Thursday, June 3, 2010

What is New with the Oil Spill? Part V

I apologise for the delay in putting up Part V.  The weekend brought me unexpected company as well as a bout of depression over the increasing amount of news coming out about this spill.  I had to take a break and try and stop thinking about it constantly before I drove myself over the edge.

Back to business.
We've seen a few of the pictures but we also now have plenty of evidence that BP  is doing everything in their power to keep photo evidence of the devastation is kept to a minimum.  BP has been in control and continues to be in control and their main concern aside from getting the oil saved for themselves is to spin this into the best possible light in their favor.

An example of the PR spin that goes on, seemingly with permission from those within the Coast Guard who are repeatedly proclaimed to be in charge. President Obama came to Louisiana to give a press conference and to once again announce that the US Government was in charge of this operation and that everything that could be done was being done. Clean up crews were on the ball, in full hazmat gear, working diligently to clean that nasty oil off the beaches, and out of the marshes.

Reports came out shortly thereafter that bus loads of workers had been brought in, in full hazmat gear, to clean up the beach where the President would be visiting. Hundreds of workers. Then when the President left, buses showed up to pick those workers up and take them home.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, whose district encompasses Grand Isle, told Yahoo! News that BP  bused in "hundreds" of  temporary workers  to clean up local beaches. And as soon as the president was en route back to Washington, the workers were clearing out of Grand Isle too, Roberts said.
"The level of cleanup and cooperation we've gotten from BP in the past is in no way consistent to the effort shown on the island today," Roberts said by telephone. "As soon as the president left, they were immediately put back on the buses and sent home."
Roberts says the overnight contingent of workers was there mainly to furnish a Potemkin-style backdrop for the event — while also making it appear that BP was firmly in command of spill cleanup efforts.
New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU reports that the workers were paid $12 an hour and came mostly from neighboring Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.
Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts Reports Hundreds Bused In By BP For President’s Visit

So this is what is being fed to the citizens of this country and the world. BP tells us all that worker safety is a priority and they are using all the manpower they have to help clean up the oil that continues to roll ashore daily, onto the beaches, into the marshes, and onto the barrier islands.

PENSACOLA - Local charter boat captains and commercial fishermen took to the streets today... to proclaim that BP has broken its promise to them. 
They say BP lied to them... when they said fishermen would be given first consideration for jobs through the Vessels of Opportunity Program.
They rallied right here this morning to get their point across.
With creative homemade signs and banners... Pensacola Beach charter captains and commercial fishermen are taking their anti-BP message... public.
We've been told some things that do not seem to be the case... we've been told that we'd be hired first, that the charter and commercial fisherman would be put in front of everyone else... because we're the first ones hit by this issue.
They have hired a lot of people already, but they have not hired local captains like they said they were gonna. 
Jerry Andrews is the captain of The Entertainer... and says to date... he's only heard about two local charter boat captains BP has hired.
Probably 90% of the people they activated or hired... has nothing to do with the fishing industry whatsoever, and that's what has got us so up in arms.

BP NOT Hiring Locals For Work Like Promised

Dying, dead marine wildlife paint dark, morbid picture of Gulf Coast following oil spill

Here's what President Obama didn't see when he visited the Gulf Coast: a dead dolphin rotting in the shore weeds.
"When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at," said a BP contract worker who took the Daily News on a surreptitious tour of the wildlife disaster unfolding in Louisiana.
His motive: simple outrage.
"There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don't want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It's important to me that people know the truth about what's going on here," the contractor said.
"The things I've seen: They just aren't right. All the life out here is just full of oil. I'm going to show you what BP never showed the President."
The day was 85 degrees, the blue sky almost white with sunshine, the air fresh with salt tang.
After checking that he was unobserved, he motored out to Queen Bess barrier island, known to the locals as Bird Island.
The grasses by the shore were littered with tarred marine life, some dead and others struggling under a thick coating of crude.
"When you see some of the things I've seen, it would make you sick," the contractor said. "No living creature should endure that kind of suffering."..........
"I saw a pelican under water with only its wing sticking out," he said. "I grabbed it and lifted it out of the water. It was just covered in oil. It was struggling so hard to survive. We did what we could for it.
"Nature is cruel, but what's happening here is crueler."................
"BP is going to say the deaths of these animals wasn't oil-related," he said. "We know the truth. I hope these pictures get to the right people - to someone who can do something."

