~ Why Does BP Get to Make The Rules?

If I am in a collision with another vehicle, regardless of my level of fault or innocence, I do not get to decide how the accident scene is handled.  I do not get to decide what information any government agency can know.  I do not get to decide where the injured get treated.  Or what treatment they are allowed to receive.  I do not get to tell the police how to handle bystanders.  And I do not get to seclude my passenger “eyewitnesses” and make them sign waivers.

If there is a plane crash, a train wreck, or a boating/shipping accident — regardless of whether the cargo is human or not or whether there are any human deaths involved or not, multiple transportation and enforcement agencies immediately step in and take charge of the investigation and clean up.  So why is an oil “spill” which is really an “accident” involving the transportation of oil, treated any differently?

And why is the Coast Guard following BP’s rules?

From Mediaite:

Last night CBS Evening News aired a segment on the oil spill and included a clip of BP contractors turning the CBS crew away from investigating part of the oil-drenched Louisiana shoreline under threat of being arrested if they proceeded. The contractor, or a Coast Guard…it’s not quite clear, told CBS that they were merely enforcing BP’s rules.

Why can the EPA only demand that BP use less toxic dispersants?  Why is this even BP’s decision to make?

The Environmental Protection Agency informed BP officials late Wednesday that the company has 24 hours to choose a less toxic form of chemical dispersants to break up its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government sources familiar with the decision, and must apply the new form of dispersants within 72 hours of submitting the list of alternatives. [snip]

BP has been using two forms of dispersants, Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A, and so far has applied 600,000 gallons on the surface and 55,000 underwater. [snip]

Britain banned some formulations of the dispersant the government is now using, Corexit, more than a decade ago.

Shouldn’t our national interests have priority? So why isn’t the federal government, as representatives of the American people, the ones making this decision?  After all, BP’s bottom line is cost containment.  And their use of Corexit pretty much proves the point.   “It’s a chemical that the oil industry makes to sell to itself, basically,” said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife.

So far, BP has told federal agencies that it has applied more than 400,000 gallons of a dispersant sold under the trade name Corexit and manufactured by Nalco Co., whose current leadership includes executives from BP and Exxon. And another 805,000 gallons of Corexit are on order, the company said, with the possibility that hundreds of thousands of more gallons may be needed if the well continues spewing oil for weeks or months.

But according to EPA data, Corexit ranks far above dispersants made by competitors in toxicity and far below them in effectiveness in handling southern Louisiana crude.

Of 18 dispersants whose use EPA has approved, 12 were found to be more effective on southern Louisiana crude than Corexit, EPA data show. Two of the 12 were found to be 100 percent effective on Gulf of Mexico crude, while the two Corexit products rated 56 percent and 63 percent effective, respectively. The toxicity of the 12 was shown to be either comparable to the Corexit line or, in some cases, 10 or 20 times less, according to EPA.

Pretty hard to claim the use of a less effective, more toxic, less tested dispersant is in the best interest of the health and well being of the American people and their environment.  But I am sure they will try.

And if it was up to the American people, would we necessarily want dispersants used at all?  From Solve Climate:

The dispersant, a detergent-like brew of solvents, surfactants and other compounds, breaks down oil into tiny particles that scatter into the sea to prevent crude from washing ashore and wiping out wildlife.

Some analysts describe the chemical stew as a a slow and silent killer, however, quietly altering the balance of food webs, contaminating species and damaging the overall health of the oceans.

John Everett, president of Ocean Associates Inc., a Virginia-based oceans and fisheries consulting firm, said the dispersant could cause more harm than the calamitous spill itself, which is gushing oil at a pace of 210,000 gallons a day and has now exceeded the four-million gallon mark.

“The oil damage will eventually heal. Better procedures will be employed and this oil will be recycled and assimilated,” Everett told Congress.

“The flow of chemical materials into our waters is another matter. There are too many insidious contaminants entering our estuaries, causing genetic harm and poisoning our Earth, turtles and seafood.”

Carys Mitchelmore, a researcher at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science…

…both oil and oil spill dispersants are known to cause a variety of health effects in animals, she added, “including death and a variety of sublethal impacts including reduced growth, reproduction, cardiac dysfunction, immune system suppression, carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic effects and alterations in behavior.”

Is it any wonder that fishermen who are helping with the clean up are now getting sick. From WDSU.com:

Marine toxicologist Riki Ott said the chemicals used by BP can wreak havoc on a person’s body and even lead to death.

“The volatile, organic carbons, they act like a narcotic on the brain,” Ott said. “At high concentrations, what we learned in Exxon Valdez from carcasses of harbor seals and sea otters, it actually fried the brain, (and there were) brain lesions.”

Why does BP get to control the release of information on the spill?  Are their proprietary interests greater than the public’s right to know and the scientific communities ability to help or the environment’s need to recover?  From the NYTimes:

Tensions between the Obama administration and the scientific community over the gulf oil spill are escalating, with prominent oceanographers accusing the government of failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope./snip/

And the scientists say the administration has been too reluctant to demand an accurate analysis of how many gallons of oil are flowing into the sea from the gushing oil well.[snip]

Oceanographers have also criticized the Obama administration over its reluctance to force BP, the oil company responsible for the spill, to permit an accurate calculation of the flow rate from the undersea well. The company has refused to permit scientists to send equipment to the ocean floor that would establish the rate with high accuracy.

It is truly sad to think that the standing of the American people has sunk so low, that in a time of environmental crisis our government is still more worried about the dollar effects on industry than the environmental, financial, and social effects on our nation.
[cross posted at No Quarter]


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