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Posts Tagged ‘Deepwater Horizon’



Calbuzz Secret Plan to Plug Gulf Coast Oil Gusher

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Along with the rest of the nation, Calbuzz finds ourselves in the unlikely position of rooting for the predatory greedbags at BP, desperately hoping they succeed with their latest half-baked scheme to stem the poisonous, filthy geyser of oil that their rapacious recklessness has sent spouting from the sea bottom in the Gulf of Mexico.

The avaricious thieves at BP are trying to stop the toxic torrent with a method called “top kill” which, as the New York Times explains, “involves pumping thousands of pounds of heavy fluids into a five-story stack of pipes in an effort to clog the well .”

Sounds good, but we have one important suggestion:

Instead of thousands of pounds of “heavy fluid,” why not jam up the hole with thousands of pounds of “ bungholes and bores,” the kind of self-absorbed pols and media celebrities who give Calbuzz a major pain, stuffing them down in there until the flow is stopped by the sheer mass and weight of every annoying and unbearable cretin, nitwit and schmuck we can round up.

Feel free to email us your own list of candidates, but for our money, here’s the Top 10 List of “Top Kill” nominees to squish down into the well.

1-Chris Matthews – How we wish this self-deluded pea brained, loudmouth putz, who keeps setting new standards of stupidity, would choke down a couple barrels of sulfurous crude, which might be just the thing to cure his chronic case of logorrhea. Of course, then we couldn’t watch him.

2-Glenn Beck – By itself, the combination of Beck’s fat head and fat ass could be enough to seal off the entire pipe, particularly if we throw his friggin’  blackboard in there with him. Plus: the phony tears this repulsive wiggler loves to shed on cue could take the place of that “heavy fluid” the Times keeps mentioning.

3-Gavin Newsom – The vast clouds of natural gas pouring from the well would help Newsom keep his over-inflated sense of self-importance at a high level, and he’d never even notice a couple thousand extra gallons of oil in his hair.

4-Sarah Palin – Corking up an oily hole would be cosmic justice for Ms. Drill Baby Drill and, given her latest whack job Facebook rant, she’d no doubt be well-pleased to escape the prying eyes of Joe McGinnis.

5-Arlen Specter – The ghastly and decrepit octogenarian has-been is well-suited to navigate any unexpected twists, turns and bends in the undersea pipe, given his sorry history of political contortions, not to mention his authorship of the Magic Bullet theory.

6-John Boehner – A good thick coating of rust-colored grease is just what the insufferable House minority leader needs to keep his unnatural skin color slick and shiny, not to mention that the federal deficit will likely plummet when taxpayers quit forking out for his daily spray man tans.

7-Lindsay Lohan – A mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico is just about the only place Lilo could possibly succeed in not having a drink, or getting a spoon stuck up her nose, for five minutes. The only non-pol to make the list, she’d also finally get a break from her monstrous father, Michael.

8-Bill Clinton – That massive pie hole of his is big enough to head off half the goo destined for the coast of Florida, and the cruel sacrifice of him not being able to hear himself talk for the first time in six decades is worth the chance he might win a special citation Nobel, finally getting even with that anti-fossil fuel goody-goody Gore.

9-Rand Paul – He’s no doubt right that Barack Obama’s bashing of BRITISH Petroleum is un-American, so here’s his chance to be a hero on behalf of private enterprise, nice and cozy in the one place he doesn’t have to worry about people who look different plopping down in a seat next to him.

10-Arnold Schwarzenegger – Putting aside the high-value, practical plugging worth of his bulging pecs, lats and glutes,  the guy ain’t good for much else, let’s face it.

Black Gold, the sequel: On Tuesday, we told you about Democrat John Laird whacking Republican Sam Blakeslee with an ad about offshore oil in the special election race in the 15th senate district, one of two  campaigns in the neighborhood where the issue takes center stage.

A little further south, a hotly contested primary battle in the 35th Assembly District, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties,  has Democrats and environmentalists divided in their support for coastal advocate Susan Jordan and S.B. city councilman Das Williams.

The district has been ground zero in the long-running battle over the now defunct Tranquillon Ridge plan, and the Jordan-Williams match-up is the political manifestation of local polarization over the project.

Jordan is married to termed out 35th AD Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who led the successful fight against T-Ridge in the Legislature, and when she first announced her candidacy to succeed him last year, Williams said he was backing her.

But Jordan was fighting fiercely against the offshore proposal, which was backed by other local enviros, including Williams, who in short order  dropped his backing of her to declare his own candidacy, saying he was doing it because of T-Ridge, co-sponsored by several Santa Barbara green groups and PXP oil company.

Fast forward to the present, and the two are exchanging volleys of mailers and angry charges on the subject. Williams, seeking to inoculate himself, sent out a brochure  highlighting his past opposition to drilling, without mentioning the politically complicated PXP matter; Jordan counter-punched hard, with a mailer featuring a big ole color photo of the Deepwater Horizon exploding and burning, with a screamer headline: “Das Williams supported the PXP oil drilling deal – even after the Gulf spill.”

At which point the local Democratic county committee, which is led by a close pal of Williams, called a press conference to denounce Jordan for alleged dirty campaigning, a move that served to make it more likely that the PXP offshore drilling will be the decisive issue in the race.

We’re just sayin’: One of the big issues in the T-Ridge debate was whether or not the state would have the power to enforce end dates for PXP to stop drilling off federal platforms near Santa Barbara, a key feature of the proposal.

Jordan, among others, repeatedly insisted the authority on the federal leases would eventually rest with the U.S. Minerals Management Service. and that the agency has a natural pro-drilling bias that could upset the whole deal. After reading the new Inspector General’s report on the MMS, it’s hard to argue with that position.

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Whitman Speaks: Oil, Taxes, Spending & Poizner

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Meg Whitman says the disastrous oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has caused her to change her position on offshore oil drilling in California, adding that she no longer is certain technology can make it safe.

“Right now,  I’m a ‘no’ on offshore oil drilling,” Whitman told Calbuzz.

In an interview on Thursday,  the front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor said the economic and environmental damage inflicted by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the huge gush of undersea oil that has followed convinced her to shift her stance on drilling off the coast of California. Again.

Last year, she stated that she began her campaign for governor as an opponent of drilling off the coast, but subsequently learned more about new technologies, which she had come to believe all but eliminated the risks of offshore extraction:  ”When I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling, and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells,” she said last summer.

But in this week’s interview with Calbuzz, Whitman said she has changed that position:

Historically I was against offshore oil drilling, but I am the living example of someone who believes technology can enable you to do things you’d never dream you could do. So I wanted to look into slant drilling…and convene a group to say, you know, ‘is this possible to do with zero to minimal environmental risk?’

I will say what has happened in Louisiana I think has raised the bar on what, you know, technology is going to be able to have to do, and what we can assure ourselves of. Because, gosh, you look at what has happened in the Gulf, the economic devastation of the shrimpers, the fishermen. I mean you’re starting to see it now go on the north shore of the coast of Florida there, the hospitality industry is at risk.

So I think it has absolutely raised the bar in terms of what we would need to feel comfortable with to go forward. So right now, I’m a no on offshore oil drilling.

Following a town hall meeting in Santa Barbara, Whitman in our interview also discussed several other key issues:

Taxes – A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday included new data on how voters feel about taxes: 62% of those surveyed said they would favor a state income tax increase for the wealthiest people in California; 58% said they would support higher taxes on corporations;   solid majorities said they would consider a tax increase to pay for K-12 education (69%), higher education (54%) and health and human services (54%).

“It doesn’t influence my thinking,” Whitman answered, when asked whether such majority views would affect her policies as governor. “My view is we should not be raising taxes on anyone in California.”

Asked what she would say to parents of students at public schools that are losing teachers and small class size programs, and who are willing to pay higher taxes for schools, she added:

I’d say we have a philosophical disagreement on how to right the economy in California…I mean, I don’t think people really do understand that a 12.6 percent unemployment rate not only has tax revenues decreasing, it has costs going through the roof. It’s the worst of all possible worlds – you’ve got a financial pincer – revenues going down and costs going up so we’ve got to get Californians back to work and then we’ve got to eliminate another $15 billion of costs out of that budget.

