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

Posts Tagged ‘Gulf Oil Spill’

Dispersant Disaster: A Closer Look At BP’s Toxic Solution.

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 9:40 am

Residents living near Oyster Bay, part of the larger Mobile Bay in Alabama, found thousands of dead prey fish before oil hit the cost.

Oldspeak: ” ‘Corexit producer Nalco claims the newest version, Corexit 9500, is more than 27 times safer than dish soap,’  riiiight… I can’t say I know of a dish soap that causes headaches, nausea,  trouble breathing, and kills any wildlife that come into contact with it.”

From Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Kristian Gustavson found “all sorts” of dead dolphins and sea turtles on Ship Island in past weeks. Dead marine life is a common sight in the Gulf of Mexico these days, but Gustavson said the water was clear. The beaches on the Mississippi barrier island were white and clean. Oil from the British Petroleum’s underwater catastrophe had not reached the sprawling marine graveyard.

Gustavson, co-founder of conservation group Below the Surface, believes these animals may not have simply fallen victim to the oil that has been gushing from BP’s deepwater well since the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster. He said the controversial oil dispersant BP is spraying across the slick could be the culprit.

Dispersants break up the oil slick into smaller, more biodegradable droplets. Gustavson said the process is good for aesthetics, but huge plumes of dispersed oil are now clouding the deep sea with toxins and moving inland.

Corexit, the main line of dispersants used by BP, came under public scrutiny last week after a Congressman informed The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it is all but banned in the United Kingdom. The EPA told BP to use less Corexit and invest in chemicals proven to be less toxic and more effective.  BP issued a response defending their decision to use Corexit, and soon the amount of dispersants dumped in the Gulf neared an unprecedented one million gallons.

Dozens of residents along the Gulf Coast have reported headaches, nausea and trouble breathing after coming in contact with oil and dispersant fumes, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. But Corexit producer Nalco claims the newest version, Corexit 9500, is “more than 27 times safer than dish soap,” according to a web release.

Nalco is an international chemical company directed by board members who cut their petrochemical teeth with companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Exxon and – you guessed it – BP. When the media discovered the EPA had rated 12 dispersants as more effective than Corexit, all eyes turned to Nalco board memberRodney Chase, who spent 38 years with BP and left as an executive.

A million gallons of any chemical, including dish soap, could certainly harm people and wildlife, and Corexit is no exception. Nalco’s own safety data sheet identifies three hazardous chemicals in Corexit 9500, and lists symptoms of exposure as “acute” and consistent with reports from the poison control centers.

Corexit 9500 predecessor Corexit 9527 contained the notorious chemical 2-butoxyethanol that allegedly poisoned cleanup workers during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster. The Corexit 9500 data sheet does not include the chemical in its list of hazards, but a 1996 University of California study on invertebrates concluded that there was no “significant difference” in toxicity between Corexit 9500 and the older formula.

In 2005, researchers at the University of Plymouth in the UK reported that Corexit’s ability to kill invertebrates constituting the base of the underwater food chain increases substantially at a certain concentration level. The report concluded that Corexit poses a threat to shallow water ecosystems like wetlands, estuaries and coral reefs.

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This threat is a reality for conservationist Casi Callaway, director of the Mobile Baykeeper group. Oil had yet to officially reach Alabama’s Mobile Bay when Callaway spoke with Truthout on last Thursday, but she said the devastation had already begun.

“We’ve had massive fish kills,” said Callaway. “The first fish kill we had was two weeks ago … it was everything, thousands of dead fish.”

Callaway said locals have observed BP contract workers filling trash bags with “brown goop” and requesting observers stop taking pictures. She believes the microbes and invertebrates consuming the vast underwater plumes of dispersed oil are depleting the oxygen in the Gulf and choking out other species. She also said it is a “very strong possibility” that dispersants are moving into Mobile Bay ahead of the oil.

Like many researchers and conservationists, Callaway knows that some ecological sacrifices must be made to save the Gulf from destruction. But both Callaway and Gustavson say the dispersants are just a dirty way for the giant corporation to save face.

“The chemical dispersant to us is a PR mechanism,” Callaway said. “Get it out of sight, get it out of mind. What we don’t know about the chemical dispersant is every reason not to use it.”

She insists options like siphoning and burning the oil are not perfect, but they are safer than filling the water with chemicals and expanding clouds of sinking oil droplets. Gustavson, who insists that “fighting pollution with pollution” can never work, said he is researching ways to use the Mississippi River and the natural filtration power of the wetlands to address the disaster.

