APRIL 21, 2012 5:18PM

Yanking the BP Disaster Out of the American Memory Hole

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It’s been two years. Two years since our collective shock and awe over the worst environmental disaster in American history.

Horrified we watched for three long months as hundreds of millions of gallons of oil relentlessly bled into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP pr handlers and Obama spokespeople asked America to trust that this corporation and our government were seriously responding to the crisis and would do everything possible for future prevention of another such catastrophe.

Here is a stack of resurrected revelations and new revelations about the disaster that we must not let disappear into a national memory hole.

Eleven men died when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. (Robert Weissman)

The blowout spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil and more than 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas into the Gulf of Mexico. (Common Dreams)

BP made a conscious decision not to install a $500,000 safety device that could have prevented the blowout. (Robert Weissman)

As a cleanup strategy, BP flooded the Gulf with nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants. BP claims the dispersants broke up the oil. Some scientists insist they simply made the oil less visible while poisoning even further the food chain. (Jordan Flaherty)

“To this day, however, not a single executive—from BP, rig owner Transocean, or rig contractor Halliburton—has been held criminally responsible.” (Andre Damon)

After imposing a brief moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf, the Obama administration continues to do business with BP, continues to give BP lucrative governmental contracts. BP is one of the Pentagon’s largest fuel suppliers. (Robert Weissman)

BP has yet to pay any fines to the US government. (Andre Damon)

“BP is pulling in bumper profits. The company posted a $26 billion profit in 2011, erasing a $4 billion loss the year before. BP anticipates even higher profits in the coming years, with oil prices on the rise and new drilling projects in the offing.” (Andre Damon)

“Last November, the Coast Guard approved drilling for BP's first offshore oil well since the spill, located 250 miles southwest of New Orleans and 1,000 feet deeper than the Macondo Prospect, the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The company has stepped up its efforts to drill in even more remote areas, including the Arctic.” (Andre Damon)

Dolphins are sick and dying, deepwater fish species are stricken with lesions, oyster reefs are gone, sport fish have disappeared from traditional locations. (Common Dreams)

Shrimp are born without eyes, crabs with holes in their shells. Tarballs continue to wash up on beaches. There are mass deaths of deepwater coral, dolphins and killfish. (Jordan Flaherty)

The focus on the Gulf of Mexico after the disaster illuminated the problems of that area over a generation. Land and population loss from grossly excessive oil company drilling. The insane amount of poisoning pollution from treatment plants across the state, especially “cancer alley”, a lineup of industrial facilities along the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge. (Jordan Flaherty)

"On Wednesday, BP finalized a $7.8 billion settlement with some 100,000 fishermen, hotel owners and others whose livelihoods and health were affected by the spill. The deal puts an end to any speculation that BP might be made to pay the full $20 billion it set aside for damages." (Andre Damon)

"Under the Clean Water Act, the company is liable for up to $17 billion in fines to the government. Confident that it will be made to pay far less than this, the company has put aside just $3.5 billion for this purpose."( Andre Damon)

Both Bush and Obama administrations “fast-tracked” BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill plan. It proceeded without doing an environmental impact study. Obama’s secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, intervened to oppose a ruling that would have delayed the operation. BP execs cut costs and safety when the operation fell behind schedule and government regulators “turned a blind eye” to accommodate the rush to profit-making. They gambled with the lives of their workers and the welfare of the environment and the many human, animal and plant lives dependent upon it. (Andre Damon)

The White House left the responsibility for cleanup and recovery in the hands of BP, the main perpetrator of the disaster. BP tampered with and destroyed evidence. The US Coast Guard served the needs of BP, as BP dictated activities along the Gulf coast in the months following the spill. (Andre Damon)

The Obama regime asserted that this disaster would not impact expansion of offshore oil drilling.Three days after the 11-death explosion, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs cavalierly and “pragmatically” told the media,“We need the increased production … I doubt this is the first accident that has happened and I doubt it will be the last.” (Andre Damon)

A campaign of disinformation followed the explosion. The government and media were uncritical of BP. They enabled BP to spread false and gross under-estimates of the scope and nature of the environmental crisis. Concerned scientists and engineers were prevented from mobilizing and taking emergency measures to contain the disaster. (Andre Damon)

“The government's response to the BP disaster was analogous to its response to the financial crisis.” Continue to reward as well as trust the perpetrators to do the "right" thing at the expense of the national welfare. Money buys impunity. (Andre Damon)

So, we have undergone the worst financial crisis in American history. We have undergone the worst environmental crisis in American history.

And the aftermaths? The perpetrators of both continue to be green-lighted to greater heights of greed and depths of disaster by our pimped-out betraying government representatives and their media lackeys.

A bit of a slap on the wrist rhetorically for the bad boys and girls and after a nominal bit of check writing (what a lot of financial bang for the buck) they are all back to the business of destroying the planet and all that live upon it.

Profits uber alles.

No, we and the earth deserve better than to let all of this slide into a national memory hole!

 

[cross-posted at correntewire and sacramento for democracy] 


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Oil spills are always worse than advertised by the governments or the companies responsible. There's still unrecovered oil on the beaches from the Exxon Valdez disaster... and oil from natural seepage floats onto beaches in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties every day in California.
Actually, it's all still going on- the lawsuits and such. On Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC this morning, he had a guest (I'm crappy with names) who was listing all of the pending litigation and all of the illnesses and such that Gulf Coast inhabitants are enduring right now.

If it works, here's a link to the video...
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46979738/vp/47126678#47126678

Otherwise, here's his web page and the video link is at the top.
http://upwithchrishayes.msnbc.msn.com/
Thanks for this update.
The dinosaurs are pulling us into their graves with them, and we are enjoying the ride. (Well, you and I and a few others aren't but who gives a crap about us?)
I heard on public radio the other day that BP is suing to get some of the money they put in trust back since they think the damage wasn't that bad. Then I heard another piece about how bad it still is and how many fish are just not coming back.
rated with love
I will never forget. More than anything because that event coincided with a natural disaster (flood) where I live that destroyed my husband's place of business, and it took nearly a year to rebuilding. I recall suffering incredible anxiety from that, but also from the fact that I knew that well was gushing hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, one of my favorite places. (I wrote a very lengthy blog about it at the time, which can be found here. I am horrified now reading about the effects on sea life two years later. I can't believe that the human species is going to survive a whole lot longer at this rate.
Your title is perfect, Libby. It's an uphill battle to fight against the political and social amnesia--but a necessary one. I suspect many don't want to be remember because they feel there's nothing they can do, so reminders are just depressing reminders of their powerlessness.
Brilliant post - it says it all. I can't wait until they release the documentary "Dirty, Lying Bastards" (hopefully some time in May). Guess what it's about?
thanks for comment, jmac. i heard sy hersch on democracy now declare talking about the military mess but I think it can be applied to everything having to do with our governance and its corruption and/or incompetence, "if you think it's bad, it's even worse!" When the vacation industry Gulf dwellers joined up with obama to minimize the tarry sands and polluted water and questionable fish down south it was heart-breaking. Obama wanted to minimize the disaster for political and corporate-crony reasons, and the vacation livelihood people had to separate from the environmentalists because they needed tourists to come even though they were bonding against people who were as betrayed as they were. Their values were compromised for their economic survival. How horrible that citizens were put in such a position of divided loyalties like that.

I, too, was so disgusted and horrified when the Valdez accident happened and how much destruction happened there. Was it the drunkenness of that captain that was responsible for so much destruction, or was there more to that crisis that was concealed and still is? best, libby
phyllis, thanks so much for the links. I love Chris Hayes' show but rarely get to see it. visiting his website will certainly enhance my knowledge if there are podcasts. I think he is a rare example of honesty and exploration as a tv commentator although not sure if he is covering the Greens and Jill Stein as I would want.

I know there are civil suits and hope there are a lot of them, but the quote above is stressing no criminal liability and accountability. I am heartened to hear the civil suits may have an impact and achieve compensation.

I got furious hearing about the profits BP is making these days. People are probably still riding on the assumption their profits stayed dipped since the catastrophe. Far from it. And BP getting such governmental contract rewards like Halliburton did for all those Cheney years and still so I am assuming ... and like Blackwater is, too, no matter what they apparently do that is amoral and violent, they are still cronied up, though they are hiding out under another name, right? Xi is it? best, libby
toritto - thanks for commenting. when the BP crisis happened I had no idea the Gulf of Mexico had been treated like a toilet for corporations for so long! best, libby

Thanks, Sheila. I was happy to find some updates on the post-crisis and then very unhappy to hear even more alarming disclosures about then and now, about BP having so much power enabled by the Obama administration. I remember Carol Browner on the NewsHour with Judy Woodruff lying through her teeth that 80% of the Gulf was restored thanks to Mother Nature. Judy W's mouth dropped open at that, and it was clear she knew Browner was talking sh*t (Obama gets women like Browner and Rice and others to crony up and lie for him) but Woodruff went with the flow, once again proving how craven media is, even the supposedly higher-toned NewsHour!!! best, libby
will be back to respond to other comments soon! thank you!!! best, libby
Thanks, Chicken Maaan! Yeah, I think of the dinosaurs and when their tails were hurt it took so much time for the connection to make it to their brains. Dinosaur reaction time it is called. It certainly does seem to apply to the what some of those articles even about the BP disaster under-reaction are saying. What is with the "stockholm syndromed" citizenry the writers ask to allow a company that did so much harm globally to keep on risking like this? Although with so many fresh hells, and a lying media and politicians, an ordinary citizen would assume a down and dirty behaving corporation like BP was taken finally to the woodshed, but look at how profits for them are absolutely soaring. How they are willing to take more risks with their workers for profits. More risks with our environment. Paying for pr and politician bribery more than to amends to the people. Obama is incapable of making the long term hard choices and willing to gamble himself with our lives and our globe. As is Congress. Both legacy parties. Voting for Obomney is so not the answer. Voting for a status quo that is raising the swamp and quickening its quicksand for all of us. Why I see Jill Stein of the Green Party as a light in all this darkness. Thanks for commenting! best, libby
Thanks, RP, for commenting! My mother used to have an expression about people who were so arrogant and non-empathetic. She would talk about their COLOSSAL NERVE. That expression echoed in my mind when I read what you said about BP doing the suing.

When I read about what the lawyers get for people to get justice done in this country (what the 9/11 families had to pay out to lawyers and why those attorneys felt entitled to SO MUCH of that money it distressed me), but more likely the corporate rat bastards have their lawyers preventing justice getting done is what happens more often -- the lawyers not defending citizens -- it appalls me. The lawyers who interpret the laws and twist them so that horrifying amorality and anti-constitutional conduct of this administration just like Bush's has a faux-fig leaf for its betrayal of human decency!

Scientists are saying that trying to put an economic evaluation on the vast damage to our ecosystem is premature, the damage is so profound. Money buys impunity!!! It is so WRONG!!!! best, libby
Jeanette, thanks so much for visiting and commenting! Wow, I can appreciate how your already natural empathy and horror over the BP disaster was so enhanced by the crisis in your personal life with that flood situation. What a trial for you and your family. I hope there has been serious recovery for you and yours after a crisis like that.

I too was haunted by that BP disaster, the oil destructively leaking and leaking and leaking and hearing the dire predictions of what it would do to the ecosystem from the non-governmental and non-corporate voices. And all the ineffectual attempts to stop the spillage going on. The downright sociopathic cost-cutting and risk taking decision making on the part of those at the top. And then insult to injury the busy pr handlers of the government and the corporation doing all they could to minimize what was happening. Reminds me of what the Japanese government was doing after Fukushima. Which is a whole other lesson that our government apparently hasn't learned from. Full speed ahead on nuclear facilities and the gamble to the administration is worth it and downplay the horror of accidents. Especially with climate change and how that profound shift is punishing the security structures. Especially when infrastructure itself is no longer a priority. Only bonuses for the rich. Only profits for them.

Thank you for sharing your blog. I will read it with interest! best, libby
Donegal, thanks! Yeah, it sure does feel like American citizens take the Scarlet O'Hara approach of procrastinating worrying about dire things until "tomorrow". Keep on functioning in willful denial. Though I didn't know just how creepy the BP story was until I read a couple alternate media stories about it in common dreams for its anniversary this past week. Thank God people are watching what is going on but the drum beat of outrage is fought tooth and nail by a corporate media that keeps its tiny penlight flashed on non-priorities for the citizenry. Titillating distractions to protect the corporate and political mentors. There have been so many horrors to our sensibility as citizens during the craven Bush administration and then the horror of seeing the Obama administration even more craven though people are insisting the "lesser evil" label be applied and that administration be rewarded with another four years!!! Dear God!!! Yes, denial, minimization and amnesia, let's go there is the collective vast majority decision. Thanks for commenting! best, libby

Stuart, once again, thanks for visit and validation! I hadn't even heard about "Dirty, lying bastards" so I googled!

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/10/486984.html

"Soon or later, we see the black dragon behind our oil addiction. These are the megacorporations who span the world. They have private armies of security men, and the biggest military in the world behind them. They own politicians, private jets, and maybe a few countries."

"But the most potent weapon in the arsenal of Big Oil is the river of money available for public relations. Advertising soothes us, movie placements make us want more, the oil industry is the subtle pusher, who keeps us addicted, keeps us coming back to the pumps, keeps us buying plastic products, and oil-based foods."

"If only someone could tell it like it is."

"That would be Craig Rosebraugh. Don't be fooled by the technical sounding name of his upcoming film. "Greedy Lying Bastards" is no puff piece for the industry."

"Craig Rosebraugh - film maker, academic, writer, and activist. Craig is highly educated, Masters and has Law Degree. The Co-writer is Patrick Gambuti Jr."

"Craig is the film-maker, director, and occasional actor in the new film "Greedy Lying Bastards" to be released in 2012. A rough cut has just been submitted to the Sun Dance film festival."

"This is a no-holds barred film about "the power and dominance of the fossil fuel industry." The project started two and a half years ago, going to 14 countries on 5 continents. It covers the poisonous results of spills, corruption, and climate change caused by oil burning."

"Some of the locations are Tuvalu (which will disappear as a country due to rising seas), to Uganda (now plagued by droughts and floods), and Peru (where melting glaciers threaten the only water supply for millions). There is also the Niger Delta, where children swim in the goo from oil pollution, and a prominant activist was murdered."

"Craig covers a lot of the damage from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster."

"He finds people who cannot get medical care because Gulf doctors are so dependent on oil company business. Many businesses were wrecked. A group of four Florida tourists became sick swimming in oil and chemical dispersants. One died. A lot of Gulf coverage."

"We hear about BP claims processing problems, after the big PR campaign by BP. Initial payouts of $5000 per person. Interim payments have been the problem, as losses continued. Only 16% of interim claims have been paid out so far."

"Case: Steven Aguanaga, went to Fla Gulf Coast at beachfront hotel in summer of 2010. No sign of contamination. Hotel told them beach was safe, went swimming one afternoon - came back covered with an orange goo. All four in party felt ill. Steven's friend went back in, felt sick, Merrick Valian died within three weeks. Aguanaga continues to have symptoms of chemical exposure."

"Case: Mississipi Shirley Tillman and husband very ill after a direct hit of dispersant, out on a boat helping to clean up the oil. Although they protected their grandson Gavin, no beaches for him, no water contact, but got sicker than rest of family. Got it likely from the air."

"Case: Clayton Mathern, Louisiana. Clayton out on water half a mile from the rig when it exploded, on a supply ship. In addition to smoke from burning rig, Clayton was covered in dispersant sprayed from the air. Hospitalized several times. During Craig's interview, he was rushed to the hospital. Diagnosed with paralysis in one of his legs."

"Few doctors will treat this toxicity. Some doctors turned away patients when BP chemicals were found to be the source of the problem. Doctors themselves are dependent on the industry and it's suppliers. They also fear the litigation, with the huge legal budget BP has. "

"BP is not paying the medical costs of ongoing toxic health problems. The company made an announcement in November 2010 that they would not pay for medical treatments resulting from the spill. They didn't want to acknowledge there was a problem."

"The only option left is to try and sue BP - but these are lower income and poor people with no money for lawyers."

snip

"Film makers did their own tests about safety of seafood. They tested shrimp, sand and water. Shrimp was 10 times higher than levels set by Fed Government and BP after the spill."

"Oil pollution in Gulf shrimp was found ten times higher than allowed by the EPA. But it is still sold nationally."

"At time of Exxon Valdez spill safe level was set at 11 parts per billion in seafood. Then gov't and BP raised "safety" level 45,000 times higher to 500 parts per million, after the BP Deep Water Horizon spill."

"Sea food buyers are relying only on smell tests(!) done by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scientists used their noses to smell levels of hydrocarbons in fish."

"Gulf seafood is still contaminated and ending up in our U.S. food supply." -Craig Rosebraugh said.

snip

"Why so many sceptics shown in the film? So many pseudo debates on whether climate change is happening, despite majority of Academies say argument is over."

"The fossil fuel industry is the force behind deniers, buying deniers, media, and scientists. They want to create confusion and doubt."

"Deniers are buried by their own voices. "Dirty Lying Bastards" covers the industry's PR campaign. Two of worst are ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. In last decade each spent nearly 25 million dollars just funding climate denial campaigns."

snip

"The oil industry will not/can not regulate itself. Profits are too big a draw. The industry needs an outside government agency. Will Congress do anything?"

WOW, STUART. "DIRTY, LYING BASTARDS" IS RIGHT!!!!!

Thanks for adding so much more consciousness raising to this thread! Best, libby
Anyone reading comments to this thread should check out jeanette's blog that she links in her comment above. A few excerpts:

"This money is given so freely because lobbying works. Even "the environmentalists" win the occasional minor victory, although any clout they may have pales in comparison. No one would spend these amounts if they didn't get some return on the investment. But it's particularly true of the oil industry. (This industry, by the way, gave over $900,000 to Barack Obama in 2008, and almost $2.5 million to John McCain)."

"As Sam Stein writes in The Huffington Post:

"As Congress gears up for a legislative response to the oil spill in the Gulf and energy reform more broadly, some political observers are increasingly worried that the deck may be stacked in private industry's favor.

"That's because in the first three months of this year alone, the company at the heart of the current crisis, BP, has hired at least 27 lobbyists who formerly worked in Congress or the executive branch. The revolving door between the oil giant and elected office is spinning fast -- so much so that good government officials are hard-pressed to name a comparable organization with that much institutional clout on tap.

""It is a lot," said David Donnelly National Campaigns Director at Public Campaign Action Fund. "You don't often find more than two dozen."

"In the first three months of 2010 -- the three months that immediately preceded the explosion of its Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig -- BP spent more than $3.8 million dollars on lobbying the federal government. The cash was spread around seven prominent lobby shops within the D.C. area (including BP's own internal operation), who in turn employed 39 lobbyists to help the company push its legislative interests. That nearly 70 percent of those hired guns have experience in elected office doesn't surprise good government officials because those are after all the most sought-after hires on K Street.

""A former Hill staffer who is now lobbying comes with a ready-made Rolodex of contacts for those people working and writing legislation," added Donnelly.

"For an object lesson in how well lobbying works, read what Rep. Joe Barton (who has received $1.4 million from the oil and gas industry over the last 20 years) had to say, as quoted in this June 17, 2010, Associated Press article, describing BP CEO Tony Hayward's appearance before a Congressional committee:

"While most of the opening statements by members contained harsh criticisms of BP, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, accused the White House of conducting a "$20 billion shakedown" by requiring oil giant BP to establish a fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf Coast oil spill.

""I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House" on Wednesday, said Barton, who has received at least $100,470 in political contributions from oil and gas interests since the beginning of 2009, the second-highest amount among all the committee members.

snip

" According to CNN:

"The MMS, which has about 1,700 employees, has two responsibilities when it comes to industries such as oil or natural gas. It must act as a regulator while also collecting royalties from the companies.

"Some critics say those are opposite pulls and make the agency ripe for mismanagement.

"I would say those critics are right about that. These two functions are diametrically opposed to one another. Of course, the agency (and the government) wants to collect more royalties. The only way to do this is to keep regulation (and costs to energy companies) to a bare minimum. (In fact, a 2010 Inspector General's report charges that MMS inspectors let the oil and gas company personnel fill out their own inspection reports in pencil, later tracing over them in pen to make them "official".)

snip

MMS gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA) that assesses threats to endangered species - and despite strong warnings from NOAA about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the Gulf. Those approvals, federal records show, include one for the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in thousands of barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf each day.

MMS routinely overruled its staff biologists and engineers who raised concerns about the safety and the environmental impact of drilling proposals in the Gulf and in Alaska.

Since April 20, 2010, twenty-seven new offshore drilling projects have been approved by MMS. All but one project was granted similar exemptions from environmental review as BP. Two were submitted by the UK firm, and made the same claims about oil-rig safety and the implausibility of a spill damaging the environment.
(The above taken from Wikipedia.org, footnoted with the following sources: Houston Chronicle 5/8/10; Washington Post 5/5/10; New York Times 5/13/10; The Guardian 5/9/10.)

snip

I'll leave you with this quote by John Muir, founder of The Sierra Club:

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
I think anyone who doesn't understand that hasn't got a soul. Such a person looks at every place of wilderness merely in terms of what can be sucked out of it to make money. There are other values besides the capitalist value. But that seems to be the default value, the right value, the only value. And it's not even that other values are ignored. Other values are denigrated, mocked and demonized, and relegated to the "outer fringes". Other values are seen as "radical" and "wacko". I believe this is a testament to how thoroughly corporatism has taken hold in this country.

"We have seen what this has wrought in the Gulf of Mexico, and we (those of us with souls, anyway) weep for what's to come.'

THIS WAS A GREAT BLOG, JEANETTE! I learned much more because of it! Thanks! best, libby
Libby, thank you for reminding us. This afternoon on WBAI, I was listening to an activist from New Orleans talking about BP and its devastation. She was on route to participate in the "Occupy" Earth Day event at Union Square. The event was going to begin with a New Orleans jazz funeral led by a band to commemorate the dying of the earth.
Libby, thanks so much for reading it. I don't have too many posts like that in me (it was A LOT of work), but I really felt compelled to write that one.