Over a year in, and the spill heard round the Gulf remains in its infancy.
Sucks to write it, read it or hear it, but nonetheless it’s the truth.
Sure, a large portion of the oil has been cleaned up and yes, the tourists are coming back. One might head down to the Gulf, take a look at the water and see that everything looks fine, but there are simply too many unknowns under that surface. Hell, twenty-one years later, the impact of the Exxon Valdez is still being determined.
“The true extent of the spill’s damage is just now beginning to come into view for clean-up workers, commercial fishermen, oil-well workers, charter boat captains, restaurant owners, Gulf Coast denizens and independent scientists studying the effects of the spill – and the fallout becomes more troubling by the day. Independent researchers, like Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia, report that oil coats the Gulf floor where it has decimated deep-water marine life. Residents up and down the Gulf Coast report that tar balls and mats continue to litter their beaches, and re-oilings are common. The multi-billion-dollar Gulf seafood industry is reeling from both small catches and plummeting demand brought on by very real concerns about contamination. Dead dolphins and sea turtles continue to wash ashore at record-breaking rates. Oyster beds have been devastated and are in desperate need of restoration. And perhaps most disturbing of all, increasingly large numbers of clean-up workers and coastal residents are getting sick.”
So it is with this in mind, I continue to be drawn back to British Petroleum’s insistence that future claims payments be stopped, or Kenneth Feinberg’s methodology that has everything rosy in the Gulf by 2013.
Simply put, that’s bullshit.
An oil company, in the Gulf of Mexico, gleaning billions of dollars in profits over the years unleashes the worst environmental disaster on a region and a people. The financial losses were tremendous, as were the fears of a lost culture and way of life, the destruction of family, life savings and the wholesale tragedy in death to wildlife. Equally important and just as devastating is the loss of security and the fear of the unknown. What if I get sick? When will seafood customers return? What happens if a hurricane hits the region, will the oil on the bottom be stirred back to the surface, and what would that mean?
Studies are only beginning, yet an oil company is dead-set on this affair’s end. The toll on life is not yet known, but the man in charge of helping people rebuild their life amps up the scrutiny of claims while the timeline moves and the clock ticks. It’s simply short-sighted and completely wrong. Its public relations in quick pursuit of the best media lie. Its scientific ignorance, because the only thing anyone knows for sure…is nobody knows what is really happening under the surface and what that means for the region’s future.
This irresponsibility must end. Promises made by corporations should mean something because if it’s generally accepted these promises are shit, then everybody loses in the end. I’m of the opinion, and color me emboldened by the fiasco of the Democrat’s debt ceiling cave-in, it just might be time to make corporations pay for their deceit. British Petroleum doesn’t live up to their promises? Okay, then how can we, as a people, make them financially hurt for the big lie? It would appear money, or lack of it, is what they best understand.
Perhaps this is where the debate should be heading, or not.
Don’t know for sure, kind of like when it comes to the healing of the Gulf…how long will it take? Don’t know for sure…nobody does, not BP and not Feinberg, no matter what they might claim.
Ken Feinberg believes the Gulf of Mexico will be recovered by 2012.
British Petroleum disputes this time-table as being too lengthy.
A new study released by the University of Georgia however, reveals Feinberg and BP may both be inhaling far too many fumes from their vanishing oil.
At a science conference in Washington Saturday, marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia showed the results of what she found with submarine dives that travelled across 2600 square miles of the Gulf’s seafloor where her team took 250 core samples, “I’ve been to the bottom. I’ve seen what it looks like with my own eyes. It’s not going to be fine by 2012,” Joye told the Associated Press. “You see what the bottom looks like, you have a different opinion.”
She showed pictures of bottom dwelling creatures that are choked with oil. They included dead crabs, and brittle stars that normally would be bright orange and wrapped tightly around coral. Instead they were pale, loose and dead. She also saw tube worms so full of oil they suffocated.
“This is Macondo oil on the bottom,” Joye said as she showed slides. “This is dead organisms because of oil being deposited on their heads.”
Damn Ken, even Jane Lubchenco from the NOAA says your 2012 time-frame isn’t right, and she has a hard time finding oil under the hood of her car.
This is far, far from over, no matter what anyone who is, or receives money from British Petroleum might want the country and the courts to believe.
As a teenager, my sisters used to enjoy exploiting my temper to get me in trouble, pushing my buttons until I did something stupid and wound up grounded. I fell for it all the time. I think it was their secret game but I’ve never been able to prove it. One day when our parents were out, my younger sister and I argued about taking out the garbage and I became so angry, I decided to scare her so she would leave me alone – so in a typical teenage ill-advised move, I punched the pantry door in the kitchen. Problem is, the pantry door was a hollow door and I put my fist through it. Oops, and of course my sister immediately ran for the phone to tell my parents what I had done. My father came home, I got grounded and he charged me fifty dollars for a new door.
He never bought the door though, instead opting to take my mother out to dinner with the money. When they moved ten years later, the broken door still had not been replaced. Didn’t need to. He just hung a picture over the hole so it looked good as new.
Six months later, the Obama administration and British Petroleum are hanging pictures all over the Gulf.
They are doing it with words, press releases and commercials.
They are doing it with meaningless promises.
They are doing it, waiting for everyone to stop paying attention so they don’t have to do it anymore.
In the same week that Bob Dudley announced his new plan of giving bonuses tied to safety at British Petroleum, it was noted by the Wall Street Journal that those who were in charge of company operations leading up to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon are those who remain in charge today.
Lamar McKay, the chairman and president of BP America, remains in place. James Dupree, the man directly responsible for “safe and compliant operations” in the Gulf of Mexico, has suffered just a cosmetic change in his job title. Doug Suttles, one of the public faces of BP’s oil spill response, is no longer in his previous role as chief operating officer of BP’s now defunct Exploration and Production unit, but it seems likely to take up another role in the company.
It would seem that to keep the old guard in place, not only makes it difficult to institute a radical change in policy, but also sends a message down the company line that this new change in policy is not being taken as seriously as it needs to be. Three huge accidents in recent BP history, costing lives, cultures and still as yet undetermined destruction and the only people to get fired are people like Tony Hayward who maintains he didn’t even know there was a problem. What about the people who did?
Meanwhile, despite what the government would have you believe the oil is still everywhere, yet BP continues to lay off clean-up workers. These same workers are starting to give up on certain beaches because they don’t have the personnel and British Petroleum is getting away with it, still holding to that promise of making things right.
They’re only hanging pictures.
They’re holding the nail while the Obama Administration hammers it home.
Remember back in August when the administration put out that whole 74% of the oil gone scenario which was roundly mocked. As Stuart Smith points out, they’ve never really backed away from it. For every finding of oil on the seafloor, question about air safety, seafood and water safety, Jane Lubchenco reassures us all that everything is fine:
“Each reopening (of fishing areas) is a reassuring sign that areas once impacted by oil can again support sustainable fishing activities,” said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, “Tourists and consumers should know most Gulf waters are open for fishing and seafood from these waters is safe to eat.”
The problem of course is Jane appears to be one of the few people who actually believe such statements. Independent scientists continue to doubt her and the government’s claims, instead finding dispersants and oil in the water still, and harboring serious questions about the long term effects of heavy metals which are making their presence known in the Gulf and even in the rainwater. A scientist at the University of Georgia, Dr. Samantha Joye recently compared the sea floor to a “graveyard,” stating that of the 78 core samples taken, only five had life where typically all 78 of the sea floor samples should; obviously this is a problem and one the NOAA isn’t addressing or commenting upon.
This is not over, six months later…we’re just beginning and those that should be helping are only hanging pictures on the wall. Although British Petroleum and the Obama Administration make quite a team, each policy change from BP is only another picture. Each statement from Jane? Just another picture. Each commercial during the Sunday football game, or every time the NOAA re-opens more water despite not testing for dispersants or heavy metals… picture after picture after picture, and at this rate, it would seem they’ll keep hanging pictures until the accumulation of nail holes destroys the wall for good.
This has gotta stop.
Keep talking, keep writing, keep pressing…it would appear it is up to the independent scientists, the people of the Gulf Coast and the rest of this country who cares about the reality in the water to keep shouting for the truth, to ignore these pictures they’ve placed in the foreground.
Shit, when I was a teenager at least I got grounded. In the Gulf of Mexico and in this country today, it would seem they just hope we forget about it.
You really didn’t think they’d just give up without a fight.
Transocean, the owners of the Deepwater Horizon is reportedly at odds with British Petroleum, accusing the company of not turning over evidence for Transocean’s own investigation of the oil rig’s explosion, while the NOAA, despite congressional demand is refusing to release their data and methodology for the much maligned government study that produced the 74 % of the oil “gone” numbers. As public doubts about what is right and what is wrong, what is factual and what is fraud continue to churn in the Gulf of Mexico’s waters, it would seem that what residents of the Gulf Coast need is factual reassurance from two of the main players in the oil spill and it’s cleanup. They want to understand what happened and what is happening, but if these stories are any indication the government and corporate officials involved have set their own timetable and with the media spotlight back on and bright, this timetable appears to be one of delay.
Transocean Accuses British Petroleum of Withholding Key Evidence:
The British periodical, Daily Mail recently reported that BP declared itself innocent of gross negligence after an internal inquiry by British Petroleum into the actions of British Petroleum, proved to British Petroleum they were not at fault in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. If the company is found guilty of gross negligence by someone who disagrees with their verdict, the fine per barrel of oil released into the Gulf would quadruple, and the company plans to use their findings to defend themselves in upcoming hearings led by the US Government.
Transocean, the actual owner of the rig is also attempting their own investigation, but feels this process is being hampered by BP’s refusal to release critical evidence.
From the AP:
In a sternly worded letter to BP’s attorneys, Transocean said the oil giant has in its sole possession information key to identifying the cause “of the tragic loss of eleven lives and the pollution in the Gulf of Mexico,” and that the company’s refusal to turn over the documents has hampered Transocean’s investigation and hindered what it has been able to tell families of the deceased and state and federal investigators about the accident.
“This is troubling, both in light of BP’s frequently stated public commitment to openness and a fair investigation, and because it appears that BP is withholding evidence in an attempt to prevent any entity other than BP from investigating the cause of the April 20 incident and the resulting spill,” the letter said.
In a briefing before British Petroleum’s shareholders last June, former BP CEO Tony Hayward told of how he felt it was important for the company to share the “initial perspectives from our internal investigations” with the government for the reasons of “transparency and in helping the industry learn the lessons from BP’s experience as quickly as possible,” but it would appear this urgency to help others in the oil industry learn stops at the government’s door, and does not extend itself to the public or to their corporate partners, especially when guilt or innocence is being decided.
British Petroleum, of course, disagrees with Transocean’s assessment.
BP spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford called Transocean’s letter “misleading and misguided…We have been at the forefront of cooperating with various investigations commissioned by the U. S. government and others into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” Ashford said. “Our commitment to cooperate with these investigations has been and remains unequivocal and steadfast.”
Even in the face of such firmly put words, Transocean maintains their allegation, also reporting in their letter, BP has rebuffed at least seven of its requests for information. And while BP has turned over some documents, it has not provided Transocean with any information since June 21, and has not even acknowledged the company’s requests since August 3.
Substantial charges these are, but like much of everything that transpires in the Gulf of Mexico, it would appear for the time being BP expects us to take them at their word.
NOAA Refuses to Release Data and Methodology of Study:
During a recess hearing of his Energy and Environment Subcommittee, Rep Ed Markey questioned if the government’s facts and figures on oil remaining in the Gulf might be creating a false impression of the Gulf’s recovery, “People want to believe that everything is OK and I think this report and the way it is being discussed is giving many people a false sense of confidence regarding the state of the Gulf,” he said.
He went on to issue a demand that the NOAA release their numbers.
The NOAA refused.
During a Wednesday telephone briefing on the spill for congressional staffers, NOAA scientists said the data might not be available for two months and this time frame was echoed in the hearing by the NOAA’s senior scientist Bill Lehr who also added, “Some of our academic friends have asked for this…I would suggest that patience in this case is a virtue.” The reasons the NOAA gives for this delay is the information is still being compiled, analyzed and peer reviewed.
This would appear a kinder, gentler way of saying the report isn’t ready.
Rep Markey too, was unimpressed, saying the report “shouldn’t have been released,” back on August 4th, “First you gave the answer, and now you are going to be showing your work. … and that’s the opposite of the way in which a study of that magnitude would be released.”
The White House, as Mother Jones suggests, was more interested in PR and a New York Times headline than they were in backing up their facts.
Two articles, two stories, two issues…BP and the NOAA; what they both have in common is time.
British Petroleum states they have always been cooperative with investigations and disputes Transocean’s allegations of withholding evidence, but if Transcocean’s allegations are correct, odds are at some point down the road, BP will have little choice but to release any evidence that could point to fault in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. By refusing to do so now, they are buying themselves time, and the NOAA is doing the same. They can stand by their oil spill numbers for at least another two months and should their methodology and data prove to be false or misleading, they too at least will have benefited from the passage of time.
And right now, time is very important.
Right now, big media is back on the hunt.
With the studies done by the University of Georgia, the University of South Florida and now a new report set to be released next week by Dr. Camilli and his team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, not only are the government’s numbers on the oil spill being called into question, but new evidence of a vast oil plume’s existence directly related to dispersed oil from BP’s Macondo well is making headlines. Initially both BP and the NOAA denied the existence of such plumes, but both have been forced to admit they do in fact exist.
And all the coverage of these studies has made the recent spotlight much brighter.
People are again paying attention, so the last thing BP needs right now would be to release any possible evidence that pointed to their guilt in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon while the NOAA, they would hate to have their data and methodology called into question by peer scientists, not now, not while things are getting hot again.
The official story they have both been perpetuating is beginning to smolder, why light more matches?
It is in their interest to wait it out, wait for people’s attention to wane, then perhaps on some slow news Friday, couple of months down the road…Halloween weekend would be good…let the information come out while everybody is busy making plans with their kids or friends, when they don’t have time to spend on any new headlines any new information could create. It would be a good plan, one that’s been used by governments and corporations for years and if the facts are not in their favor, it could be the only plan left. The American people are a passionate people, but also a people easily distracted and big media is not much better.
At the hearing, Rep Markey said, “The longer the time that elapses, the lower the political pressure and the public attention will be there to make sure the resources are brought to the problem,” he said of the government’s study, “If you’re wrong, the consequences are great.”
Wow, yesterday was a bad day for the official story, you know…that storyline that says the Gulf of Mexico is rapidly recovering, 75% of the oil is gone, the seafood is safe and how it is now time for everyone to live happily ever after with the reopened fishing areas? Well, to believe the American Medical Association, the University of Georgia and some fisherman taking water samples in Mississippi, the facts are remarkably different. The AMA commented on cleanup workers who appear to be suffering from exposure, listed the medical problems that can be caused by said exposure to oil and dispersants while making some recommendations for Gulf Coast residents. Then the University of Georgia completed a study which found the facts from the National Incident Command study are wrong and being widely misinterpreted, and those fisherman in Mississippi? They took independent water samples and discovered evidence of oil and dispersants contaminating their oyster beds and shrimping grounds, the same grounds the state of Mississippi recently reopened.
The American Medical Association
In their online journal the AMA commented on the symptoms of apparent oil and dispersant exposure in more than 300 workers in Louisiana, 75% of which were cleanup workers…these symptoms were headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cough, respiratory distress and chest pain, all common when people are exposed to hydrocarbons or hydrogen sulfide, prevalent in crude oil and its fumes.
As further example to medical doctors in the region of what to watch out for, the report also identified previous health problems of cleanup workers and residents from other oil spills:
A survey of the health status of workers 14 years after the Exxon Valdez cleanup found a greater prevalence of symptoms of chronic airway disease among workers with high oil exposures, as well as self reports of neurological impairments and multiple chemical sensitivity…one study of 6780 fisherman, which included 4271 oil spill cleanup workers, found a higher prevalence of lower respiratory tract symptoms 2 years after the oil spill cleanup activities. The risk of lower respiratory tract symptoms increased with the intensity of exposure…a study of 858 individuals involved in the cleanup of the Prestige oil spill in Spain in 2002 investigated acute genetic toxicity in volunteers and workers. Increased DNA damage, as assessed by the Comet assay, was found in volunteers, especially in those working on the beaches.
The AMA report concluded with some recommendations for community residents, suggesting that people should not fish in areas where there is evidence of oil and avoid direct skin contact with contaminated water, oil or tar balls. If residents notice a strong odor of oil or chemicals and are concerned about hazardous effects, they should seek refuge in air conditioned homes.
All in all, according to the official narrative, the AMA report should be of little concern. Just wear safety equipment and stay away from direct exposure, and with the National Incident Command reporting two weeks ago how 75% of the oil is gone, staying away from direct contact should be fairly simple. The President went swimming in the Gulf after all, showing everyone just how safe the water actually is, that is…unless Carol Browner and the NIH report are wrong.
Georgia Sea Grant Study: University of Georgia
The findings of the (NIH) report are being widely reported in the news media as suggesting that 75% of the oil is “gone” and only 25% remains. However, many independent scientists are interpreting the findings differently, with some suggesting that less than 10% is “gone” and up to 90% remains a threat to the ecosystem…the news media’s tendency to interpret “dispersed” and “dissolved” as “gone” is wrong. Dispersed and dissolved forms can be highly toxic.
There have been no oceanographic surveys measuring the entire breadth of the subsurface oil plume, only cruises targeting specific regions of interest to the scientific community. Thus, we can only estimate how much remains below the surface. However, after accounting for oil that has been skimmed and burned (10% collectively), evaporated (8-12%) and degraded (4-8%), we estimate that the oil remaining at or below the surface is between 70 and 79% or between 2.9 and 3.2 million barrels.
The Georgia report also identifies concerns about air quality, the oil moving into the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf Stream and recommends a number of studies be done to get an entirely accurate assessment of the true impact of the oil in the Gulf waters. Numerous times in their report they mention the withholding of data that is impeding analysis of the ecosystem; this data being held tight by the Government and British Petroleum.
Fisherman in Mississippi Testing Waters Opened for Fishing
From the article in Truthout:
On Monday, August 9, the Director of the State of Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Bill Walker, despite ongoing reports of tar balls, oil and dispersants being found in Mississippi waters, declared, “there should be no new threats” and issued an order for all local coast governments to halt ongoing oil disaster work being funded by BP money that was granted to the state. Mississippi residents and fishermen Truthout spoke with believe Walker’s move was from an order given by Gov. Haley Barbour, who has been heavily criticized over the years for his lobbying on behalf of the Tobacco and Oil industries.
Two days after Walker’s announcement and in response to claims from state and federal officials that Gulf Coast waters are safe and clean, fishermen took their own samples from the waters off of Pass Christian in Mississippi. The samples were taken in water that is now open for shrimping, as well as from waters directly over Mississippi’s oyster bed, that will likely open in September for fishing. Commercial fisherman James “Catfish” Miller, took fishermen Danny Ross Jr. and Mark Stewart, along with scientist Dr. Ed Cake of Gulf Environmental Associates and others out and they found the fishing grounds to be contaminated with oil and dispersants.
Also reported in the article are the testimonies from a number of area fisherman who claim the Coast Guard and British Petroleum continue to spray dispersants in the area to sink the oil, and if true…the waters that have been reopened for fishing are not only experiencing oil sheen but continue to be sprayed with dispersants both by boat and also bombed by planes from the air. The Coast Guard denies this is the case, but these stories of the continued use of dispersants, all done under the cover of night, is a technique still being reported by many throughout the Gulf Coast.
It should also be noted the fishermen quoted in the article by Truthout are complaining of the following symptoms: chronic headaches, nasal problems and metallic tastes in their mouths, and this brings us full circle back to the report by the AMA where similar symptoms were described in people who experienced exposure to crude oil and dispersants.
If the oil is gone as so claimed by the official storyline, this shouldn’t be the case, the point being…the official story is bullshit.
All one need do is ask one simple question in determining the validity of these reports.
Who benefits and who loses?
In the official storyline that all is well, the people who benefit are British Petroleum and the various offices of the government. British Petroleum gains financially. Dispersed oil cannot be counted or seen and this works in their favor financially and from a public relations standpoint. The Federal government also gets good PR, shows progress in the fight against the spill and can hold feel good photo opportunities for the benefit of the press while various agencies get to say that the water, the air and the food is safe. The governors in the various regions, governors such as Haley Barbour can point to clean beaches and water that appears clear. This benefits his potential presidential run, not to mention an influx of tourist dollars that make local businesses happy, which in turn makes him happy. On one hand, it would also seem to be good news for fisherman, reopened fishing grounds return them to work, but on the other hand…if the food they bring to market turns out to be bad, this will impact their reputations and their product and livelihoods for years to come, a fact that is not lost in the growing concerns of many in their line of work.
As far as the AMA and the University of Georgia, what do they gain?
The AMA gain little while the University of Georgia by producing this study open themselves up to attack by everyone who stands to profit from the new narrative. So I would imagine they would have to be quite confident in their facts before releasing them to the general public. And the fisherman…once again they pay the biggest price. They have to discern through the contradictory information and decide what to do; it is their livelihoods at stake, again…just as it has been since the Deepwater Horizon exploded.
Also from the Truthout article, at a meeting after being presented with evidence the oil is still in their fishing grounds:
The fishermen unanimously supported a petition calling for the firing of Dr. Walker, the head of Mississippi’s DMR, who is responsible for opening the fishing grounds.