"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘BP’

5 Years Later: The Monumental Clusterfuck That Is The BP Gulf Oil Disaster Is Ongoing

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2015 at 12:45 pm
Oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico is burned in an attempt to quell its spread, June 16, 2010. (Photo: Kris Krüg)

Oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico is burned in an attempt to quell its spread, June 16, 2010. (Photo: Kris Krüg)

Oldspeak:”I had the privilege of performing in a show yesterday commemorating the 5 year anniversary of the BP Gulf Oil Disaster, “Voices From The Gulf“. A group of NYC based artists and performers from the Gulf shared their work documenting the calamity. Tragic stories in the form of letters from residents suffering the effects of the poisoning from the deadly oil and correxit cocktail were shared. This is an ongoing and incalculable ecological catastrophe. In all probability, oil is still leaking from the supposedly shut Macondo well. People and environment alike are still suffering and dying as a result of this crime. Livelihoods that depend on fishing have been decimated. And BP has aggressively and consistently demonstrated that it has little intention of fixing the clusterfuck its willful neglect and greed begot. In fact it’s actually denying 61 percent of damages and compensation claims filed by residents, and forced an unconscionable 81% of claimants to sign a  ‘Release and Covenant Not to Sue’ in which the claimant agreed not to sue BP and all other potentially liable parties. Yet, the despite the fact that this practice is INHERENTLY UNSAFE drilling continues unabated. There is literally nothing to stop this from happening again. The once bountiful and beautiful Gulf Of Mexico has been transformed in to one big Sacrifice Zone, of death and destruction.”“We’re paying the price for their greed and irresponsible exploration…They went ‘balls to the wall’ with their drilling because they didn’t care. It was just money, money, money.”George Barisich, Lifelong Commercial Shrimper. Profit Is Paramount. All else, gets fucked.” -OSJ

By Julie Dermansky @ DeSmogBlog:

Cat Island, off the Gulf Coast in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, was home to a vibrant bird rookery inhabited by brown pelicans, seagulls, spoonbills, and egrets before BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Five years after the largest oil spill in American history, the barrier island has just about disappeared.

Despite ongoing efforts by former Plaquemines Parish coastal zone manager PJ Hahn to restore the island, only the needed building permits and an engineering plan have been completed.

“Cat Island was ground zero of the oil spill,” Hahn told DeSmogBlog.

Dead bird on Cat Island five years after the BP oil spill. March 31, 2015. ©2015 Julie Dermansky

He thought that the restoration of the island was a no-brainer since, while much of the oil spill’s damage was underwater and invisible, the damage to Cat Island was easy to prove. According to Hahn, not only would the island’s restoration be necessary for the birds, but it would provide a great public relations move for anyone who helped in the process.

At the time of the spill, Cat Island was approximately five and a half acres, covered by a dense forest of black mangrove trees which were occupied by nesting birds. All that remains now are two small strips of land — less than an acre combined. Mangrove stumps jut out from the broken, shell-covered sandy remains of the island, at times fully submerged during high tide.

“The island was a treasure and it deserves to be restored,” Hahn told DeSmogBlog. He continues to advocate for the restoration project he spearheaded.

“It’s a hard sell for many since the island doesn’t serve as storm protection like other barrier islands that are in the process of being restored since the spill,” Hahn said.

But Cat Island and other small barrier islands, some of which have completely eroded since the spill, were perfect bird habitats because they were free of predators. Hahn believes the $6 million restoration price tag is a good investment, one that will pay for itself in dollars generated by the tourism industry. “Bird watchers from all over will come to visit the island,” he said.

Brown Pelicans and Spoonbills on Cat Island. © 2015 Julie Dermansky 

Media and Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition at Cat Island, March 31, 2015. © 2015 Julie Dermansky 

So far, the parish has raised $3 million of the $6 million needed before the rebuilding process can begin.

Shell, the only oil company to contribute, donated $1 million. Other contributors include the American Bird Conservancy and the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program. The parish hopes to get the rest of the needed funds from the state’s “Restore Act Fund,” made up of money from that part of the BP settlement that has already been paid.

Billy Nungesser on Cat Island holding a pelican bone three years after the BP oil spill, April 18, 2013© 2013 Julie Dermansky

Billy Nungesser, Plaquemines Parish president during the spill who is now running for lieutenant governor, had been famous for his fierce criticism of BP. But now it seems he’s changed his tune.

During a town hall meeting hosted by Rush Radio in St. Tammany Parish, where residents turned out to express their concerns about the possibility of the first fracking project in their area, Nungesser gushed over the great relationship Plaquemines Parish has with the oil industry, no longer singling out BP as a bad player as he had in the past.

Though he believes residents should have a say regarding what type of industry is welcomed in their community, he said oil companies that operate in his parish “do the right thing.”

Referencing the “horrible pictures of the pelicans covered in oil,” Nungesser claimed that in the case of “a safety incident or something spilling from a platform, every company has gone beyond the call of duty in our parish to make it right. Oil companies are rebuilding those islands.”

But Cat Island is a perfect example that Plaquemines Parish “has not been made whole,” according to Hahn. “BP was asked to contribute to rebuilding Cat Island multiple times,” Hahn said, “but they haven’t given anything to help the project.”

PJ Hahn photographing nesting pelicans on Cat Island two year after the BP oil spill. © 2012 Julie Dermansky

Cat Island was not mentioned in a BP report on the condition of the Gulf issued in March which paints a picture of the Gulf Coast on the mend. According to the report, “Available data does not indicate the spill caused any significant long-term population-level impact to species in the Gulf,” and “affected areas are recovering faster than predicted.”

State and federal agencies involved in the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) took issue with BP’s report.

“It is inappropriate as well as premature for BP to reach conclusions about impacts from the spill before the completion of the assessment,” an NRDA report states. NRDA will determine how much BP and its subcontractors owe for the environmental damages.

When asked what specifically BP has done to restore Cat Island, BP media spokesperson Jason Ryan sent out a statement about other coastal restoration projects the company has contributed to. BP agreed to pay for restoration projects in advance of NRDA’s assessment, which it was not required to do. Several of the projects are underway, but rebuilding Cat Island is not one of them.

The statement from BP points out: “The state loses about a football field worth of wetlands every hour,” and that “with regard to Cat Island specifically, it was rapidly eroding before the spill, primarily due to the impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.”

Though BP wouldn’t give a “Yes” or “ No” as to whether it has contributed to rebuilding Cat Island, the company wrote: “We are studying shoreline erosion on marshes and barrier islands, including Cat Island, to determine if there was any acceleration due to the spill.”

The BP spill “totally accelerated” the erosion of Cat Island,” Linda Hooper Bui, an entomologist at Louisiana State University, told DeSmogBlog.

Bui has been working on studies of insect life in Barataria Bay that she began prior to the BP oil spill, making her a witness to the ongoing erosion process impacting the island. When plants are stressed they can’t hold on to sediment, she explained. And that is what happened when the oil covered the plant life on Cat Island. “You lose the mangrove, you lose the sediment,” Bui said.

“Heavily-oiled marshes erode at double the rate of a non-oiled marsh,” Melanie Driscoll, Director of Bird Conservation for the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi flyway for the Audubon Society, told DeSmogBlog, citing a scientific peer-reviewed study done after the BP spill.

“Every year there is a delay restoring the island, there is less area for nesting,” Driscoll said. ” We need restoration to proceed as soon as possible.”

David Muth, Gulf Coast Restoration Director for the National Wildlife Federation holds up a photo of what Cat Island looked like before the BP oil spill, while standing in front of the island on March 31, 2015. ©2015 Julie Dermansky

On March 31, a trip arranged by Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition gave members of the media a chance to document what little remains of Cat Island. The National Wildlife Federation, a key player in the coalition, released a report about the health of the Gulf five years after the spill that paints a completely different picture than BP’s.

