The Tonka Report

Real News In A Changing World

Government Assisted BP In Covering Up Effect Of Gulf Oil Disaster

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August 10, 2010: Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D. / Op-Ed News – August 10, 2010

Everyone under the sun is familiar with the fact that BP’s oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded off of the coast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010, resulting in 11 deaths and the spewing of approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

For the last 100+ days the saga of this industrial disaster has revealed the underbelly of secrecy in the media and the cherry-picking of science to suit the industry’s agenda.

The appropriately named “Deepwater” rig thusly uncovered plenty of blame, including links to Halliburton, Transocean, and the salacious relationship between the Minerals Management Services and Big Oil. This melodrama is not “Big Brother” the reality show, but its evil twin known as Corporatism. All the while, as ecological terrorism loomed in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward whimpered, “I want my life back!”

Corexit–BP’s Boom And Nature’s Gloom

Let us review some of the events. On May 26, 2010, the EPA produced a memo directing BP to reduce its use of the chemical dispersant Corexit (produced by Nalco) by 75 percent (the maximum allowed was 15,000 gallons/day). The memo requested elimination of surface spraying but allowed a caveat indicating rare exceptions would be considered by submitting a request in writing to the United States Coast Guard’s Federal On-Scene Coordinator. According to the Washington Post, all requests (a total of 74 during a 54 day period) to spray in deep and shallow waters were approved. Lockheed Martin’s July 2010 newsletter “Today” indicates the deployment of C-130s and P-3s to the Gulf region by Air Force and Coast Guard for monitoring, mapping, and dispersant spraying. Yes, and this was per the request of the almighty EPA. To date, approximately 1.8 million gallons of Corexit, primarily a cocktail of 2-butoxyethanol, propylene glycol, and “proprietary ingredients” have been sprayed on the gushing crude oil. Corexit, a Class B carcinogen, has been banned by the European Union. Whilst the hoopla concerning Corexit embroiled, a Nalco’s goggled and gloved representative declares in a video “[the dispersant] is as safe as detergent.”

EPA Chief Lisa Jackson has voiced her “concern” over the use of Corexit but refused to outright ban its use. EPA’s Senior Policy Analyst, Hugh Kaufman, denounced the use of the dispersant and boldly announced on “Democracy Now” that: “Corexit is one of a number of dispersants that are toxic, that are used to atomize the oil and force it down the water column so that it’s invisible to the eye. In this case, these dispersants were used in massive quantities, almost two million gallons so far, to hide the magnitude of the spill and save BP money. And the government–both EPA, NOAA, etc.–have been sock puppets for BP in this cover-up.”

Hugh Kaufman has been employed with the EPA since 1971, was instrumental in development of the Superfund, and is not one to shy away from controversy.

During the EPA’s cover-up of the health hazards at Ground Zero [9/11], Kaufman lodged a whistle blowing complaint. Christie Todd-Whitman subsequently silenced him in 2002 by shutting down the EPA’s National Ombudsman Office, which had been investigating Ground Zero and other Superfund sites across the nation. How Kaufman maintains his employment with the EPA whilst repeatedly blowing the whistle on cover-ups is beyond me! Maybe he knows where the bodies are buried? Nevertheless, he is a hero!

“Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil”

Another disturbing twist in the Gulf Oil Crisis saga is the media blackout which occurred in late May/early June. BP set up clean-up camps along the Gulf coast to remove oil and tar from beaches. During this period reporters were forbidden to talk to clean-up workers–either on or off the clock–or suffer a possible $40,000 fine or Class B felony charge. I started to see videos crop up in alternative news outlets showing Blackwater-type guards forcing news reporters away from the area. I was shocked (mainly because it was allowed) to see mainstream media regular Anderson Cooper discussing the 65 feet distance required between the media and the clean-up response areas (including beaches and vessels) without permission from the Port of New Orleans. The Federal Aviation Authority announced the region encompassing Deepwater Horizon and its plume was “off limits” for flyovers. Rumors indicated that only National Geographic was permitted to film the spill.

During this “blackout” period, alternative news outlets were reporting disturbing findings. Residents of the Gulf region indicated clean-up crews were suffering health issues (e.g., intestinal bleeding, skin lesions). Animals with missing heads were discovered on beaches preventing scientists from possibly analyzing the cause of death. Fishers hoping to receive compensation for lost wages were asked to sign “gag orders.” Independent analyses of surface water by TV stations were showing high levels of oils and dispersants.

Links were being drawn between members of the Obama Administration (Geitner and Summers) and BP executives. The UK Telegraph even reported that CEO Tony Hayward sold 1.4 million of stocks approximately two weeks prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Shortly after the sale, Goldman Sachs sold off $250 million of BP stock.

Alternative news showed “experts” describing possible doomsday scenarios based on methane building from oil leakage beneath the sea floor. Internet newshounds began to notice changes or “blackouts” for North America in NOAA’s tsunami warning website. Between June and July earthquake tremors were noted in odd places like Michigan, Niagara, Maryland, and Louisiana. According to the European Union Times, NATO ordered the U.S. to ship 7,000 Marines to Costa Rica over fear the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico fractured the zone lying between North America and the Caribbean Plates. The Oil Crisis scenario was growing more apocalyptic by the day.

The Best Science Money Can Buy!

All the while, only a couple of university “scientists” and “experts” were being interviewed on mainstream media. I observed in May that the University of South Florida, Tampa, appeared to be on the forefront of reporting the presence of oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Being a scientist, I wondered, “Where is my alma mater, Florida Institute of Technology? Where is the University of Miami? MIT? Woodshole?” The scientific community was totally hush-hush as the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States progressed–and BP’s crew of stooges attempted to “plug the hole.” What I innately believed to be true and later described on the internet finally upwelled into mainstream news noting BP was “buying up” notable experts at universities for pending lawsuits. Essentially, BP shopped around for experts who were willing to assist BP at hourly rates up to $250/hour in exchange for a three-year gag order on publishing. Universities like Texas A&M, Louisiana State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi jumped at the opportunity. Who else may have sold out to BP will only be known in the future.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t!

As the summer months ensued the ecological and economical effects from the Gulf Oil Crisis appeared bleak. BP commercials using homey language “we’re gonna make things right” and daily full-page ads emblazoned BP’s image campaign. BP has spent millions to protect its image, yet where is the pay-out to the Gulf region it economically affected?

The daily reports of BP’s attempting to cap the well became part of the normal media spectrum (if not a daily joke). Obama and his administration continued to look weak in spite of tough “kick ass” rhetoric. Much to the embarrassment of the “drill baby drill” crowd, the worst case scenario of the result of drilling became a reality. Much to the dismay of the energy industry, additional spills around the globe (including China, Michigan, and Utah) funneled into the news. Fear of eating Gulf seafood and vacationing on tar-covered sands prevailed. On the bright side the summer gas prices began to lower, possibly to create a warm and fuzzy feeling toward the oil industry. After all, it is an election year. By the end of July, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward stepped down from his position with an estimated package worth $18 million.

Low and behold, articles emerged declaring the oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico was cleaned up! WTF? Had the Feds called in David Copperfield to make it disappear like an illusion in his Las Vegas show? New York Times reporter Justin Gillis presented the results of a NOAA study indicating 74 percent of the 4.9 million barrels of oil evaporated or was skimmed, recovered, or dispersed. He noted the testing of fish had “little cause of worry so far” but possible storms could change the scenario. The NOAA report lists the estimates as follows: 17% recovered, 5% burned, 3% skimmed, 25% evaporated or dissolved, 10% dispersed naturally, 8% broken up by Corexit, and 26% remaining at sea or onshore. Truthfully, only the skimmed and burned estimates can be “real” and the rest are assumptions, fuzzy at best. The report was obviously rushed and molded to fit the agenda that the plume had vanished.

I researched Gillis’ articles written about the oil spill in the last couple of months and noticed a trend as follows: May 15–Giant Plume Found Under Gulf Of Mexico; May 19Scientists Fault Lack Of Studies Over Gulf Oil Spill; July 18 After Oil Spills, Hidden Damage Can Last for Years; July 28Gulf Surface Oil Vanishing Quickly; Aug 4Oil In Gulf Poses Only Slight Risk, New U.S. Report Says. Gillis’ changed his writing topics 180 degrees as if the memo came down from above stating, “OK. Take the NOAA study and make it fit so we can kill the spill news.”

A “Time” magazine article “The BP Spill: Has The Danger Been Exaggerated?” written by well-known environmental reporter/author Michael Grunwald derailed the Gulf Oil crisis as hype. Grunwald aligns his opinion with “obnoxious anti-environmental” Rush Limbaugh concurring “although the long-term potential danger is unknowable, it does not seem to be inflicting severe environmental damage.” Throughout the article Grunwald adopts Rush jargon (eco-fear, alarmists, debunking, overblown) used to label environmentalists as fear-mongering exaggerators.

Throughout the article Grunwald quotes industry consultants like geochemist Jacqueline Michel to support his hypothesis concerning the lack of environmental impact. Grunwald further quotes former LSU professor Ivor van Heerden stating: “There’s just no data to suggest this is an environmental disaster. I have no interest in making BP look good–I think they lied about the size of the spill–but we’re not seeing catastrophic impacts.”

