>First, the good:
KNOXVILLE — TVA is reversing course and resuming new enrollments in its Generation Partners pilot project to encourage renewable energy use throughout its service territory after being criticized by area alternative energy contractors.
The federal utility made the announcement this afternoon after meeting with contractors who have complained that TVA’s recent decision to suspend the Generation Partners program will harm their business.
This is great news. Momentum continues to build for alternative energy in the Tennessee Valley, and TVA has decided to stick with its successful, though modest, incentive program. It only makes sense; as was pointed out here, TVA is spending $3 billion cleaning up the Kingston Fossil Plant’s coal sludge spill, yet devotes just $50 million to its solar program. Sorta like BP spending $20 billion to clean up the Deepwater Horizon mess, when it could have spent $500,000 on a blowout preventer. Very, very stupid.
Now, the bad news:
But about three miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.
All other new projects in the Arctic have been halted by the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling, including more traditional projects like Shell Oil’s plans to drill three wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort.
But BP’s project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an “onshore” project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island — a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water — built by BP.
Well that’s special. BP doesn’t exactly have a proven track record, yet they were allowed to dump a 31-acre pile of gravel in the water to classify their risky, untested drilling operation as “onshore”? That just screams Bush Administration-style shuck and jive, doesn’t it?
It gets worse:
Rather than conducting their own independent analysis, federal regulators, in a break from usual practice, allowed BP in 2007 to write its own environmental review for the project as well as its own consultation documents relating to the Endangered Species Act, according to two scientists from the Alaska office of the federal Mineral Management Service that oversees drilling.
The environmental assessment was taken away from the agency’s unit that typically handles such reviews, and put in the hands of a different division that was more pro-drilling, said the scientists, who discussed the process because they remained opposed to how it was handled.
“The whole process for approving Liberty was bizarre,” one of the federal scientists said.
The scientists and other critics say they are worried about a replay of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because the Liberty project involves a method of drilling called extended reach that experts say is more prone to the types of gas kicks that triggered the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon.
I’m sorry, but why are we allowing this to move forward? Now that we know BP ain’t exactly honest brokers here, that their accident “response” plan for the Gulf of Mexico included such impossible scenarios as walruses in the Gulf of Mexico, that they cut corners and were blinded by the dollar signs in their eyes. That pretty much proves they aren’t paying close attention to stuff like safety and environmental protection. And we’re going to let yet another “never been done before” drilling operation move forward?
I’ve said it before a thousand million gazillion times but I’ll say it again: the easy oil is gone. All that’s left are oil reserves that are more difficult, more expensive, and riskier to tap. This means for a company like BP to make money, they will cut corners and they will take unnecessary risks. Their business model depends on it.
Look, now that we know what we know, it is unconscionable to allow this project to move forward without, at the very least, a more thorough review of safety and risks. C’mon, people. Don’t be stupid.