Friday, 7 May 2010

Gulf of Mexico oil spill "containable" but BP incompetent

Bhopal's coming home. Katrina's bringing all her cousins. And now the corporations commit another stunning example of ecological and social vandalism.

I hear sickening news that the oil slick headed towards the Louisiana coast following the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig was entirely containable but that BP, already responsible for the catastrophic Exxon Valdez clean-up debacle in Alaska, has screwed up again. And this time, lives as well as livelihoods have been lost.

Greg Palast reminds us of BP's role in the Alaskan oil spill:
... rapid response is the key. In Alaska, that was BP's job, as principal owner of the pipeline consortium Alyeska. It is, as well, BP's job in the Gulf, as principal lessee of the deepwater oil concession. ... On that March night in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in the Prince William Sound, the BP group had, in fact, not a lick of boom there. And Alyeska had fired the Natives who had manned the full-time response teams, replacing them with phantom crews, lists of untrained employees with no idea how to control a spill. And that containment barge at the ready was, in fact, laid up in a drydock in Cordova, locked under ice, 12 hours away.

Little has changed. Assurances that BP was equipped to deal with the sort of emergency we're seeing off the coast of Louisiana verge on the fantastical:
Where was BP's containment barge and response crew? Why was the containment boom laid so damn late, too late and too little? Why is it that the US Navy is hauling in 12 miles of rubber boom and fielding seven skimmers, instead of BP?... Becnel tells me that one of the platform workers has informed him that the BP well was apparently deeper than the 18,000 feet depth reported. BP failed to communicate that additional depth to Halliburton crews who therefore poured in too small a cement cap for the additional pressure caused by the extra depth. So it blew.

Will anyone be held accountable in any meaningful way? BP share prices are already on the rise again after an initial drop of $32 billion off its market value, so maybe heads won't roll after all. How about compensation for the loss of a way of life and the devastation of environment and community? The Exxon Valdez order to pay $5 billion was slashed to $500 million by the Supreme Court. According to Reuters, "A federal statute caps damage recoveries from oil spills at $75 million, if no negligence is established. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working on a measure to increase that to $10 billion."

Will Americans stand up to the teabaggers who demand even fewer regulations for big biz?

Athens is interesting: a people who refuse to foot the bill for their Masters' mistakes. I hope they'll inspire all of us in the same leaky tub.

No comments: