The U.S. regulators who were responsible for oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico accepted meals, tickets to sporting events and gifts from at least one oil company. A new report offers further evidence that the Minerals Management Service has what has been described as a culture of lax oversight and cozy ties to industry.
You can click on The Star link below to see some of the devastating effects the oil spill has had on wildlife.
The problem was not confined to the MMS. In 2007, a British Petroleum refinery in Indiana was allowed to continue to dump mercury into Lake Michigan by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. A permit exempted a BP plant from a federal regulation limiting mercury discharges into the Great Lakes.
The New York Times reports:
"In mid-2008, a minerals agency employee conducted four inspections on drilling platforms when he was also negotiating a job with the drilling company ... And an inspector ... may have been under the influence of [crystal methamphetamine] during an inspection."
But there are even more downright criminal activities taking place right now. According to a government panel, new calculations suggest that "an amount equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster could be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico every 8 to 10 days," the New York Times reported on June 10.
In addition, the CNN video above discusses the health problems suffered by the clean-up workers, and the fact that BP is strongly discouraging any type of protective gear, such as respirators and even rubber gloves! In the video, Kerry Kennedy mentions that the average age at the time of death of workers who cleaned up after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill was 51!
Today, all those clean-up workers are DEAD!
Seems BP is far more worried about their PR, buying up search terms on Google and other search engines, than protecting the health and welfare of their clean-up crews...
Meanwhile, another New York Times article reports that the "U.S. EPA has quietly released a full list of ingredients in the two controversial dispersants BP PLC is using to combat the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, following weeks of complaints from members of Congress and public health advocates that the dispersant manufacturer had kept its complete formula a secret from the public."
This image is but one of literally hundreds of competing logos in LogoMyWay's BP logo contest. They write:
"I cant tell you how frustrated and upset we are about BP and how they are handling this oil disaster. Before this eruption of oil they had 17 violations. It's obvious this could have been prevented. This is the biggest environmental disaster we have ever faced in this country.
I think the (6000) creative logo designers at LogoMyWay should update the BP logo with a more suitable design and brand. The design community and the general public will vote on the winner of the redesign of the NEW BP LOGO."
To see all of the submitted logos, see LogoMyWay's contest page.
As of June 20, the latest estimates revealed that 4.2 million gallons of oil were likely still spilling into the Gulf of Mexico daily -- an amount that's more than one Exxon Valdez every few days.
Now accounts from on the scene are revealing that the situation is much, much worse than you have likely seen on the news or online, and a media blackout of sorts appears to be occurring.
BP has been buying up popular search terms on Google, so that when you search for "oil spill" you'll be directed to BP's damage control page that shows the company's "Gulf of Mexico Response" and cleanup efforts, instead of the massive amounts of damage that is still ongoing.
Adding to the outrage, a federal report that began in 2008 and was due to be released this summer has uncovered major conflicts of interest between the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which oversees drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and industry officials.
In addition, as Stephen Lendman points out, for nearly two months, BP officials:
-- Obstructed cleanup efforts and haven't provided proper equipment to do it;
-- Suppressed vital information;
-- Told cleanup workers they'd be fired if they spoke to the media;
-- Lied from day one about what really happened and its severity;
-- Denied adequate compensation to Gulf victims;
-- Withheld respirators and other protective gear from cleanup workers, many now ill from flu-like symptoms, including severe headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, chest pains, and trouble breathing that may persist, become worse and, for many, be long-lasting or permanent;
-- Ordered workers showing up with respirators and other protective gear to remove it or be fired; and
-- On June 17, BP CEO Tony Haywood stonewalled the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation by refusing to provide information he knows as chief operating officer.
Federal Drilling Regulators Had "Cozy Ties" to Oil Industry
Along with receiving meals, tickets to sporting events and other gifts from at least one oil company, inspectors reportedly allowed industry officials to "fill in their own inspection reports in pencil -- and then turned them over to the regulators, who traced over them in pen before submitting the reports to the agency," the New York Times reported of the Inspector General report's findings.
The cozy relationship between federal inspectors and the oil industry certainly takes on a new light, now that the greatest environmental tragedy to hit the United States is upon us.
CNN interviews with survivors of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion also painted a dismal picture of BP's corporate culture, as workers detailed the company's priorities (profits). CNN reported:
"In the CNN interviews, the workers described a corporate culture of cutting staff and ignoring warning signs ahead of the blast. They said BP routinely cut corners and pushed ahead despite concerns about safety.
The rig survivors also said it was always understood that you could get fired if you raised safety concerns that might delay drilling. Some co-workers had been fired for speaking out, they said."
There is also speculation that the rig may have been short-staffed the day of the blast, and records reviewed by CNN suggest some staff may have been overworked; time sheets showed that 20 crewmen had worked 24-hour shifts days before the explosion, when a normal shift was 12 hours.
