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May-14-2010 22:30printcomments

Gulf Oil Spill: Ties to Cheney and Acoustic Switch Not Installed

Ground work for Gulf disaster was established with a permissive tone with oil industry set in secret meetings in 2001. An acoustic switch to automatically shut down oil wells was reversed by Federal agency in 2003 may be a major factor in blowup.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney
Former Vice President Dick Cheney

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - In secret meetings with the oil company officials in 2001, incoming Vice President Cheney set the foundation for a permissive, welcome mat with the oil industry.

After stocking the Federal government’s Material Management Service with his cronies, this agency reversed an earlier 2000 decision requiring a mandatory accusatorial regulator, allowing BP and others not to install a $500,000 acoustic switch to automatically shut down oil gushers.

For BP, this had to be a dumb business decision. BP’s $650 million dollar well may have been saved by a half million investment in an acoustic switch.

For the country and those living and working in the Gulf region, the final tab may very well be in the billions.

Cheney’s Halliburton is connected to the April 20th explosion. The investigation of the cause of the blowup is not completed.

As it turned out, Halliburton completed an operation to reinforce the drilling hole casing with concrete before the explosion.

Halliburton is currently under investigation for a blowout in the Timor Sea caused by a faulty concrete casing.

The Material Management Service reported that 18 of 39 blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico were due to poor workmanship in injecting the cement around the well casing. Was Cheney’s Halliburton responsible for the April 20th blowout?

Stay tuned. In the end, responsibility for the explosion and the extensive damages from it may well be decided by a jury.

On April 20th, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig went up in flames some 50 miles southeast of Louisiana, killing 11 men. It’s May 14th and BP hasn’t capped the gusher, vehemently denies concern over measuring the spill; its only interest is in capping the gusher.

The company appears content with the ‘low ball’ 5,000 barrel/day number prepared by our government. I guess it wouldn’t be good PR to admit to a 70,000 barrel/day gusher, even one at 5,000 feet deep in the Gulf.

If this engineering estimate prepared by Purdue University is on target, that’s a lot of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. At 42 gallons per barrel, the Purdue estimate equates to about 3 million gallons per day.

For a company that claims its focus is on plugging the leak, none of their efforts have been even marginally successful. The 100 ton doom didn’t work nor did the smaller ‘top hat.’

Other efforts are underway. No back, ugly oil stains on the beaches, but with the gusher at such great depths and the high volume of dispersants, there much to be concerned about.

Will we ever be able to eat Louisiana shrimp again?

Even if BP doesn’t want to measure the gusher, don’t we need to estimate the “total oil spill” to begin to understand the environmental impact? Congressman Edward Markey thinks so.

Congressman Edward Markey (D, MA), who chairs a Congressional subcommittee on energy and the environment, a miscalculation of the oil spill’s volume may hamper efforts to stop it.

Markey said, “I am concerned that an underestimation of the oil spill’s flow may be impeding the ability to solve the leak and handle the management of the disaster,” he said in a statement Thursday.

“If you don’t understand the scope of the problem, the capacity to find the answer is severely compromised.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., analysis in the Huffington Post on May 5th, “Sex, Lies and Oil Spills, provides valuable insight into the shenanigans between Material Management Service officials and big oil.

The sad part is that this is not fiction, even though some of this makes “Peyton Place” look like a kindergarten at play in comparison. Kennedy’s story is reproduced below.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Professor, Pace University

Posted: May 5, 2010 10:19 AM

Sex, Lies and Oil Spills

A common spin in the right wing coverage of BP’s oil spill is a gleeful suggestion that the gulf blowout is Obama’s Katrina.

In truth, culpability for the disaster can more accurately be laid at the Bush Administration’s doorstep. For eight years, George Bush’s presidency infected the oil industry’s oversight agency, the Minerals Management Service, with a septic culture of corruption from which it has yet to recover. Oil patch alumnae in the White House encouraged agency personnel to engineer weakened safeguards that directly contributed to the gulf catastrophe.

The absence of an acoustical regulator — a remotely triggered dead man’s switch that might have closed off BP’s gushing pipe at its sea floor wellhead when the manual switch failed (the fire and explosion on the drilling platform may have prevented the dying workers from pushing the button) — was directly attributable to industry pandering by the Bush team. Acoustic switches are required by law for all offshore rigs off Brazil and in Norway’s North Sea operations. BP uses the device voluntarily in Britain’s North Sea and elsewhere in the world as do other big players like Holland’s Shell and France’s Total. In 2000, the Minerals Management Service while weighing a comprehensive rulemaking for drilling safety, deemed the acoustic mechanism “essential” and proposed to mandate the mechanism on all gulf rigs.

