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Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon

Friday, May 28, 2010

Residents for Alternative Trash Solutions

Southbridge shares a dubious bond with Middleboro since retired Middleboro Town Manager Jack Healey shared his fuzzy math expertise with Southbridge as interim Town Manager.
Just as Jack decided a Tribal Casino was just the thing to resolve Middleboro's fiscal problems, he determined Southbridge needed a Mega Landfill.
Good news, Southbridge!

The DEP has NOT issued the permit to Casella! See below message & attachments.

They have required more information from Casella and proof of approval from the FAA. They responded directly to some of the thoughtful and justified concerns posed by the approximately 150 comments submitted to them.

Enjoy your weekend, knowing that you have had a part in protecting our community and working towards zero waste!

Residents for Alternative Trash Solutions

Thank you for your recent comments on the Southbridge Landfill Facility permit modification.

Knowing of your interest, we wanted to advise you of the final permit, as modified and effective June 1, 2010. Attached is the permit and related documents. The permit also contains language governing appeal rights.


Lynne Welsh
Acting Chief
Solid Waste Program
508 849-4007

For some background -- RATS:

This website is presented to share information amongst a citizens group of over 300 Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton residents formed to prevent Casella Waste Systems’ proposed extension of the Southbridge Landfill to allow 400,000+ tons of municipal solid waste.

We oppose Casella's plan to make Southbridge a raw garbage dump for the state.

We call on the Southbridge Board of Health to protect the public health from the dangers of contaminated air and water, toxic gases, and overall environmental degradation by denying Casella's application.

Furthermore we call on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the town governments of Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton to further safeguard our region by making Zero Waste plans for waste reduction and safe management of discards.

The Southbridge Landfill is about to become the largest raw garbage landfill in Massachusetts! Casella Waste Systems plans to increase the permitted raw garbage to over 400,000 tons of municipal solid waste - raw garbage - there each year, including Boston's and Springfield’s trash. The trash thrown in Boston's garbage cans will travel over an hour west to be piled onto an already 800-foot high mountain of trash located in the center of three western Massachusetts communities - Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton.

The problem in Southbridge is evident of a more profound statewide crisis when it comes to dealing with waste. Massachusetts residents produce almost 2 tons of trash per person each year, and recycling rates have actually fallen in recent years to 33%. Right now the state Department of Environmental Protection is drafting the next Solid Waste Master Plan, its blueprint for managing the Commonwealth’s garbage from 2010-2020. They are considering lifting a 19-year moratorium on building new incinerators, and allowing new trash-burners to be built in the state.

RATS! Residents for Alternative Trash Solutions, is committed to changing the way we deal with waste - on a local and state-wide level. We have grown our organization to include over a thousand people all not only opposed to this regional landfill and the numerous health and environmental problems it brings to our community, but also committed to moving our state forward towards zero waste. RATS has been working with other major environmental groups across the state in a coalition called Don’t Waste Massachusetts to urge the state to stop going down this burn and bury path and instead reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost to get to zero waste.

Our group's volunteers have accomplished so much in the past year. Our pro bono attorney represented us valiantly in the Board of Health site assignment hearings and the appeal to the Superior court following that decision. She is a Harvard grad, now stay at home mom, who works fearlessly against the waste company's slew of highly paid attorneys. We've founded this in-depth informational website that serves as a resource for other groups fighting landfills and moving towards zero waste all over the country. We've made a short film, with the help of a Washington DC-based film maker to show how decisions like this affect small communities and the importance of adopting zero waste solutions. We also created a short professionally-narrated animated segment to explain how a modern landfill works. Our volunteers have met with numerous state officials to educate them on landfilling and zero waste. We've focused on growing our contact list and educating the community about landfills, incineration, and their alternatives - since many resources available are funded or heavily influenced by the waste industry. We've done this at numerous conferences, gave lectures at colleges, and submitted articles to publications.

Our group has grown enormously since it was formed over a year ago and new opportunities are coming before us all the time. We have the opportunity to move forward with many new projects in this coming year. We plan on approaching the target of Zero Waste in our state with expanded legal efforts. We plan on improving and publicizing our short film and on increasing our communications by implementing new methods of public relations. We'd like to improve our community outreach by implementing a new phone call system to contact those who do not have access to email. We are also working on forming a web-based system to collect complaints and observations (odor, traffic, etc.) from households surrounding the landfill. Once perfected in our community, this same system could be used by any other town looking to gather information about any kind of environmental nuisance.

