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The Monitor Leftovers

Posted in Uncategorized by mrochele on September 8, 2010

Monitor leftovers

(Matt Rocheleau, Aug. 29, 2010)

Each week for 44 years The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington reporters have hosted a special weekly meeting with major public figures to discuss American politics. They call itThe Monitor Breakfast.” I call this – a bunch of reporting I did during my Monitor internship that was cut for the web to keep things succinct or cut for print so things would fit – The Monitor Leftovers.

Maybe some of it’s useful, maybe none of it is, but at least my mom will be happy I’m finally not letting leftovers go to waste.

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How this works:

Below, the additional information not used in their original stories is organized into sections by date starting with the most recently published stories first. Each section begins with the headline of the story the unpublished reporting was done for. Below the headline, the opening paragraph or two, along with the link to continue reading the original story in its entirety, should provide any background that may be necessary to help make better sense of what is in each section.

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Mosque debate: Behind America’s anxiety over Islam

September 3, 2010
Controversy over the New York and other mosques underlines the struggle to balance values of religious tolerance with fears, real and imagined, in an age of terrorism.”
Read Full Original Story

Unpublished:

When asked if the current backlash against Muslim Americans was more or less concerning (or perhaps not comparable at all) to what happened to Muslim Americans after 9/11, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Media Relations Director Ahmed Rehab said, “It’s more concerning now because it’s becoming a visible, organized movement.”

“Before, [in the weeks and months following 9/11] it was more of a knee-jerk reaction,” he said in a late-August phone interview. But now, there are organized protests and rallies, political and religious leaders and other public figures are involved.

….

EEOC: Charges Based on Religion-Muslim

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Charges Based on Religion-Muslim
Received From 10/01/1999 thru 09/30/2009
Alleged Issues FY2000 FY2001 FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007 FY2008 FY2009 10 Year Total % of Actual No of Charges
Advertising 1 1 2 0.04%
Apprenticeship 1 1 0.02%
Assignment 9 11 13 19 4 16 16 13 42 34 177 3.15%
Benefits 1 5 11 10 2 3 3 5 11 10 61 1.09%
Benefits-Retirement/Pension 1 1 0.02%
Benefits-Insurance 1 2 1 1 3 2 10 0.18%
Waivers 1 1 0.02%
Severance Pay Denied 2 2 0.04%
Constructive Discharge 19 26 37 44 13 30 29 23 41 20 282 5.02%
Demotion 12 16 18 16 9 10 6 17 13 16 133 2.37%
Discharge 143 158 423 274 207 233 256 243 340 445 2,722 48.48%
Discipline 37 49 76 62 25 39 68 47 86 105 594 10.58%
Exclusion 1 1 5 2 1 2 12 9 33 0.59%
Filing EEO Forms 2 2 1 6 5 16 0.28%
Harassment 87 120 269 226 141 150 167 220 190 291 1,861 33.14%
Hiring 27 28 58 68 45 54 93 53 64 53 543 9.67%
Intimidation 14 10 40 22 6 8 9 11 28 26 174 3.10%
Job Classification 2 2 1 2 3 10 0.18%
Layoff 6 5 31 21 21 8 9 5 10 21 137 2.44%
English Language Only Rule 3 1 1 1 1 7 0.12%
Other Language/Accent Issue 1 2 1 1 4 1 10 0.18%
Other 8 10 31 11 9 10 10 12 37 29 167 2.97%
Promotion 22 20 44 38 33 23 28 31 51 27 317 5.65%
Posting Notices 0 0.00%
Qualifications 1 1 2 4 0.07%
Recall 2 1 3 1 1 1 9 0.16%
References Unfavorable 3 3 2 1 2 4 5 1 21 0.37%
Referral 1 1 6 2 2 2 1 15 0.27%
Reinstatement 2 1 2 4 1 1 1 2 2 16 0.28%
Retirement-Involuntary 1 1 1 1 1 1 6 0.11%
Reasonable Accommodation 35 47 62 48 27 61 69 91 84 117 641 11.42%
Recordkeeping Violation 2 2 1 5 0.09%
Segregated Facilities 1 1 2 0.04%
Seniority 1 2 2 1 1 1 8 0.14%
Sexual Harassment 7 6 14 5 1 3 6 3 3 48 0.85%
Suspension 7 14 34 13 12 19 37 16 26 36 214 3.81%
Tenure 1 1 1 1 1 2 7 0.12%
Terms/Conditions 74 92 227 140 125 114 128 146 188 185 1,419 25.27%
Testing 1 1 1 3 0.05%
Training 2 5 6 4 2 7 5 9 11 51 0.91%
Union Representation 3 2 3 13 2 1 10 1 35 0.62%
Wages 25 22 32 40 10 17 14 21 31 28 240 4.27%
Total Allegations 557 658 1,463 1,090 697 808 964 974 1,304 1,490 10,005
Actual No of Charges * 284 330 720 598 504 507 594 606 669 803 5,615
* Charges may have more than one alleged issue.