The NWF report cites several scientific studies that document the negative impact the spill had on 20 different species, including the brown pelican, which were Cat Island’s main inhabitants.

“The tragedy is brown pelicans were taken off the endangered species list the year before the spill,” Hahn said. “If there is no habitat, there are no birds. Who knows if they will come back when we finally get the island rebuilt?”

BP Energy Outlook: Carbon Emissions “Will Increase 29% By 2035; Remain Well Above Path Recommended By Scientists”

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Climate scientists agree that global carbon dioxide emissions need to be sharply cut. A prominent player in the energy industry predicts they will go in the opposite direction. -Alex Kirby

Oldspeak: “Translation = We’re fucked. This report matters more than anything any government official has to say about energy policy. Supra-national energy corporations basically control global energy policy. Some small nations have managed to greatly diminish their dependence on fossil fuels, but the major emitters (China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan) have no such plans.  There is a high probability that most remaining fossil fuel deposits will be extracted, no matter the impact on the ecology. Witness the battle to “carve up” the arctic by those very same major emitters. In these peoples unwell minds, the melting of the planets’ air conditioner, the arctic, is a good thing. The BP emissions estimate is probably underestimated, as they’ve not factored continued increasing release in methane hydrates from permafrost and the sea floor in their models….  A.K.A. We’re fucked. Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick…” -OSJ

By Alex Kirby @ Climate News Network:

LONDON, 7 February – The good news, from the climate’s standpoint, is that while global demand for energy is continuing to grow, the growth is slowing. The bad news is that one energy giant predicts global carbon dioxide emissions will probably rise by almost a third in the next 20 years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2020 and then decline if the world is to hope to avoid global average temperatures rising by more than 2°C over pre-industrial levels. Beyond 2°C, it says, climate change could become dangerously unmanageable.

But BP’s Energy Outlook 2035 says CO2 emissions are likely to increase by 29% in the next two decades because of growing energy demand from the developing world.

It says “energy use in the advanced economies of North America, Europe and Asia as a group is expected to grow only very slowly – and begin to decline in the later years of the forecast period”.

But by 2035 energy use in the non-OECD economies is expected to be 69% higher than in 2012. In comparison use in the OECD will have grown by only 5%, and actually to have fallen after 2030, even with continued economic growth. The Outlook predicts that global energy consumption will rise by 41% from 2012 to 2035, compared with 30% over the last ten.

Nor does it offer much hope that the use of novel energy sources will help to cut emissions. It says: “Shale gas is the fastest-growing source of supply (6.5% p.a.), providing nearly half of the growth in global gas.”

Renewables shine

Burning gas produces much lower CO2 emissions than using coal, but the sheer volume of shale production is expected to cancel out any possible emissions reductions. In fact the Outlook says of its predictions:  “…emissions [of CO2] remain well above the path recommended by scientists…Global emissions in 2035 are nearly double the 1990 level.”

An advantage claimed by some supporters of shale gas is that it will increasingly replace a much more polluting fossil fuel, coal. But at the moment many coal-producing countries are finding markets overseas for those they have lost to shale gas at home.

Oil, natural gas and coal are each expected to make up around 27% of the total mix by 2035, with the remaining share coming from nuclear, hydroelectricity and renewables. Among fossil fuels gas, conventional as well as shale, is growing fastest and is increasingly being used as a cleaner alternative to coal.

Bob Dudley, BP Group chief executive, said the Group was “optimistic for the world’s energy future”. Europe, China and India would become more dependent on imports, he said, while the US was on course to become self-sufficient in energy.

The Outlook does provide encouragement to the producers of renewables, which are expected to continue to be the fastest growing class of energy, gaining market share from a small base as they rise at an average of 6.4% a year to 2035. – Climate News Network

“We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before…Everything out there is dead.” : Gulf Of Mexico Ecosystem In Crisis 3 Years After BP Oil Spill

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm
Over three million pounds of oiled material have been found in Louisiana this year. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld / Al Jazeera)

Over three million pounds of oiled material have been found in Louisiana this year [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]

Oldspeak: “Three and a half years later, BP is spending more money – I want you to hear this – they are spending more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted.” –Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  Three years after well blowout, declining seafood catches and deformities point to an environment in distress.” –Dahr Jamail

“Governor Jindal was being kind. BP willfully & irreparably destroyed an entire ocean ecosystem to conceal the magnitude of their toxic waste spill & minimize their legal liability. And they are spending ass tons more money trying to convince people that everything is just fine, when the reality is everything is just bad to WORSE, than they are trying to restore or clean the ecosystem they destroyed. Ignore the BP produced propaganda films crowing about how the gulf’s beaches are open, and its seafood is safe, and how stringent their safety protocols and new drilling technologies are. It’s all bullshit. Tar and oil is still washing up on beaches, fish and wildlife stocks have plummeted, some are just gone & fishing commerce has ground to near halt. There is no safe way to drill for the toxic waste that is crude oil in ocean ecosystems. Corporate media has turned a blind eye to this ongoing disaster while a major ocean ecosystems depended on financially by mulitiple U.S. gulf states is slowly and surely dying. No signs of recovery in sight. We power our civilization on toxic wastes. Where ever these toxins are extracted, spilled, released or disposed of, death and destruction follows. Without exception. We are losing 200 species of biodiversity per day. This is not sustainable. That there are powerful energy and financial corporations exploring ever more extreme and damaging means of extracting and exploiting ever more toxic wastes known to be the prime cause of the coming global ecological collapse, while governments give them massive subsidies to do so is sheer MADNESS. Our systems of governance and economy are no longer able to respond effectively to clear and present dangers threatening all living things , they are in fact accelerating the progression toward the dangers. This can only go on for so much longer.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Al Jazeera:

New Orleans, US – Hundreds of kilograms of oily debris on beaches, declining seafood catches, and other troubling signs point towards an ecosystem in crisis in the wake of BP’s 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s disturbing what we’re seeing,” Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.”

Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now.

“We’re seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can’t find any production out there yet. There is no life out there.”

According to Robin, entire sectors of the Louisiana oyster harvest areas are “dead or mostly dead”. “I got 10 boats in my fleet and only two of them are operating, because I don’t have the production to run the rest. We’re nowhere near back to whole, and I can’t tell you when or if it’ll come back.”

State of Louisiana statistics confirm that overall seafood catch numbers since the spill have declined.

‘Everything is down’

Robin is not the only member of the Gulf’s seafood industry to report bleak news. Kathy Birren and her husband own Hernando Beach Seafood, a wholesale seafood business, in Florida.

Shrimp with tumours continue to be found along the impact zone, from Louisiana to Florida [Dean Blanchard]

“I’ve seen a lot of change since the spill,” Birren told Al Jazeera. “Our stone crab harvest has dropped off and not come back; the numbers are way lower. Typically you’ll see some good crabbing somewhere along the west coast of Florida, but this last year we’ve had problems everywhere.”

Birren said the problems are not just with the crabs. “We’ve also had our grouper fishing down since the spill,” she added. “We’ve seen fish with tar balls in their stomachs from as far down as the Florida Keys. We had a grouper with tar balls in its stomach last month. Overall, everything is down.”

According to Birren, many fishermen in her area are giving up. “People are dropping out of the fishing business, and selling out cheap because they have to. I’m in west-central Florida, but fishermen all the way down to Key West are struggling to make it. I look at my son’s future, as he’s just getting into the business, and we’re worried.”

Dean Blanchard, owner of a seafood business in Grand Isle, Louisiana, is also deeply troubled by what he is seeing. “We have big tar mats coming up on Elmers Island, Fouchon, Grand Isle, and Grand Terre,” Blanchard told Al Jazeera. “Every time we have bad weather we get fresh tar balls and mats.”

Blanchard said his business generates only about 15 percent of what it did before the spill. “It looks like it’s getting worse,” he said. “I told my wife when she goes to the mall she can only spend 15 percent what she used to spend.”

Blanchard has also seen shrimp brought in with deformities, and has taken photographs of shrimp with tumours (see above). Others lack eyes. He attributes the deformities to BP’s use of toxic dispersants to sink the spilled oil.

Eyeless shrimp, along with other seafood abnormalities, have become common in many areas along the Gulf Coast [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]

“Everybody living down here watched them spray their dispersants day in and day out. They sprayed our bays and our beaches,” he said. “We got a problem, because BP says they didn’t spray down here, but we had a priest that even saw them spraying. So either we got a lying priest, or BP is lying.”

BP and the Coast Guard have told the media they have never sprayed dispersants within 10 miles of the coast, and that dispersants have never been used in bays.

A decades-long recovery

On a more sombre note, Dr Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer and a marine biologist, believes it will likely take the Gulf decades to recover from the BP disaster.

“The impacts of the Ixtoc 1 blowout in the Bay of Campeche in 1979 are still being felt,” said Cake, referring to a large oil spill near the Mexican coast, “and there are bays there where the oysters have still not returned. My prediction is we will be dealing with the impacts of this spill for several decades to come and it will outlive me.”

According to Cake, blue crab and shrimp catches have fallen in Mississippi and Alabama since the spill, and he also expressed worries about ongoing dolphin die-offs. But his primary concern is the slow recovery of the region’s oyster population.

“Mississippi recently opened their season, and their oyster fisherman are restricted to 12 sacks of oysters a day. But they can’t even reach six,” Cake said. “Thirty sacks would be a normal day for oysters – that was the previous limit – but that is restricted now because the stocks just aren’t there.”

Cake’s conclusion is grim. “Here in the estuarine areas, where we have the oysters, I think it’ll be a decade or two before we see any recovery.”

BP previously provided Al Jazeera with a statement on this topic, a portion of which read: “Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.”

BP claims that fish lesions are naturally common, and that before the spill there was documented evidence of lesions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by parasites and other agents.

More oil found

The second phase of the ongoing federal trial against BP investigates whether the company’s actions to halt the flow of oil during the blowout were adequate, and aims to determine how much oil was released.

“BP is mounting an aggressive legal and public relations campaign to shield itself from liability and minimise the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf, as well as the ongoing impacts from the disaster,” said Jonathan Henderson, an organiser for the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group.

Even Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal agrees. Jindal recently said, “Three and a half years later, BP is spending more money – I want you to hear this – they are spending more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted.”

As far away from the blowout site as Florida, researchers continue to find oil in both Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay.

In Louisiana, according to the LA Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), more than 200 miles of shoreline have “some degree of oiling”, including 14 miles that are moderately or heavily oiled. From March through August of this year, over three million pounds of oiled material have been collected in Louisiana, more than double the amount over the same time period last year.

In addition, the CPRA reports that “investigations into the chemical composition of MC252 [BP’s Macondo well] oil samples demonstrate that submerged oil is NOT substantially weathered or depleted of most PAH’s [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons],” and “disputes…findings relied on by the USCG [US Coast Guard] that Deepwater Horizon oil is non-toxic”.

The agency also expresses concerns that “submerged oil may continue to pose long term risk to nearshore ecosystems”.

“New impacts to the Gulf’s ecosystem and creatures also continue to emerge,” Henderson told Al Jazeera. “This year alone, the National Marine Fisheries Service has recorded 212 dolphins and other marine mammal standings in the northern Gulf. A new scientific study conducted by NOAA, BP and university researchers also shows significant negative impacts on tiny organisms that live on the sea floor in a 57 square mile area around the Deepwater Horizon well site.”

Numerous other impacts have been documented since the disaster began, including genetic disruptions for Gulf killifish, harm to deepwater corals,, and the die-off of tiny foraminifera that are an important part of the Gulf’s food chain.

Ongoing studies continue to reveal toxins from BP’s spill in water, soil, and seafood samples.

Meanwhile, fishermen in BP’s impact zone wonder if things will ever return to normal. “Our future is very, very dim, and there are no sponge crabs out there, which is the future,” Robin concluded. “I’ve never seen this in my lifespan. I’m not seeing a future, because everything out there is dead.”

Another Oil Spill As ExxonMobil Fouls Montana’s Pristine Yellowstone River

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2011 at 10:14 am

Oldspeak:”ExxonMobil spends alotta money trying to convince you that they’re doing good things for you, America and the environment with their feel good commercial/campaign ads where they support  minority education and fighting infectious diseases. Reducing dependence on foreign oil, engineering “cleaner” more environmentally friendly extraction techniques. It’s all bullshit. They deal in death. Their business is extracting the extremely toxic fossilized remains of dead animals and plants. And in the wake of their latest environmentally devastating accident, they’re going to the old reliable disaster response playbook: downplay the amount released, downplay environmental and health effects while feigning vigorous clean up efforts so as to minimize exposure to resulting legal action and amounts of recompense. The EPA, one of the energy industry’s captured ‘regulators’ is even in on the snow job claiming air and water quality have not been affected in the face of reports of oil covered wildlife and people hospitalized from exposure to oil fumes. Alas pictures like the one above tell you all you need to know. Extraction and production of oil and natural gas are inherently dangerous and toxic to the environment and everything living in it. People around the world are being killed, displaced and poisoned so Big Oil can get at their lethal lifeblood. Truly clean (not ‘natural’ gas, not nuclear, not ‘clean’ coal) and renewable energy is the only safe and sustainable way forward.

Related Stories:

Yellowstone River Suffers Oil Spill

 

Crews Mop Up Oil On Yellowstone River

 

Oil Leak Not Sealed As Quickly as Exxon Claimed

By Tara Thean @ Time Ecocentric:

Amid the fireworks, parades, and hot dogs of this past Fourth of July weekend was that sinking feeling of déjà vu when news broke that yet another oil spill was oozing across once-clean waters. This time, it wasn’t the Gulf of Mexico, it was Montana; and it wasn’t BP, it was ExxonMobil. On Friday, 1,000 barrels of crude oil (42,000 gal.) spilled into Yellowstone River after an ExxonMobil pipeline under the riverbed ruptured. The pipeline has been shut down, but not yet repaired.

ExxonMobil is “making progress” in cleaning up the oil, according to, well ExxonMobil. Company president, Gary Pruessing says that the oil giant is conducting daily reconnaissance tests to see the impact the leak is having in the areas around the riverbanks. At this point, Pruessing says, the cleanup team has yet to find areas affected by the spill beyond 25 miles of where the pipeline ruptured, and the oil found along the shoreline is “in really small patches.”

More from TIME: A Timeline of the BP Oil Spill

“I don’t want to infer in any way that we’ve completed [the tests],” Pruessing said. “If we have citizens with additional information that would conflict that, we encourage them to contact us.”

If ExxonMobil’s tests on air and water quality so far are anything to go by, residents should have no reason to panic. Though citizens of Yellowstone county raised concerns that benzene, a chemical naturally present in crude oil, might be fouling the air in the wake of the spill, air monitoring conducted so far has not found “measurable amounts that would cause problems from a health standpoint,” according to Pruessing. The same goes for water quality: the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted sampling throughout the river but has yet to pick up anything harmful.

“All the monitoring has indicated that we don’t have any air issues…and we have not had any reports about water quality,” Pruessing said, adding that the Environmental Protection Agency conducted more sampling on Monday and will make the results available in the next day or two. “We believe [the latest sampling] will confirm earlier reports that we do not have any issues on the water.”