RATS! is unique in that we are using a grassroots approach to addressing a widespread problem that is severely under-represented in our culture. Our group can serve as a template for many other small groups. Already, we have been contacted from other groups as far as Nevada and Florida for resources and information. When groups like ours become interconnected, share information, and resources, the power of the environmental movement can grow exponentially.

The Oil Rush to Hell

Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Oil Rush to Hell

It took President Obama 24 days to finally get publicly angry and “rip” into BP and its partners for the catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. What was he waiting for? The pattern has been obvious enough: however bad you thought it was, or anyone said it was at any given moment, it’s worse (and will get worse yet). Just take the numbers.

In the first days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20th, reports from the Coast Guard and BP indicated that no oil was leaking into the Gulf from the damaged well. Then, the oil giant reported that, actually, about 1,000 barrels a day were coming out of it. Almost immediately the federal government raised that figure to 5,000 barrels, which remained the generally accepted estimate until, under pressure, BP finally released a dramatic 30-second clip of the actual leak at the wellhead. By then, according to ABC News, both the company and the White House had had access to the video for three weeks and obviously knew that the gold-standard estimate was wrong by a country mile. Since then, estimates by scientists viewing the video clip (who have been prevented by BP from visiting the site itself, looking at more material, or taking more accurate measurements), run from 25,000 barrels to a staggering 70,000 barrels a day or more -- up to, that is, 3.4 million gallons of oil daily, which would mean an Exxon Valdez-sized spill every few days.

While BP may prove to be the principal villain in this case, other large energy firms -- egged on by the government and state officials -- are engaged in similar reckless drives to extract oil and natural gas from extreme environmental locations. These companies and their government backers insist that, with proper precautions, it is safe to operate in these conditions, but the Deepwater Horizon incident shows that the more extreme the environment, the more unlikely such statements will prove accurate.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion, we assuredly will be told, was an unfortunate fluke: a confluence of improper management and faulty equipment. With tightened oversight, it will be said, such accidents can be averted -- and so it will be safe to go back into the deep waters again and drill for oil a mile or more beneath the ocean’s surface.

Don’t believe it. While poor oversight and faulty equipment may have played a critical role in BP’s catastrophe in the Gulf, the ultimate source of the disaster is big oil’s compulsive drive to compensate for the decline in its conventional oil reserves by seeking supplies in inherently hazardous areas -- risks be damned.

So long as this compulsion prevails, more such disasters will follow. Bet on it.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College. His most recent book is Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy. A documentary movie version of his previous book, Blood and Oil, is available from the Media Education Foundation.

BP: Beyond Prosecution

The arrogance and disregard of human life and the environment of BP is long standing. Is this the best we can do when Big Corporations and Big Oil control government and determine policy?

Worth reading in its entirety --

How Bush's DOJ Killed a Criminal Probe Into BP That Threatened to Net Top Officials

Mention the name of the corporation BP to Scott West and two words immediately come to mind: Beyond Prosecution.

On March 2, 2006, West was at his desk when he received a phone call.

"It was one of the employees I spoke to months earlier," West said. "He said 'just as we predicted, there's a leak at the caribou crossing we told you about and it's pretty bad.'"

Even worse, the leak had gone undetected for nearly a week. The leak detection equipment employees had warned BP managers about malfunctioned and for about five days oil spilled out of a hole in the pipeline the size of a pencil eraser. The leak was discovered when an oilfield worker surveying the area smelled petroleum in the air and stepped out of his car to investigate.

"He ended up with a black foot," West said. "That's how bad the spill was."

The oil leak was determined to be caused by "severe corrosion." BP was forced to shut down the pipeline and the processing center where the crude is pumped into the pipeline was closed for about two weeks.

Longtime BP employee Marc Kovac said a couple of weeks after the oil spill that he and his co-workers warned the company numerous times that their aggressive cost-cutting measures would increase the likelihood of accidents, pipeline ruptures and spills.

"For years we've been warning the company about cutting back on maintenance," Kovac said. "We know that this [March 2006 oil spill] could have been prevented."

