Given that global warming pollution has officially fallen from the agenda of the Senate, legislative proposals on the table to reduce the political, economic, and environmental impact of the oil industry provide an opportunity for Congress to slightly vindicate itself. On Friday the House passed legislation that finally removes special protections that oil companies have received for decades, such as limitation on liability for the damage caused by oil spills, exemptions from environmental review, and the ability to avoid US safety standards altogether. In light of the BP oil disaster, passage of these policies should be a forgone conclusion.
The Senate is expected to vote soon, maybe tomorrow, on it’s own package of policies in response to the Gulf disaster. The House passed the bill 209 to 193. With an astounding 30 Reps not voting, including 21 GOP, it is possibly a good sign for the Senate vote this week, as it may mean many conservative Representatives felt it politically impossible to vote no.
At the same time, it was not a disappointment, but a relief, that the Senate Majority Leader concluded the Senate should take a break from proposals to cap global warming pollution. It is shocking that this announcement to end the effort to solve the world's most dire and pressing problem comes with five months left in 2010. However, the Senate level of ambition to pass effective climate policy has waned from weak to damaging. With the gluts of industry giveaways, the latest bill drafts proposing a carbon cap exemplify that the legislative effort is carjacked by polluting industry lobbyists. If they have truly stopped trying for now, Congress must not think that they can simply pick up where they left off, because they are nowhere near producing legislation to overhaul America's economy to become modern, competitive, and sustainable.
This election season, members of Congress owe it to their children's future to use their campaigns to build momentum for energy policy that keeps the planet livable. What this Congress will have failed to produce is a set of policies that contains three broad elements that dissipated from legislative proposals in the Senate.
First, Congress must campaign for slashing global warming pollution in a manner that is fast and furious. We need to do whatever it takes. This is not about balancing the required efforts and bail outs of polluting industry. It is about taking deadly serious the pollution that made 2010 the hottest year on record. It is about stopping perverse subsidies that provide seven times more public funding for coal, oil, and gas than for renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal.
Second, Congress must campaign for significant financial assistance to help poor countries adapt to the devastating climate changes occurring already, and to develop cleanly, so that our efforts at home to protect the planet are not in vain. International climate financing is part of a fair and reasonable commitment from the United States, a wealthy country with the greatest historical share of global warming pollution, and is vitally necessary for achieving an effective global climate change agreement.
Third, Congress must campaign to protect and encourage the use of all existing tools for reducing global warming pollution, which includes laws they passed decades ago like the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is the reason why the administration can now require long-overdue pollution abatement technologies for the nation's dirtiest smokestacks, and why efficiency standards for America's cars will not be pitifully behind requirements in China. Members of Congress who are serious about stopping climate catastrophe will provide encouragement and support for other public officials, such as in state legislatures, the EPA, and the White House, to act quickly on this global emergency.
While some news reports attempt to downplay the amount of damage that has been done, it's clear that the Gulf oil disaster is one of the worst environmental tragedies in US history. This catastrophe has also further revealed the extraordinary extent of the oil industry’s influence on our government. Many questions remain unanswered about government communications with BP and other oil companies, underwater oil plumes, impacts to marine wildlife, chemical dispersants, oil drilling safety regulation, and more.
We've submitted 27 Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple government agencies and two Public Records Act Requests to the offices of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. The scope of these FOIA requests were derived from our ongoing field research as well as tips from local activists and reporters.
The following is a list of the requests we've filed. In parentheses after each item is the agency with whom the request was filed (click on any of the agencies to view a PDF of the request).