Islam in Europe and Americas

U.S. Russia Germany France U.K. Spain Canada World
Total population 310 million 142 million 82 million 64 million 61 million 45.5 million 33.3 million 6.8 billion
Muslim population

(2009)

2.4 million 16.5 million 4 million 3.5 million 1.6 million 650,000 660,000 1.57 billion
Muslim percent of total population 0.77% 11.6% 4.88% 5.6% 2.62% 1.43% 2% 23.09%
Number of mosques (2009) 1,900 4,000 2,666 2,300 850 to 1,500 468 200 ???
Mosques per every 10,000 Muslims 7.9 2.4 7.6 6.5 5.3 to 9.4 7.2 3 ???
Mosques per every 1 million of total population 6.1 28.2 32.5 37.1 13.9 to

24.6

10.3 6 ???

SOURCES: CENSUS BUREAU, WORLD BANK, WORLD FACTBOOK, PEW CENTER, CAIR, NETWORK OF EUROPEAN FOUNDATIONS

Charges filed by Muslim American individuals to US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC):

Fiscal years 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997

1998 2000 2001 2002 2003
Total charges 72302 87942 91189 87529 77990 80680 79591 79896 80840 81293 79432
Religion charges 1388 1449 1546 1581 1564 1709 1786 1939 2127 2572 2532
Religion charges percent of total 1.9% 1.6% 1.7% 1.8% 2.0% 2.1% 2.2% 2.4% 2.6% 3.0% 3.1%
Fiscal years 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

Total charges 79432 75428 75768 82792 95402 93277
Religion charges 2466 2340 2541 2880 3273 3386
Religion charges percent of total 3.1% 3.1% 3.4% 3.5% 3.4% 3.6%
SOURCE: EEOC

Civil rights complaints reported by Muslim Americans to CAIR:

2008: 2,728

2007: 2,652

2006: 2,467

2005: 1,972

2004: 1,522

2003: 1,019

2002: 602

2001: 525

2000: 366

1999: 322

1998: 285

1997: 284

1996: 240

1995: 80

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Top 4 ways to get a flight attendant to go Steve Slater

August 11, 2010
After an altercation with a passenger, JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater quit his job on the spot and made a heroic (albeit possibly criminal) slide from an exit hatch. Yes, passengers can be incredibly obnoxious. Here’s a list of what annoys flight attendants most.”
Read Full Original Story

Unpublished:

Other annoyances:

  • Fliers that keep their headphones (especially noise-canceling ones) on while they try to talk and listen to flight attendants
  • Travelers that put their bags in overhead bins far away from their seat, often near the front of the plane so they don’t have to carry it further down the aisle
  • When passengers say “I fly more than you do” to flight attendants
  • Nail-clipping, finger-nail-polishing, nose-picking and snoring passengers
  • Passengers that ask flight attendants for a pen
  • Travelers that either can’t find the button to flush the toilet or just outright don’t flush at all
  • People who demand they be allowed to bring their pet onboard or sneak it on anyway
  • Parents who change a babies diaper in an empty seat or on the galley floor without putting a blanket underneath their child.
  • Parents who let their children play and wonder throughout the plane and let them make a mess
  • Forgetful passengers with a bag on floor the seat in front of them who feel they must wrap the arm of their luggage around their ankle – creating a safety hazard for themselves and others – so they don’t exit the plane later without it.
  • People who are standing for reasons other than going to the restroom
  • Travelers with using virtually anything in reach as a footrest (tray tables, walls, other seats and armrests – empty or occupied)
  • Fliers with over-regulation-sized carry-on luggage who try to sneak it on the plane and shove it in an overhead bin, or worse, ask for help from a flight attendant to get their bags to fit.
  • Passengers that put luggage in places other than the overhead bins or below the seat in front of them

Remedy for all of the above ‘other annoyances’:

Simply, don’t do those things. Not doing the above acts is not really asking a lot of the passenger.