Dead Dying Marine Wildlife Paint Dark, Morbid Picture of Gulf Coast Following Oil Spill

BP is apparently barring cleanup workers fromsharing photos of dead animals that have washed ashore. But whether we're seeing them or not, the bodies are starting to add up.
Late last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other responders issued a tally of the animals collected as of Friday in oil-impacted regions of Alabama, Florida , Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—dead and alive. Those stats are shocking: 444 dead birds, 222 dead sea turtles, and 24 mammals (including dolphins). I sent a request to the Unified Command office last week asking for data on wildlife collected over a normal time period, pre-oil-disaster, for comparison. I haven't received a reply

BP Bars Photos of Dead Wildlife-Bodies Pile Up

We've heard this tale over and over again from so many.  BP is forbidding photographs of all the dead and dying animals all the while they proclaim that they aren't hiding anything.  Why, if they aren't trying to hide anything are we not getting more of these pictures out there?  Why is this the same story we hear this same story time and again from different people all who are trying to simply get the truth out there?

This kind of coverup is the worst because people are deliberately hiding the truth from the American people and the world at large to prevent more outrage against a company that has profound problems with safety and has a long and protracted history of ignoring safety issues.

Lets take a look at some of the history that is readily available on BP's safety problems.

BP's Dismal Safety Record

As the nation comes to grips with the worst oil disaster in its history , there is evidence BP has one of the worst safety track records of any major oil company operating in the United States.
n two separate disasters prior to the Gulf oil rig explosion, 30 BP workers have been killed, and more than 200 seriously injured.
In the last five years, investigators found,BP has admitted to breaking U.S. environmental and safety laws and committing outright fraud. BP paid $373 million in fines to avoid prosecution.
BP's safety violations far outstrip its fellow oil companies. According to the Center for Public Integrity, in the last three years, BP refineries in Ohio and Texas have accounted for 97 percent of the "egregious, willful" violations handed out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

BP's Dismal Safety Record

The reason for BP's apparently complacency was a culture of fear that it had fostered amongst its employees for more than 15 years. In the 1990s, BP had hired a private security outfit to go through employees' trash, even setting up a dummy public interest firm to attract the attention of conscience-minded employees and trap them. In 2004, an internal report by a law firm concluded that BP employees were subject to retaliation for reporting environmental and safety concerns, and this was only revealed after a confrontation with a Congressional committee resulted in its release.

