- From the start, Obama administration and BP officials
lied and deceived the public about the Gulf spill's severity, BP CEO Tony
Hayward saying (on May 18) its environmental effect will be "very
modest," when, in fact, it's already catastrophic, spreading, causing
long-term or permanent ecological destruction over a vast area, will likely
persist for months, and, according to some experts perhaps years if nothing
tried to stop it works.
- Initially, BP reported a 1,000 barrels per day leak,
then 5,000 after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
(NOAA) estimate, while independent analysis of company supplied video and
satellite imagery suggest somewhere between 50 - 100,000 barrels, the consensus
settling on 70,000 or an Exxon Valdez equivalent every 3.5 days - by far,
America's greatest ever environmental disaster, worsening daily.
- On May 19, McClatchy Newspapers Marisa Taylor and Renee
Schoof headlined, "BP Withholds Oil Spill Facts - and Government Lets
- It "hasn't publicly divulged the results of tests
on the extent of workers' exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning
of crude....even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining
whether the conditions are safe."
- Further, BP isn't monitoring conditions or releasing
videos, and the Obama administration isn't pressing it despite experts,
like University of Miami's fisheries biologist Peter Ortner saying "We
have been screaming from day one for" it.
- Meanwhile, University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of
Marine and Atmospheric Science's satellite imagery analysis reported on
May 18 that the spill covers 7,500 square miles, or about the size of New
Jersey. Other accounts say 10,000 square miles or a Maryland equivalent.
Either way, it's huge.
- On May 19, McClatchy Newspaper writers Renee Schoof and
Lauren French headlined, "Gulf oil spill may be 19 times bigger than
originally thought," saying:
- New video footage "indicates that around 95,000
barrels, or 4 million gallons, a day of crude oil may be spewing from the
leaking wellhead," according to Purdue University's Professor Steve
Wereley's May 19 testimony to the House Commerce and Energy Committee.
He based his calculation on BP video, saying the spill could be from 76,000
- 104,000 barrels daily, but wants more footage over a longer period for
a more precise calculation, what BP hasn't released up to now and won't,
absent Interior Department pressure to do it.
- Yet if the wellhead fails completely, these figures potentially
could double, begging the question about how long Washington, BP, and the
major media can deny the peril, pretending it's minor.
- Wereley said the "media keeps using the 5,000 (figure),
but there is scientifically" no basis for its accuracy. "BP's
estimate is nowhere near correct. It is certainly larger." He sees
no "possibility (under) any scenario (that the publicized) number
is accurate," imagine how much less so under a worst case scenario.
- On May 14, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)
"filed a formal notice of intent to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
for ignoring marine-mammal protection laws when approving offshore drilling
operations in the Gulf of Mexico."
- Salazar's Interior Department approved "three lease
sales, more than 100 seismic surveys, and more than 300 drilling operations
without permits required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered
- According to CBD's oceans director, Miyoko Sakashita:
- On Salazar's watch, the Gulf was treated "as a sacrifice
area where laws are ignored and wildlife protection takes a backseat to
oil-company profits." The Interior Department "is well aware
of its obligations under the law....yet it has simply decided it cannot
be bothered. You and I have to follow the law, but Interior Secretary Salazar
seems to think that he and the oil companies he is supposedly overseeing
do not. That is unacceptable."
- CBD is suing Salazar and the Minerals Management Service
(MMS) for flagrantly violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered
Species Act. Hundreds of individual and class action ones have begun coming
against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and their complicit corporate partners
for compensatory and punitive damages, but whatever their resolutions,
they'll never compensate for lost livelihoods, destroyed lives, and environmental
devastation that courts can't redress.
- Of course, the problem goes back decades and was extreme
under the Bush-Cheney White House, run by former oil men who cared only
about profits, and didn't give a damn about the environment. Neither does
Obama and his corporate-controlled administration.
- In 2007, Bush's Interior Department sold BP the affected
lease under its 2007 - 2012 Five-Year Offshore Oil Drilling Plan. In April
2009, the Obama administration approved exploratory drilling, after which
CBD and its allies won a court order vacating the Bush Five-Year Plan.
- Rather than seek an alternative, Interior Secretary Salazar
filed a special motion to exempt approved Gulf sites, identifying BP's
as one to be allowed. In July 2009, the court agreed, despite BP having
the worst environmental and safety records of any company operating in
- No matter. It downplayed a spill possibility, saying
it was unlikely or virtually impossible. MMS then rubber-stamped its exploration
plan with no environmental consideration. In other words, it should never
deter business or stand in the way of profits - the same attitude shown
Wall Street, corporate health providers, and other corporate favorites
given generous legislative or direct handouts.
- As a result, regular large and smaller spills are assured,
heavy oil from this one having reached the fragile Louisiana marshlands
- nurseries for shrimp, oysters, crabs, and fish that make Louisiana America's
leading commercial seafood producer and a favorite tourist destination
for recreational anglers.
- Oil also now affects the South Pass Mississippi River
entrance, the Mississippi delta, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island, Alabama,
Whiskey Island on the Chandeleur Islands south end, the protected bird
breeding sanctuary Raccoon Island, and the Loop Current, a powerful clockwise
conveyor belt heading it toward Florida, up the East Coast, and into the
Atlantic, threatening Western Europe and perhaps West Africa. The potential
devastation is incalculable but at minimum will be huge.
- According to European Space Agency satellite images,
visible proof shows its position, suggesting it'll reach the Keys around
May 25, America's only living coral barrier reef - the world's third most
productive marine ecosystem with its patch and bank reefs, seagrass meadows,
soft and hard bottom communities, and coastal mangroves. They support one
of North America's most biologically diverse amounts of marine life, endangering
them, according to Dr. Hu Chuamin, executive director of the Institute
for Marine Remote Sensing (IMaRS) at the University of South Florida.
- An optical oceanographic expert, he says there's "no
doubt that (oil) will reach the Florida Keys. (Advancing about 100 miles
a day), we know that (Mississippi Rivers waters are heading for) the Florida
Straits and will impact the Keys." Once there, major damage is likely
to an ecosystem providing shelter, food and breeding sites for many plants
and animals as well as coastal storm protection. According to Florida's
Department of Environmental Protection, reefs also help the state's economy
through millions of dollars annually from recreational and commercial fishing.
- No one knows the potential damage, but if oil flows over
the reef, the amount will depend on whether it stays on the surface. According
to Eugene Shinn, recently retired US Geologic Service reef ecology expert,
"Under no circumstances should dispersants be used on an oil slick
in the vicinity of a coral reef." They would cause oil droplets to
sink and potentially destroy tiny coral polyps.
- Worse still, the Loop Current joins the Gulf Stream,
North America's most important ocean current system, sparking fears about
oil entering it and traveling up the entire East Coast into the Atlantic.
En route, it could foul beaches, mangroves, sea-grass, and coral reefs,
vital to area wildlife, local economies and human health, besides crossing
the Atlantic for more damage.
- Earlier, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) head ,Jane Lubchenco, told reporters that an "unprecedented
and dynamic" slick was on course to sweep along Florida's coastline,
was "increasingly likely" to reach the powerful Gulf Loop, then
be carried to the Keys and beyond.
- No doubt to prevent his congressional testimony, MMS
associate director of Offshore Energy and Minerals Management, Chris Oynes,
will take an accelerated retirement May 31. He got his position despite
being key to an offshore leasing foul-up, costing taxpayers an estimated
$10 billion in lost revenue - the Interior Department's inspector general
calling his mismanagement "a jaw-dropping example of bureaucratic
- So bad, in fact, he got a better job to rubber-stamp
BP's right to operate recklessly, wreck the environment, and reward its
shareholders with billions in profits. Maybe a new high-paying job as well,
the usual revolving door payoff for allies leaving government service.
- BP's Criminal Negligence
- Besides lying, covering up, and deceiving all along,
BP knew the vital blowout preventer was damaged weeks before the spill,
yet did nothing to fix it, according to a May 17 Judith Evans Timesonline
report headlined, "BP pressured rig disaster workers to drill faster,"
- According to chief electronics technician Mike Williams,
one of the last workers to leave the doomed platform, the blowout preventer
was "damaged when a crewman accidently moved a joystick, applying
hundreds of thousands of pounds of force. Pieces of rubber were found in
the drilling fluid, which he said implied damage to a crucial seal. But
a supervisor declared the find to be 'not a big deal.' "
- Engineering Professor Bob Bea disagreed, telling 60 Minutes
that inaccurate pressure readings followed. The real situation was concealed.
The rig no longer was safe, and without blowout preventer protection, "a
catastrophic accident like the Gulf oil spill" might happen.
- Bea also said BP ignored an even more critical safety
measure, ordering the rig operator to remove the "drilling mud,"
the heavy liquid used before the well was sealed to keep oil and gas from
- MMS drilling engineer Frank Patton calls drilling mud
"the most important thing in safety for your well." Explosion
eyewitnesses, including nearby fishermen, saw it being extracted beforehand.
BP told rig workers that "things" were plugged when, in fact,
final cementing wasn't in place. Without it and the drilling mud, an operable
blowout preventer was the last line of defense. Drilling without it was
willful criminal negligence.
- So wasn't the whole operation, approved by Obama's Interior
Department, including EPA's authorizing the use of toxic dispersants, causing
more problems than solutions to the environment, wildlife, affected residents,
and fishermen hired as first responders, already getting sick.
- BP said respirators and other special protections weren't
needed, despite strong hydrocarbon vapors and massive toxic chemical amounts
dumped on the slick to make it more water soluble.
- As a result, fishermen report bad headaches, burning
eyes, persistent coughs, sore throats, stuffy sinuses, nausea, and dizziness
- unsurprising based on EPA monitored unsafe airborne levels of dangerous
hydrogen sulfide, benzene and other toxins, way exceeding acceptable standards
for humans and wildlife.
- BP and Washington ignore them, risking chemical poisoning
to show up later in long-term illnesses, disabilities and deaths, what
happened to Exxon Valdez and 9/11 first responders, never told of the dangers
they faced. Again, expediency and corporate interests trump environmental
considerations, public health, worker safety, and common sense - swept
aside by Washington-BP collusion.
- On May 20, with over 600,000 gallons of surface dispersants
used and another 55,000 underwater, the EPA told BP officials to choose
less toxic ones in 24 hours, submit a list of alternatives, then begin
using them within 72 hours.
- According to Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin (on
May 20) in her article titled, "EPA demands less-toxic dispersant:"
- An unnamed administration official said "Dispersants
have never been used in this volume before," let alone ones as toxic
as Nalco's Corexit 9500A and 9527A.
- Nalco is well-connected, having formed a joint venture
with Exxon Chemical in 1994, has oil-industry insiders on its board, including
an 11-year BP board member. No wonder Defenders of Wildlife's senior policy
advisor, Richard Charter, calls Corexit "a chemical that the oil industry
makes to sell to itself, basically." Only profits matter, not long-term
harm to people, wildlife and the environment.
- Washington Coverup of a Massive Underwater Oil Blob
- According to investigative journalist Wayne Madsen in
his May 20 article headlined, "White House Covers Up Menacing Oil
- FEMA and US Army Corps of Engineer sources say that "US
Navy submarines (in the Gulf and Atlantic off the Florida coast) have detected
(and are tracking) what amounts to a frozen oil blob....at depths of between
3,000 to 4,000 feet. (It's now) transiting the Florida Straits between
Florida and Cuba (and parts of it) are breaking off into smaller tar balls
that are now washing ashore in the environmentally-sensitive Florida Keys
and Dry Tortugas."
- Lies and coverup try to hide it, Madsen saying NOAA operates
as a "virtual public relations arm for BP," and the Coast Guard
is "lying in order to protect the Obama administration" to limit
its damaged image.
- Six months ago, without federally required permits, the
BP/Transocean/Halliburton troika drilled a 35,000 foot well, causing "a
major catastrophic event that required the firms' oil rig personnel to
quickly pull up the drill and close (its) hole."
- Even so, BP "re-sank the drill (causing) another,
more destructive chain of events following the (Deepwater Horizon) explosion....When
(it) blew up, (it) also 'blew down,' cracking the sub-seabed pipe"
as deep as 30,000 feet, "again, without a government permit."
- BP also wants to recover "as much oil as possible
from the (site) rather than simply plugging and capping (it), which would
then place it off-limits to further drilling."
- Company officials are deceiving the Obama administration
and public about their so-called "kill shot" or "top kill"
plan to permanently seal the well. Instead, they intend "to shoot
cement into the pipe in an attempt to cap" it temporarily, later hoping
to dig "a trench for side drilling (to) recover as much oil as possible,"
no matter the risk of an even greater disaster that won't deter their quest
- The Exxon Valdez Connection
- Greg Palast's Exxon Valdez fraud investigations found
BP mostly to blame, a topic his May 5 Truthout.org article explained, titled
"Slick Operator: The BP I've Known Too Well."
- What the company did to Alaska, it's now doing to the
Gulf, and a vastly greater ecosystem under a worst case scenario. "Tankers
run aground, wells blow out, pipes burst. It shouldn't happen, but it does
(after which) the name of the game is containment," coverup, and spending
the least amount possible for cleanup and restitution.
- In Alaska and today, BP "was charged with carrying
out the Oil Spill Response Plans (it) drafted....filed with the government,
and is handling the same way by "l(ying), prevaricat(ing), fabricat(ing)
- Spills are contained with "lot('s) of rubber, long
skirts of it called a 'boom' (used to) surround (them), then pump (them)
out into skimmers, or disperse it, sink it or burn it."
- However, "booms" have to be ready to respond
like a fire department's equipment and personnel to operate it. In Alaska,
it was BP's job as principal Alyeska pipeline consortium owner - its same
job in the Gulf as principal Deepwater Horizon lessee.
- In 1989, Alyeska claimed that equipment and response
crews were in place with trained Alaskan natives ready if needed. It also
"certified in writing that a containment barge with equipment was
within five hours sailing of any point in the Prince William Sound, (and
that) it had plenty of boom and equipment cached on Bligh Island, where
the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef.
- In fact, it had nothing there, and Alyeska earlier fired
Alaskan workers, "replacing them with phantom crews, lists of untrained
employees with no idea how to control a spill. And the containment barge
(in fact was) laid up in a drydock in Cordova, locked under ice, 12 hours
away." Instead of containing the spill, 1,200 miles of shoreline were
wrecked, contaminated enough to remain so for decades at minimum.
- For a company with the worst safety and environmental
record in the industry "here we go again. Valdez goes Cajun"
with contagion enough to contaminate vast parts of the Gulf, Florida Keys,
fragile ecosystems, and the entire US East coast and beyond.
- This goes way beyond BP and its decades of criminal negligence.
It's a regulatory problem for lack of it; a government one for no oversight,
public or environmental concern; and a long-term systemic one giving business
free reign to plunder and pollute without limit, then when caught call
it an accident, paper it over, and repeat again because complicit government
officials allow it.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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