Spending – The $15 billion figure is what Whitman claims, with slim  evidence, can be rooted out in “waste, fraud and abuse” in state government, a task she has said she will assign a “statewide grand jury” to investigate. She acknowledged in the interview that she would need the support of the Legislature to pass a measure to authorize such a body, which she said should contain 18 members. She offered this elaboration:

We’d fill those 18 spots from the grand jury pool in the 58 counties that have a fully vetted grand jury pool, and then this grand jury would be convened. The Inspector General* would identify issues of fraud and waste and abuse. Serve some of that up to the grand jury who would then have the power to indict and subpoena.

Immigration – Last year, Whitman said during a visit to the California-Mexico border that illegal immigrants “should do some things that would ultimately allow a path to legalization.” GOP rival Steve Poizner has used her comment to portray eMeg  as a supporter of amnesty for illegals; “path to legalization” is a phrase used by supporters of comprehensive immigration reform which opponents say is code for “amnesty.”

Confronted with her earlier statement, Whitman insisted she was not signaling support for amnesty, offering this explanation:

In my view, that was not a statement in support of amnesty…What I was referring to, which has been taken out of context, is I was referring to a guest worker program, I was talking about agriculture; that we had to find a way to have a stable work force for agriculture, and that I have never been for amnesty, I was not for amnesty at the time and you know (Poizner) has chosen to jump on this issue.

Poizner – Whitman had harsh words for her Republican foe, whom she accused of twisting her words:

As you know,  Steve Poizner has not been on the illegal immigration issue before about six weeks ago.** I mean, this is sheer political opportunism. He has not been to the border as a candidate until six weeks ago, he never talked about this as insurance commissioner, in fact he was on the other side of this issue when he ran for Assembly (in 2004), he was in fact in favor of (former President) Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform, which many people thought had amnesty in it. so this is the classic case of someone willing to say or do anything to get elected.

*The Office of Inspector General, now held by Laura Chick, was created specifically to oversee the spending of federal stimulus funds in California. Whitman’s proposal would involve an expansion of those duties.

**Poizner first raised the issue of illegal immigration in a big way at the Republican state convention on March 12, although he previously had discussed it in interviews.

Measuring Goldman Taint; More on Arnold Flip Flop

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Alert readers might have noted that Calbuzz has, in recent weeks, paid a lot of attention to billionaire Meg Whitman’s links to Goldman Sachs.  They may also have gleaned that we kinda, sorta think that the stock spinning made possible by Goldman when eMeg was CEO of eBay, was, well, pretty darn unethical.

So when Steve Poizner pounced on eMeg’s Goldman taint, we gave The Commish a pretty good ride. But let’s be honest: Poizner’s not some poor schmo with a tin cup begging for nickels so he can run for governor. A zillionaire himself, he is certainly no Goldman Virgin.

In fact, back in 2004 when he was running for the Assembly, (as a Republican, btw when eMeg wasn’t even a registered voter, let alone a Republican – but we digress)* Poizner got himself a $500,000 loan on VERY favorable, preferential, best-customer terms (the federal funds rate + 60 basis points ) from Goldman Sachs. He repaid the loan about six months later, but he got use of the money at practically no cost – terms he was afforded because the loan was backed by his personal assets in a Goldman brokerage account (as noted in his 12/03 FPPC Form 700).

The whole loan and other complex Poizner/Goldman details are spelled out over at Whitman’s favorite conservative blog (at least she pays them huge amounts for her ads over there) Red County. The loan has also been noted here, here, here and here. Point being, the Whitman folks have shopped this one around, trying to suggest, “Hey, Poizner’s got just as much of a problem with Goldman Sachs as Meg does.”