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Billionaires pledge $125 billion to Bill Gates charity drive

August 4, 2010
Forty American billionaires have pledged at least half of their wealth to charitable causes – a combined value of at least $125 billion.
The offerings came at the request of some of the country’s best-known billionaires, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. The trio worth a combined $100 billion convinced 40 families and individuals on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans to sign onto their Giving Pledge campaign.”
Read Full Original Story

Unpublished:

Reasons some of the country’s wealthiest gave for not joining the pledge included a dissatisfaction with government, some had more “dynastic ideas about wealth,” while others hurried off the phone because they were too busy or had a plane to catch, Warren Buffett said in a conference call to reporters.

“When people tell you why they’re going to do it, they always give you an honest answer, when they tell you why they’re not doing it sometimes they’re just trying to get you off the phone,” said the 79-year-old chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who has pledged 99 percent of his $47 billion net worth to charity.

“Sure, everybody that’s wealthy wants to leave their kids enough money so that they will never be destitute, but I’ve always wanted to make sure that you also don’t leave them so much that it ruins their lives,” said founder of Bloomberg L.P. and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the conference call. “You want them to work hard, to be proud of what they’ve accomplished, and not just to say ‘well I was a member of the lucky sperm club,’” continued the man worth around $18 billion, according to Forbes. “I’ve always though your kids get more benefit from your philanthropy than from your will.”

The number of high net worth individuals (those with at least US$1 million not including their home(s)’ value) in the US grew 16.5 percent last year, from 2.46 million 2008 to 2.86 million in 2009, however despite the number of the US and world’s highly wealthy growing, the global economic recession has slowed philanthropy in recent years, particularly in North America, said the Merrill-Capgemini 2010 World Wealth Report

Breakdown of 40 billionaire’s worth, philanthropy

2010 world billionaire rank Name Net worth (in $ billions) Minimum pledge (50%) State Notes on rank/worth
2 William and Melinda Gates 53 26.5 Washington
3 Warren Buffett 47 23.5 Nebraska
6 Lawrence Ellison 28 14 California
23 Michael R. Bloomberg 18 9 New York
37 Paul Allen 13.5 6.75 Washington
52 Ronald O. Perelman 11 5.5 New York
64 George B. Kaiser 10 5 Oklahoma
80 James and Marylin Simons 8.5 4.25 New York
132 Eli and Edythe Broad 5.7 2.85 California
148 Pierre and Pam Omidyar 5.2 2.6 Hawaii
154 Michele Chan and Patrick Soon-Shiong 5 2.5 California
212 Laura and John Arnold 4 2 Texas
316 George Lucas 3 1.5 California
374 William Barron Hilton 2.5 1.25 California
374 David M. Rubenstein 2.5 1.25 Maryland
400 Jeffrey Skoll 2.4 1.2 California
437 David Rockefeller Sr 2.2 1.1 New York
437 Julian Robertson Jr 2.2 1.1 New York
488 Peter G. Peterson 2 1 New York
536 Walter Scott, Jr. 1.9 0.95 Nebraska
556 Robert Edward “Ted” Turner 1.8 0.9 Georgia
582 Ann and L. John Doerr 1.7 0.85 California
616 Tashia and John Morgridge 1.6 0.8 California
655 Bernard and Billi Marcus 1.5 0.75 Georgia
721 Alfred Mann 1.4 0.7 California
828 Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg 1.2 0.6 New York
828 Joan and Irwin Jacobs 1.2 0.6 California
880 T. Boone Pickens 1.1 0.55 Texas
937 Elaine and Kenneth Langone 1 0.5 New York
937 Jon and Karen Huntsman 1 0.5 Utah
N/A Vicki and Roger Sant 1.7 0.85 Washington D.C. (as of 2001)
N/A Jim and Virginia Stowers 1.6 0.8 Missouri (as of 2000)
N/A Sanford and Joan Weill 1.5 0.75 New York (as of 2006)
N/A Herb and Marion Sandler 1.2 0.6 California (as of 2006)
N/A Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor 1.2 0.6 California (as of 2008)
N/A Bernard and Barbro Osher 1 0.5 California (as of 2006)
N/A Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest 0.9 0.45 Pennsylvania (as of 2002)
N/A Shelby White (widow of Leon Levy) 0.6 0.3 New York (as of 2007)
N/A Thomas S. Monaghan 0.55 0.275 Michigan (as of 2004)
N/A Lorry I. Lokey N/A N/A California N/A
RANKINGS/WORTH SOURCE: FORBES

