The Inside Story of How Obama Let the World’s Most Dangerous Oil Company Spiral out of Control
Continued from previous page
TIM DICKINSON: That’s a tough one. There’s a lot of doozies in here. I had written a fairly credulous piece about Ken Salazar when he came in, was appointed with his white hat and his bolo tie, and declared himself to be the new sheriff in town. And we had talked very specifically about his intent to clean up MMS. In fact, one of the first things that he did upon taking office was go to MMS and bust chops and say, "Listen, this behavior that’s been going on for all these years isn’t going to fly anymore." And Salazar assured me personally that this was not just about ethics reforms, this was, you know, deep, thorough-going reform.
I think the thing that was most surprising is that Ken Salazar, in the first year in office, put a record number—a record number of acres up for lease in the Gulf. So, while they were taking, you know, drilling out of view of national parks on land and scaling back the oil shale development, they were throttling up offshore oil drilling to record levels without doing the substantive reform that would have been required to make MMS something other than a candy store for the oil companies.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Tim Dickinson, as you also note, it should not have come as a surprise, because Salazar already had a record while in the Senate of backing greater exploration offshore. Can you talk about that?
TIM DICKINSON: Yeah, he had, back in 2006, opened up eight million acres of the Gulf through a bill that he sponsored, and he had pushed President Bush to make oil companies develop their existing leases more quickly. And someone described this to me that there’s sort of an onshore Ken and an offshore Ken Salazar, and he has a very sort of highly specific soft spot for offshore drilling. I can’t account for what that’s about exactly, except that, as a Westerner, I think he’s sort of more acutely aware of the damage that development can do to the landscape, and maybe this is a way he’s seen as to create create the problem someplace else other than in his beloved Western landscape.
AMY GOODMAN: Tim, start where you start, on May 27th. It’s like a month into the oil spill, and you have President Obama striding into the podium of the East Room. Take it from there and then trace back the responsibility.
TIM DICKINSON: Well, so, Obama stood up and said, you know, "We take—the buck stops with me," essentially, is what he said. He said that the reforms at MMS hadn’t been urgent enough and that he took responsibility for that. You know, and he said that, you know, "My biggest fault was sort of taking the oil companies at their word that they knew what they were doing and had a worst-case scenario plan." But as it turns out, that’s not just something that Obama should have been taking his word—the word of the oil companies for, but MMS in fact is responsible for reviewing the worst-case scenario cleanup plans of these oil companies.
And in BP’s case—BP talks about protecting walruses in the Gulf in their cleanup plan, and they have a cleanup plan that is supposed to be good for a spill of 250,000 barrels a day. That is to say, an Exxon Valdez every day. They claim the capacity to significantly address the cleanup from a spill of that size. And it’s just ridiculous. It’s laughable. And so, there was no oversight in terms of the cleanup end of this.