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  Print view: America's Gulf: An Ongoing Catastrophic Disaster
COMMENTARY:

America's Gulf: An Ongoing Catastrophic Disaster

by Stephen Lendman
Thursday, 18 November 2010
BP is a serial scofflaw. Yet, despite its criminal neglect history, it's allowed to conduct business as usual because of government complicity, regulatory laxity, and whitewashed commission reports.

On August 14, Obama did what he does best, deceiving and betraying the public. Again it was on the Gulf disaster, saying:

"Today, the well is capped, oil is no longer flowing into the Gulf, and it has not been flowing for a month....I also want to point out that as a result of the cleanup effort, beaches all along the Gulf Coast are clean and safe and open for business....But I won't be satisfied until the environment has been restored, no matter how long it takes."

False on all counts. The Macondo well was capped, but video and other evidence show continued leakage, an organization called Concerned Citizens of Florida (CCF), saying:

"....government cannot be relied upon to impart all the information that we need to make informed and necessary decisions. We know that they will not (and have not) respond(ed) quickly (and adequately) enough to this unfolding disaster or perform to the standard that is required to meet it head on." Nor will the major media, "act(ing) as a mouthpiece for both government and industry."

On November 14, CCF headlined an article, "Oil and Gas Leaks Continue Unabated at Macondo: Photos document oily fluid all over the seafloor," saying:

BP's announcing Macondo shut last July, was "just empty rhetoric and part of (its) elaborate Mass Deception Act. First of all....the oil leak....was never (fully) killed and could never be killed." In fact, experts say the Gulf seabed is fractured. Even BP confirmed damage inside Macondo, well below the seafloor. Why else would much of the Gulf sea floor be covered with two-inch thick oil layers. More as well showing up in giant plumes, and reports confirming "fresh oil coming ashore."

Though unverified, a report by Anatoly Sagalevich, director of Deepwater Submersibles Laboratory at Russia's Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, said the Gulf seabed is fractured "beyond all repair," a potentially disastrous condition he called "beyond comprehension." Using one of the Institute's Deep Submergence Vehicles, his analysis was based on close-up seabed observation and analysis.

Besides Macondo, he claimed at least 18 other sites were leaking oil, the largest seven miles from where Deepwater Horizon sank, gushing an estimated two million gallons daily. Several times on CNBC and MSNBC, oil expert Matthew Simmons was firm in reporting another giant Gulf leak, miles from Macondo. Last August, he mysteriously drowned in his bath tub - the purported cause, a heart attack. Unanswered questions remain.

On November 13, CCF said:

"We have been lied to, through and through....The gas-oil spill continues unabated (to) this day. (The well-capping) was just a 'dog & pony show' to fool the world. There is a constant need to spray" dispersants. It's ongoing daily, mainly at night but brazenly during daytime as well, according to fishermen and coastal residents.

On November 12, CCF headlined, "Mounting Evidence Points to 2 Wellheads at Macondo," saying:

Rumors suggested that "BP had drilled two wells," side by side. "Lately, (based on video evidence) we have also seen the corrosive effects of the 'potent mixture' that is pouring out not only from the broken wells but also through the crevices in the seafloor."

More Evidence of A Far Greater Disaster

Dr. Gianluigi Zangari is a theoretical physicist at Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics at Frascati National Laboratories. A climate research and analysis expert, he said massive amounts of Gulf oil, much on the seabed, caused a disruption of the Gulf's Loop Current. It caused a dramatic weakening in the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current's vorticity (a mass of whirling water or air) as well as a 10C drop in North Atlantic water temperatures.

The oil/dispersants combination is causing the warm Gulf and Caribbean to die, he believes. Contaminated oil covers half the Gulf seafloor. No effective cleanup method is possible. It's also flowed up America's East Coast, into the North Atlantic, and beyond - the North Atlantic Current becoming the Norway and Canary Currents.

As a result, global waters and weather patterns have been affected. The Obama administration's irresponsible handling of the disaster may cause catastrophic fallout later on - to millions of people and the environment, including long-term (perhaps permanent) Gulf contamination.

Zangari said the Loop Current broke down around mid-May, generating "a clock wise eddy, which is still active. (Currently), the situation has deteriorated up to the point in which the eddy has detached itself completely from the main stream, therefore destroying completely the Loop Current....It is reasonable to foresee the threat that the breaking of a crucial warm stream (like) the Loop Current may generate a chain reaction of unpredictable critical phenomena and instabilities due to strong non- linearities which may have serious consequences on the dynamics of the Gulf Stream thermoregulation activity of the Global Climate."

He added that the Loop Current affects "all life on the planet. The Gulf Stream is a strong interlinked component of the global network of ocean conveyor currents, which drive" planetary weather. That, in turn, may cause droughts, floods, crop failures, and global food shortages.

His main worry is that there's "no historical precedent for the sudden replacement of a natural system, with a dysfunction man-made (one). That is, except for" nuclear bomb blasts, widespread radiation, nuclear waste contamination, and events like Chernobyl. As a result, he worries what this new phenomenon portends for the future, suggesting potentially dire planetary consequences will follow.

Other Disturbing Evidence

Experts and local residents express concern about a combination of widespread contamination, growing illnesses, and environment destruction. Besides the above, it's a lethal mixture, impacting the lives of growing millions, but government officials and media reports won't explain it.

For example, independent lab tests confirmed that Gulf seafood contains high levels toxic compounds, a combination of oil, dispersants, and other substances. After conducting tests on Gulf shrimp, Robert Naman, a chemist at Mobile, AL's ACT Labs said:

"I wouldn't eat shrimp or crab caught in the Gulf." His tests showed unusually high levels of digestive tract oil and grease at 193 parts-per-million. According to Dr. William Sawyer, a researcher at Florida's Sanibel Toxicology Consultants & Assessment Specialists:

"Once oil enters (a living organism), it can damage every organ, every system in the body. There is no safe level of exposure to this oil, because it contains carcinogens, mutagens that can damage DNA and cause cancer and other chronic health problems."

Oil/Dispersant Contaminants Killing Coral Reefs

Scientists have confirmed that Gulf coral reefs near the Macondo well site are dying, clearly from toxic contaminants. On November 5, writing for National Geographic News, Kathleen Jones (a National Geographic TV producer) said:

"Large communities of several types of bottom-dwelling coral were found covered with a dark substance at depths of about 4,600 feet near the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead, according to a scientific team on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Ronald H. Brown."

Team member Timothy Shank of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said:

"The coral were either dead or dying, and in some cases they were simply exposed skeletons. I've never seen that before. And when we tried to take samples of the coral, this black - I don't know how to describe it - black, fluffylike substance fell off of them."

According to onboard researchers, about 90% of 40 large groups of severely damaged soft coral were discolored, dead or dying. At another site, about 1,300 feet away, a hard coral colony was also partly covered with the same substance.

Penn State University's Dr. Charles Fisher, the ship's lead scientist, said:

"Corals do die, but you don't see them die all at once. This....indicates a recent catastrophic event," clearly connected to the Macondo disaster. "The proximity of the site to the disaster, the depth of the site, the clear evidence of recent impact, and the uniqueness of the observations all suggest that the impact we have found is linked to the exposure of this community to either oil, dispersant(s), extremely depleted oxygen, or some combination of these or other water-borne effects resulting from the spill....We were looking for subtle changes....What we saw was not subtle."

For months, scientists said oil isn't degrading, its toxic ingredients to have long-term dire effects on marine life, vegetation, and humans. In August, University of South Florida (USF) oceanographer David Hollander discovered "deep-sea creatures....showing a strong toxic response to hydrocarbons..."

Hollander's USF colleague, John Paul, told National Geographic News that the coral die-off is a "smoking cannon. It doesn't surprise me. It could be the tip of the iceberg of all kinds of weird things we're going to see in the Gulf of Mexico in the next three to five years." Maybe much longer.

Dying Gulf Wildlife

For months throughout the Gulf region, reports confirmed massive fish kills, a September 14 one on a Louisiana waterway showing a picture looking more like a gravel road. In fact, it was a water surface covered with dead sea life, "a mishmash of species of fish, crabs, stingray and eel." Other accounts reported dead sea turtles, dolphins and a whale along a stretch of coastal Louisiana. In summer, fish kills are common, the result of dead zones, but nothing comparable to what's been seen, all species affected.

On November 6, the Detroit Free Press said wildlife keeps dying in the Gulf. An earlier September 14 Travel & Nature report said the Mississippi River was "brimming with dead fish near the Gulf of Mexico." Found were pogies, redfish, drum, crabs, shrimp, freshwater eel, and other species. Numerous other reports are just as disturbing, some suggesting all Gulf wildlife is threatened, and that virtually all of it is contaminated and unsafe.

