A tide of information on politics, environment, and ocean issues

News and information from Washington, DC

Posts Tagged ‘Senator Bob Graham

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

leave a comment »

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

Written by Will Nuckols

January 20, 2011 at 6:59 am

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

leave a comment »

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

It is the first meeting of the President’s oil spill commission here in New Orleans

leave a comment »

TV and newspapers interview the Oil Spill Commission in New Orleans

TV and print media interview the President's Oil Spill Commission this morning before the 2-day public meeting kicks off in New Orleans. Photo by Will Nuckols

 

It is Monday morning here at the Hilton Hotel in New Orleans, and the first meeting of the President’s oil spill commission has begun its work, starting the clock on the six-month time frame for a report to be provided to President Obama on the causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and recommendations on how offshore drilling should proceed in the future, given lessons learned from this spill.  

Even before the meeting began this morning, reporters were pressing Commission members for comments. Co-chair Bob Graham was asked pointed questions about the role of the Commission’s work and how the knowledge they are gaining will be applied to decisions about the administration moratorium on deepwater drilling.  

Senator Graham was quick to state that while the Commission is just starting its investigation, representatives from the Department of the Interior have been examining issues connected to the moratorium for some time.  Further pressed by reporters from AP and Reuters about whether the knowledge the Commission gains could be released in some sort of an interim report, Graham laid out several areas that will be investigated by both the Commission and also by DOI.  

1. Was the BP Deepwater Horizon accident and spill an outlier, or are the conditions that they experienced and the procedures on the Transocean  drill platform representative of procedures and difficulties experienced by other offshore drilling projects?  

2. Was the federal oversight, primarily MMS oversight, sufficient prior to the accident on the Deepwater Horizon? Post-reorganization at MMS, is it now sufficient?  

3. Was the drill site itself, from a perspective of geological forces, a particularly dangerous site?  How does that site compare with other sites where drilling is, or plans to occur, in the Gulf of Mexico?  

While DOI has been examining these issues for some time already, Graham stated that the Commission will share recommendations it develops as they become available.  

Graham was realistic about the Commission’s ability to provide detailed comment immediately. “DOI has been looking at this for some time, and we are meeting for the first time only today,”  

***additional posts from New Orleans will be made over the next three days as the commission meets and receives comments. Stay tuned…..  

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

July 12, 2010 at 9:18 am