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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Graham

Oil Spill Commission Chairs Bill Reilly and Bob Graham interviewed by Ray Suarez at the Our Changing Oceans Conference

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National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) kicked off the 11th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment: Our Changing Oceans conference in Washington, DC with an interview of Oil Spill Commission Chairs Bill Reilly and Bob Graham being interviewed by PBS News Hour’s Ray Suarez.

An MP3 audio file of the interview can be downloaded at this link from the W.H. Nuckols Consulting website.

The Our Changing Oceans conference continues through January 21, 2011.

Commentary on additional sessions at this conference will appear on this blog as the week continues.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.  
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com
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Written by Will Nuckols

January 20, 2011 at 6:59 am

Oil Spill Commission’s Bob Graham questions DOI’s competency in collecting royalties

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image of senator Bob Graham, Oil Spill Commission chairman

Senator Bob Graham, Commission Chairman, questions DOI's role as the collector of funds from leases, instead preferring the Department of the Treasury

Today at a meeting of the Oil Spill Commission meeting in Washington, retired Senator and Commission Chairman Bob Graham questioned DOI’s competency in collecting federal funds for leases on federal or tribal lands across the board. Citing both the mishandling of finds from the BIA trust, as well as the inappropriate influence of DOI income on offshore lease decisions, he tipped his hand and indicated his preference that the U.S. Department of the Treasury is a better place to receive the royalties from leases on U.S. federal and tribal lands. His point was related to the need to avoid conflicts of interest in decision making when analyzing the sale of oil and gas leases.

But then when discussions returned to the views of staff and the full Commission, it became clear that reform at DOI was focused solely on leasing for offshore waters and that their recommendations did not look to onshore oil and gas or other revenue generating leases, for example those for mineral rights.

What is lacking is an examination of internal conflicts that exist within DOI in a general sense. After all, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is located within DOI and is responsible for the protection of U.S. wildlife resources, including even select marine mammals such as manatees and sea otters. And DOI regularly works to balance the comments of the USFWS when conducting leases on U.S. lands held, for instance, by BLM. Does that process work well, or is it too flawed and in need of revision, thereby showing a systematic problem within the Department?

Much dialogue at the hearings today focused on staff recommendations, and concerns of Commissioners, who are concerned about DOI’s seeming habitual lack of attention to comments provided by NOAA during the NEPA consultation process as it related to oil and gas sales.

The analysis would be improved if there was a critique of whether economic or environmental concerns, or an appropriate balance of both factors, tend to rule the day when DOI provides leases for right to U.S. owned natural resources.

Is it that DOI habitually downplays the importance of ecological concerns? Or is it a cultural bias of decreased attention being paid to comments coming from agencies outside of DOI such as NOAA, which resides within the Department of Commerce?

When contemplating reorganization within DOI and the oil and gas lease process understanding the pros and cons of voices stemming from within DOI bureaus as compared to comments from outside of DOI is crucial information if optimal recommendations for future oil and gas lease processes are to be made.

An accurate depiction of the role of DOI in lease decisions in a general sense would have provided a useful lens to look through as the Oil Spill Commission considers the specific quirks of leasing in offshore waters. However, if the Commission does unearth an improved process for how DOI should consider environmental information when it reviews lease proposals, but fails to expand the recommendation to a systematic DOI-wide change, it would do a disservice to the American people who funded the multi-million dollar Commission budget.  And as importantly, it would exacerbate the oddities of how on-land, near-shore and deep-water leasing decisions are being made. Especially given the realities of changing drilling technologies, such as in Alaska when oil companies are proposing to essentially constructing new gravel islands to conduct their drilling activities from, thereby putting their drilling application into one type of review process for land-based drilling, even though the directional drilling proposed would extract the oil and gas resources from offshore locations, a holistic view of oil and gas development is needed. To look broadly is not to step beyond the Commission’s mandate, but rather to use this window in time to optimize the public policy process in a rational way that the public and industry can see as logical and systematic. If we only examine how the balancing of environmental, economic and safety concerns are addressed in deep-water drilling offshore, while ignoring other oil and gas permitting processes within DOI, is to further exacerbate the current system where best practices are applied to only some areas of the nation, leaving others with a sub-optimized leasing and oversight regime.

The National Oil Spill Commissioners deliberates on preliminary findings related to the root causes of the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster and options to guard against and mitigate the impacts of future spills on Thurs., Dec. 2nd (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and  Fri., Dec. 3rd(9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) at 1777 F St. NW in Washington D.C.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.  
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

December 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Oil Spill Commission emphasizes its independence at its first public hearing in New Orleans

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Bob Graham and Bill Reilly respond to questions during a press conference during the second day of the Oil Spill Commission in New Orleans

Bob Graham and Bill Reilly respond to questions during a press conference during the second day of the President's Oil Spill Commission in New Orleans, LA. Photo by Will Nuckols 2010.

 

Today at the lunchtime press conference during the first meeting of the President’s Oil Spill Commission, Chairs Bill Reilly and Senator Bob Graham fielded questions from a range of local and national media.     

Questioned yesterday on the first day of the meeting about the intention of the Commission and whether they will focus on moratorium for deepwater drilling, the Commission chairs stated that they believed the issue of the moratorium would be handled best by the Administration, and that the Commission would be primarily forward-looking.     

Reilly stated that large part of the contribution of the Commission will stem from its findings on the future of oil drilling in the U.S. –  not just in the Gulf of Mexico, but also in other sensitive areas.  Reilly highlighted Alaska as one of those areas of concern.     

But today the Commission may have changed its approach just one day into its work. Noting the significant concern expressed by so many people on the moratorium – both concerns expressed by witnesses at the hearings, as well as by people the commissioners met during their trips to gulf communities over the weekend – Reilly stated that he has changed his mind about how much emphasis should be paid to the moratorium.     

While no commission findings have yet been made (the co-Chairs again emphasized that their commission is only two days old), there were pointed questions by Bob Graham about a blanket approach to shut down all 33 rigs. Graham likened the oil drilling moratorium to recalls in the airline business. He said that he had read about a Boeing aircraft window safety concern, when 12,000 planes needed to be inspected. Graham said, “I am sure they didn’t wait until inspecting the 12,000th plane before putting the first plane back in service.” Graham further questioned DOI’s blanket approach when asking “why can’t [DOI] do a rig by rig evaluation?”     

While these statements may be seen as Administration criticisms, I suspect this is exactly the independence that the President wanted when he set up the Commission. If they are to act as a commission of independent experts, examination of Administration decisions must be a part of the analysis if the Commission’s final recommendations are to be of the highest value to the President.     

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com