Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Unlicensed MMS Engineer and The Gulf Disaster

We Don't Need No Stinking License

By: Larry Walker, Jr.

Frank Patton is the name of the unlicensed Minerals Management Service (MMS) Engineer who approved the Deepwater Horizon Disaster. No, that's not his picture to the left. That's another matter for another day.

Funny, but I can't find Tony Hayward's name on any of those, smoking gun, internal emails being touted around by the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, but I do see Frank Patton's name. Yep, on April 16, 2010 - 'Approved By' - Frank Patton.

From the trial (or hearing) the other day, you would think it was Congress' job to oversee and investigate private businesses. I somehow don't think that was part of the original plan. What I would like to see is a subcommittee investigating why federal workers are not required to maintain credentials equal to, or greater than, those whom they regulate.

Who's regulating the regulators? Unlicensed engineers are approving plans submitted by licensed engineers. When are we going to have a trial about stuff that really matters?

According to licensed Professional Engineer (PE), and whistleblower, Joe Carlson, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), just as other federal agencies, does not require their Engineers to be professionally licensed. Instead, federal agencies have invoked a special 'exemption' whereby unlicensed federal workers are above reproach. In other words, "We don't need no stinking license." You've got to be kidding me!

As one who holds two professional licenses (not in engineering), each with its own rigorous set of ongoing requirements, I have nothing but contempt for the federal government, the Congress, and our feckless POTUS, in this matter. There are no excuses. How is an unlicensed 'engineer' supposed to have the ability, training, and the professional integrity to review and approve plans designed by professionally licensed engineers?

What's worse is the fact that Frank Patton can't be blamed, fired, reprimanded or fined. Why not, you say? Because, remember, Frank Patton is not even licensed. But Congress can go around blaming Tony Hayward, who is also not licensed, and whose name is curiously not found on any of those damning internal emails. I do however see the names: Brian Morel, Mark Hafle, and Richard Miller. Perhaps they are licensed and should be brought up on charges by the appropriate engineering licensing board. And as for Frank Patton, I just wonder how many safety awards are hanging in his office?

Following are a few excerpts from Joe Carlson:

Frank Patton is the unlicensed MMS engineer who approved the BP drilling plan. During his May 11, 2010 testimony (see pages 252-314) to the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation, he admitted, (see pages 274-76), that he failed to ensure the BP Drilling Plan complied with federal regulation at 30 C.F.R. §250.416(e), because it did not contain the required information about the design and performance adequacy of the blow-out preventer. The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which live-blogged the hearing, described his testimony here.

If MMS required its engineers to be PE’s, then Mr. Patton would have been required to “blow whistles,” publicly if necessary, to prevent BP’s inadequate drilling plan from being approved. This could well have resulted in his being fired or otherwise discriminated against at MMS, given widespread, longstanding, MMS corruption. However, had MMS required Mr. Patton to be a PE, then anyone could now file a professional misconduct complaint against him with the Louisiana Professional Engineering Licensing Board, for his professional negligence/incompetence in approving a plan that failed to comply with federal regulation. If he lost his PE license as a result, then MMS could fire him. If he had been a PE, Frank Patton would have made sure the BP drilling plan contained the required information about its blowout preventer and perhaps this unprecedented disaster is averted....

The federal government has a duty to protect American health and safety, at work and elsewhere, including our environment. PE’s, by law, must “hold paramount the health, safety and welfare of the public in the performance of professional duty.” That federal agencies exempt their engineers from having the legal obligations of PE’s is nonsensical and a contributing cause to the Gulf disaster and many other accidents and disasters, such as the recent Upper Big Branch mine disaster which killed 29 in West Virginia.

Here is a formula we can all live with:

Federal PE licensure + reformed federal whistleblower protection = much improved workplace and public health and safety in America.


Read More at the Source: Whistleblowers Protection Blog

1 comment:
  1. You can't make this stuff up! Incredible fecklessness from our government!

    ReplyDelete