BP Sordid History In Alaska

From 1993 through 1995, a BP contractor on the North Slope, Doyon Drilling, saved money by illegally dumping hazardous materials down oil well shafts. The company pleaded guilty in federal court to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act and was fined $3 million. BP's punishment for pleading guilty to failing to report the dumping as soon as it learned about it: a felony conviction in 2000 that brought a $500,000 fine, five years probation and an order to create a nationwide environmental management program that cost the company at least $40 million.
BP was still on probation, and under strict rules to prevent reprisals against employees who raised environmental concerns, when new problems erupted in its North Slope corrosion control program.
Despite warnings from a leak-detection system, a badly corroded 34-inch-diameter pipeline in Prudhoe Bay lost oil for at least five days before a worker driving down a nearby service road on March 2, 2006, smelled oil and spotted the spill, which covered at least two acres of tundra. At 200,000 gallons, it was the largest ever on the North Slope.
Just five months later, on Aug. 6, 2006, a second spill of about 1,000 gallons was discovered on another line. Subsequent investigation found the line was riddled with corrosion, with 176 places where more than half the original diameter had been eaten away..........
The chief of BP's corrosion unit, Richard Woollam, who was reassigned to nonsupervisory duties in 2005, took the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination during the hearings, which uncovered a 2004 report by the Houston law firm Vinson & Elkins warning BP that employees faced retaliation for reporting problems.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, suggested BP had decided to "bet the farm" that the pipeline wouldn't fail before Prudhoe Bay would run out of oil, saving it the cost of replacement. He accused the company of fostering a "corporate culture of seeming indifference to safety and environmental issues." In 2007, BP pleaded guilty in federal court in Anchorage to another violation of the Clean Water Act for the 2006 spill. This crime was a misdemeanor, but it still cost BP $20 million in fines and restitution and three more years of probation. Prosecutors said the spill occurred because BP was more interested in cutting costs than in maintaining an aging oil field.
A BP vice president told the judge that the corrosion problems were "out of character" for the company. BP had learned its lesson, he said.
But in November last year, 46,000 gallons of oil and water gushed from an over-pressurized BP pipeline on the North Slope, prompting the EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to open another criminal investigation of BP. An EPA investigator declined to comment last week on the probe's status.
.....In its report on the 2005 refinery explosion in Texas, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board criticized "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation," and said management failures could be traced from Texas to London.

BP Has History Of Safety Failures

So this shows us that there is a long and well documented history of safety problems and attempts at covering up the problems, and yet what happened with the Deep Horizon Rig?  It sank, killing 11 people and causing the worst environmental disaster in this country has ever experienced.   Was this preventable or was this just another problem within BP like history has shown us is more than likely the case?  Good question and the more time that passes the more we are finding out.

Documents Show Early Worries About Safety of Rig
Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.
The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of “well control.” And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer.
On June 22, for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.
“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”
The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards. The internal reports do not explain why the company allowed for an exception. BP documents released last week to The Times revealed that company officials knew the casing was the riskier of two options.
Though his report indicates that the company was aware of certain risks and that it made the exception, Mr. Hafle, testifying before a panel on Friday in Louisiana about the cause of the rig disaster, rejected the notion that the company had taken risks.
“Nobody believed there was going to be a safety issue,” Mr. Hafle told a six-member panel of Coast Guard andMinerals Management Service officials.

Documents Show Early Worries About Safety of Rig

BP Lacked Well Control Six Weeks Before Blowout, E-Mails Show

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc told U.S. regulators six weeks before its Gulf of Mexico well blew out that workers had difficulty maintaining control, according to e-mails released today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the spill.
A March 10 e-mail to Frank Patton, the Minerals Management Service’s drilling engineer for the New Orleans district, from BP executive Scherie Douglas said the company planned to sever the pipe connecting the well to the rig and plug the hole.
“We are in the midst of a well control situation on MC 252 #001 and have stuck pipe,” Douglas wrote, referring to the subsea block, Mississippi Canyon 252, of the stricken well. “We are bringing out equipment to begin operations to sever the drillpipe, plugback the well and bypass.”
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the panel’s oversight subcommittee, released the documents related to oil-well design, and e-mails from March, February and November 2009. The documents “raise questions, but their connection to the blowout, if any, require additional investigation,” the lawmakers said.
The e-mails shows that as early as the second week of March, BP was enlisting help from J. Connor Consulting Inc., a Houston-based firm that advises some of the world’s biggest energy companies on how to respond to oil spills.
Federal regulators gave BP permission to cement the well at a shallower depth than normally would have been required after the hole caved in on drilling equipment, the e-mails showed.

BP Lacked Well Control Six Weeks Before Blowout, E-Mails Show

Now BP was not alone in their problems, and they had plenty of help in their ability to let problems slide, to ignore previous problems and get passes on safety plans.   The MMS (minerals management service) who is tasked with oversight of these Oil & Gas Companies were literally and figuratively in bed with these companies and allowed this to happen.

