Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
The sanction, however, has been years in the making.

 

When the Obama administration temporarily banned BP from federal contracts Wednesday, it pointed to BP's "lack of business integrity" and conduct relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.

The sanction, however, has been years in the making.

 

BP has been criminally convicted in four previous cases — including a 

Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
Global warming caused by our use of fossil fuels is already driving climate change and extreme weather events.

Hanging from an oil platform in the Russian Arctic one day last August, I was hosed by a jet of water from above so icy it almost cut through the skin on my face. My hands and feet were blue from the cold. Though I was wrapped in layers of waterproof gear, freezing water trickled into the small openings around my neck. My body was under extreme stress, and I was sinking into a state of confusion. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure that joining this Greenpeace action was the best decision I could have made. Then I thought of the supporters who joined Save the Arctic to tell the oil industry, with a united voice, not to drill in this pristine environment. They kept me warm.

Global warming caused by our use of fossil fuels is already driving climate change and extreme weather events. From drought in South Africa to severe flooding in the Philippines to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, our planet is sending us warnings that could not be clearer. And the Arctic ice is melting, reaching a record summer low this year.

Scientists see that as evidence that the climate is changing faster than anyone predicted. Big Oil sees it as an opportunity to exploit.

“Cognitive dissonance” describes the response of our political leaders. They know we must quickly curb our addiction to fossil fuels to avoid a climate change tipping point. But they open up the Arctic, or the Tar Sands in Canada, to oil companies that want to squeeze out a few more billion in profits while the going’s good. They are selling our future and letting the next generation pick up the tab.

Fortunately, many people see the absurdity of actions like exploiting melting sea ice to drill for more oil. And some are taking action. Last year a major movement organized to delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried dirty tar sands oil from Canada all the way to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Over a ...

Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
“The study, conducted by the nonprofit consulting firm Ecotrust, examined the impact of overfishing from 2005 to 2009 on nine severely depleted species, including black sea bass and red snapper, in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, respectively.”

In light of today’s news that federal officials shut down recreational black sea bass fishing until next summer because quotas were projected to be exceeded, making it the shortest season ever, a new study was released detailing the full extent of the economic damages suffered by the southeastern U.S. due to overfishing.

 

The Southeast sustained tens of millions of dollars in economic losses during a five-year period because years of overfishing depleted species led to fewer recreational fishing trips, according to an analysis commissioned by the Pew Environment Group.


 
The study, conducted by the nonprofit consulting firm Ecotrust, examined the impact of overfishing from 2005 to 2009 on nine severely depleted species, including black sea bass and red snapper, in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, respectively.


 
The biggest loss in direct expenditures—nearly $53 million a year on average—came from fewer fishing trips to catch South Atlantic black sea bass. The figure represents money that was not spent on items such as boat rentals, charter fees, tackle, bait, fuel and other businesses directly dependent on anglers targeting this species. When looking at the broader economy, including spending at hotels, restaurants, wholesale suppliers and other downstream businesses, the region had a total estimated loss of $138 million because of fewer trips for black ...

Published: Monday 27 August 2012
Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published a report Monday urging the U.S. government to oppose Shell’s drilling, citing concern, along with other green groups, about Shell’s inability to clean up and prevent oil spills.

By mid-September, the Royal Dutch Shell Oil (Shell) group hopes to begin exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of northern Alaska, provided it can secure federal permission from the U.S. government and overcome other logistical obstacles. But a prominent environmental group warns that drilling will do “irreparable damage” to the area.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published a report Monday urging the U.S. government to oppose Shell’s drilling, citing concern, along with other green groups, about Shell’s inability to clean up and prevent oil spills.

Pro-Shell groups and the Republican party criticize these organizations, however. They argue that oil found in the Arctic Ocean will lead to cheaper energy resources for more than a decade for the United States.

Shell has admitted that it cannot effectively clean up oil spills, and that its response barge, Arctic Challenger, may not be able to endure an Arctic storm.

Greenpeace Lead Arctic Campaigner Jackie Dragon was harsh in her criticism of Shell’s proposed venture.

“Shell can’t keep its drill rig under control in a protected harbor, so what will happen when it faces 20-foot swells and sea ice while drilling in the Arctic?” asked Dragon. “The company has admitted its drill rig can’t meet the standards required to avoid polluting Arctic air” and has “broken promises about its oil spill response plan and Arctic storm preparedness”.

“Shell cannot be trusted, and President Obama should not let its Arctic drilling program move forward,” said Dragon.

Shell, on the other hand, is hoping to make the most of a fast-shrinking summer drilling timeline. If the company begins ...

Published: Monday 20 August 2012
“Whether the Department of the Interior approves offshore drilling activity in the Arctic Ocean this year or next, the Arctic is still dangerously deficient in infrastructure and scientific knowledge.”