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Offshore drilling: industry rates its own equipment substandard

August 11, 2010
Even as it opposes the Obama administration moratorium on offshore drilling, the oil industry has doubts about the quality and long-term viability of equipment that it uses to extract oil from deep-water wells, such as the one at the center of the Gulf oil spill.
In arguing for a moratorium, Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar has said that “fundamental questions about deep-water safety” remain. The offshore industry counters that the amount of crude spilled and the number of spills hit a record low this past decade.
Yet both industry experts and managerial personnel acknowledge that the technology used to remove offshore oil from its reservoirs – particularly in deep water – has been outstripped by engineers’ ability to find and drill for that oil.
That has left members of the oil industry dissatisfied with the tools they need to work in one of earth’s most challenging environments. While there is no evidence yet that equipment was to blame for the Deepwater Horizon blowout, some industry experts say the quality of deep-water extraction technology is increasingly becoming a concern.”
Read Full Original Story

Related stories:

Unpublished:

Adding to poor equipment dilemma

Oil companies’ dissatisfaction with subsea equipment and materials is “exacerbated by the rapid growth of the sector over the last several years, which has caused some suppliers to spread thin their organizations as they attempt to service greater numbers of projects globally,” said the EnergyPoint report.

EnergyPoint says the lack of satisfaction with subsea equipment expressed by oil companies is particularly noteworthy because the industry reported high satisfaction with overall offshore service, including drilling, safety and environmental matters in particular.

Experts also worry about the human factor, University of Southern California petroleum engineering professor Iraj Ershaghi said.

According to a report published in late May by University of California, Berkeley Professor Robert Bea, who organized the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, “Previous studies of more than 600 catastrophic failures … show that approximately 80 percent of the catastrophic failures are rooted in [human or organizational error].”

“Approximately 80 percent of these failures develop during the system operating and maintenance phases,” added Bea’s report.

Training is down by over 25 percent from 2008 and quality trainers are in short supply, said Greg McCormack, director of the University of Texas Petroleum Extension Service (PETEX), in a June testimony before Congress. A knowledge gap in rig safety and rig operations “was caused by inconsistent hiring during periods of low oil and gas prices,” Prof. McCormack said.

“Training is a critical component of this industry. As we drill deeper in more remote locations, the need for technology has become greater along with the need for training to apply technology safely and effectively. … Unfortunately, training is looked at as a cost and not an investment,” he said.

It is not that there are not enough workers.

“The problem is not one of filling the gaps. There are sufficient numbers of people entering the workforce to do that. The problem is one of ‘experience attrition,” McCormack added. “We should not expect that in replacing a retiring person with over 30 years of experience with an entry-level person that performance would not decline without extra efforts to replace years of experience with a significant increase in training. I don’t see this situation being addressed.”

However, Bea’s report also said, “The studies show that more than 60 percent [of failures] develop during the design phase, including concept development,” meaning there is a high potential for human error leading to the design of subpar or faulty equipment.

“The inadequately trained personnel is just as much an issue for the suppliers as it is for the customers,” said Douglas Sheridan of EnergyPoint. “In other words, suppliers need to do a better job of designing their equipment so that it is not so difficult to operate and maintain.”

Better training personnel to install, operate and maintain equipment, “is an absolute must, he added. “However, going forward, there also needs to be changes made to the next generation of subsea products that will be used for projects beginning three to five years from now.  To keep selling and installing the same equipment that has resulting in the industry’s dissatisfaction with subsea products would be a real mistake in my opinion.”

James Pappas, vice president at the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), agreed.

When accidents happen, “Inevitably you’ll find out that someone made a mistake,” he said. “[But], the training and development is probably further along than the equipment, in my opinion.”