But Alexis Bonogofsky, who lives on the Yellowstone River, said she feels strongly that ExxonMobil has downplayed the impact of the oil spill and is withholding information from residents of Yellowstone County. “It’s almost like they’re reading out of a playbook,” she said. “First they downplay the amount, then they downplay the effect – and then you see reports that it’s bigger and more damaging than they thought.” Bonogofsky added that Yellowstone County residents were not allowed to record Pruessing’s responses to their queries during a meeting with Pruessing on Sunday.

“They’re just spewing talking points,” she said. “It’s really frustrating – I think right now people are nervous and scared; they don’t know what’s going on.”

Photos from TIME: Victims of the BP Oil Spill 

But even if it is frustrating, this response shouldn’t be surprising, according to Ryan Salmon, Energy Policy Advisor for the National Wildlife Federation‘s Climate and Energy Program. “I think industry in every case has downplayed the impacts and I don’t anticipate this will be any different,” he said. Those impacts could be pretty significant: the toxic chemicals released into the river would be a problem for aquatic wildlife, Salmon said, and NWF Global Warming Solutions Program Executive Director Tim Warman noted that pipeline oil spills tend to adversely affect the health of rivers and the ecosystems surrounding them.

“It’s literally impossible that there are not going to be those impacts,” Bonogofsky said, adding that the residents of Yellowstone County haven’t been provided with enough information from ExxonMobil about the consequences of the oil spill.

Faced with these claims, Yellowstone County commissioner Bill Kennedy noted that he had provided ExxonMobil with a list of all the landowners along the riverbank and asked the company to talk face-to-face with them. “They spent four hours with one couple who had a lot of oil on their property,” he said. “We’re working on trying to have a public meeting to update everyone.” Pruessing also emphasized that a community hotline has been set up for homeowners to raise concerns about water quality or the affects of the oil spill on their land.

But Kennedy, Pruessing and ExxonMobil have a lot of convincing to do yet. Bonogofsky, for one, feels that many of the company’s statements and actions are merely for publicity. “I feel like now the cleanup crew is here and there are cameras everywhere…but only in the public places. Landowners don’t have cleanup crews in their place,” she said. “We haven’t had anyone call us and say ‘Hey, Exxon is taking care of you.’”

Photos from TIME: Protesting BP

Georgia Scientists Dispute Obama Claim That Most Gulf Oil Is Gone

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 at 8:58 am

Faint streaks of weathered oil could be seen in the Gulf on Monday. AP

Oldspeak:” When something sounds too good to be true; it ususally is. ‘ ‘There are still vast volumes (70-79 % of  the 4 Million Barrels spilled) of crude oil in the water column, widely dispersed and breaking down into multiple compounds whose impact on the environment won’t be understood for years.’ -Samantha Joye,  UGA marine scientist”

From Curtis Morgan @ McClatchy Newspapers:

A team of University of Georgia scientists on Tuesday disputed the Obama administration’s claim, made two weeks ago, that most of the oil spewed from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well is either gone or widely dispersed.

Far from gone or dispersed, the scientists said, 70 to 79 percent of the more than 4 million barrels of oil that escaped into the Gulf of Mexico remains in the water, posing real but still undetermined risks.

“The idea that 75 percent of the oil is gone and of no concern for the environment

is just absolutely incorrect,” said Charles Hopkinson, a director of Georgia Sea Grant

and marine science professor at the University of Georgia, who co-authored the report.

The Georgia report blamed the media for “inaccurate and misleading” interpretation of a federal analysis released Aug. 2, but its authors, in a teleconference, declined to address questions about whether an upbeat spin by the Obama administration had shaped coverage.

The federal report, produced by government and independent scientists, estimated that the “vast majority” of the 4.9 million barrels of crude released into the Gulf had evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered by BP from the wellhead, dispersed naturally or by chemicals into drops likely to be rapidly consumed by microbes. Only 26 percent of “residual” oil remained largely in the form of sheen or tarballs, the federal report found — still a volume four times the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

In announcing the data, Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cautioned that the vast amount of oil would cause impacts for years but still struck a glass-half-full tone echoed by other Obama aides.

“At least 50 percent of the oil that was released is now completely gone from the system, and most of the remainder is degrading rapidly or is being removed from the beaches,” she said at a White House conference.

Two calculations explain the bulk of the difference in the Georgia report, produced by Hopkinson with four colleagues at the University of Georgia and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

In the first, the Georgia scientists said the government had erred by including in its totals 800,000-plus barrels of oil that BP captured from the well after it had fitted a sealing cap on the gusher — 17 percent of the well’s estimated flow. The Georgia scientists argued that that oil had never actually “spilled” into the Gulf, so including it to determine the percentage of oil no longer in the Gulf gave an incorrect impression.

More significantly, the report also dramatically reduced the amount of oil estimated to have evaporated, to 7 to 12 percent from the federal study’s 25 percent.

The federal government’s evaporation estimate was based on a standard accepted by industry experts and researchers for light sweet crude in the warm Gulf. But Hopkinson argued that the percentage is invalid because much of the oil remains deep beneath the surface, trapped under dense temperature and salinity layers that would dramatically limit evaporation.

“My suspicion is that a large fraction of this oil is still in the system,” said Samantha Joye, a UGA marine scientist who in May was the first researcher to detect massive deep sea “plumes” of oil droplets spreading from the well. “Whether it’s floating around or down in the bottom, we still don’t know.”

Another report released Tuesday by University of South Florida researchers found evidence of droplets spreading eastward up the continental shelf and settling into the DeSoto Canyon, a much shallower area considered a prime spawning spot for fish. The team reported finding oil at potentially toxic concentrations for some organisms in sediment taken from 900 feet to as shallow as 215 feet. BP’s well is 5,000 feet deep.

Most analysis and research to date, Georgia’s Joye said, also has ignored methane, which accounted for as much as a third of the overall flow. Methane levels were 10,000 to 100,000 times greater than normal in some deep sea pockets, she said. At such levels, it could take a year for the dissolved methane to dissipate, she said.

In an email statement Tuesday, NOAA spokesman Justin Kenney defended the official analysis as ”validated by federal and independent scientific experts.” By omitting oil recovered directly from the well, he said, the Georgia researchers had fundamentally changed the baseline calculation, making it impossible to compare the two estimates.

He also dismissed critics who have contended the White House was eager to put the environmental disaster in its rearview mirror. NOAA and its contributing independent scientists, he said, “have been clear that oil and its remnants left in the water represent a potential threat.”

The agency intended to continue to “rigorously monitor, test and assess short- and long-term ramifications,” he added.

Joye stressed that the Georgia team wasn’t implying that there were toxic “rivers of oil” submerged in the Gulf. Oil is degrading every day, she said.

There are, however, still vast volumes of crude oil in the water column, widely dispersed and breaking down into multiple compounds whose impact on the environment won’t be understood for years, she said.

ON THE WEB

Read the report.

MORE FROM MCCLATCHY

Mississippi attorney general disputes BP’s rosy claims report

Gulf oil spill still a threat to seafood, JAMA study indicates

Changes to BP oil spill clean-up plan leave Texas boom makers soaked

BP’s Scheme to Swindle the “Small People”

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 11:41 am

Clint Guidry, the Louisiana shrimp harvester representative on the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force created by executive order of Gov. Bobby Jindal, has called BP "liars" and "killers.

Oldspeak:“Gulf Coast fishermen who have no livelihoods because of BP’s criminal negligence, and are now cleaning up BPs mess, are having the meager wages they’re being paid to do so deducted from compensation BP owes them for destroying their lives. Unbelievable the balls on these people.”

From Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

Gulf Coast fishermen and others with lost income claims against BP are outraged by a recent announcement that the $20 billion government-administered claim fund will subtract money they earn by working on the cleanup effort from any future damage claims against BP. This move, according to lawyers in Louisiana working on behalf of Louisiana fishermen and others affected by the BP oil disaster, contradicts an earlier BP statement in which the company promised it would do no such thing.

Kenneth Feinberg, who was appointed by President Obama as the independent administrator of the Gulf Claims Facility for the $20 billion BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster compensation fund, said yesterday that the wages earned by people working on BP’s cleanup will be deducted from their claims against the company.

He said the fund is designed to compensate fishermen and others for their lost income, and if BP is already paying someone to help skim oil and perform other cleanup work, those wages will be subtracted from the amount they’re eligible to claim from the fund.

Attorney Stephen Herman, one of two interim liaison counsel for cases pending in the eastern district of Louisiana before Judge Carl J. Barbier, told Truthout he has spoken with Feinberg and that this recent announcement contradicts an earlier statement made by BP, in which the company clearly said it would not do this.

A letter dated May 2, 2010, from Herman’s firm, Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar LLP, in New Orleans, sent to Murray Greene in BP’s Legal Department, asked Greene to confirm in writing that BP agreed to destroy voluntary waiver and release forms issued to response workers at a meeting in Venice, Louisiana, and stated:

“Lastly, we inquired as to BP’s position with respect to any future claim of credit or set-off due to payments made to individuals who are assisting BP in mitigating its exposure to individuals and others for the unprecedented environmental and human losses as a result of this incident. It is our position that since my clients are effectively helping BP minimize its own future exposure as well as attempting to preserve the wetlands and the environment that BP ought not to seek any offset or reduction of claims as a result of any payments made to these individuals who courageously take on the dirty work of cleaning up BP’s mess.”

The next day, May 3, A.T. Chenault, a lawyer representing BP, responded in writing via letter stating, “We have no personal knowledge of the presentation of a Voluntary Waiver and Release to numerous people from Plaquemines Parish in Venice, Louisiana. However, it is the position of BP that any such documents will be rescinded and not binding on anyone signing same.”

Chenault’s letter concluded with a statement that directly contradicts Feinberg’s recent announcement.

“Lastly, we confirm that BP will not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have,” wrote Cheault, who is with the firm Fowler, Rodriguez, Valdes-Fauli.

Today, during a speech at the Economics Club in Washington, Feinberg appeared to be attempting to dissuade claimants from filing lawsuits against BP.

“You’re crazy to do so, though,” Feiberg said. “Because under this program, you will receive, if you’re eligible, compensation without having to go to court for years, without the uncertainty of going to court, since I’ll be much more generous than any court will be. And at the same time, you won’t need to pay lawyers and costs.”

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The move is being seen by many as an attempt by Feinberg to sell the compensation fund to victims, so as to prevent more lawsuits against BP.

Herman told Truthout that he believes Feinberg has said things that “are not consistent,” and that Feinberg “may not have been familiar” with the aforementioned agreement by BP to “not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have.”

Herman, who has already met with Feinberg on several occasions, said he expects to meet up with Feinberg’s law partner, Michael Rozen, “very soon.”

Attorney Robert Wiygul in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, represents many fishermen involved in BP’s oil response program, and told Truthout he “finds it very troubling” that BP and Feingold appear to be trying to position themselves to avoid future compensation claims from fishermen, as opposed to handling it on a year-to-year basis.

Clint Guidry is a Louisiana fisherman, and is on the board of directors of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. He is also the shrimp harvester representative on the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force created by executive order of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Guidry told Truthout that he believes Feinberg is “trying to limit BP’s liability,” adding that “every time Feinberg announces something he changes what he said before.”

According to Guidry, Feinberg first proposed a partial claim settlement that would provide settlement checks for up to three years. This would have allowed fishermen to determine if there were “holes in the ecosystem.”

If the oil disaster kills off enough shrimp, for example, there would be no shrimping season next year, and no way for shrimpers to earn a living.

“But now his new plan is to do away with that by having folks take a settlement,” Guidry added. “There’s not much of his program I like. It appears he is protecting BP.”

On May 24, in Galliano, Louisiana, Guidry testified to a delegation of US senators, congressmen and various Obama administration departments and agencies. He said:

“BP committed fraud in furnishing oil-spill-response data required to obtain a permit to enable them to drill the MC 252 location. The reality is they were not prepared to handle or control a blowout and resulting oil spill of this magnitude. Simply put, they lied.

“BP, in their haste to cut corners and save money in the completion process on the well location at MC 252, exhibited willful neglect in their duties to complete the well safely, which led to the blowout and explosion that killed 11 people. Eleven souls that will never come back. Eleven families with mothers and fathers and wives and children. Children who will never see their fathers again.

“This neglect and loss of life constitutes negligent homicide and all involved should be arrested and charged as such.”

Guidry told Truthout he believes, “There has been a BP cover-up from day one,” and “the US government, OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], the Coast Guard, NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health], all of them are in on it.”

Guidry is very concerned about the health of the fishermen he represents, of which there are approximately 600, who are working on the oil response for BP.

“These people are putting their health at risk by working for them, and now look at how they are being treated,” Gui

This morning, Herman sent this letter to Rozen and Feinberg:

“Dear Mr. Rozen and Mr. Feinberg,

“It was reported in the local media last night that BP (presumably thru the Claims Facility) was going to take a credit or offset for payments to fishermen and others engaged in the Vessels of Opportunity and/or other clean-up/remediation efforts against what is owed to them for lost profits and/or diminished earning capacity.

“Please note that BP very early on agreed not to do this. (See Letter from BP Counsel A.T. Chenault to my partner Jim Klick dated May 3, 2010.)”

Herman also provided Truthout with an email he sent to persons concerned with BP’s and Feinberg’s recent moves, in which he expressed concern with the procedures of the Claims Facility. While Herman stated that Feinberg and Rozen “have attempted to answer some of these questions, (with perhaps some inconsistency), no one — it seems — has ever seen a document signed off on by BP.”

Herman asked, “What, specifically, has BP committed to do? What, specifically, has BP given Mr. Feinberg (as an “independent” agent or administrator) the authority to agree to on behalf of BP? The attached letter was sent to BP’s local counsel here in New Orleans on July 3rd. We have still not received a formal response, and, to my knowledge, no one (including Mr. Feinberg) has seen a formal written document (other than a White House Press Release) that purports to be authored by, signed by, agreed to or otherwise binding on BP. So, it would seem to be time to start asking BP (and/or the administration) : Where is BP? Or, perhaps stated another way: Where’s the beef?”

On June 1, BP Board Chairman Henric Svanberg stated, “[President Obama] is frustrated because he cares about the small people, and we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care, but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people.”

Gulf Oil Seep: Methane, Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Hydrocarbon Leak Discovered Near BP’s Blown Out Oil Well

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Oldspeak: “D’oh!  If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this disaster, it’s there needs to be a PERMANENT MORATORIUM ON OFF SHORE DRILLING. It’s clear that safety is last on the list of priorities for Big Oil. Off shore drilling constitutes an existential threat to environmental and national security. OBAMA! GET IT DONE!”

From The Associated Press:

The federal government Monday allowed BP to keep the cap shut tight on its bustedGulf of Mexico oil well for another day despite a seep in the sea floor after the company promised to watch closely for signs of new leaks underground, settling for the moment a rift between BP and the government.

The Obama administration’s point man for the spill, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said early Monday that government scientists had gotten the answers they wanted about how BP is monitoring the seabed around the mile-deep well, which has stopped gushing oil into the water since the experimental cap was closed Thursday.

Late Sunday, Allen said a seep had been detected a distance from the busted oil well and demanded in a sharply worded letter that BP step up monitoring of the ocean floor. Allen didn’t say what was coming from the seep. White House energy adviser Carol Browner  told the CBS “Early Show” the seep was found less than two miles from the well site.

The concern all along — since pressure readings on the cap weren’t as high as expected — was a leak elsewhere in the well bore, meaning the cap may have to be reopened to prevent the environmental disaster from becoming even worse and harder to fix. An underground leak could let oil and gas escape uncontrolled through bedrock and mud.

“When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed,” Allen said in a letter to BP Managing Director Bob Dudley.

When asked about the seep and the monitoring, BP spokesman Mark Salt would only say that “we continue to work very closely with all government scientists on this.”

Early Monday, Allen issued a statement saying there had been an overnight conference call between the federal science team and BP.

“During the conversation, the federal science team got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations,” Allen said.

He said BP could continue testing the cap, meaning keeping it shut, only if the company continues to meet their obligations to rigorously monitor for any signs that this test could worsen the overall situation.

Both Allen and BP have said they don’t know how long the trial run will continue. It was set to end Sunday afternoon, but the deadline came and went with no official word on what’s next.

Browner said Allen’s extension went until Monday afternoon. She said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that monitoring was crucial to make sure the trapped oil doesn’t break out of its pipe.

“Clearly we want this to end. But we don’t want to enter into a situation where we have uncontrolled leaks all over the Gulf floor,” Browner told ABC.

BP PLC said Monday that the cost of dealing with the oil spill has now reached nearly $4 billion. The company said it has made payments totaling $207 million to settle individual claims for damages from the spill along the southern coast of the United States. To date, almost 116,000 claims have been submitted and more than 67,500 payments have been made, totaling $207 million.

With the newly installed cap keeping oil from BP’s busted well out of the Gulf during a trial run, this weekend offered a chance for the oil  company and government to gloat over their shared success — the  first real victory in fighting the spill. Instead, the two sides have spent the past two days disagreeing over what to with the undersea machinery holding back the gusher.

The apparent disagreement began to sprout Saturday when Allen said the cap would eventually be hooked up to a mile-long pipe to pump the crude to ships on the surface. But early the next day, BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said the cap should stay clamped shut to keep in the oil until relief wells are finished.

After nearly three months of harsh criticism as it tried repeatedly to stop the leak, BP wants to keep oil from gushing into the Gulf again before the eyes of the world. The government’s plan, however, is to eventually pipe oil to the surface, which would ease pressure on the fragile well but require up to three more days of oil spilling into the Gulf.

Both sides played down the apparent contradiction Sunday. Allen, ultimately the decision-maker, later said the containment plan he described Saturday hadn’t changed, and that he and BP executives were on the same page.

The company very much wants to avoid a repeat of the live underwater video that showed millions of gallons of oil spewing from the blown well for weeks.

“I can see why they’re pushing for keeping the cap on and shut in until the relief well is in place,” said Daniel Keeney, president of a Dallas-based public relations firm.

The government wants to eliminate any chance of making matters worse, while BP is loath to lose the momentum it gained the moment it finally halted the leak, Keeney said.

“They want to project being on the same team, but they have different end results that benefit each,” he said.

Oil would have to be released under Allen’s plan, which would ease concerns that the capped reservoir might force its way out through another route. Those concerns stem from pressure readings in the cap that have been lower than expected.

Scientists still aren’t sure whether the pressure readings mean a leak elsewhere in the well bore, possibly deep down in bedrock, which could make the seabed unstable. Oil would have to be released into the water to relieve pressure and allow crews to hook up the ships, BP and Allen have said. Engineers are looking to determine whether low pressure readings mean that more oil than expected poured into the Gulf of Mexico since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 people and touching off one of America’s worst environment crises. To plug the busted well, BP is drilling two relief wells, one of  them as a backup. The company said work on the first one was far enough along that officials expect to reach the broken well’s casing, or pipes, deep underground by late this month. The
subsequent job of jamming the well with mud and cement could take days or a few weeks.  It will take months, or possibly years for the Gulf to recover, though cleanup efforts continued and improvements in the water could be seen in the days since the oil stopped flowing. Somewhere between 94 million and 184 million gallons have spilled into the
Gulf, according to government estimates.

We Are All BP Now: Militarizing the Gulf Oil Crisis

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

Oldspeak: “Brilliant explication. ‘Why are people calling the calamity a war and why does it matter that they do?  Calling the spill an ‘invasion’ helps us not to see that our global culture of militarization is what got us into the mess in the first place. Calling the spill a ‘war’ only fuels the pervasive militarization that produced the crisis in the first place. Calling the oil the ‘enemy’ helps us not to question who was culpable in the first place. Calling the response ‘a battle front’ helps us not ask who, other than the military, should be in charge. And calling the oil the enemy helps us not admit how much we, the consumers, having awakened the oil from its ancient slumber to fuel our gas-greedy lives, are the most complicit of all.’ ”

From Anne McClintock @ CounterPunch:

In the Gulf, the forever spill has become the forever war. A calamity of untold magnitude is unfolding and, alongside it, a strange militarization has emerged, as the language for managing the crisis becomes the language of war.

War-talk is firing from the mouths of local officials, TV pundits, the Coast Guard and journalists. Campaigning frantically to protect Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal urges the TV cameras: “We need to see that this is a war….a war to save Louisiana…a war to protect our way of life.”

Billy Nungesser, indefatigable President of the Plaquemines Parish, implores anyone who will listen: “We will fight this war….We will persevere to win this war.”

For Ragin Cajun, Democratic strategist, James Carville: “This is literally a war… this is an invasion…We need to hear someone say ‘We’ll fight them on the beaches….”

Retired Gen. Russell Honore, who oversaw the Katrina debacle, insists: “We need to act like this is World War 3. Treat this like it’s an invasion…equal to what we decided about terrorists. We’ve got to find the oil and kill it.”

Find the oil and kill it? This is truly strange talk, this talk of war and killing oil. Even President Obama tried to fire up the nation by invoking 9/11, couching the spill as an invasion, a siege, an attack by terrorists. The militarization of the disaster has become the invisible norm, so much so that it is hard to see how misplaced and dangerous the analogy to war actually is.

Visit the BP site (one of the more surreal Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass internet experiences) and you will see the word “kill”–BP’s favored, faux-techno buzzword–appearing with ritualistic incantation. Kill the well, killthe leak, kill the oil, which morphs into “kill mud” (the mud that will kill the leak) and “kill lines” (the lines that follow the pipes to kill the leak). All this kill-talk has a jaunty, we-know-what-we-are-doing tone, but accumulatively it borders on the bizarre, culminating in the “junk shot”–the weird slurry of car tires and golf-balls that BP fired at the leak to ‘kill’ it–as if, by throwing enough sacrificial detritus of our oil-soaked leisure activities into the maw of the oil-god, we could stop it spewing death.

There is a lot of verbal killing going on here, and indeed the Gulf does seem to be bleeding: a vast, streaky, orange-red smear stretching to the horizon. Sixty three days and counting, and the oil eruption gushes unstoppably past 100,000 barrels (BP’s secret, original estimation), past 400,000 barrels and up…We really haven’t a clue how much. In this, our summer of magical counting.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer gazes at the grey Louisiana horizon and declares: “It looks like a military campaign…heavy lift helicoptors taking sand to the frontlines of the battle against the oil.” I do look, but it doesn’t look like a military campaign to me. Certainly, a few Blackhawk and Chinook helicoptors drop sandbags into a filthy, yellow-brown sea overflown by a few hapless gulls, but a war front it really isn’t.  This is, in fact, as unlike a war front as one can imagine. The Louisiana marshes lap quietly with brown ooze; solitary birds heave and flail in the middle of nowhere under the oil’s slow embrace; dolphins gape open-mouthed on beaches; a dead whale washes ashore. No, this is not a war. Only a tremendous failure of the imagination can see this as a war.