 

As the decision looms whether to allow Shell Oil to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer, the Center for American Progress released a new video today examining our lack of preparedness to respond to an oil spill in the remote and untested region.  Whether the Department of the Interior approves offshore drilling activity in the Arctic Ocean this year or next, the Arctic is still dangerously deficient in infrastructure and scientific knowledge. In “Oil and Ice: The Risks of Drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Ocean,” U.S. Coast Guard Captain Gregory Saniel, Chief of Response says the thought of mustering a response to a major incident like an oil spill “keeps me up at night.”

As Shell waits for heavy sea ice to clear and the Coast Guard to certify its containment barge, the fact remains that this region has far fewer resources to contain an oil spill than did the Gulf of Mexico. Even with the Gulf’s warm water and weather, large population centers, and decades of research and drilling experience, oil flowed unabated for three months in 2010, wreaking economic havoc and devastating the environment. If drilling in the Arctic starts ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
“If a spill or blowout happened tomorrow in the Gulf of Mexico, or any U.S. water for that matter, any dispersant that is used would not necessarily be safe for the waters, ecosystems, response workers or nearby communities.”

A coalition of conservation, wildlife and public health groups in the Gulf region and in Alaska filed a citizen suit under the provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act on Aug. 6 to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a rule on chemical oil dispersants. EPA’s current rules—which during the 2010 Gulf oil disaster failed to ensure that dispersants would be used safely—do not fulfill the requirements mandated by the Clean Water Act.

“We’re disappointed that the agency doesn’t seem to understand the widespread public urgency to initiate this rule making process,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Sierra Club Gulf Coast Protection campaign director. “If a spill or blowout happened tomorrow in the Gulf of Mexico, or any U.S. water for that matter, any dispersant that is used would not necessarily be safe for the waters, ecosystems, response workers or nearby communities.”

During the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants were dumped into Gulf waters with little knowledge or research into the chemicals’ toxic impacts. Currently, regulations dictating dispersants eligible for use in oil spills require minimal toxicity testing and no threshold for safety.

More than 5,000 petitions have been sent by residents across the Gulf Coast region urging the U.S. EPA to use its authority to initiate comprehensive testing of oil dispersants and to create regulations that include safety criteria and identify acceptable waters and quantities for use. But the U.S. EPA still has not created a new rule that will ensure that dispersants will be used safely in the next disaster.

“We sent EPA a notice of intent ...

Published: Friday 3 August 2012
“Shell is getting ready to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, an ecosystem staggeringly rich in life of every sort, and while it’s not yet quite a done deal, the prospect should certainly focus our minds.”

 

 

When you go to the mountains, you go to the mountains.  When it’s the desert, it’s the desert.  When it’s the ocean, though, we generally say that we’re going “to the beach.”  Land is our element, not the waters of our world, and that is an unmistakable advantage for any oil company that wants to drill in pristine waters.

Take Shell Oil.  Recently, the company’s drill ship, the fabulously named Noble Discoverer, went adrift and almost grounded in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  That should be considered an omen for a distinctly star-crossed venture to come.  Unfortunately, few of us are paying the slightest attention.

Shell is getting ready to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, an ecosystem staggeringly rich in life of every sort, and while it’s not yet quite a done deal, the prospect should certainly focus our minds.  But first, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the mind-boggling richness of the life still in our oceans.

Last month began with a once-in-a-lifetime sighting in Monterey Bay, California, startlingly close to shore, of blue whales.  Those gigantic mammals can measure up to 100 feet, head-to-tail, and weigh nearly 200 tons -- the largest animal by weight ever to have lived on this planet. Yes, even heavier than dinosaurs. The biggest of them, Amphicoelias fragillimus, is estimated to have weighed 122 tons, while the largest blue whale came in at a whopping 195 tons.

The recent Monterey Bay sighting is being called “the most phenomenal showing of the endangered mammals in recent history.” On July 5th ...

Published: Sunday 22 July 2012
The Obama administration has set a deadline for next month to decide on whether to grant the final drilling permits.

As the oil giant Shell prepares to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic, activists across the world have begun holding protests. The Obama administration has set a deadline for next month to decide on whether to grant the final drilling permits. Over the last decade, Arctic Alaska has become the most contested land in recent U.S. history. But in addition to oil, natural gas and coal, the arctic is rich in biodiversity, and has been home to generations of indigenous people for thousands of years. We're joined by Subhankar Banerjee, a renowned photographer, writer and activist who has spent the past decade working to conserve the Arctic and raise awareness about human rights and climate change. Banerjee is editor of the newly published book, "Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point," and has just won the "2012 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award."

 

Transcript

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic drew more protests this week when one of its ships almost ran aground there Saturday. The Noble Discoverer is one of two vessels that will drill exploratory oil wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas this summer. Activists with Greenpeace forced dozens of Shell sites to temporarily shut down this week as part of a ...

Published: Saturday 21 July 2012
“If we had acted 20 or 30 years ago, when the alarm bells were first sounded, the transition to a climate safe world could have been more gradual and less disruptive, and we could have saved many more coral reefs, forests, glaciers, and species.”

 

The extreme heat, storms, and drought sweeping most of the nation are finally convincing a large majority of Americans that climate change is upon us. According to Bloomberg News, 70 percent of Americans now believe the climate is changing.

It's late to be getting to solutions, but now, perhaps, we're finally ready to take on the challenge.

Bill McKibben lays out how dire the picture really is in the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone: We’ve already warmed the planet by 0.8 degrees centigrade, and the weather is getting frightening. At the Copenhagen Climate Conference, the one thing the world agreed on is that we must stay within a 2-degree centigrade heat increase—although climatologist Jim Hansen has called even that level of increase a recipe for disaster. And if current trends continue, we're headed for much more global heating. But powerful oil, gas, and coal companies have blocked needed action. With billions in profits, they have plenty of money to channel to political campaigns, climate-denying think tanks, and right-wing media. Together, these groups have prevented progress.

If we had acted 20 or 30 years ago, when the alarm bells were first sounded, the transition to a climate safe world could have been more gradual and less disruptive, and we could have saved many more coral reefs, forests, glaciers, and species.

Now, time is short.

Although there is already enough extra carbon in the atmosphere to make major ...

Published: Friday 8 June 2012
Back in 2010 marine geochemist Chris Reddy and environmental engineer Richard Camilli pinged the plume of spilt oil in Gulf Coast waters with sonar.

 

An op-ed written by two Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, or WHOI, scientists in The Boston Globe this week is heating up a debate about how chilly legal scrutiny can be when it comes to ocean science.

Back in 2010 marine geochemist Chris Reddy and environmental engineer Richard Camilli pinged the plume of spilt oil in Gulf Coast waters with sonar. Remote-operated vehicles thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface helped tell them where the oil was. They analyzed the makeup of that subsurface plume to figure out what kind of light, aromatic hydrocarbons were in it. They calculated an average flow rate of 57,000 barrels of oil a day, for a total release of 4.9 million barrels of oil.

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Published: Sunday 13 May 2012
“The first question that jumps out for those who have researched this subject with any degree of thoroughness is how this recent report fails to reconcile with previous studies performed by the EPA.”

Quite incredibly, the EPA issued a positive report on May 1, 2012 regarding the safety and toxicity of various dispersants used in the BP Gulf Oil Spill. Included in this assessment was the use of Corexit.

This report “indicated that all eight dispersants had roughly the same toxicity, and all fell into the “practically non-toxic” or “slightly toxic” category. Scientists found that none of the eight dispersants displayed endocrine-disrupting activity of “biological significance.” The same report went on to say that “dispersant-oil mixtures were generally no more toxic to the aquatic test species than oil alone.”

The first question that jumps out for those who have researched this subject with any degree of thoroughness is how this recent report fails to reconcile with previous studies performed by the EPA. Here is some test data retrieved from the EPA website that was posted previous to the BP Gulf Oil Spill.

“The dispersant (Corexit 9500) and dispersed oil have demonstrated the following levels of toxicity per the EPA website link that follows:

  • (1) 10.72 parts per million (ppm) of oil alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.
  • (2) 25.20 parts per million of dispersant (Corexit 9500) alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.
  • (3) 2.61 parts per million of dispersed oil (Corexit-laden) alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.”

This data diverges from the recent report to such a significant degree that the results which were just posted at the EPA.GOV website under the title of “The BP Oil Spill: Responsive Science Supports Emergency Response” must be seriously scrutinized.

What is the buying public to make of such conflicting data? Those who have medical conditions ...

Published: Monday 7 May 2012
Published: Monday 23 April 2012
“BP maintains the Gulf is rapidly recovering thanks to the company’s efforts”

Two years since the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, we look at its impact on the Gulf of Mexico's residents and wildlife even as no BP officials have faced criminal prosecution for the disaster. Eleven workers died when the Deepwater Horizon well exploded and almost five million barrels of crude oil leaked into the ocean before the well was plugged after 51 days. BP maintains the Gulf is rapidly recovering thanks to the company's efforts, but Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail describes how scientists say shrimp, fish and crabs in the Gulf of Mexico have been deformed by oil and chemicals released during the spill clean-up effort. Meanwhile, ProPublica's environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten says the company failed to learn from past mistakes that could have helped avoid the explosion. He is the author of the new book, "Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster." 

 

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the second anniversary of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. It was April 20th, 2010, when high pressure methane gas from a BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico expanded onto the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. As the gas ignited, it engulfed the rig and caused it to explode, killing 11 workers on board, injuring 17 others. Before the well was plugged, more than 53,000 gallons of crude oil gushed into the Gulf each day for the next 51 days, nearly five million barrels in total.

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Published: Tuesday 13 March 2012
“As the probation expired, confusion remained about exactly what improvements BP had made at its refineries.”

BP’s refining subsidiary was released today from criminal probation related to a 2005 explosion in Texas City that killed 15 workers.

The company has addressed the most serious safety deficiencies exposed by the accident and satisfied the terms of a felony plea agreement to settle charges that it failed to protect workers from known risks, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.

The move closes a controversial chapter for the company, but it leaves an array of worker-safety issues unresolved. BP is still negotiating over more than 400 additional violations brought against its Texas City refinery separately from the criminal case.

Following the explosion, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and BP reached a settlement requiring the company to address safety issues at the refinery. Fixing those problems became one of the Justice Department’s conditions for settling felony charges relating to the explosion and for ending the three-year probation period.

In late 2009, however, after a series of inspections, OSHA determined that BP had not addressed many of its safety lapses and levied 270 additional violations and a $87.4 million fine. It also hit the company with another 439 additional “egregious and willful” safety violations at the refinery that were not a component of the criminal case.

At issue then was whether the company had violated some of the most important terms of its probation even after it was given a second chance. In 2010, BP settled with OSHA, paying the agency $50.6 million and committing to making substantive safety changes by the court-set sunset of its probation period today (March 12).

A Justice Department spokesman said BP has met its obligations for probation, including addressing the 270 violations. The remaining 400 or so OSHA violations, however, were not specific to the Texas City agreement.

“These violations were unrelated to the 2005 ...

Published: Saturday 3 September 2011
The only reason U.S. citizens may be forced to endure a risky, Canadian-owned oil pipeline called Keystone XL is so oil companies with billion-dollar profits can get the dirty oil from Canada's tar sands down to the Gulf of Mexico to export to Europe, Latin America or Asia.

With four times as many oil rigs pumping domestic oil today than eight years ago and declining domestic demand, the United States is awash in oil. In fact, the U.S. exports more oil than it imports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration - and has done so for nearly two decades.

The country's oil industry is primarily interested in who will pay the most on the global marketplace. They call that "energy security" when it suits, but in reality it is "oil company security" through maximising profits, say energy experts like Steve Kretzman of Oil Change International, an NGO that researches the links between oil, gas and coal companies and governments.

The only reason U.S. citizens may be forced to endure a risky, Canadian-owned oil pipeline called Keystone XL is so oil companies with billion-dollar profits can get the dirty oil from Canada's tar sands down to the Gulf of Mexico to export to Europe, Latin America or Asia, according to a new report by Oil Change International released Wednesday.

"Keystone XL will not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but rather transport Canadian oil to American refineries for export to overseas markets," concludes the report, titled "Exporting Energy Security".

Little of the 700,000 to 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil pumped through the 2,400-kilometre, seven-billion-dollar Keystone XL will end up in U.S. gas tanks because the refineries on the Gulf Coast are all about expanding export markets. One huge refinery operator called Valero has been touting the potential export revenues of tar sands oil to investors, the ...

Published: Friday 26 August 2011
“As the arrests build, so too does the movement’s support.”

A prolonged civil disobedience campaign outside the White House that opposes a major oil pipeline from the “tar sands” of Canada is now in its sixth day, and 322 people have been arrested.

The Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico would carry 900,000 barrels per day of crude oil refined from bitumen in the Canadian soil. Aside from the ravaging impacts of extraction, the process contributes anywhere from twice to three times as much greenhouse gases as normal crude refining, and there’s serious potential for leaks in the transcontinental pipeline.

The State Department, which is now conducting an environmental review, will then decide by the end of the year whether to issue a “certificate of national interest,” which would allow the pipeline project to go forward.

 As the arrests build, so too does the movement’s support. Yesterday, every major environmental group in the country came out in opposition to the pipeline in a joint letter. The groups, ranging from the Sierra Club to Greenpeace, have often clashed on climate strategy in the Obama era, so the support is particularly notable. “On an issue as complicated as climate, there will often be disagreements over tactics and goals—just recall the differences over the Senate climate bill this time last year,” environmentalist and protest organizer Bill McKibben, said. “But there are some projects so obviously dangerous that they unify everyone, and the Keystone XL pipeline is the best example yet.”

The protests have brought a fair amount of mainstream media coverage to the issue, culminating in a strong New York Times editorial earlier this week, urging the State Department to “acknowledge the environmental risk of the pipeline and the larger damage ...

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