CNN interviews also revealed that BP had ordered a shortcut on the day of the explosion designed to speed drilling, as the rig was five weeks behind schedule. A BP executive reportedly ordered heavy mud, used to keep well pressure down, to be replaced with lighter seawater, a change that had chief drillers concerned.
BP Hired Operators to IGNORE Consumers
As much as BP would like to appear as a concerned and noble corporation, doing all they can to stop the disaster, repair the damage and listen to the concerns of the American people, this appears to be nothing but a front.
BP has set up a hotline number called the "Vessel of Opportunity Program," and it's meant to field calls from concerned citizens and log cleanup ideas and other comments that come in.
But an exclusive interview with one of the call center workers by 11 News found the call center is actually a hotline to nowhere.
The disguised operator told 11 News that not only do the operators believe calls go no further than the call center, some do not even bother to take notes on the calls, or simply log in "blah, blah, blah."
"We're a diversion to stop them from really getting to the corporate office, to the big people," the BP operator told 11 News.
Dispersants Making People Sick, Causing Even More Damage
In more damage control efforts, BP has sprayed more than 1 million gallons of chemical dispersants into the Gulf since the oil spill began, and cleanup workers have been complaining of dizziness, nausea and other symptoms ever since.
The chemicals in dispersants Corexit 9500 and 9527 are toxic. The New York Times reports:
"Corexit 9527, used in lesser quantities during the earlier days of the spill response, is designated a chronic and acute health hazard by EPA. The 9527 formula contains 2-butoxyethanol, pinpointed as the cause of lingering health problems experienced by cleanup workers after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and propylene glycol, a commonly used solvent."
According to Carys Mitchelmore, a researcher at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the detergent-like brew of solvents, surfactants and other compounds are known to cause a variety of health problems in animals, including:
- Reduced growth
- Reproductive problems
- Cardiac dysfunction
- Immune suppression
- Altered behavior
- Carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects
Corexit products were actually removed from a list of approved treatments for oil spills in the U.K. more than a decade ago after the agents were linked with human health problems including respiratory, neurologic, liver, kidney and blood disorders, and "harmful effects" on sea life.
In fact, the EPA's table comparing toxicity and effectiveness shows that Corexit is toxic at much lower levels than many of its competitors. Only 2.61 ppm of Corexit 9500 is required to kill 50 percent of fish exposed to it within 96 hours.
Sayer Ji, founder of InformationToInspireChange.com, clarifies this by explaining that the Corexit itself actually only has a toxicity level of 25.20 parts per million. The test oil the EPA uses has a higher toxicity of 10.72 ppm. It is when you add the Corexit to oil at a 1:10 ratio that the combined toxicity of this third entity "dispersed oil" goes all the way to 2.6 ppm.
So, why would BP choose Corexit, given its higher toxicity and poor performance in handling Louisiana crude?
As it turns out, BP has financial ties with Nalco (the manufacturer of Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527A), which explains why they have now poured more than 1,021,000 gallons of it into the Gulf and have another 805,000 gallons on order. Because of these industry ties, Corexit is the only dispersant available in the massive quantities "needed" for an oil spill of this size.
In fact, they used up all existing stockpiles of Corexit 9527A, the older and less desirable formula, and Nalco states it will be discontinued, now that it has been used up.
And if it is toxic enough to be discontinued, why was it being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in the first place?
It's almost as if the federal government were actively working to worsen the problem and expand the impact of the disaster.
Dispersants Toxic to People, Too
In humans, the toxic effects are also well known. The MSDS for Corexit 9527A lists the human health hazard as "acute," stating:
"Excessive exposure may cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects. Excessive exposure to 2-butoxyethanol (an active ingredient) may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver.
Prolonged and/or repeated exposure through inhalation or extensive skin contact with EGBE (2-butoxyethanol) may result in damage to the blood and kidneys."
These chemicals are being sprayed into the ocean in unprecedented amounts, and given their toxicity and unknown impacts on marine life and humans when used in such massive quantities, the EPA has asked BP to switch to a less toxic dispersant, giving the company 24 hours to "identify a less toxic alternative" and three days to begin using it.
The chemical dispersants, by the way, are not a silver bullet to miraculously make oil disappear. Oil spill dispersants only alter the chemical and physical properties of the oil, making it more likely to mix with seawater than deposit on the shoreline.
So what the dispersants do is re-direct the oil, making its impact perhaps less so on birds and shore-dwelling animals, but more so on fish, coral reefs, oysters and other marine life that live in the deeper waters. It essentially "hides" the oil out of view, below the surface where news cameras can't see it.
Even the EPA states:
"It's important to understand that the use of dispersants is an environmental trade-off. We know dispersants are generally less toxic than the oils they breakdown.
We know that surface use of dispersants decreases the environmental risks to shorelines and organisms at the surface and when used this way, dispersants breakdown over several days. However the long term effects on aquatic life are unknown … It is too early in the process to know what the scope of the natural resource damage will be."
Another Accident Waiting to Happen?
Internal BP documents and employee interviews have revealed another disaster in the making on BP's Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska. In an investigative report, employees told Truthout that hundreds of miles of rotting pipe are ready to break -- an environmental mess they believe could be even worse than the Gulf oil spill.
Employees anonymously said that BP follows an "operate to failure" attitude, running equipment until it breaks rather than spending money on upkeep. Truthout even reports that senior BP managers get bonuses when they manage to not use funds designated for maintenance.
Perhaps foreshadowing what's to come, BP's Lisburne Alaska facility had an oil spill from a broken pipeline in November 2009 that released nearly 46,000 gallons of oil. The spill, and its causes, are currently being investigated by Alaska state authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI.
Other red flags raised by employees and revealed in the investigative report are a two-mile section of pipeline that experiences "hopping" -- wind-induced vibrations that could cause stress to the structure -- safety gaps in fire and gas-related equipment that are not being repaired, putting employees at risk, and overworked workers who routinely work extra long shifts.
If BP doesn't clean up its act, the Gulf oil spill may be only one of a series of environmental disasters to come.
What Will the Environmental Toll Be?
Only time will tell what the true environmental and human health impacts of the 2010 BP oil spill will be, but this is for certain: we need our oceans, our coral reefs and our marine life to survive.
Coral reefs are already disappearing faster than rainforests, and dispersed oil is particularly deadly to coral reefs.
According to Charlie Veron, an Australian marine biologist regarded as the world's foremost authority on coral reefs:
"The future is horrific. There is no hope of reefs surviving to even mid-century in any form that we now recognize. If, and when, they go, they will take with them about one-third of the world's marine biodiversity. Then there is a domino effect, as reefs fail, so will other ecosystems. This is the path of a mass extinction event, when most life, especially tropical marine life, goes extinct."
You may feel helpless right now to make a difference in the Gulf, but there are some steps you can take to help. First, you can join the movement to stop the use of dispersants by signing this petition.
I also urge you to take action now, without delay, pressing your representatives to hold BP accountable for this massive environmental tragedy.
Thankfully the market is decimating BP and they have lost one hundred billion dollars in the value of their stock since this fiasco started.
President Obama's Failed US Press Conference
This BP oil disaster solidly reaffirms my long held belief that the government long ago has shifted from policing major corporations to partnering with them and giving them free reign to whatever their hearts desire. This is becoming even more blatant. We need to recognize this for what it is as soon as possible.
The government has long stopped working in your best interest and the sooner you realize that the sooner you will be able to take more effective control of your and your family's health.
Now please understand that this is in no way shape or form a partisan observation. I came down equally hard on President Bush on many of his choices. Just use the search engine on the site to confirm this. However, it is my impression that Stephen Lendman has captured the sentiment of what many of us are feeling during this enormous environmental catastrophe.
He provides some powerful insights and questions President Obama's June 15 address to the US.
"The president was disingenuous, shameless, hypocritical and supportive of Big Oil interests, much like his backing for the Wall Street bandits, Big Pharma, the insurance lobby, auto giants, agribusiness, defense contractors, and other corporate favorites, while endorsing big cuts in vital public benefits and services to show fiscal restraint.
Playing front man for BP, he didn't explain the cause or severity of the crisis in terms of its effects on the economy, ecosystem, and lives, welfare and health of Gulf state residents. Nor did he demand accountability for perhaps the greatest ever environmental crime, as a result of government-corporate complicity that neither this or any other disaster will change, and unless it does, profits will always supersede public welfare and ecological safety, externalities indifferently sacrificed without concern, no matter how severe.
To a nationwide audience, he said nothing about regulatory laxity, BP's disregard for worker safety, its shoddy history of dangerous practices, the disrepair of its equipment by cutting corners on maintenance and proper controls, years of manager warnings to top officials ignored about safety concerns risking serious accidents, employees pressured to be silent, say nothing, or be fired, and the company's single-minded pursuit of bottom-line issues, everything else be damned.
"They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow US health safety and environmental policy. At what point are we going to say we are not going to do business with you any more, bye? None of the other supermajors have an environmental criminal record like they do."
So why did Obama provide BP cover from day one, and in his 18 minute nationwide address?
Why hasn't he held a corporate scofflaw accountable, run the cleanup from the start, demand BP provide full information on the problem and cooperate with Washington in charge or face criminal prosecution, huge fines, and nationalization? Why hasn't the public been fully informed? Why do the administration, its officials, the Congress and Coast Guard work for BP instead of the other way around?
Why has he unquestioningly accepted all BP pronouncements on faith, including deliberately falsifying gush estimates - first, 1,000 barrels a day, then 5,000, then 25,000 - 40,000, then 30,000 - 60,000 and now 100,000 or FOUR MILLION GALLONS of oil per day and 100 times higher than their initial estimate, when reliable evaluations are double these numbers or higher and explain a problem that may turn the entire gulf and beyond into dead zones, as well as contaminate the entire Atlantic coast and waters well beyond?"