With Shell's Kulluk drilling vessel pulled off the rocks and towed to shelter in Alaska, more details are emerging about the rig's grounding in bad weather.
Rachel Maddow addressed the oil company's mishap this week, saying, "the engineering aspects of this story started off really weird" and the story is "getting weirder and weirder all the time" as more information about Shell's original motives for attempting to tow the rig back to Seattle become clearer.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Shell President Marvin Odum this week, suggesting that the company's attempt to move the Kulluk "may have been driven, in part, by a desire to avoid … tax liability on the rig" and not because of weather concerns.
The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Commitee wrote, “Reports that financial considerations rather than safety may have factored into Shell’s considerations, if true, are profoundly troubling."
Had Shell left the vessel in Alaskan water beyond January 1, 2013, the company would have been liable for a $6 million tax.
Shell claimed that a "two-week window of good weather" prompted the decision to move the Kulluk south from Alaska to Washington. Yet, according to Markey's letter, National Weather Service (NWS) marine forecasts for Alaska "extend only for five days" and Shell allegedly ended conference calls with NWS officials on November 15, 2012.
Shell did not respond to MSNBC's requests for comment, Maddow said. Odum said in a statement on Shell's website, “We undertake significant planning and preparation in an effort to ensure these types of incidents do not occur. We’re very sorry it did. Since the grounding, Shell has worked with all parties in the Unified Command structure to ensure a safe outcome and to protect the maritime environment in the vicinity of the grounded vessel."