The first (and probably the biggest) jaw-dropping moment of the congressional hearing with British Petroleum (BP) CEO Tony Hayward occurred when GOP Rep. Joe Barton, the top Republican on the House Energy Committee’s subcommittee for investigations, opened the hearing by apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward, saying he’s "ashamed" of the American response to BP’s oil spill.
Not to be outdone, WISN's Mark Beiling spent Thursday afternoon ranting about the MMSD in a transparent attempt to divert attention from BP's deadly negligence.
According to Barton, asking BP to set up an escrow account to compensate victims of BP's disaster, the largest oil spill in U.S. history, was a criminal action -- a "shakedown" as he put it. Barton's not alone: his comments echo those made by other Republicans in recent days, including Michele Bachmann, Haley Barbour, and Tom Price and were taken directly from a Republican Study Committee statement that characterized the $20 billion dollar escrow account negotiated by BP and the Obama administration for victims of the oil catastrophe in the gulf is a "Chicago-Style Political Shakedown."
Beiling joined the chorus reading from the Republican Party's talking points. He minimized the serious of BP's oil spill and the resultant contamination of the Gulf of Mexico by comparing it to the MMSD's release of 23.6 million gallons of a sewage and storm water mix into local lakes and Lake Michigan.
His obvious intent was to divert public attention from BP to Beiling's favorite bogey man, the public sector.
The BP oil spill, the result of BP's cutting corners to minimize costs and maximize profits and weakened federal regulation, is dumping between 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day into the Guld of Mexico. That conservative estimate (it may be much higher) is equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster every 8 to 10 days.
A barrel is 42 gallons. So 30,000 barrels equates to nearly 1.3 million gallons a day.
Since the oil rig exploded on April 10th, more than 80 million gallons of oil, almost three times the quantity of sewage Beiling is bemoaning, have been released. And that number is growing daily.
The BP oil spill is a human, economic and environmental disaster.
Eleven oil rig workers were killed. None were killed by the MMSD.
The economic devastation to Louisiana was immediate. The spill has contaminated 100 miles of coastline, polluted coastal wetlands, and threatens national wildlife refuges, the home for many endangered species. The state of Louisiana was also forced to shut down fishing in the area. Commercial fisherman that harvest nearly one billion pounds of fish and 3.2 million recreational fishermen were shut down in the process.
The economic carnage does not stop there. The Gulf States, from Mississippi through Florida, have suffered from both curtailed fishing operations to severely reduced tourism. Occupancy rates are down 90% in some regions along the Florida panhandle. The Gulf's beaches are empty. Oil spills tend to do that to tourism.
No Lake Michigan businesses were forced to close because of the MMSD's action, no species were endangered and no one lost their jobs. Over the weekend, Bradford Beach was packed with sun-loving Milwaukeans, despite Beiling's blustering.
Beiling's tagline should be changed from "Standing up for Milwaukee" to "Standing up for British Petroleum and corporate malfeasance!"