Common causes for human error can include inexperience, inadequate training, improper equipment use, poor oversight, mathematical errors, fatigue, poor judgment – often attributed to the high-pressure environment, and intentional violations, according to a 2006 report on the human factors of oil spills.

The effects from inadequately trained workers will only grow worse as companies continue to tap into deeper wells.

“There will be an intense need to hire the brightest and most technically competent employees to meet the future challenges,” he added. “The industry cannot afford to be seen as an unstable workplace.”

Accidents caused by human error could be avoided by instituting better operator training and oversight under improved managerial and safety conditions, or by using remotely monitored computerized systems that can control rig operations automatically, Ershaghi said

Offshore drilling, including looking for oil in previously unexplored areas, is a fast growing industry, particularly in the Gulf.

Consolidation has turned already large oilfield companies into bureaucracies that experts fear have become prone to unintentional but riskier decision making over time due to a lack of focus, not to mention pressure to move quickly.

The highly competitive industry regularly represents a bulk of the world’s most profitable companies, including oil company Exxon-Mobile, which claimed the top spot a year ago with profits nearing $20 billion. But high margins mean high costs as well, and in a business where one-day delays can easily cost companies millions of dollars, a lack of industry regulation can be a cause for concern.

2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill figures

(Last updated August 15)

Some of the below stats are pulled directly from government (Unified Command/DOI/MMS) documents or data, while others had to be sorted and calculated from those government documents and spreadsheets.

According to estimates provided by The National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG) on the Unified Command Center website, www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com:

Most accurate estimates released Aug. 2 (uncertainty of plus or minus 10 percent)

  • April 20* (2 hours) at 2,583 barrels per hour = 5,166 barrels
  • April 21 – June 2 (43 days): at 62,000 barrels per day = 2,666,000 barrels
  • June 3** – July 14 (42 days): at 53,000 barrels per day = 2,226,000 barrels
  • July 15*** (14.5 hours) at 2,208 barrels per hour = 32,016 barrels
  • Total: 4,929,182 barrels or 207,025,644 gallons

Former maximum estimates (prior to Aug. 2 update):

  • April 20 (2 hours) at 1,666 barrels per hour = 3,333 barrels
  • April 21 – June 2 (43 days): at 40,000 barrels per day = 1,720,000 barrels
  • June 3 – July 14 (42 days): at 60,000 barrels per day = 2,520,000 barrels
  • July 15 (14.5 hours) at 2,500 barrels per hour = 36,250 barrels
  • Former max. total: 4,279,583 barrels or 179,742,486 gallons

Former minimum estimates (prior to Aug. 2 update):

  • April 20 (2 hours) at 525 barrels per hour = 1,050 barrels
  • April 21 – June 2 (43 days): at 12,600 barrels per day = 541,800 barrels
  • June 3 – July 14 (42 days): at 35,000 barrels per day = 1,470,000 barrels
  • July 15 (14.5 hours) at 1,458.33 barrels per hour = 21,145.785 barrels
  • Former min. total: 2,033,995.785 barrels or 85,427,823 gallons
*Rig exploded, spill began at 10 p.m. CDT on April 20.
**On June 3, a cap was placed on the leak, however as part of that cap placement, a damaged riser pipe had to be cut causing the flow rate to rise.
***On July 15 at 2:25 p.m. CDT, BP placed a containment cap to completely plug the well. It is not yet known if the solution will last until the believed permanent fix – the relief wells – is complete, but thus far, no oil has leaked from the well since the cap was put in place.

U.S. offshore spills in a historical context

Since a 1969 spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., “there have been relatively few major oil spills from offshore oil and gas operations in the U.S. and around the world … [which] has led many to view these operations as safe,” according to a May 27 Department of Interior Report compiled by oil industry experts.

The amount of chemicals spilled by oil companies between 2000 and 2009 into outer continental shelf waters from incidents of 50 barrels or more was significantly higher than the previous two decades, but much lower than in the 1960s and 1970s, according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS)* Database (Direct download of Excel spreadsheet on MMS spill data). Figures for the amount of oil spilled per barrel produced followed that same trend. Meanwhile, the number of spill incidents was more than three-and-a-half times larger than any decade prior.

*MMS was renamed in late June to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE).

