White House Protest Corps


15 Myths About the Gulf of Mexico Oil Catastrophe

http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/bp-gulf-oil-spill-myths-0622?src=rss

http://seizebp.org

Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig April 20 killed 11 oil rig workers, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to claim the lives of wildlife, like birds and sea turtles, and compromise the fishing and tourism industries, and threaten the culture of the Gulf coast. That, and it’s spawned an awful lot of misconceptions. Here’s a look at a few myths that The Daily Green has been watching:

1. Obama Put a Moratorium on Offshore Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

Myth. President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a moratorium on new oil deepwater drilling permits, and shut down 33 exploratory deepwater wells on May 6. (A similar moratorium on new shallow water drilling lifted three weeks later. “Shallow” in this context means up to 499 feet deep.) Both orders, however, were vague and left 3,600 existing offshore oil wells active in Gulf waters. Since the spill, 17 new offshore oil drilling projects have been permitted. Even the six-month deepwater moratorium was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge June 22, leaving it void if not overturned on appeal or reinstated on different legal grounds. (Nevermind that the judge has invested in Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded, Halliburton, which handled the faulty cementing of the well, and about a dozen other companies involved in offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.) And Obama has always been a supporter of offshore oil, though some of his environmentalist supporters seem to have forgotten that; he made good on a campaign promise shortly before the BP oil spill started and proposed opening additional offshore waters to oil and gas exploration – in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Atlantic coast and off Alaska. (Permits to start drilling in those new waters have been suspended temporarily.)

2. Boycotting BP Gas Stations Boycotts BP

Myth. Lady Gaga is among the leading proponents of a BP boycott, as musicians on summer tours shun the stations, along with Public Citizen and tens of thousands of Facebook fans of a boycott. But while the brand may be offensive and permanently tainted, BP disinvested in its U.S. gasoline chain in 2007, leaving independent owners invested most heavily in local stations. They pay BP a licensing fee and may (or may not) be more likely to carry BP gasoline, but the economics of wholesale oil and gas is such that BP, Britain’s largest company, is unlikely to suffer much from a retail gas boycott, but BP the local station owner could. Anyway, what’s the better alternative? And unfortunately, oil ends up in a lot of products other than gasoline, under a lot of different brands, making it difficult to avoid one company’s product.

3. Offshore Oil Could Make the U.S. Energy Independent

Myth. The U.S. imports 57% of the oil we burn, and two-thirds of those imports come from politically unstable or hostile countries. As a nation, we spend more than $700 million a day on imported oil (the figure was more than $1 billion as recently as 2008, when oil prices were higher). There isn’t enough oil offshore to offset that imbalance. An analysis by the Energy Information Administration, the most credible government voice on energy issues, predicted that new offshore oil drilling would result in a whopping 3-cent difference in the price of gas by 2030. That’s not to say that renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are ready to fill in and plug the gap either, unfortunately. If you’re looking for a better path toward energy independence, conservation is the most lucrative avenue. Three pennies not spent on gas are three pennies earned (and three pennies worth of offshore oil not drilled).

4. The Deepwater Horizon Rig Was Uniquely Vulnerable to Disaster

pacific walrus

Myth. The facts keep piling up showing negligence – or at the very least, bad decision-making – by BP, and many of those decisions and conditions may be unique to BP, which has been criticized before this for a culture that put profits far ahead of safety and environmental protection. But disaster preparedness by other oil companies drilling in the Gulf, and oversight by the government, is virtually identical. For instance, other companies’ disaster response plans in the Gulf seem to include notes about protecting the walrus and other Arctic creatures that don’t live in the Gulf; unfortunately they don’t include plans to respond to underwater plumes of oil, failed blowout preventers or other real-world issues. And the Mineral Management Service, the agency in charge of regulating energy exploration on federal lands and in federal waters (yes, you own those) was outed repeatedly by its own inspector general of cavorting with oil companies, failing to inspect rigs, waiving requirements for environmental review and otherwise failing its public service mission in favor of its royalty-collecting mission. The MMS determined in 2009 that an environmental review of the Deepwater Horizon rig wasn’t warranted because it would have “minimal or non-existent environmental effects.” The story is the same with hundreds of other drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico – including 49 projects (including two BP projects) exempted from environmental review since the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Clearly, the assumption that these rigs are safe is dead wrong. (Photo: Pacific walrus, by NOAA)

