Saturday, July 3, 2010

Keeping Up With the Jones Act: Day 75

A whale off the Gulf Coast in 2006, the aftermath of a far less serious oil spill.

There are so many things that are wrong in Anita Lee's July 2nd article in McClatchy that one hardly knows where to begin. The only thing it needs is a mention of Erik Prince's Blackwater Navy hustling its way to the Gulf Coast and sniffing around for more contracts.

And they'd probably get them, too, if Prince hadn't divested himself of his little mercenary armada. The people who aren't getting the contracts, however, are skimming boats and, instead of BP, the 1920 maritime law known as the Jones Act that prohibits all but US flagged vessels from entering federal waters is being blamed. And right wingers from Rush Limbaugh to Sarah Palin have been piling on President Barack Obama for not rescinding or issuing waivers on the 90 year-old law. But would that be necessary? Not so, says the US Coast Guard:
(USCG spokesman Captain) LaBrec said 24 foreign vessels, two of them skimming vessels, have operated around the catastrophe site, in federal waters with no need for Jones Act waivers. He also said (USCG Rear Admiral) Watson has the authority to approve operation of foreign-flagged vessels near shore, where the Jones Act comes into play because of the port restrictions.

USCG Admiral Thad Allen, the man tapped by the President to expedite the cleanup, promises speedy waivers to the Jones Act so that foreign vessels such as the kind offered by Fred D. McCallister can finally get involved in the cleanup.
Investment banker Fred D. McCallister of Dallas believes he has the answer. McCallister, vice president of Allegiance Capital Corp. in Dallas, has been trying since June 5 to offer a dozen Greek skimming vessels from a client for the cleanup.

He's been offering the services of a dozen ships owned by one of his clients for a month now and BP's said No? Why?
“By sinking and dispersing the oil, BP can amortize the cost of the cleanup over the next 15 years or so, as tar balls continue to roll up on the beaches, rather than dealing with the issue now by removing the oil from the water with the proper equipment,” McCallister testified earlier this week before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “As a financial adviser, I understand financial engineering and BP’s desire to stretch out its costs of remediating the oil spill in the Gulf. By managing the cleanup over a period of many years, BP is able to minimize the financial damage as opposed to a huge expenditure in a period of a few years.”

So there you have it. BP, as usual, has been trying to lowball the people of the Gulf Coast and everyone else for the cost of this cleanup. It's a lot cheaper for them to deal with the oil spill after it reaches shore than to cap the well and capture the 100,000,000 gallons that have spilled out since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20th.

Dealing with the oil spill, by the way, involves little more than simply burying the oil under the sand. In fact, even this lackadasical effort in recovering the oil already spilled still seems to be the top priority when it ought to be, instead, capped the gushing wellhead.

In a way, the nearly unprecedented nature of the spill, beginning a mile underwater so that ice crystals keep the vast majority of the spewed oil submerged, had actually aided BP in its absurd estimates that were relayed back to the USCG and the Obama administration that had no choice but to make BP their go-to guys for news on the spill. In the first days after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, BP tried to make us believe that no oil had spilled. Then it was a 1000 barrels a day, then it was 5000 barrels a day until finally they had to come clean and start talking 6 figures a day.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the Obama administration seems to be prizing BP's right to privacy more than the Gulf residents' right to make a living and to live healthily. The Coast Guard, in the past 24 hours, as issued a media blackout, ordering the press not to get within 60 feet of an oil boom. As Politicol News asks,
What ever happened to that macho talk of “who’s (sic) ass to kick” in front of the television cameras? Gone. It was all talk and no action. If BP can control the media coverage of its own oil spill, what is next? A ban on protesting such as what happened during the G20 in Canada?

The media cannot venture to within 60 feed of any oil boom, oil skimmer, boats, or any of BP’s operation and have been warned under penalty of fines, and imprisonment to stay away from BP’s efforts. It appears they wish to bury the problem and the media will not be able to record the coverup.

Obama has disgraced his position and has become a weak and useless President, turning itno (sic) BP’s lap dog in the eyes of the world -he takes orders from British Petroleum and that is a clear and dangerous fact.

The President cannot be faulted for not jumping on the problem immediately. Within hours after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and eventually sank, the Chief Executive was already talking face to face with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and experts on what was facing the Gulf Coast. There is no need for Obama to rescind or issue waivers for the Jones Act because the Coast Guard can issue waivers at its discretion.

Where many of us fault Obama is for him continuing to allow BP to take point in this crisis when:

  • Their CEO whined about wanting his life back and then, like some stereotype of a corporate executive, went yachting in England.

  • BP actually told Gulf coast citizen activist Kindra Arnesen about their fake cleanup efforts that were affectionately known throughout BP as "balloons and ponies", which apparently is what "BP" actually stands for.

  • BP, under cover of night like so many Burke and Hares, is collecting the bodies of animals and even decapitating them so they can't be seen or examined (the fines for indigenous animals killed by the spill alone will run in the millions).

  • BP is burning rare sea turtles alive while burning off surface oil.

  • BP has been chasing off news boats and even animal rescue ships as if they own the Gulf Coast.

  • BP has hired literally tons of lawyers and lobbyists to minimize the lawsuit settlements that will surely drag on for over a decade and to prevent Capitol Hill from enacting tougher regulatory controls of the petroleum industry even though virtually no regulation on the part of the Mineral Management Service and the Interior Dept. in general is primarily to blame for this disaster.

  • Their 2009 oil spill plan contained non-working or wrong numbers to relief agencies, listed experts who have been dead for five years, listed wildlife that isn't indigenous to the Gulf coast and even gave the phone number to a Japanese home shopping network.

  • BP's best suggestion for stopping the massive leakage is drilling a relief well, which won't be ready until late next month, when tourist and some fishing seasons will be over, at a time when hurricane season gets into full swing.

  • BP and Transocean sequestered about a dozen survivors of the explosion hours after the accident and didn't allow these men to see their families or lawyers until they signed non-disclosure waivers.

  • It bears repeating that the Obama administration is the second consecutive administration that has let down the Gulf coast in general and Louisiana in particular. The fact that the body count stands at a "mere" 11 should not in any way mitigate the scope of this disaster. After Katrina, New Orleans was pumped out after two and a half weeks. It will take over a decade for the oil to be pumped out of the Gulf of Mexico and, unless it becomes a permanent part of the landscape, which seems to be BP's solution by burying it, over a decade to remove it from the land mass.

    But now as then, New Orleans is at the mercy of sociopathic corporations who have plainly made their allegiance and priorities known: To their shareholders, pension holders and their profits. And it's notable that the Obama administration is seconding those allegiances every moment it continues to allow the almost comical BP to take point in this greatest of all ecological disasters.


    At July 3, 2010 at 10:20 PM, Blogger Jill said...

    The tragic part is that the people who are the most affected by this will still continue to vote for Republicans. Not that the Democrats are significantly better, but let's face it -- the people of Louisiana have voted for Republicans for years under the delusion that if they just work hard enough, they'll be invited into the Rich Guys Club. Add abortion and gay marriage to the mix and you have a foul, toxic stew of self-defeating bullshit.


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