Then, between January and March of 2001, incoming Vice President Dick Cheney conducted secret meetings with over 100 oil industry officials allowing them to draft a wish list of industry demands to be implemented by the oil friendly administration. Cheney also used that time to re-staff the Minerals Management Service with oil industry toadies including a cabal of his Wyoming carbon cronies. In 2003, newly reconstituted Minerals Management Service genuflected to the oil cartel by recommending the removal of the proposed requirement for acoustic switches. The Minerals Management Service’s 2003 study concluded that “acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly.”

The acoustic trigger costs about $500,000. Estimated costs of the oil spill to Gulf Coast residents are now upward of $14 billion to gulf state communities. Bush’s 2005 energy bill officially dropped the requirement for the acoustic switch off devices explaining that the industry’s existing practices are “failsafe.”

Bending over for Big Oil became the ideological posture of the Bush White House, and, under Cheney’s cruel whip, the practice trickled down through the regulatory bureaucracy. The Minerals Management Service — the poster child for “agency capture phenomena” — hopped into bed with the regulated industry — literally. A 2009 investigation of the Minerals Management Service found that agency officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.” Three reports by the Inspector General describe an open bazaar of payoffs, bribes and kickbacks spiced with scenes of female employees providing sexual favors to industry big wigs who in turn rewarded government workers with illegal contracts. In one incident reported by the Inspector General, agency employees got so drunk at a Shell sponsored golf event that they could not drive home and had to sleep in hotel rooms paid for by Shell.

Pervasive intercourse also characterized their financial relations. Industry lobbyists underwrote lavish parties and showered agency employees with illegal gifts, and lucrative personal contracts and treated them to regular golf, ski, and paintball outings, trips to rock concerts and professional sports events. The Inspector General characterized this orgy of wheeling and dealing as “a culture of ethical failure” that cost taxpayers millions in royalty fees and produced reams of bad science to justify unregulated deep water drilling in the gulf.

It is charitable to characterize the ethics of these government officials as “elastic.” They seemed not to have existed at all. The Inspector General reported with some astonishment that Bush’s crew at the MMS, when confronted with the laundry list of bribery, public theft and sexual and financial favors to and from industry “showed no remorse.”

BP’s confidence in lax government oversight by a badly compromised agency still staffed with Bush era holdovers may have prompted the company to take two other dangerous shortcuts. First, BP failed to install a deep hole shut off valve — another fail-safe that might have averted the spill. And second, BP’s reported willingness to violate the law by drilling to depths of 22,000-25,000 feet instead of the 18,000 feet maximum depth allowed by its permit may have contributed to this catastrophe.

And wherever there’s a national tragedy involving oil, Cheney’s offshore company Halliburton is never far afield. In fact, stay tuned; Halliburton may emerge as the primary villain in this caper. The blow out occurred shortly after Halliburton completed an operation to reinforce drilling hole casing with concrete slurry. This is a sensitive process that, according to government experts, can trigger catastrophic blowouts if not performed attentively. According to the Minerals Management Service, 18 of 39 blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico since 1996 were attributed to poor workmanship injecting cement around the metal pipe. Halliburton is currently under investigation by the Australian government for a massive blowout in the Timor Sea in 2005 caused by its faulty application of concrete casing.

The Obama administration has assigned nearly 2,000 federal personnel from the Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, EPA, NOAA and Department of Interior to deal with the spill — an impressive response. Still, the current White House is not without fault — the government should, for example, be requiring a far greater deployment of absorbent booms. But the real culprit in this villainy is a negligent industry, the festering ethics of the Bush Administration and poor oversight by an agency corrupted by eight years of grotesque subservience to Big Oil.

Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Half of that time was spent with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. A graduate of Temple University, Bob has been married to Grace for 31 years. He is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of two boys. Bob has a blog site on former MCAS El Toro at This subject is where Bob intersected with Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. The base is highly contaminated with TCE, trichloroethelyne

  • . You can email Bob O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address:

    Comments Leave a comment on this story.

