A new study from the University of California-Davis shows a combination of sunlight and oil exposure can cause the “physical disintegration” of fish embryos. The process, called phototoxicity, was documented in the aftermath of the 2007 Cusco Busan spill which occurred when a tanker hit the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland.
“This phenomenon had been observed in the laboratory, but had never been observed in the field, and there were even some skeptics out there wondering if this was just a phenomenon that people would see under lab conditions,” said Gary Cherr, director of the Bodega Marine lab. “One of the real take-home messages from our study was: yes, in fact, it definitely happens in the real world.”
As Stuart Smith points out, the study echoes countless observations from fishermen around the Gulf about depleted catches.
And obviously, if this did/is occurring in the Gulf, it will take that much longer for fisheries and the seafood industry to rebound.
So, all that being said…here’s what really pisses me off about this.
In a perfect world, we would see a simple reaction to the news of such a study:
British Petroleum, alarmed for the welfare of the fishing industry in the Gulf Coast would hire scientists, free and clear from any restrictions of reporting and publication who would then work with government scientists operating free and clear of any political agendas to figure out if what’s described in this study is indeed occurring in the Gulf, and if so, immediately work together with input from the fishing industry to address this problem. In this refreshing climate, one that operates beyond political and litigious constraints and influence, the information would flow freely. The primary objective would be the protection and benefit of the environment, the people and seafood industries along the Gulf Coast, the same Gulf Coast which never asked for this fucking oil spill.
And because of this established, open climate, when the studies were released, they would be trusted.
Alas, this environment has never existed in the Gulf.
From day one, BP has operated on damage control while the government operated in the shadow of Bush’s disastrous response to Katrina, and the EPA, NOAA and FDA? Their functions have been utterly compromised by a decade of corporate and political influence and funding cuts.
The only truth to be had in the Gulf depends on which opinion you wish to adopt.
And none of this helps anybody but those who already have the resources, connections and influence to not need anymore help…and now this whole subjective line of shenanigans and bullshit is playing out in the MDL too…with double dipping attorneys, conflicts of interest and corporate bullying while the campaign contributions fly…
Running this show in the Gulf are the same people who’s agendas caused the problems in the Gulf: British Petroleum and their continuing poor safety record, the government and their continuing poor monitoring of oil platforms, insufficient testing of seafood, and willingness to let entire ecosystems disappear in the name of profit and/or deregulation.
Getting screwed in the Gulf: that would continue to be claimants involved with the GCCF, fishermen with little to catch being told by television commercials how well they’re doing, and frankly, the rest of the people in the Gulf Coast left to wonder if they’re going to get sick from contaminants, from seafood, and from Corexit…all because they are at the mercy of agendas they and their families don’t factor into.
And now, that legal system designed to be the fail safe, the protector, the last stop…it too shows signs of being influenced by the same bullshit agendas that have been played out across four states for over twenty months.
Swear to God, It’s almost enough to make one think that those fish embryos had it easy…
Two competing articles published a day apart have a very different take on the safety of Gulf Seafood…
In the first, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries report that not one bit, smidgen or iota of toxic chemicals has ever been found in Gulf Seafood and therefore the seafood is safe to eat, while in the second article, though first quoting the FDA’s website which reports the seafood “is as safe to eat as before the spill,” (a whole ‘nother can of worms), the article goes on to quote Louisiana fishermen and NRDC scientist Gina Solomon who seriously dispute the government’s findings.
Or…in other words, what’s your agenda?
Says the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:
“The testing protocol, the first of its kind, analyzes water and seafood samples for pollutants found in the spilled oil and in various chemicals applied to disperse the oil. So far, no contaminants have been detected in any piece of seafood tested since the spill…”
Says the FDA:
“The seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to consume for all consumers including pregnant women and children,” he asserts before adding, “The amount of seafood that somebody would have to eat would be the equivalent to sixty-three pounds of shrimp, or five pounds of oyster, or nine pounds of fin fish every day for five years before they would exceed levels to be concerned of. That’s how low the residues are in the seafood.”
Says Gina Solomon:
FDA only examined what would be safe for an adult. When they did their calculations they looked at what level of contamination would be safe for a 176 pound person. Children are known to be more vulnerable to contaminants in seafood because they eat more per pound of their bodyweight and their developing bodies are more sensitive to harmful contaminants. What’s more, in a pregnant woman, these contaminants can cross the placenta and harm the developing fetus. This increased vulnerability is well-known to science, and other agencies require that children be included in safety assessments.
Meanwhile, fishermen in the region continue to wonder aloud how the seafood can be safe when the shrimp seasons this year were so bad, with very little to catch, not to mention the state of the seafood they are catching:
“Fisherman are bringing in shrimp without any eyes … they evidently have lost their eyes and they’re still alive.”
So, who’s right?
Who do you want to believe?
Would seem to me that’s a personal decision…but if someone were to ask me, and I assume if you’re still reading this, you are…I might be more willing to bet my health on local fishermen and the NRDC, for a number of reasons:
Barack Obama will only benefit from clean bills of health when it comes to the Gulf. Many voters have placed the Gulf response at his feet and if this response is seen as ineffective, that affects him and his re-election chances. British Petroleum donates a great deal of money to Obama and are in bed with his administration as they begin to receive new leases for deep-sea drilling. The oil company would also love to see the perception of safe seafood begin to take hold so they can stop compensating fishermen. The state of Louisiana wants all to be well because it is their citizens being harmed by the bad reputation of Gulf seafood, a reputation that continues to be voiced outside of the Gulf Coast. Local fishermen, on the other hand, why the hell would they want to be quoted as saying something is wrong with the seafood if they didn’t believe it to be true? Feinberg and the GCCF have been short-changing everybody, livelihoods and whole ways of life are being impacted. Fishermen receive no benefit from ongoing bad perceptions whereas the NRDC, not beholden to the government or corporate sponsorship gains nothing from questioning the thoroughness of government testing or the claims of government agencies.
Oh…and the even worse problem?
Corporations and the United States Government have a long history of placing political perception and financial bottom lines over the health and welfare of their consumers and citizens and as a result, skepticism of their claims are automatic to almost anybody but the true believer. It is this distrust, born of their bad behavioral patterns that necessitates doubt of their claims…and it shouldn’t have had to be this way; it didn’t have to be this way…
But, it is…and who the hell wants to eat an eyeless shrimp?
I know I certainly don’t envy anyone who makes their living by what they catch from Gulf waters, be they shrimpers or fishers or whoever, because things don’t seem to be getting much better. The catch, especially the shrimp catch is way off, with some shrimpers estimating their catch to be off by 80%. In one article I read, a company used to taking in ten thousand pounds of shrimp per day has taken in about 41,000 pounds all season.
And it isn’t just the shrimp.
Many have read reports of the killifish, and the cellular damage done to its reproductive functions and gills as a result of hydrocarbon poisoning. Many also are aware this small minnow like fish is near the bottom of the food chain and is considered a good indicator of the Gulf’s general health.
Even Ken Feinberg seemed to backtrack the other day on his estimation of a recovered Gulf by 2013 when he said of the shrimp catch, “We are monitoring this, and we are sensitive to these concerns. We reserve the right to change the formula if anecdotal and empirical evidence justifies it.” And that’s about as close to an admission of error as one’s likely to get from Ken, not that he’ll actually change anything but I suppose admitting to a problem is the first step.
Oh and let’s see, what else? Ah yes, though the FDA has maintained the Gulf seafood is safe to eat, a new study has challenged this assumption, reporting the FDA’s qualifications on what constitutes safe are incredibly flawed.
So…bad catches, sick fish, FDA screw-ups…yep, it’s got to be hard to be a shrimper, a fisher, anyone working the Gulf waters these days…and besides the fact the oil’s still out there, you know what else isn’t helping, what’s making this whole Gulf Coast mess even worse?
Eighteen months later, the information is still inconsistent. We’ve been treated to eighteen months of profit margins, legal maneuverings and a whole range of answers and/or denials to every goddamned question…
Everyone has been forced to endure eighteen months of agendas.
The EPA, the FDA and the NOAA all appear to have an agenda designed to make it seem the Gulf is perfectly fine. British Petroleum’s agenda is all about savings and profit margin, all the time, and their stance too is that everything is okay in the Gulf. The Obama Administration has their own agendas, their own problems. For starters, they’re not seen as trustworthy, having initially ceded far too much control to British Petroleum in the capping of the well and the clean-up, and now, today, they are widely perceived as having forgotten the Gulf Coast even exists at all…
And all these agendas, they all bring us back to the seafood industry.
What exactly is a fisher supposed to make of all this? That person who is just trying to get their life back to normal, who wants to get back to work, but also doesn’t want to make anybody sick; what the fuck are they supposed to do? Who are they supposed to believe? Who are they supposed to trust? BP? The government? The FDA and NOAA? All these entities telling them everything is fine, or the increasingly negative academic studies, not to mention the fishers own years of experience in the Gulf waters, showing them that something appears to be wrong out there…
So hard to know for sure, and such an unenviable place to be.
And you know what really pisses me off?
It didn’t have to be this way, not at all.
If British Petroleum had stuck to their promises to make people whole. If Feinberg had stuck to his promises to take care of the people in the Gulf British Petroleum hadn’t gotten to, perhaps then the financial pressures could have been eased off on everybody. If the Obama Administration had done more than toss out a fucking speech and Barack had come down to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and done more than look concerned, pick up a tarball or eaten a damned shrimp…if Obama had worked, as a leader and kept the Gulf, and everything the Gulf means to this country in the foreground of American consciousness…maybe then these problems would seem more manageable today, to everybody.
If the only agenda in the Gulf had been to make sure people were taken care of and those responsible for this mess were held accountable…yes, if that had been the only agenda, then today in the Gulf we might at least have trust.
Instead, all we got are versions of what’s real: BP’s version, Obama’s version, the FDA’s version, the NRDC’s version, LSU’s, the shrimper’s, Halliburton’s and the GCCF’s version…just to name a few.
And that ain’t helping anybody.
Certainly not the public, and certainly not the people who continue to suffer as a result of BP’s catastraphuk.
So what now?
Wish I knew…all I hope for at this point is that Feinberg, for once, can be taken at his word, and he actually will take a long, hard look at the recovery estimates he based his methodology upon…because if you work harder to catch only 20% of the shrimp you normally get, the payment methodology needs to be changed.
Oh, and to the BP spokesman who said the 80% drop-off in the shrimp catch is within the normal range of good and bad seasons, you are just one more bullshit microphone with another ethically conflicted agenda, and you should be tossed into the next oil sheen spotted on the Gulf’s surface above the Macondo wellhead.
So, to sum up…a corporation screwed up and did billions in financial damage to an entire region of the country, not to mention the emotional toll on people and the physical toll on the environment. The people have recourse to the law, but that is a process that could take decades. The government issues false platitudes and seems to disappear just when they are needed most, almost as if they are backing the corporations that did the damage rather than the people who got screwed.
And nobody goes to jail.
Hey, now that I think about it, sure sounds familiar, kinda like what those people in New York are so pissed off about.
A new study published online yesterday reports the Food and Drug Administration vastly underestimated the cancer risk from seafood when the agency allowed commercial fishing in the Gulf to resume.
Miriam Rotkin-Ellman and Gina Solomon of the Natural Resources Defense Council authored the study where they found that by using flawed assumptions and outdated risk assessment methods, the FDA allowed up to 10,000 times too much contamination and didn’t identify the risks to children and pregnant women posed by eating the contaminants.
Based on the study, the NRDC filed a petition asking the FDA to protect the public by setting a standard that limits PAH’s in seafood. PAH’s can cause cancer, birth defects, neurological delays and liver damage.
And, wouldn’t you know this ain’t the first time the government’s testing of seafood has been called into question.
“Citing what the law firm calls a state-of-the-art laboratory analysis, toxicologists, chemists and marine biologists retained by the firm of environmental attorney Stuart Smith contend that the government seafood testing program, which has focused on ensuring the seafood was free of the cancer-causing components of crude oil, has overlooked other harmful elements. And they say that their own testing — examining fewer samples but more comprehensively — shows high levels of hydrocarbons from the BP spill that are associated with liver damage.”
A survey of 547 coastal residents in the four Gulf states by the Natural Resources Defense Council found they had seafood consumption rates far higher than those being used by federal and state regulators to determine if contamination levels pose a risk to human health, “What we are saying is our survey identified large numbers of people who are eating more seafood than the FDA (federal Food and Drug Administration) assumes in its guidelines. My assumption is there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who are not protected by the FDA guidelines.”
Which of course leads a reasonable person to wonder…who exactly is the FDA trying to protect?
Perhaps it’s British Petroleum…
By the FDA saying it’s safe to fish, the fishers who might have questioned the safety of the seafood and refused to bring potentially contaminated fish to market would seem to have left themselves open to having their claims denied by the GCCF, as Ken Feinberg points to the opened waters and says, you could have earned a living according to the FDA, you simply chose not to, and that is not BP’s fault.
Or maybe it’s the Obama Administration…
To most people paying attention to what was going on in the Gulf last summer, it seemed that what the Obama administration wanted more than anything else was for this whole oil spill thing to just go away, from the all the oil is gone pie chart to the US Coast Guard bending to the will of BP at every moment. Not a big leap to see the FDA pitching in to help, declaring the seafood safe, and attempting to move the problems of the Gulf a little further from the minds of most Americans.
Well, the FDA certainly isn’t trying to protect the public…
I mean, they either really suck at their job, or more likely, they have been putting the public second in importance for decades…sincerely, ever done a Google search on FDA scandal?
Yeah, it ain’t pretty…and the FDA?
They ain’t right…who knows who they were trying to protect…quite possible they don’t even know anymore, especially when Big Pharma didn’t have anything to do with the oil spill. Without the pharmaceutical industry calling the shots, or Monsanto…face it, the FDA is just lost.
“David is not optimistic. He sees too many signs that things are not right with the shrimp catches so far. But what worries David even more is what he’s seeing—or not seeing—in the waters 20 miles offshore. He’s not seeing many small bait fish that snapper and mackerel–all predator fish–depend on. David says many fish bellies he sees are often empty, signaling they may be starving, and that some contain an unusual black substance he believes is linked to oil. Other fish David catches have lesions or strange markings that other scientists are finding too. He’s been unable to get authorities to pay attention to it. And some simply don’t want to, he says.”
And the quotes that make me angry:
“We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” David says in a soft southern drawl that punctuates his decades of fishing in the Gulf. “Some people say we shouldn’t say anything about things that aren’t right so we can protect our markets. Others say we should complain so we make BP accountable. But from what I’ve seen around here, BP hasn’t been accountable for much of anything.”
Hey, I thought this whole oil spill deal was all kinda, you know…over.
At least that’s the impression I got watching all them there sparkly British Petroleum commercials, but man, over the past two days, the news has been flying pretty serious again in the Gulf, and between you, me, the courts and the water…I think this has just begun…Maybe I just got distracted by the hockey playoffs…
What? What do you want? I never said I wasn’t from the north…
Archbishop Gregory Aymond got on bended knees and put his arms around two women, listened to the damage BP and the GCCF have wrought and did his best to console them. The women had come to Catholic Charities in Violet for counseling and help with their spill damage claims.
Turns out one of the women, Lois Neville of Violet is yet another one of those people who Ken Feinberg, BP paid administrator of the GCCF and $20 billion escrow fund is saying…well, golly gosh gee, must have slipped through the cracks…hey, mistakes get made, do you know how many claims we’ve received, we’re working as fast as we can…etc…ad nauseum.
Funny thing though, BP was helping her financially, but all payments stopped when Feinberg took over…and she filed for her final settlement, and well past the 90 day time limit Feinberg gave himself to present final offers, she is still waiting…
In her words from David Hammer’s article in the Times-Picayune:
“I’m barely making ends meet with my savings and rental income, and I’m depressed, I’m stressed out,” Neville said. “I get very angry. I hate to even watch the news because there are other people in a worse predicament than me.”
Depressed and stressed out…like thousands of others, yet BP has closed the coffers on funding for mental health in the Gulf Coast…maybe when they said, making things right…they meant everything but the mind.
And hey, why might Ms. Neville still be waiting for her final claim?
It’s been a year since the oil spilled.
Well, on the GCCF front…Feinberg will tell any reporter who listens how he has paid out $3.9 billion dollars of that escrow fund…and apparently, he is quite proud of this fact…lord knows why…after all that means…he hasn’t paid out $16 billion dollars…and of that 3.9, it’s mostly quick payments…very few final offers, and even fewer interim payments…so what gives? Oh…right, right: mistakes get made, do you know how many claims we’ve received and we’re working as fast as we can…got it. Um, bullshit? Not to mention, how convenient was it for Feinberg, the day before the anniversary, the day before the press was to descend all over the Gulf Coast, to suddenly issue the largest final offer to date to Omega Protein Corp, $44.8 million dollars total. I’m sure the timing of this was coincidental, of course…Feinberg couldn’t possibly be such a cynical asshole to present this offer as some sort of distraction to the press, you know, so the coverage might be a bit more balanced as the press goes out to find the countless Lois Neville’s across the Gulf Coast, the ones seeking counseling because they are struggling not to lose everything, again, a year later…
And speaking of unhappy people in the Gulf…well, let the lawsuits begin, and rightfully so…
70,000 people have filed suit in the Gulf in a maritime law proceeding brought by rig owner Transocean, using a form that also expanded the suit to include British Petroleum. This would be on top of the 350 other suits, representing multiple parties already filed. No word on how many of these people are of the 400,000 that Feinberg and the GCCF have not paid yet, or plan not to pay, but Stephen Herman, co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs said, “I think it certainly validates the litigation effort. I also think that it confirms the sentiment out there that Feinberg and the GCCF haven’t really done a great job of giving people what they thought they were entitled to.”
Not to be outdone, British Petroleum filed a suit of their own, going after Cameron International, the company that made the blowout preventer that wouldn’t close. BP would like a court to rule against the company, declaring the device caused or contributed to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. Such a ruling would help BP fight against a designation of being “grossly negligent” which if so designated would dramatically raise the amount of fines British Petroleum will have to pay under the Oil Pollution Act.
Perhaps Feinberg knows a judge, to help out his boss, maybe call in some favors perhaps? It’s been a while since he got a raise, and remember the reason the GCCF keeps screwing people? Right, it’s because they’re overworked…not because the GCCF is trying to coerce people into claims attached to a clause where they sign away their rights to sue BP, and not because Feinberg is trying to save BP money, and certainly not because Feinberg is just trying to keep people out of court…cause, that worked out real well…(see above).
Okay…well, at least…all the oil is gone. And that’s important because according to Feinberg’s methodology, all that oil has to be outta there by 2013. If not, if the Gulf isn’t back to normal by then, the entire pay-scale he is using to determine damages for claimants will be off, and not in the claimants favor…so, hey…at least BP and the Coast Guard, they got that one right…oh, what?
“Mike Robichaux is a local doctor who has seen up to 60 patients in recent weeks with a mysterious sickness that some attribute to BP’s oil spill. Dr. Robichaux has been making house calls because many of the “stoic” workers don’t want others to know that they are sick. Yet, Dr. Robichaux tells the AFP, “Ninety percent of them are getting worse… Nobody has a clue as to what it is.”
Reuters reports that the U.S. National Institutes of Health has launched a ten-year study on the health of 55,000 oil spill clean-up workers and volunteers. Perhaps it will take ten years to get an answer for Dr. Robichaux.
Not everyone blames the oil spill for the health problems plaguing Gulf cleanup workers. Namely, BP does not blame the BP oil spill for the health problems plaguing Gulf cleanup workers. In a BP comment to the AFP, the company wrote, “Illness and injury reports were tracked and documented during the response, and the medical data indicate they did not differ appreciably from what would be expected among a workforce of this size under normal circumstances.”
As for compensating sick workers, this would fall under state law and “must be supported by acceptable medical evidence.” Are the 415 Louisianans suffering from respiratory tract infections, nausea, and headaches evidence enough?”
Oh, and as mentioned before…it ain’t just the physical body having problems…a study funded by the National Science Foundation has found that mental health difficulties are likely to linger on the Gulf Coast for the following decade. According to the study, two factors that could cause stresses to persist are delays in compensation for spill damages by the claims process, and possible slow recovery of fishing resources and the fishing industry.
Feinberg, Dudley…your ears burning?
Okay…my bad on all this everybody…I promise to stop watching so much hockey. It really would appear this thing is far from over…that few are doing well in the Gulf at all
In fact…it would appear the only people really doing well these days are British Petroleum…once again paying stock dividends and issuing bonuses to the elite within its company, and Ken Feinberg,who’s sitting on a helluva nice raise from his British Petroleum puppet masters. Yeah, Ken may be taking a lot of criticism these days, but from everything I read, it doesn’t appear to be affecting his psyche at all, in fact he refers to himself as “Bloodied, but unbowed.” And that’s a good thing too, because whereas some of you lightweights out there might want your guy in charge of helping hundreds of thousands of people recover from this catastraphuk to brag about such things as fairness, compassion, generosity and empathy….I like my arbitrator of a compensation fund to talk like he’s trying out for the WWE, you know, to be a bad-ass who don’t take no crap from some fishing type guys and business people who’ve never been to New York.
Nope…not going well at all:
Cleanup workers are getting sick, depression is running rampant and suicides are up across the Gulf Coast. There’s still oil out there while BP continues to scale back cleanup. BP is reneging on financial promises to help with the oyster beds while helping their stockbrokers and executives to more money. The health of the Gulf continues to be debated. Dolphins are dying. Fish have sores. There are dead zones on the Gulf seafloor. Allegations exist that BP is trying to taint the science by influencing the research. A year after the Deepwater Horizon blew up, no laws have been passed by Congress to help ensure it doesn’t happen again while experts maintain it very well could happen again. The NOAA, EPA and FDA all claim the seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat, and they finally opened the last fishing area but the country isn’t buying it: what the government says, or the seafood – which leaves the industry far from recovered. Too many people are waiting for Feinberg to do his fucking job…homes are being lost, jobs haven’t come back and businesses continue to go bankrupt.
And the President?
Well, he said some words and stuff, but ah…who cares, or believes that guy anymore…
Bob Dudley, presiding over the British Petroleum shareholders meeting, read aloud the names of the eleven men who died on the Deepwater Horizon, and then spoke of , “working hard to earn back trust…through our actions, not just our words…”
– Oh, and he proceeded to mock an activist shareholder, Antonia Juhasz, who read a letter written by the father of one of the men killed, saying in response, “Many of your statements sound like they were prepared by a plaintiff’s attorney.”
Bob Dudley, presiding over the British Petroleum shareholders meeting outlined several of the changes British Petroleum has made to revamp its management structure and build safety into its everyday operations, thus hopefully making drilling safer.
– Oh, and shareholders proceeded to re-elect as director Sir William Castell, who as chairman of the company’s safety, ethics and environment assurance committee presided over the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.
– And…Mr. Castell was also the individual at the meeting who tried to cut off Antonia Juhasz when she read, “This was no act of God — BP, Halliburton and Transocean could have prevented this…but it would have taken more time, more money, and you were too greedy to wait. You rolled the dice with my son’s life, and you lost.”
– And…shareholders then proceeded to award bonuses to various executives, including making Tony Hayward eligible for vested performance shares for 2010, worth up to 8 million pounds.
BP Chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, also presiding over the British Petroleum shareholders meeting, said a lot as he tried to reassure restless stockholders, “”Everything we have done since Deepwater Horizon has had one aim; to win back the trust of shareholders and communities the world over…” and, “BP remains a great company, with a great history and, I believe, a great future…” and, “I can assure you I will do everything I can to bring a prosperous future for this company.”
– Oh, and shareholders proceeded to authorize BP to continue making political donations…
– Because…donating to political figures is something BP will surely need to do, for though Mr. Svanberg is confident in the future of his great company, the future is not so assured for the “community,” for the Gulf Coast residents who have been so harmed by the actions of his company, and there still remain a few politicians who will need donations to forget this fact.
– And…even though Bob Dudley can say that 99% of fishing waters in the Gulf have reopened and the EPA nd FDA’s testing of seafood from said opened waters is safe to eat, the general public is still not so convinced, thus, nobody is buying the seafood.
– And…even though Bob Dudley can say he is determined to earn back the trust of communities, it is his company which unleashed a Ken Feinberg on the Gulf Coast who while doing his best to ensure BP remains solvent, is doing far less to guarantee the same for the Gulf Coast residents.
– And finally…though Bob Dudley can respectfully recite the names of eleven men to his company’s shareholders, many will debate just how much of it was media/political theater, and how much of it, considering the other activities that occurred at this meeting, was sincere feeling for both the grieving families, and for a region still trying to recover, a region that still hopes, one day soon, their reality might again sync up with the glowing reports from British Petroleum’s own public relations campaign.
That annual rite of passage where drunken teens descend upon the beaches to get a rest from their studies and are often side by side with families, also on vacation from the thawing but still cold North is almost here, and all along the Gulf Coast, resorts and towns who typically make a great deal of money from this annual retreat are crossing their fingers. It’s been a pretty bad year…the economy, the now rising gas prices, the BP oil spill and the resulting tons of Corexit dumped into the waters to combat said oil spill…
So, is it safe for the people to spend time on the beaches? Is the sand and water clean, or is it poison?
It would depend on who you ask.
The CDC says all is well. The NOAA, the FDA and the EPA say all is well…come on down and have a fine time, and those are some pretty heavy hitters. It would appear safe to say that the Federal Government believes nobody will come to any harm by spending days on the beaches of the Gulf Coast, in the water, breathing the air, and the owners of the resorts, the people who work in these towns certainly hope the government is right.
We all do, even British Petroleum, who even while they scale back cleanup across the Gulf Coast continues to focus their attention on the sands of the resort towns, the places where the media doesn’t fear to tread because they know that Spring Break is a proving ground for progress. It’s the time where people will come to the Gulf from all over the country and see with their own eyes whether all their PR efforts, the commercials on television, radio and the internet are right, or are what many in the Gulf believe…a load of shit.
The last thing BP needs is another batch of dead dolphins to come rolling onto Panama City Beach while the MTV crews are around, or a massive fish kill, or a storm that might bring a few more tons of tar balls from the tar mats of oil offshore.
Its also the last thing business owners in the Gulf need.
And that brings us to a choice, the choice…
Nobody in the government wants to be Roy Scheider, the Sheriff of Amity running across the sand yelling, “Oil!”
The government instead chooses the uneasy role of the mayor, anxiety and defiance etched in his quickly aging face and threatening to fire anyone who finds the shark in them waters. Meanwhile, the business community of the Gulf Coast shares the anxiety, torn between trying to revive their economy and a creeping feeling of hope that nothing bad will happen, that the oil won’t come ashore and that nobody will get sick.
Having written on this subject for awhile and having spoken to many others who also write on this subject, it is much akin to writing about seafood safety in the Gulf. Logic would seem to dictate that if you dump that many toxins into a body of water that the seafood is unsafe, but to actually write that is something else entirely, because tugging at your conscience is also the knowledge that this meme would also harm the industry of a part of the country you care for very much, and a great many people who you care about.
As I mentioned, the choice is difficult, especially when you believe that the government and its agencies, as they have been throughout this whole catastraphuk, are only giving you part of the truth or their best case scenario. For British Petroleum and the government, logic and what you believe are unimportant. What is important is what you can prove, and they seem to believe nobody can prove the Gulf is unsafe.
But, much as I wish it weren’t the case, I’ve read too much and heard the stories of too many people for me to bury my head in the sands cleaned by British Petroleum, and I am forced to add my voice to the growing crowd of people who are pointing at the surf yelling, “Oil…Oil…Oil…” because whereas I do believe in the importance of an improving economy, I also believe that more important are any potential health risks for the people, even more important than a full beach.
Lot of news from the Gulf these past few days…so this morning, I kinda stepped back a bit and cleared the mind before taking a look at this whole mess from the outside…especially in light of a reader comment I received yesterday, who asked what people can do to keep the pressure on British Petroleum and the GCCF.
But before I get to that, first a summary of the most recent going’s ons in the Gulf…
They’ve resumed paying dividends to their shareholders, got Feinberg to pay a business partner’s $10 million dollar final claim and made a deal with the Russians only to have an injunction filed against said deal. They continue to scale back cleanup in the Gulf, despite tar balls still washing ashore, saying they are in the final cleanup stages and didn’t you know they promised to make things right? Oh, and they’re doing their best at this while being accused of manipulating gas prices.
He released his methodology which really helped nobody and then woke up to find out he’s not independent from BP, don’t ya know. He continues to tell the Justice Department and everybody else he’ll take their criticisms under advisement, but narcissistically plows straight ahead appearing to do nothing of the sort. His prediction that the Gulf will be fine by 2012 is based on the best guess of a scientist who is already coming under fire from scientists who weren’t paid by British Petroleum and there has been no word as of yet on whether he’s apologized to Steven Gillers, his buddy at NYU for making him famous as the man who wrote the ethical letter that appears quite unethical to most sensible people.
Barack Obama continues to believe the Gulf of Mexico is simply a bad television show he can just turn off at his leisure while his Justice Department writes letters to display their lack of authority. The NOAA seems to believe that Feinberg’s estimate of all things well by 2012 is certainly the doomsday scenario because according to them, things have been peachy since August, all the while their ugly kid sisters, the EPA and FDA open fishing waters, swimming through tar balls to show how if the fish swim really fast, that stuff just slides right off. Scientists continue to express concerns about toxins in the water and the marine life that lives there, as are Americans according to a recent poll, 70% of them, and the government is of course renewing their concerns about the public concern, they have to…spring break is coming and there are a lot of concerned parents in the government employ.
Basically, dead…though British Petroleum, Ken Feinberg and the government will surely tell you this had nothing to do with any oil spill.
Last, but certainly not least, the residents of the Gulf Coast:
Angry, depressed, disappointed, getting sick, losing jobs, businesses, families and culture and a terribly long way from “right.” (see above)
Keeping all that in mind, back to the comment I received yesterday…what can one do to keep the pressure on British Petroleum and the GCCF.
If you happen to be in New Orleans today, you could start with:
Dr. Wilma Subra to be Principle Speaker
If not in New Orleans, I would suggest you join one of the many advocacy groups that are working hard in the Gulf to really, make things right…or make sure BP and Ken Feinberg do…
Here’s a few links to get you started, and anyone else, feel free to comment, adding more:
When it comes to our government and its accompanying systems, people tend to fall primarily into two camps: believers and skeptics. The believer tends to take the government’s word for it, listen to what they have to say and nod accordingly, maybe occasionally troubled by its actions but ultimately believing they are working for the greater good. The skeptic is more inclined to questions, more critical, perhaps sees the government institutions as troubled and crumbling, and when it comes to the greater good, oftentimes feels the government seems to be on the wrong side of the equation.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s visited this website I fall hard into the skeptics crowd.
So, keeping that in mind, as I read and listen to the pronouncements of the EPA, the NOAA, the FDA, and the formal government itself, both local, but especially federal, as they continue to sound the narrative of all is well with the seafood in the Gulf and the safety of the water, I struggle. As they seemingly ignore the idea of health problems throughout the Gulf, saying there is no definitive link between Corexit and the all the crude in the water, I find this difficult to accept. When they say that most of the oil is gone, the methane is gone, the beaches are great, I raise an eyebrow. When Feinberg denies, denies, denies and says he is doing the best he can, and all we get is a tepid suggestion from the Justice Department that Feinberg and the GCCF should be more transparent in their methodology, I sit back and breathe, wondering, “that’s the best you can do?”
Obviously, there is a very simple reason for all of what the government and its agencies are saying. According to their narrative, there are no health effects, the food and water is safe, the oil is gone, Corexit is harmless and Feinberg’s doing the best he can.
But being a skeptic, I don’t buy it.
When independent scientists report finding oil and dead animals on the seafloor near the very spot the government reports is clear, when independent scientists are finding alkylated PAHs and hydrocarbons in the seafood the government says is safe, when doctors are attributing widespread sicknesses to toxic chemicals from the Gulf, when scientists are finding both crude oil and dispersants in Mississippi soil samples taken from their beaches, why should I buy the governmental all clear?
And if it’s not all jake, why would the government pretend all is well?
I don’t know for sure, but I have a thought, a theory, a possibility…
How much does $20 billion dollars buy?
Maybe so…but still, c’mon…
I don’t mean to insinuate the government would intentionally put people’s safety at risk, intentionally lie or cover up, with the potential of poisoning the nation with bad seafood, air and water, but let’s just say they aren’t trying as hard as they could to find the problems. Oftentimes, according to the government, it isn’t what you might think is right, it’s what you can prove in court. Is the seafood poisoned? Our limited testing shows all is well. Keeping the testing limited gives cover. Are people suffering health effects from Corexit and toxic poisoning by crude? These things are very difficult to prove in court so again, cover. Toxins on the beaches? Hey, nobody said the cleanup is over, we’re just making it a bit more ornamental. Oil on the seafloor, tar mats? We didn’t say the oil is completely gone, just most of it. We looked and we couldn’t find it. Independent scientists say what? This is unimportant, just look at our reports, they are much more intensive, much better funded and they are also reported on by the mainstream press.
And hey, we asked Feinberg to be more transparent.
Again, how much does $20 billion dollars buy?
The government response could be interpreted as: they don’t necessarily need to be right about anyone’s safety, they just need to have done enough to satisfy their consciences and satisfy popular opinion. They need to be able to say, we tried, for the good of America. In the long run, the rest is negligible.
But what might a responsible government do?
They might take each finding by independent scientists and team up, work with them, form partnerships to address each and every problem to get this cleaned up right, or as right as possible. They would expand testing of Gulf seafood to seek out all toxins. They might demand to see the books of the GCCF and try to determine what is going wrong, to help facilitate payments to the people so harmed. They might run wide scale testing of the health of Gulf Coast residents, of American citizens to find out if people are being poisoned by toxic chemicals in the Gulf, to know…for sure, rather than say nothing and wait for it to be proven years down the road, when it might be too late for people who are sick, now.
A responsible government, concerned about its citizens might make demands to the GCCF that they waive the no sue clause so if health or environmental problems continue to persist in the Gulf of Mexico, its citizens would have some sort of recourse to the law, for compensation, for a disaster inflicted upon them by a large company or companies.
Course, all of that could be rather expensive, to the government, to British Petroleum and to Nalco, makers of Corexit.
And of course, Obama remains silent.
Such is the thinking of the skeptic…
Shake your head if you want, but before you dismiss me outright, say the government would never engage in such activities for the benefit of a few corporations…answer me this, when AIG and the rest of the banks and Wall Street began to experience big trouble, primarily because of bullshit predatory mortgages and securities lending between brokerage houses, did the government come to the aid of homeowners or did they come to the aid of the banks? When city budgets are in trouble, do state governments tax big business, or do they cut funding to people, poor people.
In the financial crisis, who’s keeping their homes?
And who’s keeping their homes in the Gulf…BP or the people who live there?