Real Job Creation and Sensible Economic Development

Honorable House Speaker "Racino" DeLeo and Honorable Senate President "Money" Murray (AKA Ca Ching) -

How come Massachusetts is NOT included in the list of states participating in PACE?

Is Beacon Hill too focused on Something for Nothing Schemes like Predatory Gambling, too busy being wined and dined by Gambling Lobbyists to work toward job creation and sensible economic development that would create a legacy to the future to be proud of?

From Apollo Alliance --

As Oil Spill Tragedy Continues, Clean Energy Progress in Missouri and Georgia Points to Hope for the Future

According to a report on PACE released by the White House in October 2009, "If only 15 percent of residential property owners nationwide took advantage of clean energy community financing, the resulting emissions reductions would contribute 4 percent of the savings needed for the U.S. to reach 1990 emissions levels by 2020." PACE programs also create jobs in home weatherization and renewable energy installation.

Consider adding your name --

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, an oil spill worse than Exxon Valdez is pumping at least 12,000 barrels of oil a day – that's over 500,000 gallons – into the biologically diverse and commercially productive Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of sea birds, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and other animals are threatened by the ever growing plume of toxic sludge.

About Oceana --

Oceana Video 2009 from Oceana on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BP: Unbridled Free Enterprise

Worth reading in its entirety --

Gulf Kill

IS BP TOO BIG TO CARE?: BP's attitude toward the Gulf catastrophe resembles the shrugs of Wall Street firms who caused the near collapse of the global economy. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles has expressed his optimism that both his company and the Gulf will "will fully recover," even though Prince William Sound has yet to "fully recover" 21 years after the Exxon Valdez spill. Likewise, BP CEO Tony Hayward -- who received a 40 percent pay raise last year to about $5.8 million -- said he believes the "environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest" because the Gulf of Mexico is a "very big ocean." BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said his company is a "big and important company for the US" and expects that BP will be able to "move on," although its "reputation will be tarnished." Financial analyst Tom Nelson believes BP's stock drop "is a fantastic opportunity to buy a very high quality long-term business on a very cheap rating." Center for American Progress senior fellow Joseph Romm called BP "the Goldman Sachs of big oil" because of its spotty safety record, insistence on voluntary "trust me" self-regulation, and willingness to cut corners to "save a few bucks." The moral hazard created by privatized profit and socialized risk has allowed bankers to cripple our economy and energy companies to destroy our planet. Ten days ago, MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews lashed out at the consequences of "unbridled free enterprise," wondering why the President doesn't "nationalize that industry and get the job done."

more information:

additional photos:

What BP does not want you to see

ABC News went underwater in the Gulf with Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of famous explorer Jacques Cousteau, and he described what he saw as "one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen underwater."

Check out what BP does not want you to see. And please share this widely -- every American should see what's happening under the surface in the Gulf.

Monday, May 24, 2010


As Eileen B said: Silence is consent

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Deepwater Horizon
By Tom Whipple, Falls Church News-Press
20 May 2010

Another serious problem for the prospects of future oil production is starting to emerge.

It has been nearly a month since the tragic events aboard BP's drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, which suffered a blowout, caught fire, and sank in the Gulf of Mexico releasing prodigious amounts of oil into the sea. So far there has been little damage to the coastline; however, this could change quickly as oil is still pouring from the damaged well pipe and it could be months before the blowout is brought under control.

The possible damage to the environment ranges anywhere from minor, which is doubtful, to wiping out the seafood and tourist industries along the Gulf coast for many years.

Although BP and the government continue to talk about a leak of only 5,000 barrels a day based on photography of the surface slick, numerous outside observers who have viewed video footage of the broken pipe are saying this figure may be an order of magnitude too low. Thus far BP has refused to deploy instruments that could give a more accurate appraisal of the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf on the grounds that stopping the leak, not its size, is what matters.

No matter how much environmental and economic damage results from the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the ramifications of the spill are likely to linger for decades and have a major impact on the availability of deepwater oil as we enter the era of oil depletion. The U.S. government has already put a temporary hold on additional drilling until the facts of the current situation are clarified. The oil companies who are used to minimal government interference with their activities are already raising objections to the possibility of tougher regulation.

From what is known so far, it is clear that offshore drilling came to be seriously under-regulated in recent years with few inspections and little or no penalties for violations. Deepwater offshore drilling has become so expensive - the Deepwater Horizon costs on the order of $1 million a day to operate - that site managers are under heavy pressure to complete projects as quickly as possible and move to the next job.

