June 15th, 2010
10:03 AM ET

Rep. Markey: 'Blind Faith' has led to disaster

Opening statement of Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, at a hearing today with the CEOs of the top five oil companies:

"57 days ago, in the dead of night, the worst environmental nightmare in U.S. history began.

On a screen here and in homes across the country, we now see the live video of tens of thousands of barrels of oil billowing into the Gulf every day.

For years, the oil industry swore this could never happen. We were told that technology had advanced, that offshore drilling was safe.

BP said they didn’t think the rig would sink. It did.

They said they could handle an Exxon Valdez-sized spill every day. They couldn’t.

BP said the spill was 1,000 barrels per day. It wasn’t. And they knew it.

Now the other companies here today will contend that this was an isolated incident. They will say a similar disaster could never happen to them.

And yet it is this kind of Blind Faith - which is ironically the name of an actual rig in the Gulf - that has led to this kind of disaster.

In preparation for this hearing, the committee reviewed the oil spill safety response plans for all of the companies here today.

What we found was that these five companies have response plans that are virtually identical. The plans cite identical response capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment. In some cases, they use the exact same words.

We found that all of these companies, not just BP, made the exact same assurances.

The covers of the five response plans are different colors, but the content is ninety percent identical.

Like BP, three other companies include references to protecting walruses, which have not called the Gulf of Mexico home for 3 million years.

Two other plans are such dead ringers for BP’s that they list a phone number for the same long-dead expert.

The American people deserve oil safety plans that are ironclad and not boilerplate.

We now know the oil industry and the government agency tasked with regulating them determined that there was a zero chance that this kind of undersea disaster could ever happen.

When you believe that there is zero chance of a disaster happening, you do zero disaster planning. And the oil industry has invested nearly zero time and money into developing safety and response efforts.

The oil companies before us today amassed nearly $289 billion dollars in profits over the last three years. They spent $39 billion to explore for new oil and gas.

Yet the average investment in research and development for safety, accident prevention, and spill response was a paltry $20 million per year, less than one-tenth of one percent of their profits.

The oil companies may think it’s fine to produce carbon copies of their safety plans, but the American people expect and deserve more. It is time to expect more from the oil industry. And that needs to start today.

First, Congress must ensure that there is unlimited liability for oil spills by oil companies. While we try to cap this well, we must lift the cap on oil industry liability.

Second, Congress must also enact wide-ranging safety reforms for offshore drilling. If oil companies are going to pursue ultra-deep drilling, we must ensure that it is ultra-safe and that companies can respond ultra-fast.

Third, the free ride is over. Oil companies need to pay their fair share to drill on public land. Right now every single one of the companies here today and dozens of others are drilling for free in the Gulf of Mexico on leases that will cost American taxpayers more than $50 billion dollars in lost royalties.

Fourth, we must ensure that new technologies are developed for capping wells, boosting safety and cleaning up spills. I will soon introduce the Oil SOS Act to ensure that we have 21st century technologies in place for 21st century drilling risks.

And finally, America must move to a safer clean energy future so that we don’t have to rely as much on oil to power our cars and our economy.

The American people deserve answers from the oil industry and I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses."

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Bonk

    Faith = disaster

    Now that's something everyone can agree on in any scenario!

    June 15, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • BreakingNewsBlog.us

      the US Coast Guard gave to BP only 48 hours (expired) to find the right way to FIX the oil spill issue
      BP hasn't proposed NEW, BETTER AND FASTER SOLUTIONS, as clearly required by U.S. Coast Guard
      but ONLY some NEW "PROMISES" to solve the problem more quickly... just another couple of months
      so, I've developed a new and BETTER "super cap" that can be built and installed in a couple of days
      read a description with the drawing of my new idea in my article latest update: http://bit.ly/c8y9GX
      the only other alternatives to my simple, cheap, fast to build and install proposal to fix the leak are:
      1. the (unknown) new "cap" ready for mid-july after 50,000,000 more gallons of oil spilled in the Gulf
      2. a drilling of the two relief wells finished in mid-august after 100,000,000 more gallons of oil spilled

      June 15, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. damiao


    June 15, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. Donna Musil

    That is an excellent statement. Every American should be supporting Rep. Markey's bill. We need to stop allowing corporations to privatize their profits and nationalize their losses. Individuals can't do it. Corporations shouldn't, either.

    June 15, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. Suz

    BreakingNewsBlog.us – are you going to spam EVERY single comment board with self-promotion?

    June 15, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chui

    After what has been done in the last 56 days and learned, it is clear that this not a spill or a leak, but rather a ruptured well that is out of control and gushing out something like 100,000 barrels a day against a head pressure of 5000 ft sea. The well head and the BOP are both damaged, dysfunctional and unstable. There is much too much other interfering junk around the well and surrounding areas as a result of the rig that sank and created a mess that will never be cleaned up. All five trial and error fixes to contain , cap or tap the blow out have been totally failures.

    The riser pipe is bolted to the BOP and totally damaged. Why did Bp. cut the riser pipe, instead of unbolting is and on the same place replace it with one of those old fashioned cap/ tap mechanism with a wheel . This several tons mechanism with a tap once in place and bolted, would have been easily manipulated by the submarine robots to manually close the valve and tap / cap it. I am assuming that the only reason it was not done because the BOP is unstable.

    Considering these facts, the simple conclusion is the any fix at the seabed is UNTENABLE.

    The two relief well being drilled down to 18000 and estimated for August offer no guarantee that this ruptured well with damaged and unstable well head can be pulled from bottom up. Additionally the hurricane season will soon start throwing the fury of nature to complicate the situation that will be totally uncontrollable.

    That leaves only one option of collapsing this well that is lined with cheap single layer metal pipe. Why is it not feasible for Bp to drill bores diagonally and intercept the ruptured well at selective points where timed, controlled spark-less ( non nuclear ) charges can be exploded to collapse this some 18000 ft well at selective point. Bp has the complete strata data of the layers through which this well was drilled. Some where between 5000 and 8000 ft down , the new bores does not have to even meet the ruptured well bore. Some 5 to 8 feet distance may be close enough for the controlled explosion to interrupt, collapse, kill and seal this menace by the millions of tones of natural weight and the pressure.

    As far a as Congress man Markey, an email to his office was replied stating that since I am not from his district, no communication will be forth coming. And his is vice Chair of this Committee.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. wukong

    unlimited liability... sure go ahead I am all for it... but be prepared to start paying REAL money for gasoline folks. Maybe the real cost of drilling for oil will make people look at alternative energy and conservation seriously.

    June 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JPR

    I agree with Markey that this is a disaster. However, villianizing the oil companies are not the answer. In my opinion, the financial numbers he gave somewhat skew the truth. There may not be much money spent in recovery technology, but there is tons of money that is spent in safe operations – both from the oil companies and oil service companies. Blow out preventers are technology. In this case, it failed. There are tons of best practices in place by these companies that cause billions to implement. The article makes it sound like the oil companies don't care. Oh and the "free ride" Markey is talking about? Oil companies don't drill in the Gulf of Mexico for free. The federal government is paid for those leases to my knowledge.

    This is what happened: A group of individuals made a series of bad decisions. A bad result happened. It is unfortunately tainting the reputation of BP and all of the oil companies who have over 300,000+ people (combined) employed that help to ensure that our world can meet its energy needs. Why is it necessary to villianize? How about everyone work together to help solve the problem and congratulate those BP technologists who are working hard on at least trying. The industry, and us, will learn from this error. This culture we have of always putting people in the hotseat and throwing around a bunch of witty statements is pointless.

    June 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |