The Oil Spill: BP, Obama, and Salazar

Barack Obama was the top recipient of BP contributions in the 2008 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  The Mineral Management Service’s “categorical exclusion” of BP’s Deepwater Horizon lease from environmental impact analysis, under the watch of Ken Salazar’s Interior Department, was first reported by the Washington Post yesterday.  The White House has yet to answer questions about either factor:

“Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs,” 5 May 2010

Q: Robert, can you shed — on the oil spill, can you shed any light on why BP was exempted from the environmental impact analysis?

MR. GIBBS: Well, there are a series of reviews that have to — you have to go through in order to get drilling permits, the process by which was referenced in that article as part of the review that Secretary [of the Interior Ken] Salazar is undergoing. . . .

Q: Robert, does the White House believe it was a mistake for this categorical exemption to be granted to BP for Deepwater Horizon?

MR. GIBBS: That’s part of the investigation.  I don’t know the answer.

Q: Okay.  So that’s something that you’re looking into presently?

MR. GIBBS: I would say — as the President asked Secretary Salazar to undertake a 30-day review of what happened, that would certainly be part of the process under which he would evaluate it.

Q: Ed Markey said yesterday — I’m quoting him here directly — “I’m of the opinion that boosterism breeds complacency and complacency breeds disaster.  That, in my opinion, is what happened.”  Do you have any reaction to that?  And he’s saying there was something complacent about the federal regulators, meaning Minerals Management Service, dealing with this particular granting of the exemption.

MR. GIBBS: I’ll be honest with you, Major, I think it would be premature to know — I’m unaware that we know exactly what happened, and I wouldn’t want to comment on that until we had a sense of exactly what happened.

Q: — happened?

MR. GIBBS: Again, I don’t know that it’s the — I mean, again, you heard Secretary Hayes and others say that these — that there were individual inspections of blowout preventers and rigs very recently.  So I think that — I think I’d wait until we had something more concrete from Secretary Salazar as to making a determination on that.

Suffice to say, though, that would certainly be part of, as I said, his review.

Q: Some have noted that while senator and while running for President, Senator Obama received $77,000 in contributions from BP.  Taking note of that —

MR. GIBBS: From employees.

Q: From employees, and also the BP PAC.

MR. GIBBS: The President —

Q: Not — as a senator, he received PAC contributions; obviously not as a candidate.  To any who might see that as a part of this equation, you would say what?

MR. GIBBS: I’m sorry?

Q: Receiving money and a regulatory decision at the Interior Department during his presidency.

MR. GIBBS: I would say that’s silly and ridiculous.

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