Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Someone finally asks BP if they’re using dispersants to hide the size of the spill

Posted in BP, offshore drilling by allisonkilkenny on June 30, 2010

One of you, buy this t-shirt for Tony Hayward

I’ve been wondering when someone was going to ask this extremely obvious question. Regular readers of my blogs (particularly at my old T/S one) know that I’ve been following this story with much enthusiasm.

..Okay, some might say “psychotic devotion.”

But Anderson Cooper, bless his little, silver Vanderbilt-spawned head, finally interviewed someone capable of putting two and two together: Fred McCallister, an investment banker with Allegiance Capital Corporation, who is going to be testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today.

ANDERSON COOPER: Fred McCallister joins us now.

Fred, why do you think that BP would prefer to use dispersants over skimmers?

FRED MCCALLISTER, VICE PRESIDENT, ALLEGIANCE CAPITAL CORPORATION: Anderson, thank you for having me on tonight.

The issue that BP is facing right now is whether to use what’s practices that are normal around the world, which is to try to cause the oil to come to the surface, and then deploy the right amount of equipment and the right type of equipment to gather that oil up and get it out of the Gulf.

Using the dispersants allows the oil to stay under the surface, and this accomplishes several purposes. It allows the — it makes it a lot more difficult to quantify the amount of oil that’s coming out, which has a direct impact on damages and royalties that have to be paid.

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Contractors raking in mad cash in wake of BP disaster

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, corporations, deregulation, environment, offshore drilling, regulation by allisonkilkenny on June 12, 2010

A rescue worker captures one oil-covered brown pelican off the coast of Louisiana. AP Photo

God, this is depressing. The industrial sector is just about extinct, corporations are fleeing the country to exploit cheap foreign labor, unions are gasping their last breaths, and 6.8 million Americans have been unemployed 27 weeks, or longer (the numbers are higher in places like Detriot, which has 30 percent unemployment, but the media doesn’t really focus on that reality).

But there is good news! Well, kind of. If your trade is oil spill clean-up, you’re experiencing a bonanza right now.

Hundreds of contractors and subcontractors are doing jobs both complex and mundane, whether it’s building the robots that BP sends 5,000 feet underwater to capture live video of the broken wellhead or providing boats to skim oil from the water’s surface. And then there is the cottage industry that has sprung up overnight to support the 24,600 cleanup workers, catering their meals, hauling away their trash and supplying portable toilets.

“There’s money flowing in the streets,” said Michael E. Hoffman, director of research at Wunderlich Securities, a Memphis-based brokerage firm.

America may be losing the race to evolve technology, and alternative fuels, but at least we still lead the way in creating horrible catastrophes that our unemployed masses can then toil to clean up.

Ever the barometer of compassionate altruism, Wall Street immediately rushed to figure out who would be the winners of the BP disaster. The financial sector doesn’t price superfluous biological waste like sea turtles, or oceans because things like endangered pelicans don’t make the right people money. However, Wall Street does know how to price stuff like hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants.

Within two weeks of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, the stock price of Clean Harbors, a Boston-based hazardous-waste management company, shot up more than 20 percent. During the same period, Nalco Holding Co., which makes the chemical dispersant Corexit, rose to nearly a year high.

Sure, Nalco, made a killing during the disaster. It helps that one of its board members, Rodney F. Chase, is a former BP board member. That cozy relationship provides Nalco with unique access to the big business of oil spill cleanup. The Wapost article doesn’t mention that stuff (why get messy?) but it does include this nugget:

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BP stonewalling efforts to get better oil volcano damage estimate

Posted in BP, deregulation, energy, environment, offshore drilling, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 9, 2010

A bird covered in oil flails in the surf at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast Thursday, June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The other day, I was discussing the “branding” of the BP disaster with a friend. Calling this catastrophe a “spill” seems like a laughable understatement, and my phrasing (the “oil geyser”) wasn’t really catchy. A few weeks ago, the term “oil volcano” emerged, I think because it was first used by Rachel Maddow, and I believe it captures the severity of the situation.

So this thing, the oil volcano, has been pumping thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean every single day. That much is undeniable. BP can’t approach the media and say, “Epic disaster is all over, folks!” because there are cameras (now HD video) down there, filming the whole thing.

The company attempted to use dispersants (hundreds of thousands of gallons of the toxic stuff) in order to coagulate the oil and sink it to the bottom, conveniently hiding the true toll of the oil volcano from the world. Except, that didn’t work entirely, and some endangered birds got snagged in the sludge.

Literally, there is nothing BP can now do in order to mend its public image except lie. And lie they have. Tony Hayward blamed workers’ illnesses on food poisoning instead of acknowledging exposure to oil fumes and dispersants tend to make individuals sick. BP denied the existence of those massive underwater oil plumes. You know, the ones NOAA just confirmed exist.

