The Deep Well of Failure

How long will we continue to insist that industry can regulate itself? How much longer will we agree that “industry knows best”? The great environmental catastrophe now under way in the Gulf of Mexico and along Louisiana’s bayou coast is a definitive example of WHEN HISTORY ATTACKS. Way back in 2000, the federal government recommended remote failsafes for offshore oil rigs in this document (PDF download), obtained by ABC News. Implementing the systems specified would have shut off the spill. As late as 2009, BP was continuing to reject the recommendations, and the Bush Administration, after lengthy debate, “decided not to require any additional mandatory safeguards, believing the industry would be motivated to do it themselves,” Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club told ABC News.

Recent “news” reports have suggested that “America is re-evaluating the Bush presidency,” but I think this environmental disaster can seal that legacy – with the lack of seals on oil rigs. Halliburton. Lax regulation. “Industry can be expected to regulate itself.” How long must we continue with this charade? How long, o lord?

We think the answer is clear. Until now. Twenty-four years ago, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. The O-Ring seals on the reusable solid-rocket boosters were responsible for the failure. In documents obtained at the time, those O-Ring seals were expected to have a lifespan of 25 uses. Challenger blew up on the 26th mission. The Challenger explosion was a foregone conclusion, just as much as this disaster was a foregone conclusion and just as fully preventable.

Sad, America. Really sad. You can find more information at ABC News.

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