As we learn more about the causes of the BP oil spill in the gulf it becomes clear that the federal government failed in its responsibilities to oversee the safety of the gulf and the environment. There has been a culture of corruption within the Minerals Management Service that promoted a hand’s off approach to the risky and powerful oil industry. The origins of this lack of oversight can be laid directly at the door of former US vice president Dick Cheney. In this BLOG post you will find some recent articles that document how Cheney abused his power and position to benefit himself and his cronies in the oil industry.
Click the link below to read all about it!!
So where’s Dick Cheney? Writing for Newsweek, Ravi Somaiya observes that in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the former vice president has remained “notably silent.” What’s notable, Somaiya points out, is that, “When the Obama administration, or the media, or just about anybody contradicts Dick Cheney’s views on national security, he is far from shy about responding.” So as a hawk for big oil, one might expect Cheney to defend his pro-petro views in the face of withering (and near-universal) opprobrium from both public and president.
For eight years, of course, Cheney played dual roles as vice president of the United States and as unofficial at-large congressman for the petroleum industry. The former vice president’s murky ties to Halliburton, the Houston oil services company he once ran, are well documented, and he continues to face ridicule for having allowed executives from oil companies to dictate American energy policy during the George W. Bush presidency.
At Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard looks extensively into the potential cause-and-effect relationship between Cheney’s infamous 2001 energy task force and the gulf catastrophe. “The task force’s final report,” Sheppard writes, “…presented a rosy picture of the offshore drilling industry. Newer oil and gas drilling methods, it said, ‘practically eliminate spills from offshore platforms’ and ‘enhance worker safety, lower risk of blowouts, and provide better protection of groundwater resources.’”
Symbolic of Cheney’s connection — past, present, and future — to Big Oil is BP’s hiring of Anne Womack-Kolton as its chief of U.S. media relations. Womack-Kolton served as Cheney’s press secretary during the 2004 campaign and later worked for President Bush’s Department of Energy. While this small bit of employment news is far too circumstantial to gin up serious outrage, it nonetheless puts a nice bow around the questionable coziness between government and industry that Bush and Cheney encouraged during their time in the White House.
Perhaps the blatancy of this connection is contributing to the veep’s reticence. Whatever the reason, Cheney seems content to let his daughter, Liz Cheney, defend Big Oil and the family legacy, as she did — ineffectively — on ABC’s “This Week” earlier this month. If you have a better defense to offer, Mr. Cheney, now might be the time.
The former vice president is usually a vociferous defender of his time in government. But not on the disaster in the gulf. When the Obama administration, or the media, or just about anybody contradicts Dick Cheney’s views on national security, he is far from shy about responding. But facing a firestorm of criticism over the oil spill, he’s been notably silent.
More than national security, energy policy and the oil industry might be considered Cheney’s real areas of expertise. He was chairman and CEO of oil-services company Halliburton between 1995 and 2000. And, of course, he worked prominently on energy policy as vice president from 2000 to 2008.
Halliburton was working on the Deepwater Horizon rig just before it blew up, opening the well and sending oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Some experts have speculated that the company may have been to blame for the explosion. The pro-oil atmosphere (and Cheney’s continued links to Halliburton) during his vice presidency, have also come to the fore since the April 20 accident.
The criticisms center on a possible conflicts of interest and cronyism. Cheney received a $34 million payout when he left Halliburton to join George W. Bush’s ticket in September 2000. But the Congressional Research Service found that he “retained ties” to the company into 2003, while in government, through “unexercised stock options and deferred salary.”
We wondered why. Are the claims too substantial to refute? Is Cheney so incensed that he cannot trust himself to speak? Or, conversely, is he perhaps so sanguine about the entire issue that he doesn’t feel it merits comment? We reached out to Cheney, via the American Enterprise Institute, to ask. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, there was no response by the time we posted this.