For conservationists like Callaway and Gustavson, the fight to restore the Gulf Coast will continue for years. They don’t have billions of dollars to throw around like BP and corporate disaster profiteers, but they know environmental stewardship does more than scratch the surface. It goes much deeper than that.

BP And Halliburton Build Legal Teams, Attempt To Buy Off Government Officials

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Oldspeak: ” Corporate Psychology 101 #1 Externalize Cost, Internalize Profit. #2 Buy off regulators/politicians to facilitate maximum cost/corner-cutting and rule bending/breaking. #3 Recruit high powered legal teams to bury victims in paper/procedural work and avoid paying for inevitable fuck ups when the shit hits the fan.”

From Alex Seitz-Wald @ Think Progress:

Facing possible jail time for their roles in the largest oil spill in American history, BP and Halliburton are building high-powered legal teams with “deep Department of Justice and White House ties.” But the companies are pursuing other means to defend themselves as well.

Halliburton’s campaign donations have spiked as it tries to curry favor with key members of Congress investigating the disaster. The company donated $17,000 in May, making it “the busiest donation month for Halliburton’s PAC since September 2008,” Politico reports. Thirteen of the 14 contributions from May went to Republicans, while seven went to members of Congress who are “on committees with oversight of the oil spill and its aftermath”:

About one week before executive Timothy Probert appeared before the House Energy and Commerce’s investigative subcommittee, Halliburton donated $1,500 to Ranking Republican Joe Barton’s reelection effort. It was Halliburton’s second-largest donation of the month — topped only by $2,500 to former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is running for the Senate.

In the Senate, Idaho Republican Mike Crapo, who serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, who serves on the Commerce Committee and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr (N.C.), who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, all got $1,000. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also got $1,000.

Meanwhile, a Hill analysis found that primarily during the Bush administration, BP and other oil companies “paid for dozens of trips and meals for officials” from the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Homeland Security — agencies deeply involved in the regulation of oil exploration and spill cleanup. BP had the “highest tab for gifts to government officials” of all oil and gas companies:

BP and its affiliates — BP America and BP Exploration — show up in the gift reports at least 16 different times,paying for meals as well as for oil and gas industry seminars and tours of oil facilities. The cost of the gifts totaled more than $7,200.

Only two industry-funded trips took place during the first nine months of President Obama’s administration. In 2004, BP paid for a group of Interior officials to visit an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The group included then-deputy secretary J. Steven Griles, who later went to prison for his role in Jack Abramoff scandal. In 2005, BP paid for travel and meals for then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton and then-Minerals Management Service (MMS) Director Johnnie Burton to attended the dedication ceremony of another offshore rig in the Gulf. BP also paid for officials from the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service to visit Prudhoe Bay, Alaska over a period of several years. A recent Interior Inspector General report covering 2005 to 2007 found a “culture of lax oversight and cozy ties to industry.” Since January of 2008, BP lobbyists have spent $30 million to influence legislation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Some coastal governors have benefited from BP as well. BP and other oil companies gave Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) $1.8 million dollars for his campaign, and since the spill, he’s beenaggressively downplaying the disaster and encouraging people to visit his state’s oily beaches. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) traveled to a BP-funded conference in Houston last month “to lobby aggressively to drill for oil and natural gas without delay.” Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) dismissed potential BP negligence by calling the spill an “act of God” at a trade association funded by BP in May.

Government Impotence and Corporate Rule

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

Oldspeak: “Just as we saw in Wall Street’s devastating economic disaster and in Massey Energy’s murderous explosion inside its Upper Big Branch coal mine, the nastiness in the gulf is baring an ugly truth that We the People must finally face: We are living under de facto corporate rule that has rendered our government impotent.” The corporatocracy is slowly and surely choking the life out of civilization and democracy as we know it. Short-term profit trumps common sense, safety, and long-term sustainability.

From Jim Hightower @ Truthout:

Many news reports about the Gulf oil catastrophe refer to it as a “spill.” Wrong. A spill is a minor “oops” — one accidentally spills milks, for example, and from childhood, we’re taught the old aphorism: “Don’t cry over spilt milk.” What’s in the Gulf isn’t milk and it wasn’t spilt. The explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon well was the inevitable result of deliberate decisions made by avaricious corporate executives, laissez faire politicians and obsequious regulators.

As the ruinous gulf oil blowout spreads onto land, over wildlife, across the ocean floor and into people’s lives, it raises a fundamental question for all of us Americans: Who the hell’s in charge here? What we’re witnessing is not merely a human and environmental horror, but also an appalling deterioration in our nation’s governance. Just as we saw in Wall Street’s devastating economic disaster and in Massey Energy’s murderous explosion inside its Upper Big Branch coal mine, the nastiness in the gulf is baring an ugly truth that We the People must finally face: We are living under de facto corporate rule that has rendered our government impotent.

