Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Allegations emerge BP prevents fishermen from wearing respirators

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, energy, environment, offshore drilling, regulation, United States by allisonkilkenny on May 28, 2010
Inmate laborers erect a barrier fence around a...

Inmate laborers erect a barrier fence around a stockpile of absorbent oil booms that will be used to soak up some of the oil slick from the BP disaster. Image by AFP via @daylife

Though President Obama has asked the media to place the burden of responsibility on his shoulders, it’s clear BP was woefully unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude (even though they told the government they could handle a spill 60 times larger than Deepwater Horizon). The truth is the company really didn’t have a contingency plan for something of this scale.

A blowout like this one apparently wasn’t expected, although it should have been. One of the most stunning examples of BP’s lack of preparation is evidenced in the emergency-response strategy report it prepared in accordance with federal law. The report runs 583 pages, but is alarmingly short on how to stop a deep-sea spill.

Perhaps BP’s disaster management was a bit light on the details because the government wasn’t asking tough questions. The MMS, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling, is disastrously managed. A report issued recently by the IG outlines the same familiar type of cronyism and corruption that has become a systemic rot in Washington.

A report released this week from the inspector general’s office at the Interior Department revealed federal inspectors overseeing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico accepted meals and tickets to sporting events from companies they monitored.

In one case, an inspector in the MMS office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, conducted inspections of four offshore platforms while negotiating a job with the company, the report said.

Others let oil and gas company workers fill out their inspection forms in pencil, with the inspectors writing over those entries in ink before turning them in.

The report also alleged employees at the same office received tickets to 2005 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl football game from an offshore production company. The report also includes a confidential source informing investigators that a MMS inspector abused drugs, including crystal meth.

With these hapless, corrupt morons overseeing drilling, it’s no wonder BP didn’t bother making sure their rigs wouldn’t explode. Even if they did — so what? The company saved money scrimping on safety standards, and the government was sure to rush in and help with the PR nightmare following any kind of accident.

BP knew the worst that would happen is they’d have to buy off some cry baby coastal victims and fishermen. But as Exxon demonstrated to oil companies, litigation can take years, during which time victims die, or go broke paying attorney fees, and then it’s just a matter of sneaking out the back door, while the media distracts itself with a fluff story about a professional golfer cheating on his wife.

All BP has to do is wait, and to not acknowledge responsibility for anything — a task made significantly easier by Obama accepting full responsibility for the disaster. Denying liability includes dodging any blowback from the use of toxic dispersants like Corexit.

Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and a third-generation shrimp fisherman, alleges that BP is preventing fishermen from wearing respirators because allowing workers to use the masks would entail acknowledging they face respiratory danger.

AMY GOODMAN: What about respirators? Are people wearing respirators?

CLINT GUIDRY: No, ma’am. Having had prior experience, I know these people. They’re friends. They’re family. I bought respirators, and I brought them down to these people. And when they tried to wear them, the BP representatives on site told them that it wasn’t a dangerous situation, and they didn’t need to wear them, and if they did, they would be taken off the job.

AMY GOODMAN: If they wore respirators, they’d be taken off the job?

CLINT GUIDRY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: But how does wearing respirators threaten BP? How do the workers, the cleanup crews, wearing respirators, how does that threaten BP?

CLINT GUIDRY: If you would do your research, the same situation occurred with Exxon Valdez over twenty years ago. It is a question of liability. The minute BP declares that there is a respiratory danger on the situation is the day that they let the door open for liability suits down the line. If they could have gotten away with covering this up, like they did in Alaska Valdez situation, like Exxon, they would not have to pay a penny for any kind of health-related claims.

There have already been reports of workers feeling “drugged and disoriented,” and photos have emerged showing clean-up crews sometimes working without the necessary protective gear.

Corexit, the UK-banned dispersant being used in mass quantity by BP, is linked to numerous health problems.

Corexit was used in 1989, after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and there were reports connecting the chemical to severe health issues including respiratory, kidney and reproductive problems. In fact, Exxon’s own data listed 6,722 cases of upper respiratory infections among the workers participating in its oil spill cleanup.

Whether it’s from the oil fumes, or Corexit, these workers are getting sick. They need to wear masks, and BP’s fear of lawsuits shouldn’t allow the company to participate in this kind of sick negligence. Because of catastrophes like Exxon, oil companies know exactly how sick workers can get on these sites. BP really can’t claim ignorance on this one.

3 Responses

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  1. argyle said, on May 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I enjoyed your work at True/Slant and will be following your work here.

  2. […] through Obama’s reign) staffed the MMS with incompetents, who apparently alternated between allowing oil and gas company workers to fill out their own inspection forms, accepting Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl tickets from offshore drilling companies, and smoking crystal […]

  3. […] This is the same warped logic behind BP refusing to allow fishermen to wear respirators that I reported last week. […]


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