Too many of the news reports concerning the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout are suspiciously similar to the BP commercials featuring testimonials about how the company’s wonderful clean-up job has brought life along the Gulf Coast “back to normal”. Unfortunately, the ugly truth about life along the Gulf of Corexit has not been thrust before the American public with the same aggressiveness as BP’s public relations propaganda.
Since the catastrophe occurred back in April of 2010, one steady source of unvarnished reports on the matter has been Washington’s Blog. On April 18 of this year, Washington’s Blog posted this great piece which links to a number of reports documenting the extent of ongoing damage to the Gulf ecosystem.
We are constantly bombarded with propaganda emphasizing how offshore oil rigs create jobs. What we don’t hear are reports concerning the number of people from the fishing industry who lost their jobs (and their health) as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. Consider this AFP report from last year:
Local chemist Wilma Subra has been helping test people’s blood for volatile solvents, and said levels of benzene among cleanup workers, divers, fishermen and crabbers are as high as 36 times that of the general population.
“As the event progresses we are seeing more and more people who are desperately ill,” she said.
“Clearly it is showing that this is ongoing exposure,” Subra said, noting that pathways include contact with the skin, eating contaminated seafood or breathing polluted air.
“We have been asking the federal agencies to please provide medical care from physicians who are trained in toxic exposure.”
She said she has received no response.
The most devastating exposé on the Deepwater Horizon disaster came from Greg Palast, who wrote a two-part report for EcoWatch. A British investigative television program – Dispatches – sent Palast into Baku, Azerbaijan, with a cameraman to investigate a whistleblower’s report that in September of 2008, a BP off-shore rig in the Caspian Sea suffered a nearly identical blow-out to the Deepwater Horizon incident. BP concealed the true cause and extent of the Caspian Sea event from the U.S. regulators and Congress. From Part One:
The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival. But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their fate.
One cause of the blow-outs was the same in both cases: the use of a money-saving technique – plugging holes with “quick-dry” cement.
By hiding the disastrous failure of its penny-pinching cement process in 2008, BP was able to continue to use the dangerous methods in the Gulf of Mexico – causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. April 20 marks the second anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster.
There were several failures in common to the two incidents identified by the eyewitness. He is an industry insider whose identity and expertise we have confirmed. His name and that of other witnesses we contacted must be withheld for their safety.
The failures revolve around the use of “quick-dry” cement, the uselessness of blow-out preventers, “mayhem” in evacuation procedures and an atmosphere of fear which prevents workers from blowing the whistle on safety problems.
In Part Two of the report, Greg Palast revealed that one of the classified cables leaked by Private Bradley Manning through WikiLeaks.org to The Guardian was a briefing from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan to the State Department in Washington. The cable summarized information obtained from Bill Schrader, President of BP-Azerbaijan, about the cause and extent of the 2008 blowout. The collusion of the State Department in this cover-up became an important aspect of Palast’s report:
From other sources, we discovered the cement which failed had been mixed with nitrogen as a way to speed up drying, a risky process that was repeated on the Deepwater Horizon.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the concealment of this information, “criminal. We have laws that make it illegal to hide this.”
The cables also reveal that BP’s oil-company partners knew about the blow-out but they too concealed the information from Congress, regulators and the Securities Exchange Commission. BP’s major U.S. partners in the Caspian Sea drilling operation were Chevron and Exxon.
* * *
Kennedy’s particular concern goes to the connivance of the State Department, then headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in the cover-up and deception. Chevron, noted Kennedy, named an oil tanker after Rice who had served on the oil company’s board of directors. “BP felt comfortable – and Chevron and Exxon – in informing the Bush State Department, which was run by Condoleezza Rice,” he said, “and they felt comfortable that that wasn’t going to come out.”
The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission requires companies to report “material” events. BP filed a “20-F” report in 2009 stating, “a subsurface gas release occurred below the Central Azeri platform,” suggesting a naturally occurring crack in the seafloor, not a blow-out. This contradicted the statements of three eyewitnesses and the secret statement of BP’s Azerbaijan President in then WikiLeaks cable.
“The three big actors, Chevron, Exxon and BP all concealed this from the American public,” concludes Kennedy. “This is a criminal activity.”
At this point, anyone who believes that Condoleezza Rice could be chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate is headed for a big disappointment.
With the passing of time, the Deepwater Horizon story isn’t getting any better. It just keeps getting worse.