Coal Tattoo

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Assist vessels fire water cannons at the Deepwater Horizon in an attempt to control and extinguish a fire April 21, 2010, which has engulfed the mobile offshore drilling unit after an explosion April 20. Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters are responding to the incident. U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tom Atkeson.

While the Obama and Manchin administrations continue their closed-door investigation of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the probe of the nation’s other current fossil fuel catastrophe is going on — in public, out in the open, and broadcast live in the Internet.

An alert Coal Tattoo reader pointed out to me this National Public Radio story that was based on large part on testimony delivered at the public hearings, going on this week in New Orleans:

Just hours before a deadly explosion unleashed an unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, managers on the drilling rig had a dispute about how work would proceed, according to testimony from the rig’s chief mechanic. And that testimony has raised questions about whether BP was under pressure to move on to another well.

The mechanic, Douglass Brown, told federal investigators meeting outside New Orleans on Wednesday that he attended a daily meeting of managers on the Deepwater Horizon rig the day of the explosion. He said he didn’t follow all of the details that closely, but he did notice one thing: “I recall a skirmish taking place between the company man, the OIM, and the tool pusher and driller concerning the events of the day. The driller was outlining what was going to be taking place, whereupon the company man stood up and said, ‘No, we have some changes to that.’ “

The hearing is part of what is called the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation, being conducted by the Departments of Interior and Homeland Security, through the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service. There’s a ton of information online about this investigation, including its “Statement of Principles and Convening Order,”  a discussion of the investigation process, and an MOU between Homeland Security and Interior on how this all will work.

They’re posting daily witness lists, as well as the live video and archived video and audio of previous day’s hearings.

So why can the Obama administration do this for an oil industry catastrophe and not for a coal-mining disaster?