But an exclusive Calbuzz analysis of the Goldman Sachs Taint of Scandal accruing to each of the candidates for governor – let’s not forget Attorney General Jerry Brown’s sister works there and the city where he was mayor had a credit deal with Goldman – demonstrates that the GSTS Factor for Whitman is 80%, compared to 15% for Poizner and 5% for Brown. (See chart above)

Bottom line: This is how smart, New Media Age guys and news gatherers avoid falling prey to the dreaded False Equivalence Syndrome – by scientifically analyzing the metrics and measurables of any given scandal – taking into account, of course, a margin or error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Terminator terminates T-Ridge: Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s stunning, 180-degree flip flop on offshore drilling near Santa Barbara astonished us for many reasons – not least of which was the utter lack of political grace he displayed towards his erstwhile environmental allies, whom he totally hung out to dry.

“Arnold loves to do that – it’s part of his control issues,” said former Assembly member and T-Ridge environmental  booster Hannah Beth Jackson. “Consistency and rationality have never bothered him in the least.”

In delivering a sudden and unexpected coup de grace to the fiercely debated Tranquillon Ridge project on Monday, Arnold totally blindsided the embattled coalition of Santa Barbara environmental activists who had put reputations, credibility and personal friendships on the line in fighting for the plan for the last two years.

Having appropriated for his own purposes a complex legal agreement over leasing arrangements that Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center had reached with the Houston-based PXP oil company, Schwarzenegger couldn’t be bothered giving the enviros a heads-up before airily dismissing the painstakingly negotiated deal as if he were dispatching a fly, during the course of a press conference he’d called on an entirely different issue.

“We had absolutely no idea this was coming,” said Linda Krop, general counsel for the EDC, who spent nearly three years working on the PXP agreement, and who’d been enlisted by Schwarzenegger’s Department of Finance in his own, budget driven efforts to gain approval for it. “We were completely surprised.”

Krop only learned that Schwarzenegger had switched his position more than an hour after his press conference, when reporters started to call. The architect of the EDC-PXP deal,  she has long argued that giving the company  a short-term lease to drill into state waters, from a platform it already operates in federal waters, is a worthwhile trade off for its promise to end permanently most of its federally leased drilling in the region.

Whatever you think, as a policy matter, of the agreement she crafted – and environmentalist opinion was bitterly polarized on the issue – Krop is a smart, determined and passionate coastal protection advocate who’s paid her dues and deserves better than being dissed by a muscle-bound, metrosexual movie actor without a principled bone in his sagging body.

Whaddya mean you work for me? Of course, enviros don’t seem to be the only ones who failed to see Schwarzenegger’s switcheroo coming.

Last Saturday, Chronicler Marisa Lagos did a good piece probing whether the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe had triggered any rethinking within the Administration about its full-square support of the T-Ridge project. No effin’ way, one of Conan’s army of mouthpieces insisted to her:

As oil spewed Friday from a blown out well in the Gulf of Mexico and spread into Louisiana’s sensitive wetlands and rich fishing grounds, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration defended a plan to allow new drilling off California’s Central Coast.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said the proposed Tranquillon Ridge project off Santa Barbara County is attractive because the oil company behind the project has agreed to end drilling off the coast in exchange for a permit to do so for the next 14 years…

“This doesn’t really change anything, because we’re looking at a platform that’s already in operation,” said Jeff Macedo, the governor’s spokesman. “If anything this makes the T-Ridge project that much more important, because it would put a sunset date on when it shuts down.”

Oh, never mind.

Two days later, Schwarzenegger stood before reporters and sounded exactly the opposite opinion.

Without the simple courtesy of telling someone to pick up the phone and let the pro-T-Ridge environmentalists know what he was about to do, Arnold instantly and categorically rejected the entire environmental argument in favor of the project.

He not only turned his back on his previously stated certainty that the PXP deal, by aiming to close out currently open-ended federal offshore leases, would actually make an oil spill near Santa Barbara less likely; he also shrugged off the importance of the $100 million the project would have brought to the state annually – after more than a year of thundering about the crucial importance of that money to California’s fiscal condition.

Not surprisingly, he said he changed his mind after watching TV.

* correction

Kaboom! And a Happy Earth Day to You, Too!

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

It may be a tad early to assess the political impacts of the explosion and sinking of an BP oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, but it seems safe to say that the horrific images of the disaster won’t speed up the cause of the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project in California.