5. Seafood Is Widely Contaminated

Myth. Certainly, oil can make seafood unsafe to eat, and the Gulf of Mexico is the primary source of domestic shrimp and oysters, and a significant source for other popular fish, like red snapper. And roughly one-third of the Gulf has been closed to fishing as the oil spreads. But much of the seafood for sale in the U.S. is imported, and two-thirds of the Gulf remains open to fishing. While fraud can never be fully discounted, there are systems being put in place to inspect Gulf seafood to ensure that it has been caught from clean waters. That said, the story could change as the longterm contamination of the Gulf food chain is studied.

6. The BP Oil Spill Will Lead to a Strong Senate Energy Bill

Myth. The U.S. Senate has been stalled in its efforts to pass an energy and climate bill to match the one passed months ago by the House. A linchpin in the Kerry-Lieberman bill, which would cap carbon emission and invest in clean energy sources, was the expansion of offshore oil drilling. That, along with investment in nuclear power, the shielding of the coal industry from fully owning up to its pollution and other sweeteners were built into the bill to bring Republicans and reluctant Democrats to the table. The catastrophic oil spill will make an energy bill more likely to pass, but without the offshore oil sweetener, a climate bill is not.

7. It’s a “Spill”

Myth. We keep calling it the Gulf oil spill. But it’s a gusher, a geyser, a “four-dimensional catastrophe,” in the words of one fisheries expert: “‘Leak’ is totally wrong. A leak is something you wrap duct tape around and maybe get to next week, next month or next year. The ‘gusher in the Gulf’ sounds way too cute. It’s not exactly a spill: that’s maybe something between your kitchen and your dining room table. ‘Spill’ sounds like a pool. It’s two-dimensional. This is very much a three-dimensional or, rather, a four-dimensional catastrophe,” said Douglas N. Rader, chief ocean scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund. “I think a whole new language is going to have to be developed to discuss accidents – events – environmental catastrophes of this magnitude. Nothing quite like it exists.”

8. The Gulf Coast Will Heal Itself

Myth. While it’s true that natural systems are remarkably regenerative, there’s still evidence of oil spill damage decades after past oil spills of this (or lesser) magnitude. Further, contamination from oil both on the surface and deep underwater could compromise marine ecosystems in surprising ways – leading to tainted seafood, for instance, or degraded wetlands so that coastal communities will be exposed to greater damage from hurricanes and storm surges. Before the spill (even after decades of degradation) the Mississippi Delta provides $47 billion annually in economically valuable “ecological services” – on par with the value of BP. Time will tell how bad and how long the environmental damage will be, but as the oil (hopefully) stops gushing, Gulf of Mexico ecosystems will find a new equilibrium, not return to a previous state.

9. Now We Know How Much Oil Is Spilling

Myth. Just how big is the Gulf oil spill? Recently leaked internal BP documents show that engineers have estimated a worst-case spill rate of 100,000 barrels a day. That’s two-thirds bigger than the worst-case estimate (60,000 barrels) of independent scientists charged by the government with estimating the spill … which was nearly three times the worst-case estimate (25,000 barrels) released by the government in June … which was five times the worst-case estimate (5,000 barrels) released by the government and BP in May … which was itself five times the estimate (1,000 barrels) released by the government and BP in April. The difference between 1,000 barrels and 100,000 barrels is obvious: It’s the difference from being a spill that’s a fraction of the size of the Exxon Valdez spill (previously the worst spill in U.S. history, at 11 million gallons) to a spill that’s many multiples of that infamous spill.

10. The Gulf of Mexico Is Most at Risk from Offshore Oil Spills

Myth. While the Gulf of Mexico holds all of U.S. offshore oil sites currently, President Obama wants to open the Arctic to offshore oil drilling for the first time. Environmental groups are trying to stop the plan, arguing that not only are ecosystems there fragile – think polar bears, seals and, yes, walruses – but a cleanup in icy waters would be even more difficult than in the Gulf of Mexico, and the icy waters themselves would inhibit the (slow, but natural) breakdown of oil. The Interior Department did halt Shell’s plans to start drilling this year, but it’s not a permanent ban. As for which is more vulnerable, it’s a difficult call; the point is that a spill in either place has the potential to devastate entire regions.

11. Shrimp and Pelicans Represent Wildlife at Risk From the Oil Spill

piping plover

Myth. While shrimp and oil-soaked pelicans have become icons of the Gulf oil spill, there is a huge range of wildlife at risk, from the Kemp’s ridley turtle (five of the world’s seven sea turtles spend time in the Gulf, but none more than the Kemp’s ridley, which spawns only there) to the snowy plover (and other shorebirds that stopover in the Gulf on their migration flights) to the bluefin tuna (which spawns in the Gulf and is already at risk from overfishing). Each of these species was endangered before the spill, and dozens of birds, turtles, fish, marine mammals, crustaceans, and other species are at risk from the effects of the spill. (Photo: Piping plover, by Ralph Wright/American Bird Conservancy)

12. There’s Nothing Individuals Can Do

Myth. There’s always volunteering, donating to those cleaning birds or arguing for good energy policy, or writing to Congress directly. But beyond that, there’s federal law. The Clean Water Act empowers citizens to bring suits to stop water pollution and hold polluters accountable. It’s hard to argue that BP’s oil spill isn’t polluting water, and several groups – The Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and Environment America – have filed suit. The potential fine is great, at $4,300 per barrel.

13. On-Shore Drilling is Safer

Myth. It’s hard to compare the risks from different activities, but two forms of oil and gas extraction gaining steam on land are fraught with risk. Natural gas extraction from shale requires hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”), a process that injects a chemical stew at high pressure deep underground in order to force natural gas out of the rock. Groundwater becomes contaminated with toxic chemicals, threatening drinking water supplies across a wide swath of country where shale formations exist (like the Marcellus shale through New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia). Another controversial new form of oil extraction comes from so-called “tar sands” like those in Alberta, Canada; extracting oil from tar sands involves open pit mining on a grand scale or heating the land at high temperatures to sort-of melt the oil out of the land. What each of these – deepwater drilling, fracking and tar sands mining – has in common is that they are very difficult, expensive and risky. And that they are made necessary by our appetite for oil; the cheap oil that’s easy to get at is being exhausted, leading us to these highly complex, highly controversial and highly risky methods.

14. Republicans are the Politicians Most in the Pocket of Oil Companies

Myth. Republicans may scream “drill, baby, drill” louder, but when it comes to political money being spent to influence government, it’s more or less a tie. Key Democrats are among the top recipients of political money from oil companies, as are Republicans. The money flows to those in oil-rich states, to high-profile candidates and those with the most power in Congress (ie, the chairs of key committees). Here’s a look at the Friends of Earth tally of opensecrets.org data, showing the biggest recipients of money from BP and other oil companies since 2006:

Senate

  • John McCain (R-AZ) – $36,649 from BP; $2.43 million total
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA) – $16,200 from BP; $329,100 total
  • Mark Begich (D-AK) – $8,550 from BP; $85,958 total
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – $8,500 from BP; 223,326 total
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – $8,500 from BP; 408,400 total

House

  • John Culberson (R-TX) – $10,200 from BP; 187,350 total
  • Ron Paul (R-TX) – $7,300 from BP; 134,132 total
  • Charles Rangel (D-NY) – $6,500 from BP; 40,600 total
  • Steny Hoyer (D-MD) – $6,000 from BP; 91,800 total
  • Don Young (R-AK) – $5,500 from BP; $45,500 total

15. It Will All Be Over in August

Through each of BP’s failed attempts to cap its well – from the top hat to the top kill – it has maintained that the worst thing that could happen was that the well would continue to gush into August, when the company would complete its relief well. But there’s no guarantee that the relief well will be fully effective. In a June 15 testimony, BP’s Lamar McKay said that “the design of the relief well is very, very similar to the original well.” In addition, there’s speculation that the oil well leak may have caused the sea floor itself to rupture, meaning the shutting off the well may not stop oil from seeping into the Gulf.

Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/bp-gulf-oil-spill-myths-0622?src=rss#ixzz0rhF9AxQX


Obama should have kept his mouth shut
June 19, 2010, 2:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

CounterPunch Diary

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn06182010.html

He Should Have Kept His Mouth Shut

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

The French have a phrase, “He missed an excellent opportunity to keep his mouth shut.” That’s certainly true of Obama last Tuesday when he rolled out a big gun from the arsenal of White House crisis management, an Oval Office address. Excluding FDR’s  radio chats of the 1930s, there’s scant evidence  across the past forty years that as a venue for rallying the nation, the presidential sanctum did Obama’s predecessors  as president much good. In Obama’s case many of his stoutest supporters in the press could say little in its favor. Obama would have been advised to say nothing and leave the nation to the evening’s main business, the NBA playoffs.

It was certainly the worst rally-the-nation speech by a US president I’ve ever watched, and that includes Nixon’s cornered-rat addresses of the early 1970s and – an ominous parallel —  Jimmy Carter’s fireside chat on April1977, four months into his presidency, in the Oval Office promoting his plan for Energy Independence. To dramatize the need for conservation Carter wore a cardigan. He said the crusade for energy reduction was “the moral equivalent of war.”  As he said these words he clenched his fist. America was not impressed, but more than they were on Tuesday.

Asked a couple of weeks ago  about the president’s apparent inability to project anger, his pr man, Robert Gibbs said the president had been clenching his jaw. Better that he had continued clenching, and thus been unable to open it to unleash that  windy  homily, ripe with cliché, bare of specifics and without even the pummeling of BP that everyone had been looking forward to. Of course Obama said that there will be a set-aside clean-up and compensation fund  financed by BP. He  tossed the word “recklessness” in BP’s direction. But these were timid little puff-ball punches. There was no mailed fist within the glove, just wadded tissue paper.

Unlike wars and slumps, where a president can invoke inside knowledge proving victory or recovery are imminent, the singularity of this crisis is that there’s no inside story, no disputing the central disastrous facts except to suggest and then have confirmed that they are even worse that BP or the US government admits.

The minimum quantity of crude oil spurting out of the broken riser pipe now up around 60,000 bbd, heading towards the estimate by the Perdue scientists of around 90,000bbd, which is apparently what an internal BP memo suggested back in the immediate aftermath of the explosion on April 20.

There is absolutely no imminent prospect of this situation improving over the immediate future and a distinct possibility it could last the rest of the year and conceivably the rest of Obama’s first term – which in this eventuality will also be his last.

Since there are no immediate solutions to what Obama is now calling the worst environmental crisis in America’s history, and 71 per cent of Americans  polled by Gallup over last  weekend think Obama has not shown enough toughness towards BP,  you would have thought that Obama would have waited to report on what in fact did happen the very next day – the announcement of BP’s $20 billion escrow fund managed by an independent administrator, plus the withholding of BP’s quarterly dividend.  But no. Apparently Rahm Emanuel and the others thought it better to give vapid words a day’s lead over substantive news.

The speech left no banality unturned, from the ritual blue ribbon commission to investigate why the April 20 disaster took place, to the pledge of  a shake-up in federal agencies that had previously been gofers for the oil industry, to the final empty personal guarantee that cleanup efforts will restore the Gulf not just to where it was before this accident happened but to where it was years ago.

Every president since Nixon has tried to sell an energy plan. Carter wore his cardigan and America laughed and turned up the heaters in their SUVs. The only one to yield any tangible results was Reagan’s consummated pledge to rip the Carter-installed solar system off the roof of the White House.

Obama mumbled about windmills and solar panels and renewable energy and ending America’s dependence on fossil fuels.  He barely touched on his energy bill, becalmed in the Congress because Senate leader Harry Reid has told him it will never pass. He didn’t even allude to his actual energy plan which is to accelerate deep-sea drilling (on hold till the blue ribbon commission gives the green light, which it will), issue federal insurance guarantees for a new generation of nuclear plants, sponsor “clean coal” and bail out the ethanol industry.

Nuclear power could make the BP catastrophe look like chickenfeed. So-called “clean, low-sulfur coal”, mined by mountain-top removal, is an environmental disaster. The ethanol industry has long been a big financial backer of Obama and is now in crisis because of over-production of corn, from which the ethanol is distilled.  At the moment the federal government limits the amount of ethanol than can be sold at the pump to 10 per cent of every gallon. Obama may raise the percentage to 15 per cent. The US now has about 250 million motor vehicles.  As Robert Bryce  has pointed out on this site, of that number, “only about 7.5 million are designed to burn gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol. And there is evidence that even that much ethanol may be too much. Last year, Toyota recalled more than 200,00 Lexus vehicles due to internal component corrosion that was caused by ethanol-blended fuel.”

Obama could not only lose the important Lexus-owner vote, but also earn the undying hatred of  every American with a mowing machine, a snowblower, or a leafblower. 15 per cent ethanol in the gas means they may not be able to fire up these devices. That’s a hefty chunk of the electorate. You lose the lawn-mower vote, you lose the suburbs.

Obama’s terrible speech showed that even now the White House hasn’t managed to get any productive hold  on the disaster turning the Gulf of Mexico into a sludge pond. Obama doesn’t get it. Rahm Emanuel doesn’t get it. The speech writers don’t get it. At the end of his speech Obama turned to God and told Americans to pray. Here’s a meeting of minds with BP, since the oil company says the blowout was an act of God.

Even God won’t be able to bail out Obama if he  goes on like this.

Remembering Bill Christison

I met Bill Christison and his wife Kathy, both of them former CIA officers, on the high seas off Mazatlan on a Nation cruise in December of 2001. Bill had been pretty high up in the Agency and at one point had been the official charged with discharging national threat assessments and the like into the armor-plated cerebellum of President Gerald Ford.

Bill, a Princeton grad, had joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit. He’d met Kathy when they were both doing tours in Saigon.

After leaving the Agency they settled in Santa Fe and began their journey to the left, an itinerary on which they were well advanced by the time I met up with them and invited them to write for CounterPunch.

We published Bill’s first big piece on March 4, 2002, under the title “Former Senior CIA Officer: Why the War on Terror Won’t Work.”  The piece, which created quite a stir,  listed six root causes of terrorism, beginning,

“My number one root cause is the support by the U.S. over recent years for the policies of Israel with respect to the Palestinians, and the belief among Arabs and Muslims that the United States is as much to blame as Israel itself for the continuing, almost 35-year-long Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

My number two root cause is the present drive of the United States to spread its hegemony and its version of big-corporation, free enterprise globalization around the world. …. The gap between rich and poor nations, and rich and poor people within most of the nations, has grown wider during the last 20 years of globalization or, more precisely, the U.S. version of globalization.

Bill’s other prime causes of terrorism included the sanctions on Iraq and daily bombings; the continued presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia and the indiscriminate use of air power, with “missiles launched from a great distance, and now even on drone aircraft with no humans on board…But while few Americans get killed, sizable numbers of other nationalities do.”

This was just over six months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Bill’s calm and rational analysis was a huge relief and inspiration for many, after week upon week of ideological saturation bombing in the main stream press.  He followed it up a couple of months later with a series  on what a rational US foreign policy would look like.  He and his wife Kathy, whose chief topic has been Palestine, became important and popular contributors to CounterPunch.

Bill was heading into his late 70s by now, but he was as frisky as a 20-year old as he and Kathy kept up a fierce schedule of talks in the south west and across the US, along with trips to the Middle East, often in somewhat grueling and even perilous circumstances.

He got more radical with each advancing year and chafed sometimes when Jeffrey and I expressed reservations about some of his strategies for direct action.

Kathy told us a few weeks ago that Bill had fallen victim to a rapidly advancing neurological condition – and on Sunday, June 13, he died in Santa Fe at the age of 81.  He was a noble soul and used his later years with an idealism and energy that we should all envy and hope to emulate.

A Deadly 9/11 Cover-Up

In our latest newsletter, hot off the press – What do the W.R. Grace Company, the Trade Towers, Libby Montana and asbestos have in common? Andrea Peacock weaves the fatal threads together in a brilliant investigation. The terrible bottom line:

“If asbestos-related diseases begin showing up in rescue workers and others exposed at Ground Zero in the next few years, there’s little doctors can do about it. There’s medication to ease the symptoms of asbestosis – in which scar tissue caused by asbestos fibers gradually suffocates victims – but no cure. Those with lung disease can forestall the inevitable decline by taking care of themselves: quit smoking, get plenty of exercise to keep their lung capacity as high as possible. It could take another 30 years for mesothelioma cases to manifest – an asbestos-related lung cancer that kills fast once it hits. The full legacy of that day, for which W.R. Grace now bears some responsibility, will be unfolding for decades.“

Also in this  powerful edition: After a mine disaster in western Siberia Russian workers rise up. Boris Kagarlitsky describes the social explosion. Jeffrey Blankfort reviews Quicksand,  the book the Israel lobby doesn’t want you to read.

I urge you to  subscribe now!

Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com.



Anti-BP Art
June 17, 2010, 3:46 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

The webmaster found these great anti-BP images out on the

‘tubes. The original artist is unknown to the webmaster.



THE SHORT FILM BP DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SEE
By Robert M. Young and Edward James Olmos
Olmos Productions; Save our Gulf via Mark Crispin Miller
Wednesday, Jun 16, 2010

http://seizebp.org

THE SHORT FILM BP DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SEE

OlmosProductions — 10 de junio de 2010 — Shot by Robert M. Young and Edward James Olmos on a trip to the heart of the oil spill in the Gulf. Edited by Stephen Cohen.

Robert Young and I jumped on a plane and went to the Gulf of Mexico just to lend our support by documenting what we saw…

Well, the people that we met took up all of our time. It was brutal! I was not ready for the human aspect because no one had prepared me for it.

I thought they would be angry. They are devastated.

Take a look at this video and see for yourself. People are afraid to talk and you will learn why watching this…

Please pass it on, recommend it.

If you feel like doing something, just go down there (anywhere on the Gulf) and support by spending time and energy in the region.

They need our support. Thank you for Caring.

– Edward James Olmos

For More information on what some local organizations are doing on the ground go to:

http://SaveOurGulf.org



SeizeBP.org: The “Seize BP” Demand, Pres. Obama’s Response & the truth about the $20 billion fund

Seize BP!

Seize BP!


Community Forum:

The “Seize BP” Demand, Pres. Obama’s Response
& the truth about the $20 billion fund

Friday, June 18 at 7:00pm
Justice Center: 617 Florida Ave. NW
(between 6th St. and Georgia Ave./7th St., green line to Shaw-Howard)

Featured guest speaker: Attorney, Carl Messineo

Noted civil rights attorney and Seize BP spokesperson Carl Messineo will analyze the political, legal and economic consequences of the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, including the recent announcement of a $20 billion fund to compensate the victims.

This special forum offers a unique opportunity to hear a penetrating analysis of the deeper issues hidden beneath the headlines and the public relations propaganda of BP and the federal government.

Messineo and the Seize BP movement present the case for the continuation and expansion of a mass grassroots movement for justice against BP, Big Oil and a government policy that has put corporate super-profits before the needs of working families and the environment.

Bring your questions and comments. Join the discussion and get involved!


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
http://www.answercoalition.org/
dc@answercoalition.org
National Office in Washington DC: 202-265-1948


A message from Seize BP
Seize BP!

Seize BP!

By Carl Messineo
A message from Seize BP http://seizebp.org

There are three roads, or options, by which compensation can be provided for those who have been harmed from the BP oil disaster.

The first path, or option, is the BP claims process whereby BP determines what to cover and how much to pay. On this road all power rests with BP.

The second path is through the courts, where people can file litigation and lawsuits against BP. The burden of proof lies with the harmed individuals, who must employ lawyers and then battle BP’s army of attorneys for years, possibly decades.

Both BP and the Obama administration want to push everyone seeking compensation down these two paths, but these two paths lead nowhere.

There is, however, a third option: the seizure of BP’s assets in an amount commensurate with estimated damages and the delivery of immediate and ongoing compensation to all those who have suffered and will suffer lost jobs, wages and business for years to come.

People around the country are mobilizing for the third option.

The case for freezing and seizing BP’s assets

For those who are directly affected by the BP oil spill, there is urgency for action. Every affected person and family should be able to go to sleep at night knowing, regardless of the final measure of spillage, regardless of the scope of environmental harm, that they will be taken care of financially, that they will be made whole. Not 20 years from now or in some distant future, with victims worn down and claims whittled away by an army of BP lawyers, as occurred with the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Compensation must be immediate. It must be ongoing. Make-whole relief will require enormous assets, amounting to tens of billions of dollars by all estimates.

The Seize BP demand is simple: Seize the assets of BP, place those assets in trust for the immediate and ongoing relief of those directly affected. Simplified and swift claims processes.

BP has no intention of paying tens of billions of dollars in costs and damages. Tony Hayward, responding to plummeting stock values, reassured the financial industry that BP can escape this disaster paying no more than $3 billion in costs and damages. His projection included all physical cleanup costs.

BP has every interest and intention of avoiding claims and damages. BP is a profit-maximizing corporation. It is not a creature of social beneficence. Like any profit-maximizer, BP has as its purpose the maximization of revenues while avoiding costs or expenditures.

BP is a profit predator that grows fat on the accumulation of mega-profits. BP lied about the volume of spillage, first denying any spillage, then conceding 1,000 barrels per day and ultimately low-balling the actual spillage volume by insisting that it is only 5,000 barrels per day.

BP simultaneously announces that its recent containment efforts have resulted in the collection of 15,000 barrels of oil per day. It’s a veritable miracle, apparently, that so much can be collected when so little is spilling. More to the point, BP is lying.

Yesterday, on June 9, BP’s chief operating officer told the Today show that there is “no evidence” of plumes of toxic oil beneath the surface. It just disappeared, never mind the scientific and government confirmation by research vessels that massive plumes not only exist but are on the move, placing coastlines at risk even up the Atlantic Seaboard. BP is, to say the least, self-interested and untrustworthy.

Yet, President Obama supports the system whereby victims’ claims are processed by BP. Victims of BP’s environmental violence and economic dislocation must first ask BP to please pay them something. BP is sole determiner of what claims are “legitimate,” determines the compensation level if any is to be allowed, and does not have to make any ongoing commitment to continued payments. If victims are dissatisfied, they can go to court.

The BP-based model of compensation, unsurprisingly, has resulted in widespread dissatisfaction. It is so unwieldy that the governor of Alabama has mobilized the National Guard to provide assistance to victims in filling out forms.

Even with assistance, the forms go to BP.

The second model of compensation is court based. But the court system is in no way set up to provide timely and sufficient compensation. The legal process takes years, potentially decades. People need relief today. An army of corporate lawyers will use the judicial requirements of proof and process and will assert theories of liability limitation to delay and whittle away claims to next to nothing.

The problem with going to the courts is that it turns the entire process of proof and responsibility upside down. In court, the burden of proof is on the claimant, when we all recognize that the burden of fault and responsibility is on BP, as well as Halliburton and Transocean.

It is not fair to demand that a small business owner who cannot feed his or her family or continue operations hire an attorney for a decade or so and engage an expert in forensic accounting to be able to “prove” that the current and future season’s revenues are off because of the economic disruption of BP’s oil spill.

The BP-centric model of payments and the court-centric model of litigation do not satisfy the public interest and certainly will not satisfy the immediate needs of those affected.

Only seizure will protect the interests of the people

The Seize BP demand is focused on relief to those affected. Relief today and for the future. Without extensive claims processes. Seize BP demands that the U.S. Congress with the support of the President enact legislation to seize assets of the responsible parties, and place those assets in trust for immediate compensation and relief.

The Seize BP demand is for seizure of assets to provide relief. The amount seized can be assessed by an agency determination, updated on an ongoing basis, of current known damage estimates. Because damages occur over time, asset seizure and set-aside can be done over time. Whether the seizure or assessment has the result of impairing BP’s operations depends, ultimately, on the damage it has caused. Given BP’s capitalization, assets and revenue-producing abilities, it is not a foregone conclusion that its operations would be dissolved or sold or even impaired.

There is no issue as to the legality of such a seizure. This is not a “taking.” It is not a punitive measure, even, although punitive measures and penalties are amply justified through independent processes. The amount to be seized is commensurate with the damage done. It is compensatory. It does not seek to nationalize or have the government assume operations of BP, actions which the Supreme Court countenanced could occur with Congressional approval in the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952).

The people who are suffering today, here and now deserve nothing less. They are not at fault. We know who the responsible parties are.

There is a crass reality underlying the urgency of this demand. If a trust is not established now, it will never be. The convergence of political demands for Congressional and Presidential action will never be greater than they are right now. A few months from now, a year from now, the attention of lawmakers will be elsewhere. The shocking graphic images of the environmental damage will be images to which the public will grow accustomed, and in which the media will lose interest. The pain and suffering for those affected will burn even worse, but the possibilities of political action and remedy will have long passed.

The time for action is now.