Washington, DC — BP’s official response plan for oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico is studded with patently inaccurate and inapplicable information but was nonetheless approved by the federal government, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Most notably, the response plan contains no information about how to cope with a deep water blowout but is littered with outright inanities, suggesting that no regulator seriously read it.
The “BP Regional Oil Spill Response Plan – Gulf of Mexico” dated June 30, 2009 covers all of the company’s operations in the Gulf, not just the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon. The plan-:
- Lists “Sea Lions, Seals, Sea Otters [and] Walruses” as “Sensitive Biological Resources” in the Gulf, suggesting that portions were cribbed from previous Arctic exploratory planning;
- Gives a web site for a Japanese home shopping site as the link to one of its “primary equipment providers for BP in the Gulf of Mexico Region [for]rapid deployment of spill response resources on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis”; and
- Directs its media spokespeople to never make “promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal,” implying that BP will only commit candor by omission.
More seriously, the plan does not contain information about tracking sub-surface oil plumes from deepwater blowouts or preventing disease (viruses, bacteria, etc.) transmission to captured animals in rehab facilities, which was found to be a very serious risk following the Exxon Valdez spill. It also lacks any oceanographic or meteorological information, despite the clear relevance of this data to spill response.
“This response plan is not worth the paper it is written on,” said PEER Board Member Rick Steiner, a noted marine professor and conservationist who tracked the Exxon Valdez spill, noting that the plan is almost 600 pages largely consisting of lists, phone numbers and blank forms. “Incredibly, this voluminous document never once discusses how to stop a deep water blowout even though BP has significant deep water operations in the Gulf.”
The chapter on “Worst Case Discharge” features wildly optimistic projections of the maximum size of any crude spill and bland assurances that within hours of any incident “personnel, equipment, and materials in sufficient quantities and recovery capacity to respond effectively to oil spills from the facilities and leases covered by this plan, including the worst case discharge scenarios” will be deployed.
“Pointing out our gaping incapacity in spill prevention and response is not just an exercise in hindsight,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that, according to the soon-to-be-defunct U.S. Minerals Management Service, there are approximately 4,000 producing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, nearly half of them are “major platforms” with nearly 1,000 of these manned by personnel. “We ought to be losing sleep that there is still no sane spill response plan for the Gulf.”