In the 38 days since British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, 15 to 40 million gallons of oil have gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, covering sea life, washing onto beaches, and making those working to clean it up ill. And as the days progress, more and more pieces of evidence confirming BP’s gross negligence when it came to safety precautions are coming to light.
However, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) took to the House floor today to espouse his own unique theory about the cause of the spill. According to Gohmert, it was the simple fact that the oil rig inspector’s are union members:
As we’ve had hearings regarding the oil spill out in the Gulf, there’ve been some staggering things come forward and the media’s not grabbing it like they should and letting everyone know. Who knew that the inspectors inspecting the offshore rigs were unionized. So they had union limits on how many hours and travel and this kind of things. These guys are like the military, they’re out there to protect the environment, and we’re going to put limits on them? They gotta be out there protecting us. And yesterday, Director Birnbaum, when asked ‘what kind of checks and balances do you have?’, she said ‘we sent them out in pairs of two.’ And then I asked ‘then was it a good idea that the last inspection team of two were a unionized father and son team?’…This thing stinks and it needs to be cleaned up.
Now, at least some oil rig inspectors at MMS are, in fact, unionized. But that’s all that Gohmert got right.
MMS’ inspectors were undeniably negligent when it came to inspecting the Deepwater rig. But that negligence had nothing to do with their work rules and everything to do with the fact that, under President Bush, the MMS was bought by the oil industry. According to an inspector general’s report, MMS allowed industry officials “to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil — and then turned them over to the regulators, who traced over them in pen before submitting the reports to the agency.” In exchange, MMS officials received “meals, tickets to sporting events and gifts” from the very industry it was supposed to be regulating.
And of course, who can forget that MMS employees under Bush were “partying, having sex, using drugs and accepting gifts and ski trips and golf outings from energy company representatives with whom they did government business.” This isn’t about work rules. It’s the end-result of a political philosophy based on deregulation and no enforcement of safety laws.
BP itself also cut short safety procedures, skipped quality tests, and appointed inexperienced managers to key positions. The New York Times added today that “several days before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, BP officials chose, partly for financial reasons, to use a type of casing for the well that the company knew was the riskier of two options.”
These choices, as the Wall Street Journal put it, allowed BP to “minimize costly delays,” but they also led directly to the catastrophe in the Gulf. Gohmert is simply grasping at straws in order to direct blame away from the culpable parties.