Obama's Gulf Disaster Whitewash Commission

On May 22, Obama established a commission to investigate the disaster, the seven-person team headed by former EPA administrator, William Reilly and former Florida governor/senator Bob Graham. At the time, Obama said:

"We need to take a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how [to] regulate them. The purpose of this commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions we need to take to prevent similar disasters from happening again."

Newly released commission findings confirm he lied. An earlier article foresaw the whitewash.

On November 8, in the wake of the greatest ever environmental crime, Fred Bartlit, the National Commission's general counsel said:

"To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety." This about a company Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum said has "the worst safety and environmental record of any oil company operating in America." An earlier article documented it.

To settle federal, state, and civil lawsuits, it's paid out hundreds of millions in fines as well as penalties for manipulating energy markets. BP is a criminal enterprise, profits its sole concern, its rap sheet showing a disturbing pattern of willful neglect, unfulfilled promises, and utter disregard for personal or environmental safety.

Yet from day one, the Obama administration covered for its crimes, complicit in coverup, distortion, lies, and total disregard for the environment, wildlife, personal safety, and way of life for thousands, let alone permanent damage to a vital ecosystem. It showed in his commission's findings, a brazen whitewash of criminal negligence.

Daniel Becnel, a Louisiana lawyer suing BP, called the findings "absolutely absurd....pasting over (the truth) because they know the government is going to be a defendant sooner or later in this litigation."

Retired University of Alaska scientist Rick Steiner is an outspoken critic of oil industry practices. He's also a prominent member of the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP), its agenda being:

"(a) world where equity is at the root of a dynamic harmony between people and nature, as well as among peoples, (promoting policies in accord with) livelihoods, human rights and responsibilities, human development, security, equity, and the fair and effective governance of natural resources."

Steiner was appalled at the commission's findings, calling them "the most colossally ignorant conclusion anyone could draw. (They) destroyed any credibility the commission may have had....The people and companies that run these rigs (think only of) cut(ting) costs....enhanc(ing) production and....generat(ing) more revenue in less time. Every decision they make has to do with that. The Deepwater Horizon rig was 43 days behind schedule, at about a million dollars a day. Don't tell me that this was not a persistent pressure on everybody on the rig."

"BP has had an unwritten rule here in Alaska called 'run-to-failure.' If your equipment is starting to fail, you continue to run it till it does fail, instead of stopping the operation, upgrading it, maintaining it, putting in a new gas compressor pump or piping section. There's a stigma associated with safety consciousness, and there's certainly a stigma associated with stopping work if you detect a safety lapse or problem."

Steiner added that the Macondo well was trouble-plagued from the start. Rig employees called it "the well from hell" and "nightmare well," saying "this well didn't want to be drilled." They should have plugged and abandoned it, he added. Instead they cut corners, assuring trouble. For the commission to deny this is "absurd" and criminally negligent.

The only part of its report Steiner agreed with was that a mere 3% of spilled oil was recovered. Now the media spotlight is off. Business as usual continues, "and the environment of the Gulf of Mexico (was) sacrificed for nothing."

Shockingly, Bartlit, a BP stooge, said the commission agreed with "90%" of its own internal investigation, saying:

"We see no instance where a decision-making person or group of people sat there aware of safety risks, aware of costs and opted to give up safety for costs. I've been on a lot of rigs, and I don't believe people sit there and say, 'This is really dangerous, but the guys in London will make more money.' We do not say everything done was perfectly safe. We're saying that people (didn't trade) safety for dollars. We studied the hell out of this. We welcome anybody who gives us something we missed."

The commission, in fact, missed everything, running cover for BP and the administration, its report replete with willful lies.

BP is a serial scofflaw. Yet, despite its criminal neglect history, it's allowed to conduct business as usual because of government complicity, regulatory laxity, and whitewashed commission reports. Bartlit, in fact, has long served industry interests, including the 1988 North Sea Piper Alpha disaster, drafting a 1990 inquiry that assured Occidental Petroleum faced no criminal charges. He also represented George Bush in the stolen 2000 election.

Supporting high crime pays well. Defending truth, environmental concerns, public safety and welfare is scorned and ignored at a time profits alone, not people, matter.


Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His blog is sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on November 18, 2010.
 

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