- Details of any and all mammal spotter flights conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Gulf region (USFSW)
- Any and all chain of custody forms for deceased wildlife in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details regarding turtles being killed in controlled oil burns in the Gulf region (USCG, NOAA, USFWS)
- Details of U.S. Navy flights contracted for whale and dolphin sightings in the Gulf region (Navy)
- Details of any and all communications or information regarding any of 23 endangered or threatened species of concern in the Gulf region including sperm whales and sea turtles (NOAA, USCG)
- Details of any communications about “carcass collection facilities” in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details of any communications between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and BP concerning dead mammals or marine life in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details of Natural Resource Damage Assessment flights (USFWS)
Oil drilling safety regulation
- Details of communication between the United States Coast Guard and ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and/or ConocoPhillips concerning the safety of oil rigs in the Gulf and/or the term “blowout preventers” (USCG)
- Details of communications between the Minerals Management Service and the Offshore Operators Committee Deep Spills Working Group. (BOEMRE)
- Details of any information concerning the 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf (BOEMRE)
- Details of all internal communications regarding the 23 blowouts that have occurred on oil rigs in the Gulf since 2006. (BOEMRE)
- Details of all communications between MMS staffers K. Stauffer and J. McCarroll who contributed to deepwater environmental assessments (BOEMRE)
- Communications with USGS staff member Keith A. Kvenvolden concerning natural oil seeps (USGS)
- Details of violations and inspections and the certification process of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port facility (USCG)|
- Internal communications within and between the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard and BP concerning directives on dispersant use and exemptions granted to BP by the Coast Guard (EPA, USCG)
- Details of the effectiveness of sub-sea dispersant application, how the Environmental Protection Agency has monitored BP’s use of dispersants, and the point at which dispersants have a greater environmental impact than leaked oil (EPA)
- Records of dispersant-carrying aircraft with specific call signs flying out of Stennis International Airport (FAA)
- Details of communications regarding BP employees or contractors and their authority or ability to police public lands (USCG)
Underwater oil plumes
- Internal communications from NOAA missions to search for underwater oil plumes (NOAA)
- Details of all meetings and correspondence between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and BP regarding underwater oil plumes (NOAA)
Communication Between Oil Companies and State Offices
- Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Bobby Jindal or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal)
- Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Haley Barbour or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour)
I arrived in Dalian on the day of the funeral for firefighter Zhang Liang, who drowned beneath the thick crude when his crew jumped into the ocean — without safety gear — to attempt, in vain, to fix an underwater pipe. Our lead photographer, Jiang He, who by now has reached legendary status globally for capturing the final seconds of Zhang's life, continued to cover the very emotional moments of this oil spill disaster.
Colleagues described how over 30,000 people lined the streets of Dalian to honor Zhang. And judging from Jiang He’s photos, there were many outpourings of grief for his untimely death, at the age of 25. People talked about whispers of anger from Dalian residents and firefighters against the corporations responsible for this tragic human and environmental disaster. And of their utter callousness: in the evening of the same day, a fancy celebratory dinner was held in one of Dalian’s classiest hotels for the leaders of Dalian PetroChina. A large banner with grammatically incorrect Chinese welcomed them to the “fire rescue live event.”
See more images from the Dalian oil spill
The spill in Dalian is yet another reminder that oil is a dirty business, and the only way to stop future spills is to leave the oil in the ground. Enough is enough. Sign our petition to Congress telling them that now is the time for a permanent ban on ALL new drilling.
I'm back home now after nearly two weeks of working as a boat driver for Greenpeace in the Gulf. This was my second time in the Gulf to help with work related to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. What I experienced this time was entirely different from my first trip last
Last month, I saw deeply-oiled marshes and mangroves. There were lots of oiled birds; entire nests were slathered in oil. I witnessed hundreds of dolphins swimming in oil-slicked waters. Now this time, a little over a month later, the oil slicks are nearly gone! In traveling the Gulf from Louisiana to Alabama, I hardly saw an oil slick at all. All I saw was an ever-present light sheen in the water. What happened?
BP has poured about two million gallons of Corexit oil dispersant into the Gulf. Obviously the stuff works, because it's hard to see the oil visually any more. As a result, the Gulf states are reopening their beaches and recreational fishing, and the pressure is on to reopen
The thing is, the water is now toxic. Here's a clip from a local news station showing the amount of oil that's in the water as a result of Corexit:
The effect of using Corexit is that the oil doesn't float on the surface of the water now. Instead, it's dissolved into the water. This means it can't be skimmed, and also that it flows with the water current in addition to the wind. The oil is now spreading around the Gulf in such a way that it can't be collected. In addition to all that, Corexit has never before been used in any quantity approaching this level. The Gulf is now one massive experiment.
It was particularly disturbing to me to see children playing in the water while oil clean-up crews were on the same beach a few hundred feet away, collecting tar balls. It's hard to watch because the water looks safe, but isn't.
Because of all this, how we witness this tragedy has now changed. Instead of seeing oiled shorelines, we'll now see the effects through water sample testing. It's a more difficult message to convey, because things are starting to *appear* okay. To the contrary, the disaster is
only beginning. We'll be living with a fundamentally-changed Gulf ecosystem for decades to come.
Let's work together to create a better future for our children by supporting an Energy Revolution!
This morning, starting at 5.30am, teams of Greenpeace volunteers shut down 50 BP stations across London.
The teams - each named after an animal threatened by BP's reckless oil exploration - fanned out across the capital in their electric and hybrid cars, going station to station and disabling the pumps.
Why today? Because BP is expected to announce later the appointment of Bob Dudley as the company's new head to replace the gaffe-prone Tony Hayward, who led BP during the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
But there's more. This is also about realizing what we can achieve if we set our minds to it.
We can end the oil age. We already have the tools we need to leave it behind and move towards a clean energy future. All that's missing is the determination to make it happen fast.
Tell Congress: No new drilling, period!
ABOVE: The safety switches from the BP Stations in London that were shutdown today by Greenpeace volunteers. These were removed, operating the safety shutdown and and closing the pumps. We're going to return all the switches later but until they fit new ones at the stations, the pumps will be out of action.
This blog post comes from Lisa Vickers, a webbie at Greenpeace International.
With almost 2,000 logo submissions, the competition was an amazing success! But luckily you don't have to weed through hundreds of images to make your pick. Just check out the top picks from Greenpeace staff and cast your vote today!
The categories are Best Rebranded Logo, Best Illustration, Best Wildlife, Best Slogan, and (my personal fav) WTF?!.
My picks are:
For Best Slogan
This design shows the spill in the context of the whole planet and our interconnected oceans. It reflects how the sea floor has been literally cracked open by thousands of oil rigs and how dangerously deep many companies have drilled. Recall that the Deepwater Horizon rig broke a record for drilling the deepest well in the world at one time. Are we at "breaking point"? Most definitely.
For Best Wildlife
No words... can do justice to the impact of this design. BP CEO Tony Hayward's phrase, "I would like my life back," juxtaposed with the oiled bird is utterly unforgettable. No wonder it's currently #1.
For Best Illustration
While not BP-specific, this design shows what drilling for oil and gas is ultimately doing to the planet better than any other, in my humble opinion.
And lastly, drumroll please... for Best Rebranded Logo (and the new face of BP) I choose:
The Gulf and its inhabitants, from people to pelicans, will never really recover from this catastrophic oil spill. We can't spread our oiled wings and fly into a clean energy future until we kick our oil addiction, stop offshore drilling, and get our government to end subsidies for oil and coal and invest in renewable energy.
But don't just listen to me, vote for the logo redesigns you think are most powerful. Please vote for your favs and share them widely -- what better way to contribute to BP's 'image problems'?
The Greenpeace ship MY Arctic Sunrise was in the Mediterranean Sea in June to help protect endangered bluefin tuna. © Gavin Parsons / Greenpeace
The reports coming out of Louisiana about cleanup workers and even local police helping BP enforce a media blockade have been nearly as frustrating as watching the oil spew into the Gulf without cease for almost three months (a hat tip is most definitely deserved here to Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland, who has been chasing this story all along and doing a great job of reporting what’s happening on the ground).
It’s in BP’s best interest to limit media access to oiled beaches and wildlife, as the more they can contain the truth about just how much damage has been done, the more they can limit their liability to pay for that damage later on. We released our ScamWow video last week to highlight this very sad and galling state of affairs.
|View more images of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.|
But BP is cracking down on public access more than ever, so we’re stepping up our efforts. The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on its way to the Gulf for a three-month expedition to document the true impacts of the BP Deepwater Disaster on the Gulf’s marine life and unique ecosystems. This tour is especially crucial now because even if BP has finally capped the leaking well, the crisis will continue for some time, endangering wildlife and ecosystems, destroying the region’s fisheries, and affecting the ocean for decades to come. It’s important that we not let the focus shift away from the truly extensive catastrophe that is still unfolding in the Gulf, whether more oil is spewing out of BP’s well or not.
The Sunrise will leave Tampa, Florida during the week of August 9th and visit the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas before approaching the wellhead during the first month of the expedition. The crew aboard the Sunrise will be examining everything from the plankton on the surface to the subsurface plumes and the deep-sea corals on the floor of the Gulf.
The Arctic Sunrise is a 50-meter long, icebreaker ship that was purchased by Greenpeace in 1995. Since then, it has peacefully protested whaling in the Southern Ocean, documented climate change and glacier melts in the Arctic, and was the first ship to circumnavigate James Ross Island in the Antarctic, which was an impossible journey until a 200m thick ice shelf connecting the island to the Antarctic continent collapsed.
Throughout the expedition, the Arctic Sunrise will host independent scientists and researchers who will be looking for oiled marine mammals, turtles, fish, and sea birds. Charles Messing and Jose Lopez from Nova Southeastern University will be on board looking at sponges, which filter large quantities of water and are therefore useful for looking at sub-lethal impacts of oil and dispersants. We’ll announce other on-board scientists in the coming weeks.
So keep checking back on our blog for live interviews with our onboard campaigners and scientists, video and still photography from the Gulf, and an interactive, web-based Virtual Ship Tour that lets supporters come along for the journey. You can grab an RSS feed of our blog posts dedicated to the tour by going here: Greenpeace Gulf Oil Disaster Expedition blogs.
We’ll also be posting lots of ways you can help call for a moratorium on new offshore drilling and for Congress and the White House to come clean, get rid of campaign contributions from dirty energy, and stop subsidizing big oil and coal.
In the meantime, help us promote our Energy [R]evolution report, which shows how it’s possible to phase out fossil fuels and reach 96% renewables in our energy mix by 2050. The US consumes 25% of the oil produced globally but has only 3% of the world’s oil reserves. We will never drill our way out of being dependent on foreign oil. The only way for the US to achieve energy security and stop oil spills before they happen is to invest in its huge renewable energy potential.
China overtakes the US in renewable energy investment – but hey, we might have stopped the bleeding in the Gulf!
It’s great that BP might at last have stopped the bleeding. But compare this to another less-noted bit of news: It was announced today that China has officially overtaken the USA as the world’s leading investor in renewable energy.
|View more images of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.|
We’re falling behind. Renewables are the way of the future, no matter how many fossil fuels lobbyists there are trying to convince our elected officials otherwise. China knows this, and is aggressively pursuing renewable energy.
When will we wise up?
A panel put together by President Obama that is co-chaired by Senator Bob Graham (former two–term governor of Florida) and William K. Reilly (head of the EPA under President Bush), and includes the likes of NRDC’s presidents and the Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), will come together over the next few months to try and figure out what went wrong and how to move forward. They are set to make a recommendation to the President in 6 months, and one can only hope that they will endorse a plan that includes the only thing that makes sense to make sure this never happens again: an end to offshore drilling.
|View more images of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.|
Yesterday, the first day the commission met, I struggled through a presentation from Kent Wells, Senior Vice President of BP North America, explaining how sorry they were and how hard they were trying to make it better. I listened as Rear Admiral Peter Neffenger, Deputy Incident Commander for the Coast Guard, described the efforts to contain and clean up BP’s disaster and the struggles they are facing.
I also listened to firsthand accounts from the people that are living the reality of this disaster. Sal Sunseri, the owner of P&J Oyster Company, and Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation, spoke of the impact of the disaster, the unknowns of dispersants being used during the attempt to clean up the Gulf, and how the Gulf will be changed for generations to come. These communities can not measure the impact this disaster will have on them. They can not tell how their cultures will be impacted or when life will return to what can be considered normal.
I was back this morning as the commission heard from federal government officials on the status of the cleanup efforts, from local elected officials on their communities, and from local leaders about ecological impacts. All this was followed by a 2 hour period for public comment. Stay tuned, I’ll have more updates.
It’s clear BP knows this all too well, and is determined to spare no expense on the cleanup… of its image. We put together this "ScamWow" video to highlight this sad state of affairs:
We decided to spoof the original late night infomercials for the ShamWow miracle clean-up towel, which is touted as a quick fix for any cleaning problem (it's made in Germany and "You know the Germans always make good stuff"), because BP is attempting to use PR damage control as a miracle cure for its sullied image. Except, unfortunately, PR has no miraculous cleaning powers. The company's image may be less soiled as a result of the millions BP is spending on PR, but the Gulf of Mexico will be reeling from the impacts of the company's negligence for decades.
Consider the estimated $50 million BP has spent on an all-out media blitz, complete with a TV ad featuring an earnest Tony “I’d like my life back” Hayward looking into the camera and assuring us “We will make this right.” What he means is, "We will do anything to make you think we will make this right" — anything short of, you know, actually reporting the true size of the spill, allowing journalists unfettered access to spill sites and oiled beaches to provide independent coverage of cleanup operations, stopping the damn leak in a timely manner, or god-forbid taking worker and environmental safety concerns seriously in the first place so that this spill never even happened.
“The Gulf spill is a tragedy that never should have happened,” Tony “The size of the spill is small in relation to the size of the ocean” Hayward tells us in his TV ad. We can agree on that, at least, Tony!
BP has engaged multiple PR and lobby firms to help wage its PR assault, which spans all conceivable media. According to our calculations, BP spent almost $6 million through the end of June on ads in newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today, while also purchasing Google and Yahoo ads that will display whenever people search for “oil spill” — surely an extremely pricey keyword at the moment that is generating a lot of clicks.
Considering the spill cleanup costs (estimated at $16 million a day), why would BP do this? Because public relations and lobbying is one way BP can turn public opinion in their favor and soften the blow from lawsuits, regulators, and Congress. If the public could somehow be made to feel sympathetic toward BP, or to feel that BP is really going “to make this right,” the ultimate financial pain to BP might be lessened. So from where BP’s sitting — a place where the bottom line is the ultimate concern, not Gulf Coast residents’ livelihoods, not Gulf Coast ecosystems — the decision to give their image the vigorous scrubbing they can’t give the Gulf Coast ecosystems befouled by their oil is a no-brainer.
BP made $66 million a day in profits in the first quarter of 2010. If they want to keep raking it in hand over fist like that, they gotta do some damage control. It’s just that simple.
Oil spills are an inevitability of the supremely dirty oil drilling business, especially as companies are forced to dig deeper and take more outrageous risks to reach what’s left of the world’s oil reserves. Heard about BP’s plans to drill 2 miles deep and as much as eight miles horizontally from a gravel island the company built in the middle of the Beaufort Sea up in the Arctic? No, that’s not just a sick joke.
The Exxon Valdez spill is not our only example of how impossible it is to clean up spilled oil: Ask the villagers down in Ecuador who are still battling with Chevron to try and get their traditional lands cleaned up, or the people over in Nigeria who suffer from companies like Shell spilling the equivalent of a Valdez-sized spill every year. Oil is wreaking havoc on communities across the globe, and the companies responsible always seem to treat these disasters as little more than the cost of doing business. The Ecuadorian Amazon, the Niger Delta, the Gulf of Mexico — these are collateral damage in Big Oil’s relentless pursuit for reckless profits.
The real way forward is of course to stop drilling and invest in clean energy, but oil companies cannot be depended on to drive society toward clean energy. They are OIL companies after all.
The only way to stop oil spills once and for all is to leave it in the ground where it belongs. President Obama and Congress need to ensure we kickstart the clean energy revolution and stop drilling for oil. Check out our blueprint for how America can achieve 96% renewable energy by 2050 and create over a million jobs by 2030: Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook. Help promote our vision for the sustainable future! Then take action to tell Congress No New Drilling, Period.
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