So why are people calling the calamity a war and why does it matter that they do?

Calling the oil the ‘enemy’ helps us not to question who was culpable in the first place. Calling the response ‘a battle front’ helps us not ask who, other than the military, should be in charge. Calling the spill an ‘invasion’ helps us not to see that our global culture of militarization is what got us into the mess in the first place. Calling the spill a ‘war’ only fuels the pervasive militarization that produced the crisis in the first place. And calling the oil the enemy helps us not admit how much we, the consumers, having awakened the oil from its ancient slumber to fuel our gas-greedy lives, are the most complicit of all.

A fateful circularity takes shape as the spill is managed in the same terms that produced the spill: that of war. Most critically, militarizing the catastrophe asa war becomes a cover-up for seeing the environmental catastrophe of war.

An unsettling verbal alchemy is at work in all this military talk. “Jindal has declared war!” cries the Florida Pundit. But on whom has Governor Jindal declared war? The murderously irresponsible BP? The Obama government for failing, really, to do anything? The increasingly invisible, but culpable Halliburton? (Wherever there is Halliburton, there is pain). The Sunday Herald, for one, pleaded with Congress not to blame BP: “The oil is the enemy,” it urged, “not each other.” Admiral Allen described the oil as “an insidious enemy that keeps attacking in different places.” Viewed through the prism of war, oil and nature are seen as the enemy, for they have erupted beyond our control. Adopting a warlike stance toward nature is not new. A long-established discourse on conquering the wilderness is ready to hand to justify our rapacious assault on the life-forms around us. Dill, baby, drill. Then, when it all goes horrendously wrong, kill, baby, kill.

And if all this seems merely metaphoric, there is Rush Limbaugh to rely on, for whom the doomed rig explosion was not just a metaphor, but an actual act of war. Limbaugh says the rig was probably attacked by “a foreign government,” with culprits ranging from “Muslim terrorists to the Red Chinese, Venezuela and beyond.” Michael Savage began simultaneously peddling the same story, but with North Korea behind the ‘attack.’ Cherry-pick your terrorist of choice–whatever–it is war.

The war talk of Limbaugh, Savage & Co would be laughable if it didn’t converge with the broader militarization of the spill. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) is calling for the actual military to take charge. But what part of the military’s mission and expertise, I wonder, leads Nelson to believe that the army could stop the oil billowing from the ocean bed, let alone take charge of the massive response? Do we actually have the military hardware to stave off this thing in the first place? Sure we do. We can send in a Predator Drone, point the Oil Vaporizing Missile at the leak, hit the “If-we-dream-hard-enough” button and…hotdamn. Thing works like a charm.

A painful irony is obvious: we can’t send in the army because it is already overstretched by fighting two ruinous wars abroad, both wars fought precisely to secure the dwindling oil we need to lubricate our profligate lifestyles and keep our global military mobile. But the military can barely manage these wars abroad, let alone cope with environmental catastrophes back home, stretched so thin as it is that soldiers return home with post-traumatic stress so severe they commit suicide at the harrowing rate of eighteen a day.

Couching the catastrophe in the language of war conceals the political void at the heart of the clean-up. The administration’s systematic failure to regulate BP, Halliburton et al before the explosion is matched only by its stunning impotence after the explosion. We’re into the second month and Nungesser is still begging to know who is in charge. Even Admiral Thad Allen told reporters: “To push BP out of the way would raise the question of: Replace them with what?” The robust, accountable civilian agencies that should be responsible have been gutted by decades of deregulation. This is what the far right wants. In the last decade, Republican calls for limiting government have given way to calls for dismantling government, in favor of a system run and policed by the very rapacious energy and fiscal barons who caused the crises in the first place.

In a world of promiscuous deregulation, oil giants like BP take obscene risks and rake in undreamed-of bonanzas. BP, the third largest oil company in the world, has an annual profit of $14 billion; it made $17 billion last year, and $9 billion in the first quarter of this year alone. BP’s top CEO before Tony Hayward, Lord John Browne (at $11 million a year the highest paid CEO in the UK) was so addicted to profit that he cut safety costs at all costs. BP has long been known as the top-ranking safety violator globally. Last year alone, according to OSHA, BP racked up over 700 violations, that is, over 10 violations per day. BP’s Regional Oil Spill Response Plan for the Gulf was so makeshift it included references to walruses and sea-otters, neither of which inhabit the Gulf.

The oil bonanzas are so vast that when the companies are fined for spills, the fines often amount to just a few days annual profits. Exxon Valdes’s fines were reduced by Justice Roberts’ Supreme Court from $5 billion to $500 million and not one company official saw the inside of a jail. So why bother following safety regulations? And when safety regulations are systematically violated, well, stuff happens. Like a dead ocean.

And when stuff happens, what do we do? Who is in charge? Gov. Jindal cries out again: “This is a war. We’ve got to be adaptable.” The trouble is, there is precious little to be adaptable with. Skimmers, sandbags, shovels. Antiquated barges with makeshift vacuums trying to suck up an ocean that is turning black. On TV, I watch men in white overalls hold a puny vacuum-cleaner nozzle to the gargantuan oil slick. Cajun engineering, some wryly call it. Absurd, if it weren’t so awful.

The wildly unregulated oil industry is profit-driven to such a degree that no R and D has gone into developing any clean-up technology for the last forty years. Not since the Santa Barbara disaster in 1969, that is. Not since everyone was still using typewriters. The oil industry has the technology to drill to fabulous, sci-fi, Jules Verne depths, but is still using hopelessly outmoded methods like booms, wetmats, and spades to clean-up after them. Skimmers lumber ineffectually back to shore carrying only 10% oil to 90% water. Kevin Costner’s save-the-day machines are not yet in action. The booms get tangled up in every squall and are laid out with little or no knowledge of the shoreline. I watch as men swirl mops in the ooze.

Where is the R and D for clean-up technology? As I write this, I wonder: I can touch my ipad and in a few seconds beckon from the ethers an invisible book that speeds unseen through the starry skies to materalize magically into print between my fingers. We can pull off this breathtakingly wondrous stunt, but are stumped by the task of scooping up the oil we ceaselessly spill? Why?

It’s not as if there aren’t enough bad spills to warrant spending some serious R and D cash. The sheer untruth of Obama’s claim in April that “oil rigs generally don’t cause spills” could hardly be rivaled. In fact, as much oil is spilled in the world every seven months as was spilled from the Exxon Valdes. In Nigeria’s oil-devastated delta alone, where oil companies operate outside the law, where writer-activist, Ken Saro Wiwa was executed for opposing them, more oil is spilled every year than so far in the current Gulf spill.

But who cares? These spills occur slowly, every day and far away, out of range of the U.S. media’s sensation-driven gaze, evading the disaster-packaging of prime time news. So that Doug Suttels, BP chief, could lie to NBC’s Tom Costello, saying that BP hadn’t developed any remedial spill technology because “there have been so few big spills.” And when warned by a BP engineer that the Deep Horizon was a “nightmare rig,” another BP official responded in an email: “Who cares? It’s done… We will probably be fine.”

We aren’t fine, but perhaps by calling this a war we stave off feelings of helplessness by giving familiar symbolic shape to an unforeseen chaos. Perhaps fear is militarized and given a reassuringly violent form. Certainly, Americans are particularly prone to deploying the language of war to deal with social crises. We pretend to wage war on a lot of things that we can’t wage war on: the war on drugs, on crime, on poverty, on AIDS, the forever War on Terror, and now on oil. The militarization of our culture has become so pervasive that every crisis of neo-liberal capitalism rolling in is seen as the next war.