However, these figures do not paint a clear picture of which chemicals were spilled, where each spill originated and what is likely to have caused each spill.

A recent article by the nation’s most circulated newspaper, the USA Today, stated the number of offshore spills in the last 10 years had more than quadrupled any decade prior. Yet, as a subsequent Wall Street Journal column pointed out, the USA Today figures included spills from subsea pipelines and spills of chemicals other than crude. Most notably, the figures did not reflect the abnormal number of spills with causes relating to severe weather in the Gulf in recent years.

An overwhelming majority of the spills in the last decade were caused by hurricanes, like Ivan, Katrina, Rita and Ike, which pummeled the Gulf. Previous decades have seen a significantly lower percentage of weather-related spills, likely due to a combination of there having been fewer offshore wells, especially deep wells, in the past, (see section below: “U.S. offshore drilling in a historical context”) as well as fewer hurricanes and tropical storms in U.S. waters. On average, 11 tropical systems reach storm strength in U.S. waters each year with six of those becoming hurricanes and two reach major hurricane status, according to a 2007 National Weather Service report with data dating back to 1851. Those storm activity figures have risen steadily over the past century and a half, and from 1997 to 2006, the annual averages were 14.5 tropical storms, 7.8 of which became hurricanes and 3.6 six of those that became major hurricanes.

The figures are startlingly different when all weather-related incidents, all spills of non-crude chemicals, and all pipeline incidents are taken out of the equation. Instead of a dramatic rise in spill incidents, the figures show a record low number of spills, a record low amount of oil spilled and a record low amount of oil spilled vs. produced.

However, the enormous jump in water depths at spill locations is concerning some experts who expect that as depths continue to increase going forward, the risk for equipment failures and operator errors that lead to spills will rise as well.

And, of the past four and a half decades’ 50 spills, 88 percent have causes that include equipment failure, while spills with causes that include human error account for 32 percent of those spills.

OCS oil and chemical spills, 1964-2009

(Includes crude oil, refined petroleum, synthetic based fluids and other chemicals from platforms and pipelines.)
Time Period OCS Oil  Production (Thousand Barrels) Spills Barrels  Spilled Produced per  Barrel Spilled (Thousand Barrels) Average water  depth at spill site (feet)
1964-1969* 1,460,000 22 275,391 5.3 105
1970-1979 3,455,000 49 140,367 24.6 137
1980-1989 3,387,000 47 28,947 117.0 214
1990-1999 4,051,000 40 44,338 91.4 805
2000-2009** 5,450,000 172 61,520 88.6 1,550

Non-weather-related OCS spills excluding non-crude oil chemicals, pipeline spills, 1964-2009

(Only includes crude oil from platforms.)
Time Period OCS Oil  Production (Thousand Barrels) Spills Cause:  Equipment failure*** Cause:Human error*** Barrels  Spilled Produced per  Barrel Spilled(Thousand  Barrels) Average water  depth at spill site (feet)
1964-1969* 1,460,000 9 8 2 87,332 16.7 87
1970-1979 3,455,000 20 17 6 102,057 33.9 92
1980-1989 3,387,000 9 9 3 842 4,022.6 160
1990-1999 4,051,000 8 7 4 1,835 2,207.6 139
2000-2009** 5,450,000 4 3 1 437 12,471.4 1,765
Note: Data only cover spills of 50 barrels (2,100 gallons) or more.
*Only a five-year span. Earliest data available from MMS is 1964.
**Just to clarify, the ongoing Gulf spill, which began April 20, 2010, is not included in the 2000-2009 data.
***Each incident can have multiple contributing causes (i.e. spill may be caused by both equipment failure and human error as well as other factors).

“While the rate of blowouts per well drilled has not increased, even as more activity has moved into deeper water, the experience with the BP Oil Spill illustrates the significant challenges in containing a blowout in deepwater, as compared to containing a blowout in shallower water,” said the Interior Department report. “The BP Oil Spill has underscored that as drilling activity moves increasingly into very deep water environments, it is important to reevaluate whether the best practices for safe drilling operations developed over the years need to be bolstered to account for the unique challenges of drilling in deepwater.”

