Suspend British Petroleum’s Gulf Leases, again…

Nothing is over...
Nothing’s over…

It was over four years ago that British Petroleum unleashed their disaster in the Gulf Coast and for four years we’ve all been hearing about how BP will not rest until they “make it right” for the Gulf and all affected by the spilled oil from the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed eleven people and have harmed tens of thousands more. We hear it. We hear it all the time. To this day, the commercials play out across television, radio, on billboards and on the internet, yet what they say is still far from the truth.

Things in the Gulf are not all right.

Instead, they have become litigious and a company that’s reaped so much profit is now spending on so many lawyers to sift through their agreements for technicalities while disputing new environmental evidence, practices that though they may follow the letter of the law and allow those at BP to sleep at night, damages the spirit of their agreements with a region repeatedly violated, turning this four year old, ongoing disaster into nightmares for those across the Gulf Coast.

So, maybe it’s time for their leases to again be suspended by the EPA until they stop fighting, accept responsibility and truly make amends not only for the known damages, but for any succeeding damage to both people and the environment not yet uncovered. Suspend their leases until their following courses of action change:

The Supreme Court Appeal

In 2012, British Petroleum agreed to a settlement with people harmed by their oil spill, an arrangement with a complex methodology that takes into account a business’s location within certain zones along the Gulf Coast and a basic formula for lost revenues and recovery. Since this agreement, BP has been challenging that some of the methodology’s covered businesses couldn’t have been harmed by the spill and has argued, repeatedly in front of US District Court Judge Carl Barbier’s court that these businesses should not be paid. Barbier has consistently and repeatedly maintained that BP entered into an agreement and should abide, that BP agreed to pay businesses according to this formula as part of a compromise and it would be disingenuous to now try to pick apart the methodology they agreed to in his courtroom.

But BP is not backing down. They instead are asking the Supreme Court to protect them from their own decisions, from their own agreements and word will come down in October from the Supreme Court on whether they will hear this appeal. It’s four years after the spill. The national media is gone from the story. British Petroleum wants out of their agreement to “make things right.”

The Medical Settlements

When the Deepwater Horizon exploded, workers were hired by the thousandfold to clean up the oil, lay and replace boom, whatever was necessary to get as much of the oil out of the water as quickly as possible. Many of these clean-up workers didn’t have protective equipment and many non-oil clean-up workers also were affected by the toxins, just by living in the area or being on or near the water. This has understandably left a lot of people in the Gulf sick, and many more could become sick later. British Petroleum is now interpreting their medical settlements not by what will make people whole for these medical complaints, but by when they were diagnosed with their ailments…a calender date that has little to do with the severity of any medical consequences and everything to do with how much British Petroleum wants to pay to settle a bill for any possible medical care.

Again, it’s four years after the spill and the national media is gone from the story. British Petroleum wants to alter their agreement and it would seem, make things just right enough for their bottom line.

Ongoing Environmental Damage

And the oil is not gone, neither is the chemical dispersant they used. Environmental damage to the Gulf Coast continues with record dolphin and sea turtle deaths as well as extensive damage to coral that show the oil spill’s footprint is both deeper and wider than previously thought. Last year, beach monitors discovered more than 46,000 thousand tar balls and over one and a half tons of submerged tar mats, and there is also evidence that the “quickly evaporating” dispersant BP dumped all over the Gulf is still there, found in tests all over the region. In addition, the oyster situation is grim with thousands of acres of oyster beds producing less than a third of the pre-oil spill harvest. Also troubling is the complete lack of oyster larvae on all of these decimated reefs, places where the oil came ashore and would seem to forecast that the oyster yields will not improve any time soon.

When confronted with any of this evidence BP sticks to standard blame shifting, citing possible other causes or saying the evidence shows nothing conclusive, a shrug of the shoulders from the latest BP spokesman before moving on and really, why not? It would appear British Petroleum is counting on the nation no longer paying attention to how, or how not concerned BP really is with the Gulf and besides, didn’t you see the commercials, the bright and shining faces, the pastoral natural scenes of sunsets and water and birds and boats and…

BP is doing quite alright, thank you

Just ask their shareholders, who must be feeling pretty good about their investment these days, especially when BP recently came to an agreement with the EPA and are now resuming business with the Federal Government in the Gulf. In fact, at the most recent auction, British Petroleum was the “highest bidder on 24 offshore oil and gas blocks out of the 31 properties it pursued in auction.” This to go along with increased dividends for shareholders, several new oil rigs coming online and a 10% increased stock price projection based on their 2nd quarter earnings in 2014.

Bully.

So then…BP is fighting Deepwater Horizon business and medical settlements in court, is shifting blame on the environmental destruction they caused, the deaths to sea turtles, coral, dolphins and the decimation of thousands of oyster reefs all while minimizing the amount of oil and dispersant still in the Gulf and still washing ashore. In addition, they are again bidding on oil blocks for new oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, set to start reaping in even greater profits than before.

Again. Bully.

This is making someone right, yes…but not the Gulf.

This is seeking loopholes in settlement agreements to pay as little as possible to those they’ve harmed while laying the groundwork to make even more profit from the very region they’ve wrecked.

That’s not justice.

And in response, it would only seem fair to propose that until British Petroleum truly honors their words, they should not be permitted to continue in the Gulf. They should remain locked out from a region they’ve already harmed so much, at least until they truly account for themselves and follow the spirit of their agreements by sending their lawyers home. I understand this suggestion might seem extreme, but is it any less extreme than the belief that everyone impacted by their 2010 spill should receive complete restitution, that the coast should be rebuilt and that all medical bills should be paid, regardless of when the diagnosis occurred? I stand by those beliefs and for BP to meet this bar, it would be to keep their promises and their agreements. It would be to actually honor what they claimed they would do from the beginning: to make things right, because right now, every roadblock BP throws up in court dishonors their company, their promises and everyone affected who has to suffer, worry or leave their lives in the Gulf behind.

The EPA should suspend the leases until BP stops their squirming.

Suspend the leases and close BP’s wallets until they finally decide to open them for the purpose of paying for the damage they’ve done, without technicality, loophole or blame-shifting….and make them keep that wallet open as we continue to learn the extant of the damages they’ve caused as a result of their negligence.

Have a nice day.

And for continued coverage of Gulf Coast happenings, please continue to read:

Dambala at American Zombie.

David Hammer at WWL.

Advertisements

Remembering…

Deepwater_Horizon_offshore_drilling_unit_on_fireTo the families that lost loved ones that day and to the families that lost loved ones after, to all the people who make their living off that water, the business owners and the families along the Gulf Coast…still thinking about and wishing you the best.

To BP who is still trying to weasel their way out of this, the Gulf is still not healed and won’t be for years, decades to come so stop with the commercials already…may the dolphins haunt your dreams, killer style, so you wake up screaming.

To Bobby, stop trying to let the oil companies off the hook for any past, present or future crimes…dude, you are not going to be President. Seriously. Not a chance, no matter how indignant you pretend to be.

Stay strong in the Gulf…

Have a nice day.

Fines vs. Penalties

Off to work they go...
Off to work they go…

So, today’s the day.

The big civil trial in New Orleans: BP vs. the world with all the lawyers, guns and money…all that kinda shit.

Course, both the government and British Petroleum been working hard, meeting and organizing and negotiating to try to find a settlement, a way out of this whole trial mess, come up with the exact amount of money BP will have to pay…a figure low enough that BP will finally just write a check but also high enough so the Feds can claim justice has been served.

Word is that amount is right around $16 billion dollars to cover the Clean Water Act fines and environmental penalties related to the spill.

Fines vs. penalties…

There’s a big difference between fines and penalties, such as the following: British Petroleum has to pay the fines assessed, but the environmental penalties? Well, those are tax deductible which essentially means they are paid by the taxpayers. Yes, as those negotiations commence, and will more than likely continue even as the trial begins, BP is pushing to have lower fines and higher environmental damage penalties. And if this were to be the case, this would mean BP essentially puts the money out there to pay the penalty, but then reduces their taxes by that same amount so BP again breaks even, leaving the people, the taxpayers to pick up the slack in the economy.

Well now, isn’t that just like an oil company?

Have a nice day.

Reality is what you pay for…

Not BP's reality.
Not BP’s reality.

Making things right.

Let me just tell you how much I hate every possible phrasing of this sentiment.

Previous to the Deepwater Horizon, whenever I head this phrase used, it carried a certain ring of sincerity, of concern, of really trying to make amends for a wrong, but my how things have changed.

Now, “Making things right” is just a punchline, a big joke or at best a legal argument on whose version of “right” wins out. British Petroleum would contend they are doing everything they can and the Gulf is pretty much back to normal, but the people who do not live in British Petroleum’s commercials…well, they often have a different reality to discuss.

Recently, BP added up all the claims made by states and local governments on the Gulf Coast and came up with a total of $34 billion dollars.

Garret Graves, senior coastal adviser to the worst Governor in all human history, Bobby Jindal, was quoted as saying this about that figure, “Perhaps this helps BP to realize the size and scope of the problems they have caused the citizens of the Gulf…they have continued to try to downplay the significance the oil spill has had on us. BP hasn’t done itself any favors in gaining goodwill with anyone in the Gulf. With a few exceptions early on, they have been incredibly difficult to deal with and their credibility is subsurface.”

British Petroleum, however, strongly disagrees with Graves and especially that $34 billion dollar figure, calling it “substantially” overstated and the methods used to calculate it as, “seriously flawed.”

Sigh…

It’s no secret that British Petroleum has had a spin machine in such overdrive these past couple of years they’ve had to replace the ball bearings seven times, but what BP doesn’t seem to understand is that no matter how much money they spend on corporate image and down home folksy commercials to give their side of things, the facts keep trickling in…

Oil is still coming ashore on the barrier islands. Wildlife and habitat are still threatened. The erosion that occurred as a result of this spill ain’t coming back. There is far more not known about the effects of that oil than is currently known…oh, and remember that $1 billion dollar promise British Petroleum made, meant to fund early restoration efforts over a two year period?

Well, the Gulf Restoration Network recently reported that the two year timeline is coming to a close and BP has only programed $70 million dollars, less than 10% of what they promised.

From the GRN:

“Stop stalling and fully fund all projects necessary to repair the damage from your oil and dispersant, including marine restoration. Specifically, Cat Island, a critical coastal habitat for the Louisiana brown pelican, is vanishing while you sit on the $1 billion you promised to spend.  Allocate these early restoration dollars faster without demanding huge credits towards your ultimate liability. ”

BP is not fulfilling their promises.

And this fact, like many others, has been left out of BP’s commercials. It does not fit the reality BP is paying for and the above is just one example.

Making things right…my stomach turns at the sound of “making things right.” And upon hearing this phrase for the umpteenth time one must ask…

Right, for who?

Go to the Gulf Restoration Network and send BP an e-mail:

Click Here

Have a nice day.

The Deal: what BP/Feds know that you don’t…

We'll send you a Christmas Card...
Well, we know this bird’s dead…

“No one can bring those fathers, husbands and sons back, but I am here to express our apologies…We — and by that I mean the men and the women of the management of BP, its Board of Directors, and its many employees — are deeply sorry for the tragic loss of the 11 men who died and the others who were injured that day…our guilty plea makes clear, BP understands and acknowledges its role in that tragedy, and we apologize — BP apologizes — to all those injured and especially to the families of the lost loved ones. BP is also sorry for the harm to the environment that resulted from the spill, and we apologize to the individuals and communities who were injured.”

– Albert Keller, VP of BP America

These were the words, read in the court of US District Judge Sarah Vance, just before she accepted the agreement negotiated between the Feds and British Petroleum requiring the company to pay $4 billion dollars in fines to settle criminal charges from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.

$4 billion dollars is a lot of money…but is it enough?

Well, I suppose that would depend on who you are and what you know.

And what does BP know?

They know they will be paying $1 billion dollars a year for four years to settle this fine, just as they know they made $25 billion in profit last year. They know they’ve long since resumed paying dividends to stockholders. They know they continue to drill for oil in United States waters. They know their continued advertisements celebrating their version of renewed health in the Gulf reach far more people than the scientific studies indicating otherwise. They know how much money they will have to pay out, and how to plan for it, even with the coming clean water act fines and they know that when all is said and done, they’re going to be okay. They will be making money to replace the money they’ve had to pay, and then the following year, they will make more, then more…and on it goes, with none of the CEO’s seeing any jail time. Ultimately, BP knows they’ve weathered this storm.

Okay, and what do the people of the Gulf Coast not know?

The families of the dead do not know when their personal grieving will stop. They don’t know when life, if life can get back to normal. They don’t know if the marshes will completely recover. They don’t know how badly the environment’s been damaged, what the long term effects of all this will be. They don’t know what it means ultimately that the smallest organisms have been decimated by this spill, the organisms small fish feed on, which are in turn fed upon by birds and they don’t know where on this food chain the damage stops, or if it does. They don’t know what the long term health implications of oil and corexit exposure will mean to their families. They don’t know how many marriages have failed, how many businesses have been lost, how many people have died as a result of this spill. Ultimately, they don’t know if this storm will ever stop.

And finally, despite the statement by the VP of BP America, the people of the Gulf Coast don’t know how, or if this tragedy has personally affected the CEO’s and the board members of British Petroleum. They don’t know this because their apology has come in the form of television commercial, press releases and court statements. BP’s never had to look directly into the eyes of eleven families who lost their loved ones.

So, is $4 billion dollars enough?

I don’t know, what happened to British Petroleum stock when this deal was announced?

It went up.

Have a nice day.

Not their fault, again…

What could go wrong?
What could go wrong?

How many years later?

Want to know how much oil remains in the Gulf, buried off the coast in Louisiana, how much that oil might still tarnish the sea life, how much oil, still remaining from the Deepwater Horizon could potentially come ashore as a result of the next hurricane?

Tough.

Ed Overton, speaking at the three day “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference” said, “NRDA has collected those samples but you can’t get folks to talk about it.”

Odd.

Would seem this would be good information for the public to have. It would seem that British Petroleum, with all their commitments to, and commercials for, the people of the Gulf Coast and this nation could call for this information to be released, quickly, to the public who could be so impacted and therefore would benefit from having that information, you know, because BP ain’t leaving until they’ve fixed each and every one of you.

Okay, so then what’s the problem?

Well, according to Ed Overton it’s simply because the National Resource Damage Assessment is meant to help determine how much British Petroleum will have to pay. And British Petroleum is trying to pay as little as possible and that would only make sense. They are a corporation after all and what corporation wants to just give anybody free money, especially when that corporation has a long history of fucking up environments and having accidents that kill people, meaning they’re used to these court cases and they know how it all works and yes, that’s what it all comes down to…courts.

Courts and money and the paying of as little of it as they possibly can. Still, so want to know how much oil still exists in the sediment in the Gulf?

Fine, stop trying to get money with your penalties and your suits from the oil company whose disaster put it there. Then, maybe the government won’t feel the need to protect that information in anticipation of going to court with British Petroleum who will try to contest each and every piece of that information.

Really people, BP’s just trying to be ready for their next appearance in court.

BP’s just trying to protect their own interests.

Not yours.

Again.

Have a nice day.

Down: A little New Orleans in San Francisco…

Last night I attended a little shindig put on by Down, a great band from New Orleans.

Great show. Knew all the songs. Got some bruises. A lot of spilled beer. I suppose that’s all I need to say about it and if it had been a normal night, maybe that’s all I would…but when I got home after the show, a quick eight block walk through my beloved Tenderloin, I couldn’t get to sleep. I just laid in my bed, my ears ringing while I stared at the ceiling…thinking. On the street outside, people were shouting. I heard a scream. Maybe a gunshot? Don’t know for sure. Those sounds are pretty typical so no worries. Sirens. Ho-hum…but I couldn’t get to sleep. reminded me of my place many years ago in the Quarter where I would listen to the revelry on St. Ann below my hurricane doors and balcony and yeah, thinking…

Thinking.

Fuck I miss New Orleans.

That’s what was going through my mind. I miss the hell out of New Orleans.

Out here in San Francisco, I can watch all the Treme I want. I can go to Brenda’s for breakfast lunch and dinner. I can go see bands like Down when they come round, or Rebirth brass Band or Dr. John or whoever…but these things make me miss New Orleans all the more.

Where I work, at a support services apartment building for people who’ve been through the mill…or maybe four, five and six mills, I was actually put in charge of organizing the Mardi Gras celebration with and for the building residents. I was talking to one guy who asked about decorations. I laughed and said I’ll just bring in all the shit hanging on my walls for the day. He thought I was kidding until I described the things hanging on my wall…art, beads, posters. Hell I got a full sized City of New Orleans flag on my wall.

But no, none of that helps either.

And then last night at the show…don’t get me wrong, the music was great…beyond great. It’s the best show I’ve seen since I moved back to San Francisco but what really got me thinking about things were the band members and how much fun they were having. Down’s a pretty serious band, heavy stuff and dark moods, but when the singer leads the crowd in a chant of “Fuck the Falcons,” before they even play a note or when the guitarist mentions how he is envious of the 49ers defense because the Saints just have two offenses and then the general camaraderie of the band between songs: the laughter, the obviously long friendships and the feel. Yeah, that feel…for brief moments inside the Regency Ballroom last night, I felt like I was hanging out at the Maple Leaf or maybe the Spotted Cat, the Blue Nile or One Eyed Jack’s. Felt like community, that’s how it felt, and it’s a feeling still with me today, right now as I type this.

To New Orleans and the people I’ve come to know there…you’re missed and much as I love San Francisco…

I got some more thinking to do.

Have a nice day.

Down – Eyes of the South

What’s ten billion dollars between friends?

A thought on the negotiations: put this on the table between Eric Holder and Bob Dudley and then let them negotiate away…

Despite the continued insistence of public relations hacks employed by the oil company hell known as British Petroleum that all in the Gulf is either well, or quickly on the mend, troubles persist:

“Researchers are trying to determine whether more than 100 dolphins stranded on the Texas coast, most of them in Galveston, died because of the BP oil spill, a deadly algal bloom or some undetermined cause.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ruled last month that the dolphin deaths qualified as an “unusual mortality event,” said Blair Mase, NASA southeast region marine mammal stranding coordinator.

The strandings also come after a NOAA study found that dolphins in Barataria Bay on the Louisiana coast were in poor health because of exposure to oil. Dolphins in the bay, severely affected by the spill, had low weight and liver and lung ailments.”

And then there’s this:

“Gloom infects the hard-working shrimp and crab docks of this gritty fishing town as the second full year of fishing since BP’s catastrophic oil spill kicks into high gear.

Usually folks are upbeat and busy in May, when shrimpers get back to work in Louisiana’s rich waters. This spring, though, catches are down, docks are idle and anxiety is growing that the ill effects of the massive BP oil spill may be far from over.

An Associated Press examination of catch data from last year’s commercial harvest along the gulf — the first full year of fishing since the 2010 spill — reveals merit in the fishermen’s complaints. According to the analysis of figures obtained through public-records requests, seafood crops hit rock bottom in the Barataria estuary, the same place where some of the thickest waves of oil washed in when a BP well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.”

So color my less cynical side surprised to read this:

“BP is pushing for a $15bn (£9.7bn) settlement with the American authorities to resolve all civil and criminal claims relating to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, substantially less than the $25bn demanded by the US department of justice.”

Okay, so an immediate question springs to mind:

What the fuck is there to even be negotiating about?

This damned company, by way of error kills eleven people and screws an ecosystem, then goes about obscuring flow rates during the response…is in negotiations to lower the dollar amount on penalties they’ll incur as a result of their very costly shenanigans…nice. This is the company taking responsibility. This is the company with all them fancy television commercials. This is the company whose smiling (dick)head Bob Dudley looks on warmly to reassure everyone not living on the Gulf Coast just how righteous, humble and truly sorry he and his corporation truly are…while on the Gulf, where people continue to pay attention, the facts do not bear this out…this guy…I tell ya.

He’s in negotiations with the justice department and reports are these talks are “accelerating.”

Yeah, but accelerating to what?

One more screw-job for the Gulf? One more in a really long list of shenanigans shoved onto a region, poisoning its environment for decades and almost destroying New Orleans, one of this nation’s great cities?

Unlike the Corps, BP must be held accountable, completely.

Maybe for the first time in what, who knows how long anymore, it’s time for the government to stop listening to what’s good for a company and pay closer attention to the people said company screwed.

Idealistic?

Maybe.

But after watching these GOP fucks this past year…it would seem idealism is the only thing they want us to have anymore.

Have a nice day.

In no way an attack on science…

BP’s version…

Most who have followed the story of the BP Catastraphuk are familiar with the company’s enlisting of scientists and university research departments to silence them with non-disclosure requirements explore what has happened to the Gulf environment, to do the research so all the Gulf States can be made whole, well, complete, fixed like a motherfucker while Dudley sails off to the shareholders meeting, to Texas, into the sunset whilst nodding humbly to the throngs of his adoring fans beach-side…

However, Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli will not be standing on them sands.

In an op-ed for the Boston Globe, these two Massachusetts scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute had some sharp words for British Petroleum…the same company they came to help at said oil company’s request, volunteering their time for the good of the Gulf:

“We responded by leading on-site operations using robotic submersibles equipped with advanced technologies that we had developed for marine science. We applied them to measure the rate of fluid release from the well and to sample fluids from within the well. We then volunteered our professional time to scrutinize this data and published two peer-reviewed studies in a respected scientific journal. We determined an average flow rate of 57,000 barrels of oil per day and calculated a total release of approximately 4.9 million barrels. BP claimed that it needed to better understand our findings because billions of dollars in fines are potentially at stake. So we produced more than 50,000 pages of documents, raw data, reports, and algorithms used in our research — everything BP would need to analyze and confirm our findings. But BP still demanded access to our private communications.

Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process.”

And so British Petroleum goes to the judge, seeking the writings that contain much of the deliberative process, one where scientists question and challenge each other, push their colleagues to go deeper, be even more accurate, playing devil’s advocate against their colleagues and their own conclusions…you know, communications ripe with fragmented ideas.

And…BP wants…

“BP was able to use the federal courts to gain access to our private information. Although the presiding judge magistrate recognized the need to protect confidential e-mails to avoid deterring future research, she granted BP’s request.”

BP gets.

And now that they’ve gotten, what do you think might happen to those e-mails in court, as the topic turns to that magic flow-rate number of 57,000 barrels of oil per day? Or the total of 4.9 million barrels released into the Gulf, when that little fact comes up?

One might think a BP lawyer could obscure conclusive facts by reading off fragments from these e-mails…taking the smallest part to impugn the conclusions of the whole.

One might…

Yes, those more realistic about the sham that is the court of law cynical could certainly think this, but personally, I hardly think it possible, what with BP’s long history of integrity, sound science, culture of openness, safety and responsibility to not only their shareholders, but to the environment both land and sea, and all the people of this earth and beyond…

However, Reddy and Camilli have a different opinion:

“Our experience highlights that virtually all of scientists’ deliberative communications, including e-mails and attached documents, can be subject to legal proceedings without limitation. Incomplete thoughts and half-finished documents attached to e-mails can be taken out of context and impugned by people who have a motive for discrediting the findings. In addition to obscuring true scientific findings, this situation casts a chill over the scientific process. In future crises, scientists may censor or avoid deliberations, and more importantly, be reluctant to volunteer valuable expertise and technology that emergency responders don’t possess.”

No way. BP overreaching on information control, gearing up to discredit the science, the very people they turned to for help, all in order to serve their own interests? Utter insanity…and to prove this point, up to the microphone marched another BP spokesperson who said the company’s subpoena was, “in no way an attack on science.”

Well of course not, that would be ridiculous…and entirely irresponsible.

Have a nice day.