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MMS continues to issue shallow-water drilling permits

Posted in Barack Obama, offshore drilling, regulation, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 3, 2010

OMFG Photo: AP

The MMS granted a drilling permit yesterday to Bandon Oil and Gas that will allow the company to drill 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in a water depth of 115 feet. Reports of MMS banning drilling for six months apply only to depths greater than 500 feet. Nonetheless, the fact that MMS is still issuing any permits has angered some people.

“I’m outraged,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Tucson, Ariz.,-based Center for Biological Diversity, after a reporter told him of the new permit. “How is it that shallow water drilling suddenly became safe again?”

[snip]

Suckling said the administration was misleading the public by quietly resuming work in shallow waters while acting as if it was taking a tough look at deepwater work.

Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff assures everyone that anyone drilling in shallow-water operations will have to meet certain specified standards.

“All operators who are drilling or intend to drill in shallow water must first meet applicable interim safety standards announced last week by the president,” Barkoff said. “Those operators who are already drilling must stop at a safe place and implement the safety requirements before continuing.”

It’s difficult to take any assurances coming from ID or MMS seriously, since the startling mismanagement and deregulation trends began under their watch. It’s a bit like if a surgeon severs a patient’s pulmonary vein, and as blood shoots up like a mini-geyser, asks the entire OR to “just trust” them.

It’s easier to trust people who haven’t massively fucked up everything.

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Fisherman to BP: I like you, but only as friends

Posted in BP, offshore drilling, worker rights by allisonkilkenny on June 1, 2010

Louisiana National Guardsmen unravel support straps far a Tiger Dam, to protect the Grand Isle from encroaching oil coming in with the high tide in Grand Isle, Louisiana May 31, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Sean Gardner

John Wutsell Jr., a fisherman who was hospitalized after becoming ill while cleaning up oil in the Gulf, has filed a temporary restraining order in federal court against BP.

Apparently, Wutsell missed the update issued by BP CEO Tony Hayward that he wasn’t made sick by oil fumes, or exposure to Corexit, but by food poisoning.

Wutsell (who experienced severe headaches, nosebleeds, and stomach pains) humbly disagrees, and he wants BP to give the clean-up workers masks, and — get this insane demand — not harass workers who publicly voice their health concerns.

On Friday, Wutstell was airlifted to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, Louisiana, where he remained hospitalized Sunday.

“At West Jefferson, there were tents set up outside the hospital, where I was stripped of my clothing, washed with water and several showers, before I was allowed into the hospital,” Wutstell sais. “When I asked for my clothing, I was told that BP had confiscated all of my clothing and it would not be returned.”

Hm, now why would BP want to confiscate all of Wutsell’s clothing? One possibility is that they want to destroy any evidence that they’ve been exposing workers to unsafe conditions so as to avoid future criminal liability charges.

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BP: The media’s Katrina

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, deregulation, media, offshore drilling by allisonkilkenny on May 30, 2010

President Tony Hayward

The President and the media can’t help BP rush through the unpleasantness of poisoning the ocean quickly enough. First, the government (starting with Bush, but extending 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 meth.

What I’m trying to say is, the MMS was extremely busy, which is probably why they didn’t notice BP’s blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil in the event of a fiery explosion, which by the way, totally happened. But who has time to check superfluous stuff like a blowout preventer? I mean, that meth isn’t going to smoke itself.

BP has shown a desire to cover its own ass by allegedly forbidding clean-up crews to wear respirators so as to avoid future negligence lawsuits even as it continues to dump toxic dispersants, which have been banned in the UK, ignoring the EPA’s pleas to find a less toxic (and extremely available) version.

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Oil spill clean-up workers report feeling ‘drugged, disoriented’

Posted in corporations by allisonkilkenny on May 26, 2010

This was to be expected.

Last week, the wives of some of the fishermen spoke out publicly about the symptoms their husbands were experiencing. This week, some fishermen are starting to come forward. In this WDSU TV interview, one of the fishermen reports feeling drugged, disoriented, tingling, fatigued, and also reporting shortness of breath and cough. These are symptoms that are consistent with what one might expect from exposure to hydrocarbons in oil.

HOPEDALE, LA - MAY 13:  Crab trap builder Shaw...

Crab trap builder Shawn Platt stands with his idle traps in on May 13, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

Maybe. But these are also some of the symptoms reported by individuals who were exposed to Corexit.

One of the two Corexit products that BP is suing [sic] in the Gulf also contains a compound that is associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems

Corexit is also linked with respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders.

Obviously, there’s no way to tell what is causing these symptoms, and BP has no interest in allowing the media to find out. Many of the fishermen working for BP signed contracts that forbid them to talk to the press, and BP is ruling the Gulf area with an iron fist. Even CEO Tony Hayward has joined the fun, and is shouting at random cameramen.

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