U.S. offshore drilling in a historical context

With nearly 7,000 active leases, 64 percent of which are in deepwater, The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 97 percent of the United States’ federal outer continental shelf (OCS) production, according to a May 27 Department of Interior Report compiled by oil industry experts. There are 675 active leases in a single joint state-federal field in Alaska, no OCS production in the Atlantic, and only 49 active leases in the Pacific, all of which were sold before 1984, the report said.

Over 50,000 wells have been drilled in the federal Gulf since 1947, and the approximate 3,600 structures there last year represented the second highest annual oil production for the region accounting for 31 percent of all oil produced domestically in 2009.

“Since the first major deepwater leasing boom in 1995 and 1996, a sustained and robust expansion of deepwater drilling activity has occurred, largely enabled by major advances in drilling technology,” said the report.

The country’s deepwater oil production surpassed shallow water production in 2001 for the first time, and last year 80 percent of offshore oil production occurred below 1,000 feet of water – up 52 percent in 2000. From 1985 through 2008, deepwater oil production has increased from year to year by an average 16.7 percent. In 2007, a record 15 Gulf rigs were drilling for oil and gas in water depths of at least 5,000 feet.

OCS oil and gas operators have paid around $200 billion in lease bonuses, fees and royalty payments to the federal government over the past 57 years, including $6 billion in leasing revenue – the US government’s second largest revenue source – last year, the report said. Direct employment from offshore operations is estimated at 150,000 jobs. The OCS encompasses 1.7 billion acres.

Comparing U.S. offshore spill, drilling history to 2010 Gulf disaster

Figures from a government-assembled team of scientists calculating the flow rate of the Gulf catastrophe show, with uncertainty of plus or minus 10 percent, around 4.9 million barrels of oil have spilled thus far. That 207 million gallon total is more than 25 times larger than the amount of non-weather-related, non-pipeline, crude-only spills in the country’s entire outer continental shelf (OCS) in the past 45 years combined (192,503 barrels). The gushing Deepwater Horizon well was plugged, at least temporarily, using a containment cap on July 15.

The nearly four-month-old Gulf disaster, which spewed oil for 85 straight days, is the largest offshore spill in U.S. history – 19 times larger than the second biggest spill (Exxon Valdez, 1989, 257,000 barrels). If the government’s estimates are accurate, the Gulf spill has released about 1.6 million more barrels than the 3.3 million barrels released during Mexico’s Ixtoc I oil spill of 1979 to become the world’s largest offshore accidental peacetime spill ever. Only one other offshore spill has released more oil than the 2010 Gulf spill – during the Gulf War in 1991, between 5.7 million and 8 million barrels of oil were intentionally released from tankers by Iraqi troops retreating from their occupation of Kuwait.

Had none ever spilled, all of the 50 million to 100 million barrels of oil estimated to exist in the reservoir below the Macondo well site would have been worth between $4.6 billion and $9.2 billion based on the highest per barrel market price of crude since the spill began (as high as $91.67 on May 3 – crude hit a low of $71.04 on May 25 and was around at $75 as of Aug. 15). The rig’s operator, BP, has pledged $20 billion will be set aside for damage claims and has spent upwards of $4 billion in efforts to cap, contain and clean the spill thus far.

The Macondo well that has gushed record amounts of oil into the Gulf is 52 miles from shore, below nearly 5,000 feet of water and drilled about another 13,000 feet below the seafloor – or about 3.4 miles from the water’s surface.

Other Deepwater Horizon spill facts

There are 10 companies with known involvement in the rig at the time it exploded on April 20. All of the following, except Schulmberger, are “parties-of-interest” in the Deepwater Joint Investigation* being conducted by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Homeland Security. The investigation is meant to uncover what might have caused the accident and then relay that information along with conclusions and recommendations to the appropriate federal entities who may then fine or criminally charge any company or individual that may have committed some violation or crime:

