Wednesday, 20 April 2011

One Year On Gulf Round Up: Democracy Now

"A Sea in Flames": Ecologist Carl Safina on First Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Blowout

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the worst maritime oil spill in U.S. history. Last year on April 20, the Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by oil giant BP, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and releasing nearly 200 million gallons of oil, tens of millions of gallons of natural gas and 1.8 million gallons of other chemicals. A year later, how much has changed? Carl Safina, author of the new book, A Sea in Flames, reviews BP, Halliburton and TransOcean’s role in the disaster and reflects on how little the government has done to prepare for another offshore drilling accident. Watch/Listen/Read

Voices from the Gulf: "One Year Later, We’re in the Same Situation as Last Year"

One year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, residents of affected coastal communities have reported health ailments that are consistent with common symptoms of chemical exposure. Fishermen and shrimpers have reported record losses in sales and fear the spill will cause long-term damage to marine life and the economy of the region. Many residents report problems with receiving compensation claims from BP. We’re joined by David Pham of Boat People SOS, a national Vietnamese American organization working with fishing communities impacted by the BP oil spill in Alabama, and Tracie Washington, president of the Louisiana Justice Institute in New Orleans. Watch/Listen/Read

Deepwater Drilling Resumes Despite Unclear Impact of BP Spill: "It is All about Hiding the Oil, Not Cleaning It Up"

Many scientists remain concerned that chemical dispersants used during the BP oil spill recovery effort may have damaged marine habitats, affecting many endangered species. We're joined by Kieran Suckling, director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Watch/Listen/Read

Death Toll from BP Spill Still Rising as Residents Die from Spill-Related Illnesses

"We’ve had many deaths of humans directly attributed to this disaster," says investigative journalist Dahr Jamail. "I recently spoke with Dr. Mike Robichaux, a doctor in Louisiana who’s treated scores of people. And he said, if we do not have federal government intervention immediately to deal with this and start treating people and start really cleaning this up appropriately, we’re going to have a lot of dead people on our hands." Watch/Listen/Read

Father of Deepwater Horizon Victim: The Blowout Was “Inevitable” Due to BP’s Lack of Safety Precautions

One year ago today, 28-year-old Gordon Jones was one of 11 workers killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded April 20. Today we speak to his father, Keith Jones, who has been critical of the operators of the rig. Watch/Listen/Read

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BP's Secret Deepwater Blowout
19 April 2011
by: Greg Palast, Truthout and Buzzflash

Only 17 months before BP's Deepwater Horizon rig suffered a deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP deepwater oil platform also blew out.

You've heard and seen much about the Gulf disaster that killed 11 BP workers. If you have not heard about the earlier blowout, it's because BP has kept the full story under wraps. Nor did BP inform Congress or US safety regulators, and BP, along with its oil industry partners, have preferred to keep it that way.

The earlier blowout occurred in September 2008 on BP's Central Azeri platform in the Caspian Sea.

As one memo marked "secret" puts it, "Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition." The Caspian oil platform was a spark away from exploding, but luck was with the 211 rig workers.

It was eerily similar to the Gulf catastrophe as it involved BP's controversial "quick set" drilling cement.

The question we have to ask: If BP had laid out the true and full facts to Congress and regulators about the earlier blowout, would those 11 Gulf workers be alive today - and the Gulf Coast spared oil-spill poisons?

The bigger question is, why is there no clear law to require disclosure? If you bump into another car on the Los Angeles freeway, you have to report it. But there seems no clear requirement on corporations to report a disaster in which knowledge of it could save lives.

Five months prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, BP's Chief of Exploration in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress against increased safety regulation of its deepwater drilling operation. Despite the company's knowledge of the Caspian blowout a year earlier, the oil company's man told the Senate Energy Committee that BP's methods are, "both safe and protective of the environment."

Really? BP's quick-dry cement saves money, but other drillers find it too risky in deepwater. It was a key factor in the Caspian blowout. Would US regulators or Congress have permitted BP to continue to use this cement had they known? Would they have investigated before issuing permits to drill?

This is not about BP the industry Bad Boy. This is about a system that condones silence, the withholding of life-and-death information.

Even BP's oil company partners, including Chevron and Exxon, were kept in the dark. It is only through WikiLeaks that my own investigations team was able to confirm insider tips I had received about the Caspian blowout. In that same confidential memo mentioned earlier, the US Embassy in Azerbaijan complained, "At least some of BP's [Caspian] partners are similarly upset with BP's performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its [Caspian] partners."

In defense of its behavior, BP told me it did in fact report the "gas release" to the regulators of Azerbaijan. That's small comfort. This former Soviet republic is a police state dictatorship propped up by the BP group's oil royalties. A public investigation was out of the question.

In December, I traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, to investigate BP and the blowout for British television. I was arrested, though, as a foreign reporter, quickly released. But my eye witnesses got the message and all were too afraid tell their stories on camera.

BP has, in fact, never admitted a blowout occurred, though when confronted by my network, did not deny it. At the time, BP told curious press that the workers had merely been evacuated as a "precaution" due to gas bubbles "in the area of" the drilling platform, implying a benign natural gas leak from a crack in the sea floor, not a life-threatening system failure.

In its 2009 report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), BP inched closer to the full truth. Though not mentioning "blowout" or "cement," the company placed the leak "under" the platform.

This points to a cruel irony: the SEC requires full disclosure of events that might cause harm to the performance of BP's financial securities. But reporting on events that might harm humans? That's not so clear.

However, the solution is clear as could be. International corporations should be required to disclose events that threaten people and the environment, not just the price of their stock.

As radiation wafts across the Pacific from Japan, it is clear that threats to health and safety do not respect national borders. What happens in Fukushima or Baku affects lives and property in the USA.

"Regulation" has become a dirty word in US politics. Corporations have convinced the public to fear little bureaucrats with thick rulebooks. But let us remember why government began to regulate these creatures. As Andrew Jackson said, "Corporations have neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn."

Kicking and damning have no effect, but rules do. And after all, when international regulation protects profits, as in the case of patents and copyrights, corporate America is all for it.

Our regulators of resource industries must impose an affirmative requirement to tell all, especially when people, not just song lyrics or stock offerings, are in mortal danger. truthout

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