Rep. Markey Raises Big Questions About Shell's Containment Dome Fail

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Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), has penned a letter to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, looking for answers about a Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) containment dome that “crushed like a beer can” in tests earlier this Fall.

Markey, who is the Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Natural Resources, is referring to a story first broken by Seattle radio station KUOW investigator John Ryan, revealing that in September Shell performed tests on a containment dome that was to be deployed as part of the company’s controversial Arctic offshore oil drilling operations.

According to government reports obtained by KUOW, the dome “breached like a whale” and then sank to the bottom of Puget Sound off the coast of Washington State. When the dome was recovered a government official described the dome as “crushed like a beer can.”

The containment dome is a key piece of emergency spill equipment that is used to cap an oil well when a pipe burst occurs, like the one we saw in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster. Markey describes the failed test in his letter to Salazar:

“Remotely operated submersible robots became tangled in rigging lines, warning indicators were dismissed as defective, and divers were requested, even though using divers would likely not be possible during an actual disaster in the Arctic. The test was conducted in Puget Sound, far away from the actual Arctic environment.”

Markey goes on to ask the question that should be on everyone’s mind given this disturbing revelation:

“Shell’s unsuccessful test in Puget Sound raises new questions about the company’s ability to successfully drill offshore in the Arctic and, more generally, about the ability of containment devices to function properly in the harsh Arctic environment. The outcome of the containment dome test, the fact that Shell may have missed warning signals that something was wrong and Shell’s problems using ROVs, which could be required in an Arctic environment, raise troubling questions about whether Shell can drill safely in this harsh and sensitive area.”

You can read the full text of Markey’s letter here: Markey Questions Interior on Failed Arctic Spill Containment Test.”

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Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmog. He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning. Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks. Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder. Prior to DeSmog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health. In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications. Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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