Grunwald lays the groundwork to support Heerden’s credibility by explaining his firing by LSU after criticizing the Army Corps of Engineer’s role during Katrina. Van Heerden is currently employed with Polaris, a BP contractor, reminding me of Eric Hoffer’s quote, “People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.” They sell out!

Grunwald’s article pooh-poohs the effects of the oil spill to marshland by noting the area was already damaged by the oil and chemical industry. He quotes former LSU professor and current vice-president of the National Audubon Society, Paul Kemp, stating the vanishing marshlands are like “a sunburn on a cancer patient.”

Grunwald attempts to downplay the spill by indicating the lack of visibly oiled dolphins, dead birds, and turtles. He compared the mortality numbers to those noted during the Exxon Valdez disaster which occurred over 20 years ago. Grunwald notes as many as 435,000 birds perished compared to 3,000 visibly oiled dead birds discovered in the Gulf region. Throwing the numbers around reminds me of the media comparing the deaths that occurred during 10 years of Vietnam compared to our occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The loss of soldiers is so much less! Minimal collateral damage! We are so successful!

Grunwald concludes his article with this paragraph which could have come from an AM radio talk show: “Anti-oil politicians, anti-Obama politicians and underfunded green groups all have obvious incentives to accentuate the negative in the Gulf.

“So do the media because disasters drive ratings and sell magazines; those oil-soaked pelicans you saw on TV (and the cover of Time) were a lot more compelling than the healthy ones I saw roosting on a protective boom in Bay Jimmy.

“Even Limbaugh, when he wasn’t down-playing the spill, outrageously hyped this as ‘Obama’s Katrina.’ But honest scientists don’t do that, even when they work for Audubon.”

My interpretation of Grunwald’s article is similar to my intuition about my fellow comrades in academia: shills for industry. My hypothesis is that a scientist working in industry is no different than a reporter working in a particular niche. Once a person builds a resume with solid credentials in the environmental industry, he/she is regarded as having integrity and expert knowledge. If one holds out long enough, he/she can then go to the highest bidder. Being in the environmental industry for 25+ years, I have seen this happen. Many a good people go to the “dark side” and are set for life after selling their soul. This is corporatism at work, folks.

The “dark side” of the scientific industry will be fodder for another article. Let us just sit back and watch the U.S. Government and Big Oil sell us on the wonders of fossil fuels and downplay the minor “leak” that occurred in 2010…

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: As we also watch the rapid degradation of all life in and around the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding coastal regions, while at the same time witnessing the economies and livelihoods of all affected disappear for decades to come. This is unacceptable, America! – SJH 

Link to original article below…

2 Responses

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  1. I totally agree…

    Since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20, 2010 an estimated 60,000 barrels of oil per day have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico (according to official government reports). That amount equates to approximately 224,280,000 gallons of crude. Some of that oil was captured by skimmers and boom, but a majority of it is still out there: either floating underwater, just out of sight, or dispersed into tiny droplets through the use of the detergent Corexit® (more aptly known by environmentalists as “hides it,” because that’s exactly what it does).

    Since British Petroleum capped the well on July 17th, the FDA has given the green light for consumers to go ahead and eat gulf seafood, claiming that it is safe. However, some fishermen are questioning the FDA’s judgment and guidelines in determining seafood safety.

    “If I put fish in a barrel of water and poured oil and Dove detergent over that, and mixed it up, would you eat that fish?” asked Rusty Graybill, an oysterman and shrimp and crab fisherman from Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish. “I wouldn’t feed it to you or my family. I’m afraid someone’s going to get sick.” (Courtesy Associated Press)

    FDA tests regarding the safety of gulf seafood seem rather general. According to that department, if it looks bad or smells bad, then just don’t eat it. But many of the toxins in our environment can’t be seen or smelled. Take for example, the mercury found in Tuna and other large ocean water fish. We know that it can be found in their flesh, but we can’t detect it visually, or by smell. Even so, we know that ingesting these fish over a period of time can result in a host of health problems in humans, including kidney and nerve damage.

    I know that our government wants to aid the fishing industry to overcome the effects of this unmitigated disaster caused by BP, but at what cost…that of our own health? In my opinion, it is far too early in the game for anyone to declare that seafood caught in the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat.

    The Destructionist

    August 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm

  2. The Destructionist,

    Great post, and I agree with nearly everything you just stated, but I do not think “…our government wants to aid the fishing industry to overcome the effects of this unmitigated disaster caused by BP…”

    I believe they (government) want people to eat the poisoned seafood from the toxic soup in the Gulf of Mexico in order to carry out their ‘soft kill’ eugenics agendas…

    – SJH

    Steven John Hibbs

    August 10, 2010 at 4:12 pm

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