Very early into the spill, the militarization of the Gulf extended even to journalists being prevented from covering the disaster by a motley alliance of BP contractors and Coast Guards, on the grounds that the Gulf was a war zone. After protests, Admiral Allen assured the media that they would have “uninhibited access,” but the blockades only increased, flyover permits were revoked, photography on public beaches was banned, and cleanup workers were silenced. National guardsman blockaded even CNN from filming oil-damaged birds. The question remains why President Obama, who campaigned on the promise of government transparency, would collude with BP in the media blackout, refusing to let even the New York Times fly over “Ground Zero”–a blatantly militarized reference to an industrial disaster? One Coast Guard official referred to journalists as “media embeds,” but embeds in what, precisely?

All this war talk would be understandable, defensible even, were it not for a fatally circular, feedback loop. BP would not be in the Gulf drilling deeper than it knows how to drill were it not for its uniquely profitable relation with the US military war machine. The United States Department of Defense buys more oil than any other entity on the planet. The protection of overseas oil is now so unquestioned that even Defense Secretary Gates warned against the “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy. And to fuel this militarization, the Pentagon uses 75% of the oil bought by the DOD for its jets, bombers, drones, tanks, and Humvees. And in order to keep buying this oil, the military has to keep protecting our regional oil interests, two thirds of which are now in conflict prone zones. US military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan use a staggering ninety million gallons a month. And to garrison this vast, global gas-station, the DOD keeps expanding, which means buying more oil.

From whom? In 2009, BP was the Pentagon’s largest contractor at $2.2 billion. The DOD has a longstanding, multimillion dollar business relation with BP, which it says it has no intention of relinquishing, even now, in the aftermath of the Gulf disaster. Despite knowledge that BP has racked up 97% of all flagrant safety violations.  In 2005, the DOD paid BP $1.5 billion. Indeed, last year 16% of BP’s profits came from sales to the Pentagon alone.

Keeping this in mind, we would do well to remember that militarization is the number one cause of environmental destruction in the world, and that military production facilities, which are exempt from environmental restrictions, are the most ecologically devastated places on earth. We drill, we spill; nature pays the bill.

Blaming BP means we don’t have to admit our complicity as consumers in the slow-mo, chemical slaughter we have unleashed on the planet. Blaming BP means we don’t have to look too hard in the rear-view mirrors of the cars we drive, or too deep into the plastic water bottles we drink. Last year Americans drank enough plastic water bottles to stretch around the world one hundred and ninety times. Blaming BP means we don’t have to admit how our oil-addiction keeps U.S. foreign policy in thrall to petro-despots and oligarchs.

BP would not be drilling in the Gulf in the first place were it not reaping ungodly, monster profits from our luxurious oil-bingeing. A gas-pedal-to-the-metal nation, we American consumers are especially complicit, our profligate lifestyles devouring 30% of all raw materials used by people globally every year. We Americans siphon 25% of all the earth’s black oil into our cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, mega-malls and military bases. Every one of us who drives one, two, three cars is complicit. Every one of us who shops with plastic bags is complicit. Every one of us who strolls through malls heated to a permanent tropical summer in winter, is complicit. We are all complicit in this calamity. We are all BP now.

FEMA’s Toxic Katrina Trailers, Deemed Unsafe For Housing, Resold To Gulf Cleanup Workers

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Oldspeak:“As if breathing carcinogenic vapors and cleaning up toxic oil with inadequate protection isn’t enough, some people are sleeping in cancer trailers. Disaster Capitalism at it finest :-|”

From Marian Wang @ Pro Publica:

Large-scale disaster — this time in the form of BP’s crude oil — has again hit the Gulf Coast, and with it have returned the familiar white trailers that the government provided to survivors of Hurricane Katrina years ago.

According to The New York Times, these trailers — known to have high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen – are popping up again in connection with the BP oil disaster, potentially putting more people at risk of the health problems associated with the industrial chemical: nasal cancer, upper respiratory problems, and leukemia.

In March, The Washington Post reported that the federal government was offloading thousands of these old FEMA trailers. Some of them, purchased in bulk by middlemen, are now being resold to cleanup workersand their employers, who are scrambling for housing, the Times reported, even though the government has “banned them from ever being used for long-term housing again.”

As ProPublica has reported extensively, for years after Hurricane Katrina, the federal government downplayed concerns about the trailers’ formaldehyde levels, despite early warnings from whistleblowers. It only later acknowledged it was applying the wrong exposure standard to judge their safety.

According to FEMA, these trailers are not intended for use as housing — buyers must be informed of this and warning labels must be posted. According to the Times, however, these rules aren’t always being followed by the middlemen who are selling them:

Officials with the inspector general’s office of theGeneral Services Administration said Wednesday that they had opened at least seven cases concerning buyers who might not have posted the certification and formaldehyde warnings on trailers they sold.

Federal records indicate that of the hundreds of companies and individuals who have bought the trailers, dozens are in Louisiana. They include Henderson Auctions, which bought 23,636 units for $18 million, and Kite Brothers RV, which bought 6,511 mobile homes and travel trailers for $16 million.

On Henderson Auctions’ Web site, a spokeswoman is quoted in a news video saying that people who live on the street or in their cars would much rather live in the trailers and that the formaldehyde has dissipated after four or five years.

Clearly, folks are still living in some of these trailers. Here’s one of the buyers, to the Times:

John Sercovich, the owner of Bud’s Boat Rentals in Belle Chasse, La., said that he thought the trailer he bought for some of his workers to stay in was more than adequate.

“We couldn’t have afforded it any other way,” he said.

Most of the workers in the Gulf, the Times piece pointed out, are not living in the trailers. (And good thing — they have other health concerns to worry about.)

Finally, while we’re on the subject of formaldehyde, it’s also worth noting that the EPA declared it a known carcinogen in a draft risk assessment released last month. As we’ve reported, this assessment is one that David Vitter, a Louisiana senator with ties to the formaldehyde industry, managed to get the EPA to delay for quite some time.

Bill Clinton: We May Have to Blow Up The BP Oil Well

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Oldspeak : “Well wouldja look at that… Ol’ Billy Clint, stating the obvious. Should have been the  1st option, not the 5th, and it’s rarely been mentioned as a solution. But, as we’ve come to see, if there’s no profit in it, it’s not happening. BP’s primary objective here is saving their revenue stream, NOT the Gulf of Mexico.”

From Brian Montopoli @ CBS News:

Former President Bill Clinton said during a panel discussion in South Africa that it may become necessary to blow up the Deepwater Horizon well that continues to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Unless we send the Navy down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of rock and debris, which may become necessary – you don’t have to use a nuclear weapon by the way, I’ve seen all that stuff, just blow it up – unless we’re going to do that, we are dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP,” Clinton said.

There has been some pressure for BP to simply blow up the well, with critics suggesting the company is forgoing that option out of a desire to get as much oil as possible from the rig.

“If we demolish the well using explosives, the investment’s gone,” former nuclear submarine officer and a visiting scholar on nuclear policy at Columbia University Christopher Brownfield said in a Fox News interview in May. “They lose hundreds of millions of dollars from the drilling of the well, plus no lawmaker in his right mind would allow BP to drill again in that same spot. So basically, it’s an all-or-nothing thing with BP: They either keep the well alive, or they lose their whole investment and all the oil that they could potentially get from that well.” (He penned an opinion piece in the New York Times making the argument.)

Some lawmakers have also pushed for blowing up the well.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why BP couldn’t go into the ocean floor, maybe 10 feet lateral to the — around the periphery — drill a few holes and put a little ammonium nitrate, some dynamite, in those holes and detonate that dynamite and seal that leak. And seal it permanently,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (Ga.) said earlier this month.