The U.S. Interior Department will organize a mock oil leak response drill for the first time ever this summer in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana’s coast.
The safety drill is a direct response to the 2010 BP oil leak in which the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 men and resulted in a three-month discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
The Interior Department is working with the Marine Well Containment Co. to conduct a live drill to deploy critical pieces of state-of-the-art well control equipment.
The exercise would demonstrate the ability of Marine Well to mobilize a capping stack — a device similar to the one that stopped the flow of oil from the BP well — in a timely fashion from its onshore base to the deepwater seabed of the Gulf.
“Our safety reforms are designed to reduce the chances that a capping stack would ever be needed again, but one thing Deepwater Horizon taught us is that you must always be ready to respond to the worst case scenario,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in the announcement. “This exercise is an opportunity to deploy systems, test readiness, and train under real-time conditions.”
Marine Well is one of two consortia that provide contract access to well containment equipment to oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico. This equipment is required for drilling with subsea blowout preventers in deepwater.
The other consortium, the Helix Well Containment Group, will complete a similar deployment exercise in the future.
In October 2010, Salazar required that prior to receiving approval of a deepwater drilling permit, an operator must demonstrate that it has enforceable obligations that ensure that containment resources are available promptly in the event of a deepwater blowout.
Interior remains under attack
The Interior Department remains under attack from the Republican-controlled House Natural Resources Committee and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., over the drilling moratorium put in place for several months after the 2010 BP oil leak.
Both the House committee and Vitter — along with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas — are seeking additional documentation and emails regarding the federal government’s decision to have the moratorium.
They allege the White House and the Interior Department are hiding information and that they lied about what scientists were saying.
The Inspector General’s Office within the department has ruled that part of a report that noted support from scientists was an inadvertent mistake.
Vitter, Sessions and Cornyn signed a letter this week seeking an investigation from the federal Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
“The moratorium crushed thousands of jobs — many of which Louisiana is still suffering from — and now we’re seeing extremely alarming evidence that the investigation I requested on the job-killing moratorium may not have been independent and could have involved the acting IG tampering with the facts,” Vitter stated. “It’s pretty outrageous and offensive to know that politics seems to be likely influencing the office of the IG in addition to the science.”
Few in delegation lament paper
Most of Louisiana’s congressional delegation didn’t comment on the announced dramatic downsizing of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. But a couple of the members did turn to Facebook to weigh in.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who hails from New Orleans, noted the newspaper’s more than 150-year history and she praised the coverage after Hurricane Katrina.
“To think of not having a daily print edition saddens me,” Landrieu stated. “However, New Orleans will always need a robust news gathering operation to provide us with accurate and balanced news. In whatever new form the Times-Picayune takes, that need will not change.”
Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, was a bit less sympathetic.
“Times-Picayune shrinking due to low subscriptions,” Fleming wrote. “Would this have anything to do with liberal bias?”
He included a news link to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s comments about the newspaper.
Fleming left out mentioning the effects of Katrina and the fact that The Times-Picayune has one of the highest market penetration percentages of any newspaper in the country.
Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is email@example.com.