Engineers and lax federal oversight are at the center of the BP Oil Crisis and the 2005 New Orleans Levee Failure. Here again, due to the carelessness of engineers and lack of federal oversight, a large portion of south Louisiana is laid to waste.
And now stomachs are churning over an email exchange between Mark Hafle, senior BP drilling engineer for the blown out oil well and Halliburton, a cementing contractor.
After testifying last month about his close attention to safety, it seems Mr. Hafle ignored internal e-mail messages warning about possible problems and actually rejected a safer plan that required installing more components.
We think it's laudable that the White House is rapidly conducting independent investigations into the root cause of the BP well failure before memories fade and information is covered up. Says noted engineering professor Dr. Robert Bea, "it's important to bring forward good information, truth and facts, so that people can see the information and hopefully learn from it."
But the White House exhibited paralysis after the spectacular engineering failure that flooded 80% of New Orleans. The Army Corps of Engineers was permitted to do an investigation of its own work (red flag one) and the Corps's peer review team - chosen by and paid directly by the Corps - was largely forbidden from speaking to the press (red flag two).
Had the White House shown one tenth the vigor it's showing now in investigating the deadly levee failures during Katrina, heads would have rolled at both the Corps' New Orleans and Vicksburg District, and the districts would likely have been reorganized.
But the White House looked away even though over 1,000 people died. The White House looked away even though 55% of the American people live in counties protected by levees.
Congress, too, ignored Levees.org's demand since January 2007 for the 8/29 Investigation, a truly independent analysis of the flood protection failures, and the decision making involved in the levee failures.
This dearth of attention may be because responsibility for the design and construction of the levee protection system in New Orleans was solely federal, and an investigation might have revealed some painful and inconvenient truths.
New Orleans' levee failures are still largely mired in misinformation and spin generated by the Army Corps of Engineers, the civil engineering community and - as noted by Huff Blogger Georgianne Nienebar - their well funded PR firms.
In closing, we note with interest that last night, U.S. Rep Kevin Brady (House top Republican on Trade Subcommittee and Joint Economic Committee and Deputy Whip) responded to Obama's oval office address via Twitter.
"I'll go the President one better and call for a truly independent commission to investigate the government's role in the spill," he tweeted.
"The public deserves to know if the federal government and Congress was asleep at the wheel as it appears they were."
Where was Congressman Brady when the levees broke?