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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Hearings Move to Houston

Senator Mary Landrieu was deliberately stonewalled by the Obama administration on the findings that the oil drilling moratorium was, in fact, producing mass unemployment on the Gulf coast. This article points to the fact that Landrieu was asking for testimony from administration officials a good two to three weeks after the numbers were available yet she was not given the testimony she requested.

As written at RedState.com the effects of the moratorium were available on July 10, 2010. Landrieu, a critic of the moratorium, asked that Dr. Christina Romer, Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers testify at her committee hearing on July 28 on the results. She was not allowed to testify by the White House. Romer "indicated" that the data was not available because the White House didn't have it. All of this was three weeks after Michael Bromwich, the regulator installed by the White House to preside over oil and gas and energy issues, told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the 6 month long moratorium would result in direct unemployment increases along the Gulf coast among rig workers and small businesses supporting the industry.

Bromwich was correct, of course, but not so much in his prediction that employment would resume as soon as the moratorium lifted. Nothing happens overnight in the oil drilling industry. Many of the rigs have moved elsewhere by now anyway. Why would they sit idle for a loss when they can be moved and work overseas?

The joint commission hearings on the Deepwater Horizon disaster have moved to Houston. The main reason is to use the subpoena power available for the residents involved living in the area.

The hearings are marred with incompetence and arrogance on the part of the co-chairs. The co-chair from the Coast Guard, Capt.Hung Nguyen, has caused the addition of two legal eagles to the commission in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion hearings. As pointed out in The Washington Post, there is a discrepancy in the transcript of a previous hearing between what Nguyen asserted and what was recorded in reply to a statement in testimony.

Nguyen told a Transocean lawyer at the last hearing in the New Orleans area that the board could "put aside federal rules of evidence." Many of the witnesses scheduled to testify invoked Fifth Amendment rights or canceled at the last minute. Nguyen said, "It's possible we can use it (federal rules). It's possible we don't have to use it." The Transocean lawyer, Edward F. Kohnke IV, said "It doesn't say you don't have to. It says they should be followed..." to which Nguyen said, "Should, not shall." But in the official transcript released by the panel, according to the WaPo article, Nguyen's response is "Sure, sure."

So, on Thursday, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (formerly MMS) who are holding the joint hearings added two new members - Wayne R. Anderson, a retired federal judge and Capt. mark R. Higgins, a Coast Guard staff judge advocate, as reported in the article. Continuing, the article quoted David Dykes, an Ocean Energy Management co-chair, as saying, "They will assist us with some of the legal and procedural issues...and allow the other members of the team to continue to focus on gathering the facts."

We'll see how this week turns out.

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