Second House panel launches inquiry into gulf oil spill

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, May 4 -- A second US House committee began to examine the crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on May 3 as Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s ranking minority member, asked US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar if the US Minerals Management Service’s safety and operating regulations are working.

“News reports indicate that MMS may have sidelined regulatory efforts that would have brought the US oil industry in line with prevailing industry safety standards, which mandate the use of remote-controlled acoustic shutoff switches,” Issa said in a letter to Salazar. “If true, MMS will need to explain why it chose to do so.”

Issa said the committee also will investigate whether MMS improperly awarded safety certifications to BP PLC, Transocean Ltd., and the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig, which exploded and caught fire on Apr. 20, killing 11 people and injuring 17, before its underwater lines ruptured and began to spill oil after it sank 2 days later.

“Reports indicate that the Deepwater Horizon appears to have had a faulty ‘dead-man’ shutoff switch which, if functioning properly, could have averted this massive spill,” said Issa. “The malfunctioning ‘fail-safe’ device raises serious questions about any safety inspections or audits conducted by MMS or third parties during the certification process. This, in turn, casts serious doubt on any safety awards that MMS may have granted to BP and/or Transocean within the past year.”

He asked Salazar to supply the committee with information about regulations and their enforcement, safety awards and certifications, audits and inspections, emergency response plans, and other matters by May 7. “We are keeping Congress informed on a daily basis and will respond as appropriate to these types of inquiries,” a spokeswoman for Salazar told OGJ on May 4. “Our priority at this time is to contain and remediate this oil spill.”

Other inquiries
Issa’s letter to Salazar came 3 days after the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee announced that it would hold a hearing on the accident and spill on May 12. BP America Inc. Chairman and Pres. LaMar McKay, Transocean Chief Executive Officer Steven L. Newman, and Halliburton Co. Chief Executive Officer David J. Lesar were asked to testify.

In their Apr. 30 letters to the three executives, the chairman of the subcommittee, US Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), and full committee, US Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), requested for additional information about the accident’s causes or potential causes by May 7.

They specifically asked McKay for copies of any workers complaints to the company’s ombudsman, Judge Stanley Sporkin, concerning construction and engineering concerns at any of BP’s deepwater projects. In a separate letter to Lesar on Apr. 30, Stupak and Waxman requested a May 5 briefing for committee staff members with Halliburton officials about its cementing activities at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Halliburton said on Apr. 30 it would cooperate in a statement outlining the work it performed at the rig before the accident.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, meanwhile, moved a hearing on the accident and spill it originally scheduled for May 6 to May 11 so officials can continue concentrating on their investigation and cleanup. This hearing will examine offshore oil and gas issues which have been raised by the incident, the committee said at its web site. Witnesses will be announced later.

Three Senate opponents of expanded oil and gas activity on the US Outer Continental Shelf also were busy on May 3. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) asked Mary L. Kendall, DOI’s acting inspector general, to investigate allegations that the oil and gas industry unduly influenced MMS’s formulation of regulations covering offshore wells’ blowout preventers and control systems. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill that would raise the liability limit for a company deemed responsible for an offshore oil spill to $10 billion from $75 million, with Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Nelson as cosponsors.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

More pragmatism urged for developing Eastern Mediterranean gas

02/20/2015 Eastern Mediterranean nations should abandon inflated expectations and adopt more realistic approaches to developing their natural gas resources, s...

Murkowski, Heitkamp lead Senate call for crude exports to Mexico

02/18/2015 US Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) led a coalition asking US Sec. of Commerce Penny Pritzker in a Feb. 18 letter to encour...

Pemex cuts budget by $4 billion

02/18/2015 The board of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has approved a $4-billion budget reduction for 2015, an 11.5% decrease compared with the previous expendit...

US should rework Azerbaijan relations carefully, House panel told

02/18/2015 The US should pursue relations with Azerbaijan that recognize its strategic importance as an energy supplier to countries farther west but do not i...

Comments sought on Pinedale Anticline gas field noise report

02/18/2015 The US Bureau of Land Management’s Pinedale Anticline Project Office (PAPO) is seeking public comments on a 2014 acoustic noise report on sound lev...

Ohio Supreme Court rules against municipality in oil and gas case

02/17/2015 The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the city of Munroe Falls cannot impose local drilling and zoning ordinances that conflict with Ohio state law reg...

Uganda taps Russian firm to build country’s first refinery

02/17/2015 The government of Uganda has selected a consortium led by Russia’s RT Global Resources, Moscow, as its first choice to construct the country’s firs...

Montana governor wants PHMSA to beef up pipeline enforcement in state

02/17/2015 Citing a Jan. 17 leak of 1,200 bbl of crude oil from a ruptured pipeline in eastern Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) asked US Sec. of Transportation...

Derailed West Virginia oil train carried Bakken crude

02/17/2015

A large-scale cleanup and investigation have launched following the Feb. 16 derailment of a CSX crude oil train near Mount Carbon, W.Va.

White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected