Sunday, May 30, 2010

What is New with the Oil Spill? Part III

With the disaster comes taking care of the damage it causes along with stopping the disastrous gushing into the ocean. In this instance it means that not only is stopping the gush of oil into the Gulf but the clean up of what has already spilled and preventing that spilled oil from doing more harm. We are also witnessing how corporations work. It is all about damage control over clean up. Lies have been told about the extent of the damage and the magnitude of the clean up effort.

My anger comes not just with the damage and the lies by BP as we expect that the company will underestimate the damage and under report the extent of what is happening as that is in their best interest and should be expected. Expected maybe but not tolerated. My concern now is how our own government has handled this situation. We have sat by and watched as the Coast Guard has not only allowed those lies by BP to be told, but has actually gone along with the lies being told by BP and has deferred control to BP with regards to PR, and clean up efforts.

Media has been refused access to beaches to document the extent of the spill and to view and document the clean up efforts. We have seen more and more access allowed but that has not always been the case and I have no doubt that this is an ongoing problem for the media.

Mac McClelland who is a reporter for Mother Jones Magazine went to Louisiana, traveling from California to report on the spill and document what was going on. What she found and encountered during her trip was a chilling and stark revelation of just how much control BP was exerting, and being allowed to exert over the situation. Mac kept people informed of her experiences via Twitter prior to writing up her experience for the magazine.

Here are some of the most relevant “tweets” on what was going on. Remember that these are in reverse order so the oldest ones are at the bottom with the newest at the top. She has also included pictures of some of the things she saw.

And BP's press restrictions somehow manage to get even shadier. Controlling airspace?!
7:57 AM May 27th via TweetDeck

Hm. Grand Isle #oilspill workers, who are visible to the public, are wearing protective suits. The ones behind the police blockade weren't.
2:19 PM May 24th via TweetDeck

Oh good, that smell is back! I was totally worried I'd have to breathe clean air this morning.
7:48 AM May 24th via txt

Watching oil wash up in black waves onto the northeastern island tip now. Resident just welcomed me to this "funeral."
1:44 PM May 23rd via txt

That's it. Grand Isle is totally enveloped in gas fumes. The smell is completely nauseating and inescapable.
1:33 PM May 23rd via txt

WWL. RT @Leighsah: @MacMcClelland Do you know what radio station? I'd love to hear anything local, though you are doing a hell of a job.
12:40 PM May 23rd via TweetDeck

Grand Isle residents not amused by the beach closing.
11:30 AM May 23rd via Twitpic

Cleanup crews assembling in protective suits.
11:21 AM May 23rd via Twitpic

Local radio-show topic today: "Is it time for the feds to come in and take the power away from BP?"
11:15 AM May 23rd via txt

Aw. All of Grand Isle beach is now also closed.
11:12 AM May 23rd via Twitpic

Happened to walk into the restaurant Audubon has appropriated. They picked up tons of #oilspill birds today, have lots of very sad footage.
7:50 PM May 22nd via TweetDeck

These #BP #oilspill workers are local; all week, BP told them the stuff rolling up on the beach was mud, dish-liquid runoff, red tide.
5:56 PM May 22nd via TweetDeck

#BP #oilspill workers just rolled up into the motel room next to me; say they've been told never to talk to media.
5:52 PM May 22nd via TweetDeck

Twitter Mac McClelland

She also wrote about it when she had a chance.

The blockade to Elmer's is now four cop cars strong. As we pull up, deputies start bawling us out; all media need to go to the Grand Isle community center, where a "BP Information Center" sign now hangs out front.
Grand Isle residents are not amused by the beach closing.Inside, a couple of Times-Picayune reporters circle BP representative Barbara Martin, who tells them that if they want passage to Elmer they have to get it from another BP flack, Irvin Lipp; Grand Isle beach is closed too, she adds. When we inform the Times-Pic reporters otherwise, she asks Dr. Hazlett if he's a reporter; he says,  "No." She says, "Good." She doesn't ask me. We tell her that deputies were just yelling at us, and she seems truly upset. For one, she's married to a Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputy. For another, "We don't need more of a black eye than we already have."
"But it wasn't BP that was yelling at us, it was the sheriff's office," we say.
"Yeah, I know, but we have…a very strong relationship."
"What do you mean? You have a lot of sway over the sheriff's office?"
"Oh yeah."
"How much?"
"A lot."
When I tell Barbara I am a reporter, she stalks off and says she's not talking to me, then comes back and hugs me and says she was just playing. I tell her I don't understand why I can't see Elmer's Island unless I'm escorted by BP. She tells me BP's in charge because "it's BP's oil."
"But it's not BP's land."
"But BP's liable if anything happens."
"So you're saying it's a safety precaution."
"Yeah! You don't want that oil gettin' into your pores."
"But there are tourists and residents walking around in it across the street."
"The mayor decides which beaches are closed." So I call the Grand Isle police requesting a press liason, only to get routed to voicemail for Melanie with BP. I call the police back and ask why they gave me a number for BP; they blame the fire chief.
I reach the fire chief. "Why did the police give me a number for BP?" I ask.
"That's the number they gave us."
When I tell Chief Aubrey Chaisson that I would like to get a comment on Barbara's intimations—and my experience so far—that BP is running the show, he says he'll meet me in a parking lot. He pulls in, rolls down the window of his maroon Crown Victoria, and tells me that I can't trust the government or big corporations
“It’s BP’s Oil”

So now we have "unofficial confirmation" of this fact.  BP is in charge. They are calling the shots on everything.  Worse yet is that this is being allowed by our representatives in this disaster, the ones who are supposed to be protecting us, and our interests.
BP is controlling all aspects of this for total PR spin to mitigate how they are perceived and how much damage this is going to do to them, but with the perception that people have of BP as well as how much damage this does to them in costs, because between fines, liability costs, lawsuits, clean up costs and potential criminal charges, they will attempt to pay as little as possible and they take that job very seriously. Much more seriously than they do the jobs of cleaning up this mess, stopping the flow of oil into the gulf and taking care of all who have been harmed by this disaster.

NEW ORLEANS – Media organizations say they are being allowed only limited access to areas impacted by the Gulf oil spill through restrictions on plane and boat traffic that are making it difficult to document the worst spill in U.S. history.
The Associated Press, CBS and others have reported coverage problems because of the restrictions, which officials say are needed to protect wildlife and ensure safe air traffic.
Ted Jackson, a photographer for The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, said Saturday that access to the spill "is slowly being strangled off."
A CBS news story said one of its reporting teams was threatened with arrest by the Coast Guard and turned back from an oiled beach at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The story said the reporters were told the denial was under "BP's rules."
U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration officials said BP PLC, the company responsible for cleaning up the spill, was not controlling access.
Coast Guard officials also said there was no intent to conceal the scope of the disaster. Rather, they said, the spill's complexity had made it difficult to allow the open access sought by the media.

Media Claims Access To Spill Site Has Been Limited

New Orleans, La. - Media organizations say they are being denied or allowed only limited access to the areas most heavily impacted by the Gulf oil spill through restrictions on plane and boat traffic that are making it difficult to document the worst spill in U.S. history.

Media Denied or Limited Access

What has been BP & The Coast Guard response to these claims? As you would expect they are either denying they have anything to do with it, or they claim it is a protective measure.

Neither BP nor the U.S. Coast Guard, who are responding to the spill, have any rules in place that would prohibit media access to impacted areas and we were disappointed to hear of this incident. In fact, media has been actively embedded and allowed to cover response efforts since this response began, with more than 400 embeds aboard boats and aircraft to date. Just today 16 members of the press observed clean-up operations on a vessel out of Venice, La.
The only time anyone would be asked to move from an area would be if there were safety concerns, or they were interfering with response operations. This did occur off South Pass Monday which may have caused the confusion reported by CBS today.

BP & Coast Guard Deny Controlling or Limiting Access to Media

Now we know from what Mac McClelland has written that this is the polar opposite of what she experienced, and that tourists were not kept from the beaches, but media was forbidden unless accompanied by a representative, and the reports continue to surface that the media is having difficulty getting "permission" from BP or the local authorities who are following BP's & the Coast Guards demands.

So when something like this happens you have to ask yourself why.  Why are they allowing tourists to be on the beaches but not the media?   Why are they forbidding or limiting boat and plane access?  What is being hidden?  Could it be the true extent of the spill they don't want getting out to the general public?  That is the only reasonable conclusion, because if safety were a concern, they would have proper equipment on the clean up crews who are being paid $10-$12 hrly to clean up the mess.

Is there another logical explanation as to why they would try and keep the media out?  Why they are limiting boat trips and flights over the gulf spill area?  This falls in line with the history of downplaying the amount of oil being spilled and the heavy use of dispersant's as well.   This also explains why BP would demand that necropsy samples & water samples for testing be done exclusively at labs that have connections to BP, and it would explain the refusal to accept help with collecting the sealife/wildlife that are recovered alive or dead.

Damage Control. Plain and simple that is the entire reason behind this.  Keep the media and by extension the rest of the world in the dark as to how bad this truly is. We aren't seeing the same images that we saw from the Exxon Valdez, nor would we expect to considering the differences in the accidents and the extreme differences in the coastline, but the damage being done in the Gulf is far far greater than that of the Exxon Valdez, and yet we are being led to believe that it isn't as bad, nor is the damage as great as it is.  You aren't being show the extent of the damage because that would cause outrage to rise and they can't allow that to happen, not to mention (yet again) that this is also very important to BP because their fines, lawsuits, damage costs are going to based on the amount of damage this causes.

The fact that the magnitude of this is being downplayed is a slap in the face to everyone who is and will be effected by this.  We are going to be dealing with the after effects of this for years if not decades to come.   The repercussions are having a ripple effect already not only in an ecological sense but also the economics of the situation.  People who are now facing the loss of business, not just for this season alone but perhaps years to come.  People are going to be dealing with health issues from the toxic nature of this spill years down the road.  The fishing and tourism industry are going to continue to be dealt a severe blow with people losing perhaps everything they have invested over generations.  Emotions are on a roller coaster for all those directly or indirectly involved or invested in this and that will not end even with capping the well.

Steve Wereley who is one of the consultants on this trying to determine the rate of the oil coming out is now saying that new video shows that he is convinced that his previous low end estimates of 70,000 barrels daily is too low, and he says the he can't say for sure how much in excess it is but he says the word he would use is "considerable".

(To share this video you can use this link to send it on to others: )

The fact that a consultant is freely stating this in the press needs more attention. We are hearing 5, 10, 15 thousand barrels and yet the people who are there and doing this consultation for the government are saying these numbers aren't even close to accurate.  How is this possible or even allowed to happen?  I expect it from BP who is deliberately going to put out the smallest number to protect themselves, but why are we not hearing these numbers from our government?

Part IV to follow soon.

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