    All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

    Will Carr June 13, 2010 12:35 am (Pacific time)

    I have read that Randall Luthi was head of the Materials Management Service (and formerly of Halliburton)during the time that the decision to lease to BP in the Mississippi Canyon of the Gulf of Mexico and that his cousin Jeff Luthi (attorney and USN JAG member) will be responsible for determing whether civil suits are to be tried in New Orleans or the more favorable Houston. There's your Bush connection, but there is something more troubling...the disaster plan for BP's rig that included according the AP a long deceased environmentalist from Florida and several from Texas AandM University. $60 million dollars was given to Texas AandM for the Harte Research Center, Corpus Christi. It was my understanding that this was related to environmental studies, but people within the oil industry tell me it's for the plotting of the Gulf of Mexico oil reserves. Employees of this program face high level security clearances. How was it that these "scientists" were chose to help with BP's disaster plan? Would a disaster of such magnitude created by a British company provide excellent cover for exploitation of a whole region averting subsequent concerns for future spillages? Someone needs to look into this seriously given Halliburtons purchase of Boots and Coots and the fact that the oil dispersants used are manufactured by the very companies operating in the Gulf. WHC

    sk June 6, 2010 8:21 am (Pacific time)

    I live in Louisiana and am horrified by this whole situation. I remember the secret Cheney meetings (okay, the meetings weren't a secret but the attendees names were). Even so, what is so frightening is the refusal to protect the marshlands. When the president comes to town, there is a big production on the beach. Everyone down here knows that what is really happening is that booms are left unattended, efforts at dredging to build sand barriers have been obstructed, and toxic chemicals are being pumped into the gulf to keep to try to keep the oil below the surface. Some down here have wondered if the real goal is to destroy the marsh so that it can be drilled on too. I don't know. What I do know, is that when a single industry appears to be more powerful than the US federal government, we all need to be afraid.

    Dale Green June 1, 2010 8:25 am (Pacific time)

    who do I call? I can bring 100 men to a 1000 to help clean up the gulf,and wash the wildlife on the

    edword May 26, 2010 11:47 am (Pacific time)

    How could a "secret meeting" really have been a "secret" if somehow it forms the basis for your claim? Sure it may please your choir, but it is meaningless to me without any other come of substantiation.

    B Jet May 20, 2010 7:39 pm (Pacific time)

    Hey, just pointing out some factual mistakes that change the implications of your story. And you did censor me. I'm not saying I have a right to post anything on your site, but open your mind to things you don't know about (ignorant to). And so being a former Marine (i can respect that) and being in place for 6 years makes you immune to occasional oversights? I suppose the NY Times et al had similar sentiments at one time.

    Editor: Just refrain from name calling and we'll get along, OK?  You can make your point and you can certainly be critical of a story.  I do not live to delete or 'censor' comments, but I'm damned glad we aren't a robotic wonder like so many.  I just keep it to the rules, they are stated and they aren't that crazy. 


    B Jet May 20, 2010 7:01 pm (Pacific time)

    Ahahahahaa... censoring dissenting opinions now, are we? Way to be open-minded.

    Editor: No, this isn't a six year old top ranked news site with fifty four writers trying, with real success at times, to change this world.  This is simply a play site for somebody named B jet (whatever, seriously) to come along and bitch like they have some damned right to be published here.  Freedom of speech and censoring isn't what this is, where is your comment on ABC News?  Are you all over the NY Times every time they don't publish your 'letter to the editor'.  Geez, I get sick of this stupid garbage.   You are on a news site, you have no rights!  Get a clue!  

    B Jet May 20, 2010 6:56 pm (Pacific time)

    Just a few mistakes: There was a dead-man's swi...

    So, I find the comment you were whining about having censored, and I would have easily approved it, except no.  You are an insulting jerk.  You need to get a life and go away.  Don't ever talk to a former Marine the way you tried to with this 'comment'.  This isn't just a writer, this is a personal friend.  I hope you learn something from this, you have obviously missed some big steps along the way.

    Not only Bush/Cheney, but Rothschild May 18, 2010 8:32 am (Pacific time)

    I have evidence that Rothschild, who is the owner of BP, does not want to solve this problem, because I am in touch with a man who has the solution to it, and has presented that solution to it only to be refused by BP. So it is also an Obama issue, because he failed to overturn what Bush and Cheney did when they were in power. You will be able to read the documentation of this cover-up in my next edition of The Journal of History in September 2010. Peace, Arlene Johnson Publisher/Author To access my work, which is internationally acclaimed, click on the icon that says Magazine.

    Jeff Kaye~ May 16, 2010 9:23 am (Pacific time)

    Great piece, Bob. Let's send the bill for this mess, and the others sure to come, to Bush/Cheney Inc., for gutting our economy and trashing the world to enrich themeslves and their buddies.

    gp May 16, 2010 8:12 am (Pacific time)

    Just is there is no limit to oil company profits, there should be no limit, NO LIMIT AT ALL EVER, to their liability, even if this means they go bankrupt.

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