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May. 22 2010 - 2:03 pm | 967 views | 2 recommendations | 13 comments

Obama politely asks for cooperation while BP rules spill zone with iron fist

A protester shouts slogans against BP during a...

Image by AFP via @daylife

Judging by the government’s handling of the spill zone, I’d be hard pressed to tell you who is in charge of the country right now. BP has stifled the freedom of the press, given the finger to the EPA, and will not be forced to testify in Obama’s shiny, new commission. Honestly, I’m amazed Obama’s first reaction wasn’t to rename the country The United States Of BP.

Mac McClelland, a human rights reporter for Mother Jones, has been chased away from spill site by a local policeman, who claims he was just doing “what they told me to do.” McClelland asked the logical question: Who are they? And aren’t the police usually the ones charged with maintaining order?

The “they” is BP, the company that has already used contractors to chase a CBS news crew from a beach in South Pass, Louisiana when they tried to film a thick coat of oil. And McClelland records that BP spokespersons told two reporters they were not allowed anywhere on the beach, despite the fact that “tons of tourists” are in those locations.

BP has quartered off the Louisiana coast like an army in a war zone, and has shaken off any attempt by the government to control their response to the environmental disaster. EPA weakly asked BP to (pretty please) not use those toxic dispersants that have been banned in the UK, but BP has since decided to stick with Corexit.

Even Obama seems to be quaking in the presence of the almighty oilman. The president signed an executive order to form a commission to study the BP disaster. Except, he shed the original proposal to subpoena BP and Halliburton, and now the commission will politely “request information” from the huge corporate entities. Well, as long as Obama does it in a super nice fashion, I’m sure they’ll comply.

The original committee was also supposed to be comprised of persons free of any conflicts of interest, but Obama had a different vision for that, too. For example, the Republican co-Chair of the commission is William Reilly, a Director at DuPont and ConocoPhillips.

The members shall be drawn from among distinguished individuals, and may include those with experience in or representing the scientific, engineering, and environmental communities, the oil and gas industry, or any other area determined by the President to be of value to the Commission in carrying out its duties.

And I’m sure those “distinguished individuals” won’t prioritize taking care of their own, and make any unnecessary unpleasantness (like government regulation) go away as quickly as humanly possible.

Finally, as usual, Obama wants us all to — for the love of God — look forward and not at the charred remains looming behind us. He wants the country to “develop options for guarding against, and mitigating the impact of, oil spills associated with offshore drilling.”

On the surface, that may seem like encouraging language, but when weighed with the Obama administration’s lack of regulation, and spineless request that BP please provide all incriminating information, it’s obvious how pathetic this response really is. The government might as well say, “Look, people, this is definitely going to happen again, but maybe we can try to ‘guard against it,’ and then ‘mitigate’ the unholy disaster unleashed upon society when it happens. But this is definitely, definitely happening again, okay?”

And when it does happen again, the Obama administration will make it easier for BP to suppress the media, skirt liability, dump toxins into the ocean to break up the stuff that looks really bad when captured by photographic evidence, and get back to a system of freewheeling deregulation. Fingers crossed no one gets blown to smithereens during the next explosion, you guys!

This is the official plan even though the exciting potential for disaster rests in a plethora of equally unregulated oil drilling sites, and while BP certainly won’t be ordered to testify before a commission, it will be allowed to suppress the First Amendment, and pick and choose what laws it obeys. All the while, Obama will continue implementing his overly medicated reaction to the huge problem of deregulation, politely requesting massive corporations cooperate as they steamroll the nation’s laws.


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  1. collapse expand

    I understand the impulse to criticize, but what, exactly, would you have President Obama do? BP is best positioned to stop the flow and they seem, to me, to be working diligently toward that end. I guess it is reasonable to question the wisdom of using dispersants, but nothing really matters beyond stopping the flow.

    These cheap shots and posturing are meaningless.

    Scrap your cars. Turn off the lights. Don’t heat or cool your home. Unless you plan on reversing the industrial revolution, it’s hard to take commentary like this seriously.

    • collapse expand

      I noticed you didn’t address any of the points in the article. What does BP’s suppression of the media and use of toxic dispersants have to do with fueling cars or cooling homes?

      It’s possible to demand corporations like BP be held accountable for their unscrupulous actions (like skirting numerous regulations for the sake of expanding profits) without making “cheap shots” and “posturing meaninglessly”.

      Unless, of course, you meant Obama was posturing meaninglessly, a position with which I could agree. He seems more preoccupied with “looking forward” than bringing about some of that change he was talking about.

      PS: The last time I checked, electricity comes almost entirely from coal, not oil. But coal mining is another industry in need of stronger regulation.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        We live in a society powered by fossil fuels. Oil, natural gas, and – yes – coal are all critical to our economy. Extracting these fuels is dangerous. Why are we drilling in such deep water? We have to in order to secure the supply of oil and that is not going to change anytime soon.

        You accuse BP of skirting regs to expand profits and I take that to mean you think you know the cause of the explosion. Surely you don’t think they would intentionally cause the accident – it’s cutting into their profits. They have every incentive to act in a safe manner and use sound engineering judgement. Sometimes, people make mistakes in judgement and sometimes bad things happen. Cost is always a factor when making operational decisions. These companies exist to make a profit. I’m guessing it wasn’t the lack of paperwork that caused the accident, I’m guessing someone made a bad call in the heat of the moment. Assuming they were not hurt or killed in the explosion, I’m fairly sure they are wracked with guilt. They are human.

        I think its a bit early to say BP isn’t being held accountable.

        My larger point is this: Demand for these fuels comes from you and me. Cut demand and you don’t have to drill in the Gulf of Mexico or in Alaska. I’m all for that and I’m sure you are too. But calling BP unscrupulous ignores our role in creating demand for their services.

        If, as you say, BP is restricting access to the area, that is wrong. I agree so I did not comment. If you want to question the integrity of the engineers and other “distinguished individuals” that is your right, but I think it is a cheap shot.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        As for the toxic dispersant…

        Nalco Statement on EPA Analysis of Subsurface Dispersant Use
        On May 20, 2010, Nalco Company released the following statement of the use of oil dispersants:

        We are gratified that the EPA has acknowledged that the use of Nalco’s dispersants has been effective and has had no undue impact on the marine environment. As the agency noted on its website today: “toxicity data does not indicate any significant affects on aquatic life. Moreover, decreased size of the oil droplets is a good indication that, so far, the dispersant is effective.” These results are from an aggressive dispersant monitoring plan in the Gulf that has been implemented by BP and is regularly and rigorously reviewed. We welcome the test of any alternative use technologies to mitigate the environmental impact of the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico. As always, our sole responsibility is to help government responders in any way they deem appropriate.

        The EPA Dispersant webpage can be found here http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/dispersants.html#qanda.

        And from the EPA site:

        “Is the underwater chemical dispersant that EPA approved contributing to underwater oil plumes?
        There is no information currently available to connect use of dispersants to the subsurface layers discovered. NOAA continues to work closely with EPA and the federal response team to monitor for the presence of oil and the use of surface and sub-surface dispersants. As we have emphasized, dispersants are not a silver bullet. They are used to move us towards the lesser of two environmental outcomes. Until the flow of oil is stemmed, we must take every responsible action to reduce the impact of the oil. EPA reserves the right to stop the application of dispersant at any time. We reserve the right to discontinue the use of this dispersant method if any negative impacts on the environment outweigh the benefits.”


        “What effects, if any, does the use of dispersants have on marine life?
        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, which is why EPA and the Coast Guard are requiring BP to implement a robust sampling and monitoring plan.”

        But you really can’t belive anything a corporation or the EPA says. They are like bloggers that way – they all have a PR agenda. I guess since many Americans actually work for those evil corporations, you can’t believe anything we say either. Well, I don’t work for Nalco or any company even remotely related to the energy industry. I’m just expressing an opinion and feeling bad that my gas guzzling life style leads our government to invade countries and our companies to pollute to support my SUV and trips to the mall. But I’m not going to change either. That would require actual sacrifice as opposed to posturing in the comment section of blog postings.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        As for suppression of the media…

        “UPDATE: Rob Wyman, the Lieutenant Commander of the USCG Deepwater Horizon Unified Command Joint Information Center has sent us a statement in response to this incident.

        …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. The entities involved in the Deepwater Horizon/BP Response have already reiterated these media access guidelines to personnel involved in the response and hope it prevents any future confusion.”


        In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    The tale of the oil companys’ involvement in the demise of streetcars has some basis in fact. In the 1930s and ‘40s, GM, Firestone, and Standard Oil formed a company called National City Lines. [Streetcar bell dings] National City Lines was a management company that bought up individual trolley lines in various cities and operated them for a profit. National City Lines profited from converting streetcars to buses, buses which were made by GM, which ran on Firestone tires, and used Standard Oil gas. In 1949, these corporations were convicted of conspiring to monopolize sales of supplies to the bus industry. Full story on History Episodes 10, 2006, Cleveland Electric car. Cleveland
    http://www.pbs.org/historydetectives.com . Just think we could have had high speed rails, cities grown around them, and polution free. Our Congress, Senate, and oil companies should be tried for traitors, even back then and now. They call the experence in political terms Today, with the help of those 537 persons running this country today, green energy is getting the same treatment as the electric car. The promise of 4 million jobs, the misleading of American investors towards green energy, (most stock down 75%) from that promise, and we see very little signs as far as the eye can look of solar panels, wind generators, natural gas conversion kits for cars that can be set up with a pump station, and small storage tanks . Just in the conversion kits alone, gas can be produce for 20 to 35 % of its present price. Farmers with gas wells can sell as well. Now there is a law that forbids drilling of your own gas well. All this is an extortion plot against America, to make change, the incentive to use Americans educational skills, and the research and development that would bring about change. Change alone creates jobs in all areas of life today. To stop developement cold, in its tracks, is an extortionist plot against society, Americas are capable of doing anything that is dreamable and has proved that in the past. Crime pays in America, and cannot exist, unless those 537 persons authorize the monetary gains and promote mind control that are destroying family life and the love we once knew. We can see how our leaders have administered the immigration laws, that have been on the books for years. Is it possible that there are no laws governing those persons in charge, for destroying America, in the name of political contributions and monetary pleasures, that are producing 80% of the children under single households in America. Is there any traitor laws against these persons, who say I did not know?

  3. collapse expand

    Where does electricity come from?

    The largest single source is natural gas, not coal.

    Where does natural gas come from?

    “Where Are These Reserves? Most of the natural gas that is found in North America is concentrated in relatively distinct geographical areas, or basins. Given this distribution of natural gas deposits, those states which are located on top of a major basin have the highest level of natural gas reserves. As can be seen from the map below, U.S. natural gas reserves are very concentrated around Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.”


  4. collapse expand

    Ms. Kilkenny,

    I think you may have said more than you realized. It is actually not clear that the USEPA has jurisdiction the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Clean Water Act only applies the Navigable Waters of the US, which includes “territorial seas”. The CWS states “(8) The term “territorial seas” means the belt of the seas measured from the line of ordinary low water along that portion of the coast which is in direct contact with the open sea and the line marking the seaward limit of inland waters, and extending seaward a distance of three miles.” The Deepwater Horizon further than three miles from low tide mark in Louisiana. Clouding the subject further, the Deepwater Horizon is within the “Exclusive Ecomonic Zone” which extends out to 200 miles. So the exact nature of the jurisdictional authority of the USEPA or even the Federal Government is not actually very clear.

  5. collapse expand

    You know Allison I used to follow your posts. Only catch an odd one occasionally these days. You have become so shrill. You have been attacking anything and everything since this accident. Eleven people are still missing..surely dead. You started off with an article claiming BP was offering nefarious $5000 settlement deals. This was later refuted by everyone involved and on Ungar’s page yet you have ignored requests to straighten the record. This is a very bad spill and much localized damage is to be expected. We all recognize the scope of this. Please pay attention to the facts instead of your page count. Peace!

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