Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is Oil Leaking Again in the Gulf of Mexico from BP's Deepwater Horizon Site

Washington's blog has a guest post at Naked Capitalism that should be read by all those concerned abou the well-being of the Gulf of Mexico

Majia here: I never believed that the oil "leak" in the Gulf was truly fixed. The lies produced by BP and the US government about the apocalypse in the Gulf never stopped.

Here is an excerpt from an essay I'm writing about the Gulf:

In April of 2011, The Guardian published emails obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act documenting how BP officials sought to control scientists and their research on the oil spill (Goldenberg).

Furthermore, the emails revealed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confronted the White House August 4 2010 and demanded it issue a correction to its claim that the “vast majority” of oil was gone from the gulf. Documents also indicated that Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, and Bob Perciasepe, deputy director, had objected to the White House estimates. Together, these documents demonstrate that the White House acted deliberately to deceive the public about the effectiveness of the clean-up.

Additionally, BP’s control over funding of research on the spill allowed alternative data and interpretations to be suppressed, as documented by an August 24, 2010 New York Times op-ed article titled “Gulf Science Blackout” on the lack of transparency in scientific research on the spill by a professor at Louisiana State Univ (Hooper-Bui).

Punitive damages were at issue in the research over the scope of the spill’s effects. BP would be required to pay for the oil spilled and the marine animals killed. BP was also responsible for some compensation to the fisherman whose livelihoods had been disrupted.

However, all allegations had to be proven and BP and the government conspired to hide the scope of the disaster in a variety of ways. The use of corexit to “hide” the oil was perhaps the most gross example of duplicity in this regard. Secondly, BP allegedly sought out and destroyed dead marine animals including dolphins in whales without tallying the death toll.

The U.S. Presidential Commission 2011 report on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill “reduces the likelihood that BP PLC will be found guilty of gross negligence, legal experts and industry analysts said…If gross negligence is found, BP, which has already set aside $39.9 billion before tax to pay for the spill, could face penalties of at least $21 billion. If it isn’t, legal experts say the fines will be smaller and BP will have a better chance of clawing back some of the costs from its license partners” (Chazan “oil spill”, 2011, B3).

This decision against a ruling of gross negligence is hard to understand given BP’s safety record. BP’s corporate culture has promoted deal-making over safety (Chezan “BP’s Safety Drive”, 2011, A1). BP’s Prudhoe Bay, largest oil field in N. America, has for years been critiquedfor its aging infrastructure, its lengthy backlogs of needed maintenance work, numerous worker safety risks, and poor work conditions (Chezan, 2011 “BP’s Safety” p. A11).

In the Gulf of Mexico, BP relied on a well design described as ‘risky’ by Congressional investigations in over one third of its deepwater wells and failed to use a blow-out preventer (Gold & McGinty, 2010, p. A1). Government regulators were understaffed and many were corrupted by a revolving door, close ties and gifts BP relied on cheaper wells (Power).

Over a year after the start of the Gulf oil disaster, oil still washes up on the shores of Loiusiana shores and clogs marshes. A year after the tragedy, BP and other oil companies are pushing to open more areas off the East and West coastsand Alaska to expand drilling while reducing safety reviews (Markey, 2011). A year after the tragedy “Offshore oil companies still shielded by liability limits” reports ProPublica (Wang, 2011, April 19).

Furthermore, no investigation has occurred of the stock sell off by BP executives. Indeed, Tony Haward, CEO of BP at the time of the disaster, sold off a full one third of his stock before the disaster (“BP Chief” 2010, BP had reportedly had trouble with its deepwater Horizon cite prior to the explosion in April.


Sources for my essay

BP Chief BP chief Tony Hayward sold shares weeks before oil spill (2010, June 5). The telegraph.

Chazan, guy (2011, January 7). Oil spill report could limit BP payout. The Wall Street Journal, B3

Chezan G. (2011, February 1). “BP’s Safety Drive Faces rough road. The Wall Street journal, p. A1, A11.

Gold, Russell, McGinty, Tom (2010, June 19-20). BP relied on cheaper wells. The Wall Street journal, pp. A1, A5.

Goldenberg, Suzanne (2011, April 15). Emails expose BP's attempts to control research into impact of Gulf oil spill. The Guardian. Friday 15 April 2011 11.46 BST
see also

Hooper-Bui, Linda (2010, August 24). A Gulf Science Blackout

Markey, Ed. (2011, April 20). One year after the BP oil spill, dangers remain. Grist.

Power, Stephen (2010, September 1). Off-shore oil regulators are ordered to cut their oft-deep industry ties. The Wall Street Journal, p. A4.

Wang, Marian (2011, April 19). A Year After Gulf Tragedy, Offshore Oil Companies Still Shielded by Liability Limits. ProPublica.

Wang, Marian (2011, April 28). Authorities Give Conflicting Accounts of Latest Toxic Releases From Texas City Refineries. ProPublica.

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