Video Transcript below:
MADDOW: Tom Costello from NBC News got a one-on-one interview with Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer of BP, on board a BP helicopter. And Tom asked a bunch of what I have been dying to ask BP.
Among his great pointy questions was one about the mythical Caribbean walrus and its role in BP’s oil spill response plan. To refresh your memory, the regional oil response plan filed by BP, the one specific to the Gulf of Mexico, listed walruses, that only live in very, very cold water, they listed walruses among the species of wildlife you’d have on worry about in the event of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And that gave away the fact that the company had obviously not even bothered to make a Gulf of Mexico-specific spill response plan. They just cut and pasted whatever they done from some place cold, some place with walruses, and then called it the Gulf of Mexico oil response plan.
My new hero, Tom Costello, asked Doug Suttles from BP about the walruses in the company’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill response plan, and here is the incredible response that he got:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The spill plan that BP had that
has been reported widely, was talking about protecting walruses and sea otters and a main point of contact is somebody who had died five years before the plan was ever created. Did BP really take this seriously?
DOUG SUTTLES, BP COO: Well, I think you have to go in and look at that plan in detail. The document that refers to things like walruses and seals actually refers to species that can be heavily impacted by a spill and all species, not ones unique to the Gulf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Really? That’s funny because, again, I can’t really stress this enough, but the plan in which walruses appear on a list of possibly affected species is called the BP Regional Oil Spill Response Plan for the Gulf of Mexico. So, oh, we meant to do that. We were talking about all species everywhere, plus unicorns.
That’s not really an answer. At least it’s not even a remotely believable answer. But that’s not the worst or most embarrassing answer that Doug Suttles gave on that helicopter ride with Tom Costello. Tom Costello also asked Mr. Suttles from BP about the oil industry truth with which I have become obsessed since this disaster started you might have noticed. Tom Costello asked why the drilling technology has come so far so fast while the cleanup after a spill technology is the same as it was, say, 30 or 40 years ago.
And while I’m not exactly sure what I expected BP to say when somebody finally asked them this question, I definitely did not expect the answer you’re about to hear from Doug Suttles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: You know, I think a lot of Americans are surprised that here we are dealing with the biggest oil disaster in U.S. history, and yet we’re relying on technology to clean it up that is 30, 40, 50 years old. Has the technology to clean up a spill just simply not advanced? And if not, why not?
SUTTLES: Well, Tom, I’m not the best expert on the technology. But I think events like this typically advance the technology by leaps and bounds.
COSTELLO: We’re still relying on booms, still relying on skippers, still relying on shovels 40 years after the Ixtoc spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Why don’t you have giant vacuums sucking tubes? Why don’t you the most high-tech 21st century response to this?
SUTTLES: Tom, I think that probably part of the reason is, is there’d been so few big spills. The events haven’t driven the technology change that’s out there. I think this event properly will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hold on a second. The cleanup technology hasn’t been developed because there haven’t been enough oil spills. If only there had been some oil spilled somewhere in the last 40, 50 years, the oil industry would have been forced to come up with a better way to clean it up. And the way they cleaned up, say, Santa Barbara in 1969, which is the same way we’re trying to deal with this one 41 years later. If only-if only there had been some oil spills, that would have fixed this problem.
Mr. Suttles, can we talk? I know-I know this is going to be uncomfortable, so I will make you a deal. I’m not even going to talk about Ixtoc, even though Ixtoc was a huge environmental disaster on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, eerily similar to the current disaster except that happened more than 30 years ago in less than 200 feet of water, no reason that offshore oil disaster should be forced-it should have forced the industry to come up with better cleanup technology. We will just set Ixtoc aside. We won’t talk about any spills from, say, the 1980s or 1990s.
Let’s just talk about oil spills from the last decade in one country on earth. Let’s just pick the United States. For example, in 2003 a large barge hit some rocks near Westport, Massachusetts. Massachusetts-let’s see, ahem, dumped almost 100,000 gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay. Several oil spills in Louisiana during Hurricane Ivan in the year 2004. It’s going to get crowded down there in Louisiana, I’ll warn you.
Also in 2004, the Athos I tanker dumped more than 200,000 gallons of oil into the Delaware River in New Jersey. That same year, the ship wreck — remember the ship wreck turned oil spill off the coast of Alaska island, which, of course, because it’s called on Alaska, it’s here in Alaska.
In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, there were oil spills all over the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, in Venice, in West Potash, in Naim (ph), in Chalmette, in Port Fourchon, in Point a la Hache, in Pilottown. According to Coast Guard estimates, it’s more than 7 million gallons of oil from a variety sources that were spilled during Hurricane Katrina.
There was the devastating Prudhoe Bay oil spill in Alaska in 2006. The amazing thing about that one is that it wasn’t even discovered until five days after the spill started up there. That didn’t go well.
Oil spill at the Citgo refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that same year. They blamed heavy rain-heavy rain was found to have caused the 3 million gallon oil spill down there.
In 2007, a cargo ship hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and dumped oil into the bay. Remember that one? Oh, yes. We’re not leaving you out, west coast.
Then there was another oil spill in Louisiana in 2008, when a tanker ran into a barge that messed up a John McCain photo-op, a “drill, baby, drill” photo-op. That was really awkward.
This year in January, there was a collision at that caused a spill in Port Arthur, Texas. That spill, of course, was followed by the explosion and the ensuing disaster in the Gulf.
Oh, and since then-oh, there’s more. Just this weekend crude oil pipeline burst in Salt Lake City.
So, again, though, it’s only because there haven’t been any spills that the oil industry hasn’t bothered to come up with new cleanup technology. If only there had been some spills, say, in the last 40 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUTTLES: I think that probably part of the reason is, there have been so few big spills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, now, though, they’re paying attention to this spill. This time, it’s going to be different. This spill will surely be enough to get the oil industry to update their clean up technology for the first time since the 1960s. It’s only because they didn’t notice those spills.
This time-this time, it will be different. I’m sure they’ll steep up right up and take care of it. I’m sure they will.