I remember one night many years ago, walking down Decatur Street in the Quarter as the darkness was coming on, challenging the streetlamps to do their best. It was a beautiful February evening, colder but not freezing and as I glanced in the river’s direction I smiled at the sight of a rolling fog bank, moving slow, silent and concealing. Stopping at the corner of the square, I watched it drift across Decatur, enveloping me, the statue of Andrew Jackson and I kept watching until it swallowed St. Louis Cathedral.
It was a kind of spooky, but in a pleasant way.
The fog in the Gulf of Mexico is less so.
During the hearings yesterday in Houston, set up to investigate the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it was more of the same. British Petroleum pointed the blame at Transocean. Transocean pointed the blame at British Petroleum, and nobody learned nothing, nobody knew nothing, never.
The investigator, US Coast Guard Captain Hung Nguyen expressed his frustration with all involved, “I just don’t see how everything gets coordinated,” Nguyen said. “International regulations identify one person in charge that is accountable for and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel…especially when we go into an emergency phase, it might be difficult to have an effective response.”
Harry Thierens, a London-based BP Vice President for drilling operations was on the stand and Nguyen asked him a series of questions: Is he aware that a lot of questions are being asked about who was in charge? Can you articulate any lessons learned from previous deadly oil refining and drilling disasters? Has BP done any exercises since April 20th to see how it would respond to a future blowout?
Thierens responded, “No,” “No,” and “I don’t know.” He did recall more fluidly that it is Transocean who was in charge of maintaining and configuring the equipment on the blowout preventer which would imply the blowout preventer’s failure to clamp down and seal the well was not the fault of British Petroleum.
Meanwhile, a Halliburton technical adviser Jesse Gagliano was blaming British Petroleum, testifying he told BP officials that their well design would raise the risk for gas to reach the surface, which is ultimately what happened and lead to the explosion. BP’s lawyer challenged Gagliano, questioning why he would sign off on a plan he was so concerned about to which Gagliano responded that his signing off on the plan wasn’t meant as an endorsement.
After more exchanges of this sort with several others associated with the doomed rig, Nguyen finally said, “Somebody’s got to be in charge here, I just don’t have a clear picture in my mind of who it is here.”
Me neither, then, or now…and here we are in the Gulf Coast:
The Gulf’s waters are forever fucked. No they’re not. The seafood is unsafe except it isn’t. The oil plumes are there and they are huge except that a brand new microbe is eating them, unless the science is faulty and the plumes moved with the current. Corexit is a poison they have stopped using except it’s no more harmful than dish soap and at night, mercenaries are pouring it over the oil that isn’t there, except that the oil is. The top kill worked except it didn’t. The static kill worked, kind of. The relief wells may not be necessary except they are. The marshes are being destroyed except for where they are recovering and the government says the Gulf of Mexico is recovering well, but there is still much more to do while BP pulls back on the cleanup because the oil slicks have all but disappeared from the water’s surface; it’s now under the sand of the beaches and breaker islands, except its not there either. Bobby Jindal builds sand berms to hold back oil that isn’t contaminating seafood that isn’t dying off in mass fish kills that may or may not be caused by the spill’s effect on oxygen levels in the water, oxygen levels that might be depleted, or not. British Petroleum denies the leaks in the sea floor, calling it natural seepage from leaks they say aren’t there or if they are, certainly were not caused by anything they might or might not have done and didn’t you know, a giant methane bubble is preparing to erupt from below the sea floor that will kill us all? A study says dispersants are speeding up the bio-accumulation of oil in wildlife that according to the NOAA isn’t happening and the government oil spill numbers that have been approved by independent scientists were never actually approved by independent scientists. The EPA says the water and atmosphere are safe except for the whistleblower from the EPA who says the water and air aren’t safe, but everything is okay now because Tony Hayward is no longer CEO of British Petroleum. Transocean says they can’t complete their own internal investigations because BP won’t turn over evidence they need and British Petroleum denies this, saying they have been in in full compliance with the government’s investigations where some of their employees take the fifth amendment and in the middle of the night, whales are being secreted to Mexico so nobody can watch them die. The EPA tells BP to stop using Corexist and find alternatives while the Coast Guard say they approved it. Cleanup workers are getting sick from exposure to the oil because British Petroleum didn’t give them the respirators that British Petroleum gave them to wear so they wouldn’t get sick from the oil. The government has a methodology to explain their oil spill numbers that you can’t see: the methodology or the oil that is still washing up on the beaches. British Petroleum’s cost cutting might have caused the Deepwater Horizon to explode, if it weren’t for Transocean rigging the blowout preventer wrong and Halliburton incorrectly pouring the cement and apparently somebody was in charge of the rig but since this could get expensive, nobody is sure who is in charge and nobody knows anything about nothing, never.
And nobody will give their complete information to anybody else.
This is somewhat of a farce, and seems to work in the favor of those who have the money and are trying their best to keep it, for as long as possible, except they’re not trying to keep their money, instead being responsible for what they might or might not have done…just maybe, at some time.
Oh for fuck’s sakes.
Perhaps, a return to basics.
When it comes to the Deepwater Horizon and the aftermath across the Gulf of Mexico…
1. 11 men died in the explosion.
2. Someone at BP, Halliburton or Transocean is lying and maybe all three.
3. The water in the Gulf of Mexico ain’t as clean as it used to be.
4. People are suffering.
And back in New Orleans, that night in the fog after watching it swallow the old church, I got moving again, heading to the Hideout, a now defunct bar enjoyed for cheap drinks, dark lighting and the inevitable fight to watch. That night, I had the good fortune to know I would be meeting friends, I would be coming out of the Mississippi’s blanket to relax, talking and laughing with a few trusted people.
In the Gulf’s fog, however…there are few friends amongst both those responsible and the government entities trying to reassure that eventually, everyone will be okay.
Instead, it would seem they are the guys in the shadows up closer to Esplanade, waiting for you to get a little too drunk and a little too unaware, waiting for the NOPD to be nowhere in sight.
Read the articles,
Have a nice day.