The evidence is in: Halliburton, Dick Cheney, secret energy task force meetings and massive Republican deregulation has once again led to tragedy. The April 20, 2010 Gulf oil spill is yet another story of careless, reckless deregulation and corruption under the Bush administration which has led to loss of life, destruction of wildlife and the environment, loss of income, and more. The full impact of the oil spill is still unknown, but the environmental and economic fallout from the massive spill is mounting quickly.
Evidence is mounting up that the oil spill in the Gulf is the result of a tragic sequence of equipment failures – but ultimately, all of them should have and could have been caught, had the rig been regulated properly. It turns out that tens of thousands of offshore rigs are barely regulated, a result of Dick Cheney’s private energy meetings and interference with the Department of Minerals Management Services, which regulates the off shore drilling. The MMS is also responsible for collecting the billions in royalties from the oil companies and is the same agency that was investigated and found to be doing cocaine and having sex with oil executives. Their judgment regarding the necessity of regulations was clearly not impartial.
The trail of problems highlights the reality that, even as the U.S. does more deep water offshore drilling in a quest for domestic oil, some key safety components are left almost entirely to the discretion of the companies doing the work.” In the hours leading up to the spill, Halliburton was pumping cement into the well, which was supposed to block any oil or natural gas from surging out through the drill piping. They then capped with the (now infamous Halliburton) cement plugs, which are designed to stop gas or oil surge inside the pipe. The last plug was still missing just before 10 p.m. on the 20th when the oil began its now fateful surge through the pipes. …
Regulation and oversight were clearly MIA in this story. Dick Cheney’s secret energy meetings, the MMS suddenly deciding under Bush that they would not continue with the recommendations to update the regulations of the oil companies as began under Clinton (it should be noted that the regulations have not been updated since 1996 – this is how deeply the oil companies have infiltrated our government), the government allowing the MMS to both collect royalties and police the off shore drilling (which is akin to the rating agencies on Wall Street which take money from the companies they “rate”) – all of this is both predictable and profoundly shocking at the same time.
Big Oil spent millions of dollars to sweep—and keep—George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the White House. And it got its money’s worth. The Bush administration and its staunchly pro-oil congressional allies returned the favor by enacting one of the most pro-oil, anti-environment pieces of legislation in history: the Energy Policy Act of 2005—itself based on the recommendations of Cheney’s secret energy policy task force. The Bush-Cheney administration’s cozy relationship with Big Oil, however, goes much deeper than one law.
A closer look at the culture of deregulation, self-regulation, and corruption ushered in on Cheney’s watch further underscores why the BP oil catastrophe should forever be remembered as Cheney’s Katrina.
The mention of Halliburton likely summons for most Americans memories of the Bush administration’s infamous no-bid Iraq war contracts—and Halliburton’s subsequent efforts to defraud taxpayers and its fatal negligence in facilities it constructed for our troops. Halliburton’s main business, however, is providing services to major oil companies such as its potentially faulty cementing job on BP’s blown out well.
The company had an unprecedented opportunity to engage in self-dealing and create a regulatory climate favorable to its business interests when Cheney, Halliburton’s former CEO, was ensconced in the White House and still effectively on its payroll. …
One of the 2005 Energy Policy Act provisions that is most directly related to the BP oil catastrophe is Section 390, which dramatically expanded the circumstances under which new drilling permits could be approved without further environmental reviews or assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act. Many appear to have been approved based almost completely on responses to yes or no questions on pro forma checklists.
The culture of corruption and ethical lapses across the entire Bush-Cheney Department of the Interior is well documented. But the Minerals Management Service appears to have experienced a particularly stunning depth and breadth of corruption and simple incompetence. GAO reports have documented almost unbelievable allegations of drug use and improper relationships, payments, and gifts between Bush-Cheney-era MMS employees and the oil and gas industry that they were charged with overseeing. …
The so-called environmental assessments that laid the foundation for approving permits without further review were fatally flawed under the Bush-Cheney years—in addition to violating both the spirit and the letter of the law. …
Concerns were raised related to: the potential effects of oil spills on tourism, emergency response capabilities, spill prevention, accidental discharges from both deepwater blowouts and pipeline ruptures. The fate and behavior of oil spills, availability and adequacy of oil-spill containment and cleanup technologies, oil-spill cleanup strategies, impacts of various oil-spill cleanup methods, effects of weathering on oil spills, toxicological effects of fresh and weathered oil, air pollution associated with spilled oil, and short-term and long-term impacts of oil on wetlands. Offshore oil spills resulting from proposed Lease Sale 206 are not expected to damage significantly any wetlands along the Gulf Coast.