  • BP p.l.c. (public limited company), which is based in London, England, was the Deepwater Horizon rig’s operator. BP had a 65 percent stake in the Macondo well.
  • Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, which is based in The Woodlands, TX, had a 25 percent stake in the Macondo well. Anadarko was a non-operating investor of the well with no employees working on the rig.
  • Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. Ltd. (MOECO), (aka: MOEX USA) which is based in Japan, had a 10 percent stake in the Macondo well.
  • Transocean Ltd., which is based in Switzerland, owned the oil rig.
  • Cameron International Corporation, which is based in Houston, TX, was the manufacturer of the well’s blowout preventer (BOP), the device designed to prevent such spills, but which failed in this case.
  • Dril-Quip Inc., which is based in Houston, TX, was the manufacturer of the wellhead, a device built that seals the top of the well hole at the sea floor and connects to the blowout preventer (BOP).
  • Halliburton Co., which is based in Houston, TX, was working on cementing the Deepwater Horizon’s oil well about 20 hours prior to the accident.
  • Weatherford International Ltd., which is based in Switzerland, was the casing subcontractor, according to testimony given during May 11 congressional hearings.
  • MI-SWACO LLC, which is based in Houston, TX, was the well’s mud engineer subcontractor, according to testimony given during May 11 congressional hearings.
  • Schlumberger Ltd., which has headquarters in Paris, France, Houston, TX and The Hague, Netherlands, was contracted by BP and had a crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon to conduct wireline services. That crew left the rig 11 hours prior to the April 20 explosion, according to a statement released by Schlumberger.
[Of the 126 people working on the Deepwater Horizon, 79 were Transocean employees, six were BP employees, and 41 were contract workers, including four Halliburton employees and five from MI-SWACO.]
*[In addition to the nine companies that are “parties of interest” in the joint investigation, five Transocean employees – Jimmy Harrell, Offshore Installation Manager; Curt Kuchta, Master of Deepwater Horizon MODU; Douglas Harold Brown, Chief Mechanic on Deepwater Horizon MODU; Steve Bertone, Chief Mechanic on Deepwater Horizon MODU; and Mike Williams, Chief Engineer Technician on Deepwater Horizon MODU – and two BP employees – Patrick O’Bryan, Vice President of Drilling and Completions and Robert Kaluza, Well Site Leader – are also “parties of interest”.]
[Also there are other investigations being carried out – at least nine according to The Washington Post – including a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice which the Post reported on July 28th is focused on BP, Transocean and Halliburton.]

Historic spill figures by company

Non-weather-related OCS spills excluding non-crude oil chemicals, pipeline spills, 1964-2009

(Only includes crude oil from platforms.)
1964-1969* 1970-1979 1980-1989 1990-1999 2000-2009** Totals: 1964-2009
Chevron Oil Company 1 4 1 1 0 7
Continental Oil  Company 2 4 0 0 0 6
Shell Offshore, Inc. 2 2 0 0 0 4
Chambers & Kennedy  (C & K) Petroleum, Inc. 0 3 0 0 0 3
Gulf Oil Corporation 1 0 1 0 0 2
Union Oil Company of  California 1 1 0 0 0 2
Mobil Corporation 1 1 0 0 0 2
Amoco Production  Company 0 1 1 0 0 2
Exxon  Corporation/Humble 0 2 0 0 0 2
Elf Exploration, Inc. 0 0 0 1 1 2
Pan American Petroleum  Corp. 1 0 0 0 0 1
Placid Oil Company 0 1 0 0 0 1
Signal Oil & Gas  Company 0 1 0 0 0 1
Ocean Production  Company/ODECO 0 0 1 0 0 1
Conoco, Inc. 0 0 1 0 0 1
McMoRan Oil & Gas  Co. 0 0 1 0 0 1
Texaco,  Inc./Rutherform 0 0 1 0 0 1
Sandefer Offshore  Operating Co. 0 0 1 0 0 1
Atlantic Richfield  Company 0 0 1 0 0 1
Atlantic Richfield  Company 0 0 0 1 0 1
Pacific Operators,  Inc. 0 0 0 1 0 1
Mesa Operating Co. 0 0 0 1 0 1
Coastal Oil & Gas  Corporation 0 0 0 1 0 1
Vastar Resources, Inc. 0 0 0 1 0 1
Newfield Exploration  Company 0 0 0 1 0 1
Murphy Exploration  & Production 0 0 0 0 1 1
Ocean Energy, Inc. 0 0 0 0 1 1
BP Exploration &  Production Inc. 0 0 0 0 1 1
Annual totals 9 20 9 8 4 50

Note: Data only cover spills of 50 barrels (2,100 gallons) or more.
*Only a five-year span. Earliest data available from MMS is 1964.
**Just to clarify, the ongoing Gulf spill, which began April 20, 2010, is not included in the 2000-2009 data.
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