Beck's attack on drilling moratorium rests on falsehood

In stating that the Obama administration had “defied all logic” by setting a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling, Glenn Beck falsely claimed that there had been no “major incidents” in offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico before the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. In fact, there was a massive offshore Gulf oil spill 1979, and there have been many major spills from other oil platforms in the past.

Beck's attack on moratorium includes false claim of no “major incidents” in Gulf before current spill

Beck: “How many major incidents before this one? Zero.” During the June 22 edition of his Fox News show, Beck said:

BECK: There have been over 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico -- 50,000. Four thousand of these wells are deepwater wells. Seven hundred are ultra-deepwater wells. How many major incidents before this one? Zero. Now there's only one. That is a success ratio of 99.998 percent. That's a pretty good record, don't you think?

But we're going to go ahead and punish Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf. Louisiana has invested over $150 million for its fleet of vessels that are now being shut down for six months. When in the history of this country has an entire industry been shut down for six months? Why would you do that? Why would you do that now? It doesn't make any sense -- Cloward and Piven. But this isn't the first time the administration has denied all logic and public will.

Gulf rig reportedly spewed 140 million gallons in 1979 spill

Exploratory oil well blew out in Gulf of Mexico in 1979. From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Ocean Service website:

On June 3, 1979, the 2 mile deep exploratory well, IXTOC I, blew out in the Bahia de Campeche, 600 miles south of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The water depth at the wellhead site is about 50 m (164 feet). The IXTOC I was being drilled by the SEDCO 135, a semi-submersible platform on lease to Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). A loss of drilling mud circulation caused the blowout to occur. The oil and gas blowing out of the well ignited, causing the platform to catch fire. The burning platform collapsed into the wellhead area hindering any immediate attempts to control the blowout.


The IXTOC I well continued to spill oil at a rate of 10,000 -- 30,000 barrels per day until it was finally capped on March 23, 1980.

The Associated Press has reported that Ixtoc “spewed a record 140 million gallons of oil.”

Numerous other “major incidents” on offshore oil rigs

Oil well in Ekofisk field “experienced an oil and gas blowout.” From the National Ocean Service website:

On April 22, 1977, well B-14 on the Phillips Petroleum Company's “Bravo” production platform in the Norwegian Ekofisk field experienced an oil and natural gas blowout. This platform is 180 miles southwest of the Ekofisk oil field center in approximately 230 feet of water. The blowout resulted in the first major oil release in the North Sea. A red-brown mixture composed of oil and mud spurted up to 180 feet into the air above the offshore drilling rig. The “blowout preventer” had apparently been placed upside down on the wellhead during an earlier maintenance procedure. The 112 crew members on the platform were safely evacuated. The blowout resulted in a continuous discharge of crude oil through an open pipe 20 meters above the sea surface. At an estimated rate of 1170 barrels per hour, approximately 202,380 barrels of oil escaped before the well was finally capped 7 days later on April 30th.

Explosion on offshore platform in North Sea in 1988 reportedly killed 167 people. From a June 6, 2008, report by the BBC:

Just before 2200 BST on 6 July 1988, there was a massive gas leak followed by a fire and a series of explosions on the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea.

The heat ruptured a gas pipeline from another platform causing another massive explosion and fireball that engulfed Piper Alpha.

All this took just 22 minutes. It was, and still is, the world's worst offshore disaster. Some 167 people died, 62 survived.

Union Oil platform “experienced an uncontrolled blowout” off Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. From the County of Santa Barbara's website:

On January 28, 1969, Union Oil's Platform A experienced an uncontrolled blowout in the Dos Cuadras field that lasted for approximately eight days. The spill of approximately 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil affected over forty miles of coastline. Several environmental laws were passed at the federal and state levels following the blowout, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Future OCS and state tideland leasing would require a formalized environmental review process.

Australian rig leaked oil and caught fire in 2009. From a November 2, 2009, report by The Guardian:

A massive fire has broken out on an Austalian oil rig and delayed plans to plug the leak that has been spilling oil into the Timor Sea since August.

The blaze started on Sunday when workers began pumping heavy mud into a leaking well casing. An estimated 400 barrels of oil a day have escaped from the hole since 21 August, threatening marine wildlife over an area ten times the size of London.

Australia's government today promised an investigation, the latest drama in a 10-week saga to plug the hole.

PTTEP Australasia, which operates the rig, said no one was injured and nonessential workers were evacuated after the fire broke out on the West Atlas rig and Montara wellhead platform.

Accidents regularly occur on offshore platforms

NY Times: MMS has recorded “more than 500 fires on platforms” in Gulf of Mexico since 2006. From an April 22 New York Times report:

The federal Minerals Management Service has recorded more than 500 fires on platforms in the gulf since 2006. At least two people have died in gulf platform fires over the last four years, and about 12 more were seriously injured before the accident on the Deepwater Horizon.