The assessment also includes one passage that reads like something of a death certificate for the gulf’s coastal communities:
Accidental events associated with proposed Lease Sale 206 such as oil or chemical spills, blowouts, and vessel collisions would have no effects on the demographic characteristics of the Gulf coastal communities…As inland marshes and barrier islands erode or subside, without effective restoration efforts, the population in coastal communities in southern Louisiana is expected to shift to the more northern portions of the parishes and cause increasing populations in urban and suburban areas and declining populations in rural coastal areas.
Given that they appear to have considered the decline of the Gulf Coast’s communities a foregone conclusion, it’s unsurprising that Bush-Cheney administration officials exercised so little care in attempting to prevent an accident like the catastrophe now unfolding. Cheney’s direct role in this situation of regulatory capture and failure could not be clearer. …
The Bush-Cheney administration made an unprecedented effort from beginning to end to rewrite our nation’s laws and rules to benefit their allies in the oil industry. They installed incompetent or corrupt cronies in important regulatory and oversight positions. And what they could not achieve legally, the administration pursued by other means.
Eight years of Bush and Cheney created an insidious, pervasive rot throughout the government—a rot so severe that it prevented the government from carrying out its most basic functions and, as we have now seen, could not be easily undone by a new administration. The pro-oil, anti-regulatory culture, agenda, and ideology relentlessly advanced by Cheney and others in the Bush administration unquestionably led to the catastrophe that now threatens to destroy the environment and economy of America’s Gulf Coast—Cheney’s Katrina.
BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is without a doubt former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Katrina. President George W. Bush and Cheney consistently catered to Big Oil and other special interests to undercut renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives that would set the United States on a more secure clean energy path.
Oil companies raked in record profits while benefitting from policies they wrote for themselves. These energy policies did nothing for our national security and left consumers to pay the price at the pump and on their energy bills, which rose more than $1,100 during the Bush administration. …
The following timeline outlines the administration’s direction, consequent legislative steps and missteps, and the resulting circumstances that provided advantages to Big Oil companies and led to the establishment of a regulatory system that created the BP oil disaster.
Cheney’s secret dirty energy task force crafts national energy policy. The Bush administration released the National Energy Policy Report on May 16. President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney—who gave up his title as CEO of oil and gas company Halliburton to take on his new role—with developing a new energy policy swiftly after taking office. But Cheney’s relationship with Halliburton did not end. Cheney was kept on the company’s payroll after retirement and retained around 430,000 shares of Halliburton stock.
The task force report was based on recommendations provided to Cheney from coal, oil, and nuclear companies and related trade groups—many of which were major contributors to Bush’s presidential campaign and to the Republican Party. Oil companies—including BP, the National Mining Association, and the American Petroleum Institute—secretly met with the Cheney and his staff as part of a task force to develop the country’s energy policy. …
Energy bill includes $27 billion for dirty energy. President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 on August 8. The bill closely resembled Cheney’s 2001 plan and gave $27 billion to coal, oil and gas, and nuclear, and only $6.4 billion for renewable energy. …
Regulations permit oil and gas industry to regulate itself. The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service—the agency responsible for managing oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and collecting royalties from companies—decided in 2005 that oil companies, rather than the government, were in the best position to determining their operations’ environmental impacts. This meant that there was no longer any need for an environmental impact analysis for deepwater drilling, though an earlier draft stated that such drilling experience was limited. In fact, MMS “repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews.” And an interior general analysis even found that between 2005 and 2007 MMS officials let the oil industry to fill out their own inspection reports.