House Oversight Launches Investigation Into BP, Minerals Management Service

At the heart of the BP oil disaster is a culture of permissiveness at the Minerals Management Service, the agency supposed to regulate offshore drilling. The MMS endured one of the most embarrassing investigations of a federal agency in recent history under the Bush Administration, when the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior uncovered multiple sex and drug scandals at the agency. So it’s not like we need another investigation to know that the MMS was in bed with the corporate interests they’re supposed to regulate.

House Oversight Launches Investigation into BP & MMS

IG report: Meth, porn use by drilling agency staff:
The report said that employees from the Lake Charles, La., MMS office had repeatedly accepted gifts, including hunting and fishing trips from the Island Operating Company, an oil and gas company working on oil platforms regulated by the Interior Department.
Taking such gifts "appears to have been a generally accepted practice," the report said.
Two employees at the Lake Charles office admitted using illegal drugs, and many inspectors had e-mails that contained inappropriate humor and pornography on their government computers, the report said.
Kendall recommended a series of steps to improve ethical standards, including a two-year waiting period for agency employees to join the oil or gas industry.
One MMS inspector conducted four inspections of Island Operating platforms while negotiating and later accepting employment with the company, the report said. 

IG report: Meth, porn use by drilling agency staff

Falsified Oil Rig Inspections & Other Improprieties US Inspector General Report

On May 24, Mary L. Kendall, Acting Interior Department Inspector General's memo to her boss, Secretary Ken Salazar, discussed an "Investigative Report," titled "Island Operating Company, et al," addressing allegations that Lake Charles, Louisiana District Office Minerals Management Service (MMS) employees (in charge of inspections and oversight) "accepted gifts from oil and gas production companies."
Occurring prior to 2007, it provides evidence that "a much-needed (MMS ethics) change is required." Ordinarily, public release would have followed a formal MMS response, 90 days after getting it. But today's events forced Kendall "to release it now," saying her greatest concern is the "environment in which these inspectors operate - particularly the ease with which they move between industry and government."
She found evidence that MMS and industry personnel fraternized and exchanged gifts, and have known each other since childhood. MMS staff used illegal drugs, viewed pornography on their government computers, and sent emails with racist comments, citing one manager saying:
"Obviously, we're all oil industry. We're all from the same part of the country. Almost all of our inspectors have worked for oil companies out on these same platforms. They grew up in the same towns." They've been friends all their lives. "They've hunted together. They fish together. They skeet shoot together....They do this all the time."
John E. Dupuy, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, prepared the report for S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, MMS's Director.
It says industry gifts included hunting and fishing trips, lunches, and other favors from the Island Operating Company (IOC), working on Gulf oil and gas rigs. In addition, one inspector was in the process of "negotiating and later accepting employment with that company." 

Falsified Oil Rig Inspections & Other Improprieties US Inspector General Report

Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department 

In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.
“A culture of ethical failure” pervades the agency, Mr. Devaney wrote in a cover memo.
The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.
The highest-ranking official criticized in the reports is Lucy Q. Denett, the former associate director of minerals revenue management, who retired earlier this year as the inquiry was progressing.
Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department

So we can see that BP while having a culture and long history of safety issues was also allowed to continue in this manner by the very same people charged with regulating and fining them as well as collecting royalties from the Oil & Gas Co.'s.   That is how this has been allowed to get to the point where the Gulf Oil Spill was allowed to happen.

The Gulf Oil Spill was no 'accident'.   This should have been expected due to the problems we know existed and were allowed & encouraged by the refusal of anyone to stop them before they got to this point.

Something needs to be done, and I would like to start by completely tearing down MMS and starting over.  I would also love to see criminal charges filed against BP for their actions as it is obvious that fining them and making them simply pay for the clean up and destruction isn't going to be enough.  They have and will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying just like Exxon-Mobil did in the Exxon Valdez spill.   This cannot be allowed to continue.  Destroying environments and the livelihoods of thousands of people and the wholesale slaughter of animals should result in more than simple fines and an expectation of repayment of monies lost, especially when there is a well documented history of ignoring safety problems.

I'll update with more soon.....stay tuned.

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