A Simple Question


    The BP platform fire and subsequent oil spill is not the first time there has been an offshore spill of this magnitude in this hemisphere. On June 3, 1979, a Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) exploratory well 2 miles below the water surface in Bahia de Campeche had a massive blowout. Just like the BP exploratory platform, the oil and gas blowing out of that well ignited, setting the platform on fire. Again like the BP platform, that platform collapsed into the wellhead area.

    The IXTOC I well spilled oil at a rate of 10,000 – 30,000 barrels per day until it was finally capped on March 23, 1980.

    As I read about efforts to contain the massive environmental damage in 1979-1980, the measures sure sounded familiar: submersible submarines, booms, skimming equipment, pumping mud and debris into the wellhead, use of toxic chemical dispersants, finally the drilling months later of two relief wells.

    Here’s my question for the off-shore oil industry: If this happened before so long ago, why the H*** didn’t you learn better ways to contain such a catastrophe in the 31 years since? (Perhaps because long ago you had bought yourself – through that infamous “access” that campaign contributions buy – a $75 million limit on the damages you cause?)

    I contend that there should be a moratorium on deep water drilling until the oil industry can prove that it has better methods of dealing with catastrophic failures than BP has used to date. These people have been catered to by government at the state and federal levels for far too long.

    If you, like me, have enjoyed visiting Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, imagine the devastation that would result if some “Bob McDonnell Oily Dream” offshore well of the future wiped out tourism, fisheries and coastal wildlife off Virginia and North Carolina.

    You know, there are some things far more important than some oil company making ever bigger profits each year.