University’s Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, said that posed a problem that Exxon Valdez did not.
“There’s no way to wash the oil out of a Spartina marsh,” Shirley said. Instead, he said, it could take years to leach out with the tides. “It’s just a big sponge.”

For Louisiana’s fishing industry, it’ worst-case as well:

“I’m going to be honest with you, it’s got a lot of people very fearful,” said Avery Bates of the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama in Bayou la Batre. He said the slick was expected to hit their stretch of coastline Sunday.
“Petroleum and seafood,” Bates said, “do not go together.”

And today we discover a familiar scandalous name at the center of the blowout that led to this massive environmental and employment disaster—Halliburton—along with a Michigan connection who could be Halliburton’s biggest nightmare.

It seems the infamous company famous for its bribes of foreign government officials and ties to former VP Dick Cheney was a BP contractor on a crucial cementing process at the base of the oil rig now spewing hundreds of millions of gallons of oil a day into the sensitive Gulf waters.

Reports the Times:
Cementing a deep-water drilling operation is a process fraught with danger. A 2007 study by the U.S. Minerals Management Service found that cementing was the single most important factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico over a 14-year period — more than equipment malfunction. Halliburton has been accused of a poor cement job in the case of a major blowout in the Timor Sea off Australia last August. An investigation is underway.

Leading the investigation into Halliburton’s possible role in the ongoing Gulf disaster: Michigan’s U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, chair of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.