Monday, March 21, 2011

OMSA asks ‘where’s the beef?’ in deepwater drilling permits

In 1984, the Wendy’s fast food restaurant chain hired a retired manicurist named Clara Peller for an advertising campaign in which she visited a competitor’s outlet, ordered a hamburger and, once it arrived, raised the top bun, and bellowed: “Where’s the beef?” The phrase became so popular that Democratic Presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale successfully used it the same year to suggest that rival Gary Hart’s proposals lacked substance. The tactic didn’t work nearly as well when Mondale tried to use it in televised debates with presidential incumbent Ronald Reagan.

Although Mrs. Peller died in 1987, I couldn’t help thinking of her on Mar. 18 when Offshore Marine Service Association President Jim Adams essentially asked the same question after the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement announced that it had approved a third federal deepwater drilling permit since new regulations were imposed following the Macondo well accident and crude oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Adams basically said that the new permits which have been issued were for operations already under way when US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suspended drilling at 32 deepwater wells in the gulf late last spring. “Secretary Salazar is merely allowing existing permit holders to resume their operations,” Adams continued. “This administration has yet to approve a new deepwater exploration proposal submitted in the last 11 months.”

BOEMRE issued the new permit to ATP Oil and Gas Corp.’s Well No. 4 in Mississippi Canyon Block 941 about 90 miles south of Venice, La., where a rig had been on-site in April 2010 to resume drilling which had been suspended the previous July when Salazar imposed his moratorium. The agency said that it approved the new permit after reviewing ATP’s containment capability for the well using the Helix Well Containment Group’s capping stack.

“Secretary Salazar is treating gulf workers like peasants, tossing us work crumb by crumb and expecting us to be grateful,” Adams said. “We're tired of fighting for scraps. We want to get back to work – all of us, not just a handful of crews.”

In a separate response to BOEMRE’s announcement, US Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said that ATP’s receiving the permit was welcome, “but a mere drop in the bucket for where we need to be.” He said that he would continue his hold on US President Barack Obama’s nomination of Dan Ashe to lead the US Fish and Wildlife Service until BOEMRE issues at least 15 deepwater drilling permits and complies with his other requests for answers about the permitting process.


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