Thirty years of laissez-faire, ideological nonsense (pushed upon us with a vengeance in the past decade) has transformed government into a subsidiary of corporate power. Wall Street, Massey, BP and its partners — all were allowed to become their own “regulators” and officially encouraged to put their short-term profit interests over the public interest.

Let’s not forget that on April 2, barely two weeks before Deepwater Horizon blew and 11 people perished on the spot, the public’s No. 1 official, Barack Obama, trumpeted his support for more deepwater oil drilling, blithely regurgitating Big Oil’s big lie: “Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills.” He and his advisors had not bothered to check the truth of that — they simply took the industry’s word. That’s not governing, it’s aiding and abetting profiteers, and it’s a pathetic performance.

But that was only the start of Washington’s oily confession that it has surrendered control to corporate arrogance and avarice. With an unprecedented volume of crude gushing from the well and the magnitude of the disaster multiplying geometrically by the day, who was in charge of coping with that? Not the White House, not the interior secretary, not the EPA. As we saw when Wall Street’s greed exploded our economy, the polluting scoundrels were left in charge!

While BP’s dapper CEO issued patently ridiculous statements (such as, “Everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impact of this will be very, very modest.”), our government blindly went along with BP’s false assertion that only some 5,000 barrels a day were pouring from the well, when independent experts were shouting at the White House that the correct volume was up to 19 times that much.

Finally, almost a month after the blowout, Obama ordered a moratorium on drilling new offshore wells and on granting environmental waivers to the oil giants. Bravo, Mr. President! But … his moratorium was simply ignored. Days after his order, oil companies were handed at least seven more drilling permits and five waivers.

Last week, with 63 percent of the public disapproving of his meek deference to BP, the president of the United States of America was reduced to convening a press conference to insist that he was “engaged” and, behind the scenes, was “monitoring” BP’s efforts.

Wow, monitoring! Excuse me, but who’s the president here? Obama should personally take charge —cancel all of his social and political events, convene an emergency response team of the best scientific minds in the world, announce a clear plan of clean-up actions, install all relevant Cabinet officials in a Gulf Coast command center to direct the actions, make daily reports on progress to the public, fire a mess of failed regulators and go to Congress with sweeping legislation to replace America’s oil dependency with a crash program of conservation and renewable energy sources.

Oh, he should also wring a few corporate necks. Instead of monitoring these criminals, prosecute them — and put the public back in charge of our government.

BP Told to Stop Distributing Oil Spill Settlement Agreements

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Oldspeak: Sociopathic Corporate Behavior, in all it’s splendor.

From CBS News:

BP is financially responsible for the devastatingly massive oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico, but some are concerned the oil company isn’t giving residents along the affected coastline or emergency relief crews a fair shake.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King said Sunday night that he has told BP they should stop circulating settlement agreements among coastal Alabamians, the Mobile Press-Register reports. King reportedly said the agreements stipulate that residents will give up their right to sue the company in exchange for a payment of up to $5,000.

“People need to proceed with caution and understand the ramifications before signing something like that,” said King, who noted that he is prohibited from giving legal advice to private citizens. “They should seek appropriate counsel to make sure their rights are protected.”

The Press-Register reports that BP spokesman Darren Beaudo responded, “To the best of my knowledge BP did not ask residents of Alabama to waive their legal rights in the way that has been described.”

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are holding a conference call with BP executives later today to discuss the claims process for people impacted by the oil spill, CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer reports.

Meanwhile, BP has agreed to alter waivers signed by fishermen responding to the disaster, after a fisherman complained to a U.S. District judge. Commercial fisherman George Barasich on Sunday asked a federal court to stop BP from forcing the volunteer corps of oil-spill responders to sign a waiver that compromised their right to sue the company in the case of an accident and required confidentiality about the clean up.

According to the Globe and Mail, the waiver read, “I hearby agree on behalf of myself and my representatives, to hold harmless and indemnify, and to release, waive, and forever discharge BP Exploration and Production Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees and independent contractors…”

After a judge said the waiver was too broad, BP said it would strip out the offending provisions and would not enforce the waivers already signed.

BP CEO Tony Hayward told CBS’ “The Early Show” Monday that “This is not our accident, but it’s our responsibility.” On the company’s website, BP says it will pay compensation for “legitimate and objectively verifiable” claims for property damage, personal injury and commercial losses.

President Obama this weekend said the oil spill is a “massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.”