The strange bedfellow alliance among and between Governor Arnold, several Santa Barbara environmental groups and the Houston-based oil company PXP recently re-launched their effort to resurrect the project, after it was turned down by the State Lands Commission and the Legislature last year.

Now, the metastasizing oil spill*** in the Gulf of Mexico, and the apparent loss of the lives of at least 11 oil workers that followed a blow-out on a rig on Tuesday night – Earth Day – provide a sudden and grim reminder of the high stakes of offshore drilling.

The T-Ridge plan calls for the lands commission to award PXP a lease to drill in state waters, the first since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, from an existing platform in federal waters. Environmentalists on both sides of the internecine warfare over the issue insist that their position represents the  best way to prevent more spills like that now engulfing the Gulf.

In the move that split old alliances and fractured California’s environmental community, local groups in Santa Barbara have pushed the T-Ridge plan as a way to trade more drilling in the short run for less in the long run, exchanging their political support for a PXP lease to slant drill into state waters for the oil company’s legal promise – which they insist is ironclad – to cease all drilling from four federal platforms in the area within 14 years.

Amid all the political, legal and financial wrangling over the issue for the past two years, it’s hard to imagine a more powerful argument against  drilling than that presented by pictures of firefighters vainly battling the deadly and violent blaze that sunk the oil rig. It’s worth noting that the T-Ridge platform is located just over three miles from shore, far closer to land than the  Deepwater Horizon rig that sank about 50  miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Many backers of the governor’s proposal have argued that oil drilling operations have undergone huge technological advancements in the past 40 years, making unlikely a massive spill like that poisoned the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969.

Among those who have embraced the technology-makes-it-safe argument are Republican wannabe governor Steve Poizner and his front-running rival, Meg Whitman.

“When I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling,” Whitman told reporters in Santa Barbara last year, “and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells.”

For the record, Jerry Brown does not support the T-Ridge proposal. As Attorney General, and the lawyer for the State Lands Commission, Brown’s staff recommended that the commission reject PXP’s project last year. As a candidate, Brown “does not believe off-shore drilling is the answer to our problems,” said campaign flack Sterling Clifford.

*Update: Early fears of huge spill may be unfounded.

**Update II (4/24): Now they’ve found an underwater leak a senior Coast Guard official describes as “a game changer.”

***Update III (4/27): Spill now 40 miles X 50 miles - so much for “unfounded” fears.

****Update IV (4/29): Send in the Marines.

FYI: The Associated Press reports “Since 2001, there have been 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries and 858 fires and explosions in the gulf, according to the Minerals Management Service. ”

Weed whacker alert: In order to jump start the T-Ridge proposal, PXP needs to file a new application for a hearing before the lands commission and, so far, has not done so, SLC executive officer Paul Thayer told Calbuzz.

Thayer said that the commission staff, analyzed a revised version of the agreement between PXP and the Environmental Defense Center several months ago. The commission rejected the original proposal last year and still has problems with it, despite some improvements, he said.

The “beneficial aspect” of the new agreement it reviewed is that it strengthens the state’s ability to intervene legally if PXP does not honor its terms, he said. But the final authority over end dates for drilling from facilities in federal waters still rests with the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service, not the state: “Ultimately, MMS controls what’s going on out there.”

Thayer also cited the “precedental value” of the existing 41-year old prohibition against any new drilling leases in state waters, which has been in force since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill.

“California’s congressional delegation has made use of that,” in fighting against expansion of drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, he said.

P.S. Kudos to KQED’s John Myers for getting Abel Maldonado on the record about his stance on T-Ridge this week, in advance of his confirmation vote for lieutenant governor, a post from which he gets a deciding vote on the project on the lands commission.

Live from the California Nurses Association: Queen Meg!

The latest in guerrilla theater from the CNA, Queen Meg, escorts, a horse-drawn carriage and a proclamation that reads:
“In honor of her $150 million campaign treasury, the people of California do hereby crown Meg Whitman as Queen Meg of California.  Her husband Griffith Harsh IV is crowned Prince Griffith of Palo Alto, and the Whitman-Harsh royal motto shall be ‘Healthcare for the nobility, Education for the few, Prisons for all.’”