Budget cuts for renewable energy. President Bush proposes a 27 percent cut for Department of Energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in the FY 2008 budget.
Bush lifted the executive moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts on July 14. This moratorium was put in place in 1990 by Pres. George H.W. Bush. Bush then called on Congress to lift its own annual ban on drilling, as John McCain embraced “drill, baby, drill” that year.
Government agency accepted gifts and engaged in fraternizing and illicit activities. A June 2008 interior general report found that Minerals Management Service officials accepted gifts, engaged in drug use and illicit sex with employees from energy firms, and showed favoritism in handling contracts.
Gasoline prices soared to more than $4.00 per gallon, and oil set an all-time record high price of $147 per barrel in July 2008.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Task Force concluded in May 2001 that “advanced, more energy efficient drilling and production methods: reduce emissions; practically eliminate spills from offshore platforms; and enhance worker safety, lower risk of blowouts, and provide better protection of groundwater resources.” At that time, with two oilmen in the White House and two more Texans leading an emboldened Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Big Oil had an unprecedented opportunity to set U.S. energy policy.
Big Oil did not miss the opportunity. A deeper look at the energy legislation based on Cheney’s secret energy task force underscores how the unabashedly pro-oil policies and permissive regulatory environment created during the Bush administration set the stage for Cheney’s Katrina—the BP oil catastrophe.
The House Republican leadership had extensive ties to Big Oil. Former Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX), the majority leader from 1995 to 2003, received more money from oil and gas interests than he received from any other industry during his nearly two decades in Congress. The oil industry was also the biggest backer of former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), who represented a Houston-area district and served first as majority whip and then majority leader following Armey’s retirement.
After Cheney’s secret energy task force released its National Energy Policy Report in May 2001, House Republicans almost immediately tried to enact much of it into law. … Among the many egregious provisions in the 2001 bill (H.R. 4) were:
- Taxpayer funds to reimburse oil companies for the costs of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (Sec. 6234)
- A suspension of royalties on tens of millions of barrels of oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico—especially from deepwater wells like the one now spewing into the gulf (Sec. 6202)
- Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling—with expedited leasing, limited judicial review, and lip service to environmental concerns (Div. F, Title V) …
The expansion of categorical exclusions in the bill is far from the only giveaway to Big Oil at the expense of the environment and taxpayers. Other troubling provisions include:
- Tens of billions in subsidies for dirty energy, paid for by deficit spending.
- Exempted hydraulic fracturing, a process invented by Cheney’s former employer Halliburton, from the Safe Drinking Water Act (Sec. 322).
- Relieved oil companies of paying royalties to the taxpayers for millions of barrels of oil produced from deepwater wells (Sec. 345).
- Permanently exempted all oil and gas construction activities, including roads, drill pads, pipeline corridors, refineries, and compressor stations from having to obtain a permit controlling polluted stormwater runoff caused by construction activities, as previously required under the Clean Water Act (Sec. 323).
- Weakened states’ ability under the Coastal Zone Management Act to have a say in projects and federal activities that affect their coasts including limiting appeals related to pipeline construction or offshore oil development (Sec. 381-82).
- Allowed oil companies to have their leases reinstated if they had been terminated because of nonpayment of rental fees during Bush’s first term (Sec. 371).
- Created a loophole to allow oil companies to drill under a national seashore by transferring the mineral rights to private ownership or ownership by the state of Texas (Sec. 373).
The Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed by President George W. Bush on August 8, 2005, achieved many of the goals set out by Cheney’s secret task force in 2001 and ushered in a new era of deregulation, self-regulation, and utter disregard for environmental and safety laws. It also coincided with a culture of deep and widespread corruption at the Interior Department, including the Minerals Management Service. This era unquestionably set the stage for the BP oil catastrophe—Cheney’s Katrina.