The oil industry is said to have largely written the regulations and the government simply ratified what was presented. The Obama administration has already moved to split the regulation function from the Mineral Management Service and place it in a separate agency dedicated to safety and the prevention of further accidents. Although there will be much raucous discussion, It seems likely that heavier regulation, with higher, more expensive, standards, is on the way and that could delay future deepwater drilling projects by months or years.

Shell, which is about to start drilling in Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, has filed new safety plans for their proposed projects. The administration is obviously going to take a very hard look at drilling in areas that are hundreds or even thousands of miles from help if something should grow wrong. It is one thing to drill in the Gulf of Mexico where all sorts of emergency equipment is available within a matter of hours and quite another to drill in the sparsely settled polar regions. The Norwegian and Canadian governments are starting to raise questions about the standards for offshore drilling and are likely to adhere to whatever recommendations come out of the investigations of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Yet another serious problem for the prospects of future oil production is starting to emerge. The deepwater wells, on which we are basing much of our energy future, may not be as productive as previously thought. Until recently the poster child for deepwater oil production was BP's Thunderhorse platform that, after years of delay, started producing in 2008 and was supposed to produce a billion barrels of oil at the rate of 250,000 barrels a day (b/d). At first all seemingly went well with production reaching 172,000 b/d in January of 2009, but then production started falling rapidly to a low of 61,000 b/d last December. BP refuses to comment publicly on what is happening at Thunderhorse, but outside observers are growing increasingly skeptical that the platform will ever produce the planned billion barrels. At least 25 other deepwater projects are said to be facing problems of falling production, raising the question of just how much oil these very expensive deepwater projects will ever produce.

Pressure for regulatory reforms is likely to be based on just how much environmental and economic damage the Deepwater Horizon blowout ultimately causes. If BP contains the leak in a relatively short period of time and there is minimal damage to the seafood industry and coasts, then new drilling could resume shortly. However, if the situation deteriorates further and major coastal damage ensues, then offshore drilling is likely to slow significantly until new regulations are approved and more reliable blowout preventers are developed and deployed.

The battle over tougher regulations is likely to be prolonged and nasty. President Obama has vowed to end the "cozy relationship" between companies and regulators. Testifying before Congress earlier this week, Interior Secretary Salazar said that the oil industry is already characterizing efforts to reform regulations as "impediments and roadblocks to the development of our domestic oil and gas resources." The Secretary called for federal regulation of blowout preventers which are supposed to ensure that spills of the scale of the Deepwater Horizon incident can't happen.

Recommendations stemming from the recently announced independent Presidential Commission on the tragedy will likely have much influence on the course of deepwater drilling and thus the availability of oil in the future. Should the Commission conclude that much tougher regulation is necessary, it is difficult to see how the oil industry, even with its considerable clout in the Congress, can resist the calls for reform. Oil might just become far scarcer and more expensive five years from now than most of us think.

Open Article On Originating Site

Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years

Gas and Oil Lobbying Strength

BP Enjoys Lobbying Strength, Close Ties to Lawmakers as Federal Investigation Looms

During the 2008 election cycle, individuals and political action committees associated with BP -- a Center for Responsive Politics' "heavy hitter" -- contributed half a million dollars to federal candidates. About 40 percent of these donations went to Democrats. The top recipient of BP-related donations during the 2008 cycle was President Barack Obama himself, who collected $71,000.

BP regularly lobbies on Capitol Hill, as well. In 2009, the company spent a massive $16 million to influence legislation. During the first quarter of 2010, it spent $3.53 million on federal lobbying efforts, ranking it second (behind ConocoPhillips) among all oil and gas industry interests.

Top Contributors, 2009-2010

Rank Organization Amount Dems Repubs Source

1 Koch Industries $643,250 16% 84%
2 Exxon Mobil $510,864 14% 86%
3 Chevron Corp $440,629 19% 81%
4 Valero Energy $402,000 18% 82%
5 Marathon Oil $353,690 23% 76%
6 Occidental Petroleum $303,500 21% 79%
7 Williams Companies $260,500 28% 72%
8 Chesapeake Energy $228,480 57% 43%
9 American Gas Assn $225,750 43% 57%
10 Anadarko Petroleum $221,150 22% 78%
11 Devon Energy $220,870 12% 87%
12 ConocoPhillips $199,697 29% 71%
13 Plains Exploration & Production $154,700 23% 76%
14 Mewbourne Oil Co $150,500 6% 94%
15 Bass Brothers Enterprises $145,215 40% 60%
16 Society of Indep Gasoline Marketers $133,500 63% 37%
17 Tesoro Petroleum $130,133 53% 47%
18 Pilot Corp $125,000 6% 94%
19 AGL Resources $124,500 58% 41%
20 Enterprise Products Partners $123,250 12% 88%

Top 20 Recipients

Rank Candidate Office Amount
1 Lincoln, Blanche (D-AR) Senate $286,400
2 Vitter, David (R-LA) Senate $242,600
3 Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK) Senate $209,826
4 White, Bill (D-TX) $184,303
5 Jones, Elizabeth Ames (R-TX) $168,750
6 Boren, Dan (D-OK) House $139,700
7 Bennett, Robert F (R-UT) Senate $138,400
8 Blunt, Roy (R-MO) House $133,100
9 Cornyn, John (R-TX) Senate $130,525
10 Specter, Arlen (D-PA) Senate $130,400
11 Portman, Rob (R-OH) $125,108
12 Edwards, Chet (D-TX) House $123,630
13 Conaway, Mike (R-TX) House $116,950
14 Pearce, Steve (R-NM) $108,900
15 Coburn, Tom (R-OK) Senate $105,100
16 Hoeven, John (R-ND) $101,350
17 Barton, Joe (R-TX) House $100,470
18 Dorgan, Byron L (D-ND) Senate $92,950
19 Thune, John (R-SD) Senate $91,140
20 Cantor, Eric (R-VA) House $87,000

Total for Oil & Gas: $38,398,838
Total Number of Clients Reported: 150
Total Number of Lobbyists Reported: 611

ConocoPhillips $6,408,978
BP $3,530,000
Exxon Mobil $3,390,000
Chevron Corp $3,090,000
Royal Dutch Shell $2,320,000
Koch Industries $1,950,000
Marathon Oil $1,380,000
Williams Companies $1,340,000
Anadarko Petroleum $1,320,000
American Petroleum Institute $1,260,000

There Will Be Blame

In case you missed it --

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
There Will Be Blame
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BP: Another Corporate Bailout?

Anyone familiar with BP's past conduct could smell a bailout in the making. Please consider opposing a taxpayers' bailout for BP's mess.

From Environment Massachusetts --

Last week, scientists revealed that BP's oil spill is much worse than we thought. The oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate somewhere between 25,000 and 80,000 barrels per day -- with underwater oil plumes stretching on as far as 10 miles. Oil-soaked pelicans, fishermen idled, coastal economies disrupted -- some have put the bill as high as $14 billion.[1] Who will pay for all this?

Last week, BP America's president Lamar McKay appeared before Congress and pledged that the company would pay all "legitimate claims," notwithstanding a $75 million cap on oil companies' liability for such damage. The question is, do we take him at his word?

Here are three reasons I'm not buying it:

First of all, BP is refusing to admit that it made any mistakes leading to the explosion and sinking of its Deepwater Horizon rig. At the hearing, Mr. McKay said: "I believe our operating system in the Gulf of Mexico is as good as anyone. I can't point to any deficiencies." He also asserted that the company operating the drill rig -- Transocean -- was responsible for safety.[2]

Second, let's remember what happened with the Exxon Valdez. There, the court case dragged on for nearly 20 years, and Exxon's lawyers ultimately got the Supreme Court to drastically reduce damages against the company. It is not too hard to imagine that BP -- and Transocean and Halliburton -- will use every legal trick in the book, including the caps on oil companies' liability for spills. In fact, Transocean is already asking a federal court in Houston to limit its liability to $26.7 million, under a 150 year-old provision in maritime law.[3]

Third, while BP might sound contrite now, actions speak louder than words. In fact, the environmental track record of the company that calls itself "Beyond Petroleum" is frankly appalling. In 2005, BP's refinery in Texas City exploded, killing 15 workers, and then in 2006, BP was responsible for "the largest oil spill on Alaska's North Slope." [4] And more recently, the company has leaked more oil on the Alaskan tundra, and it even proposed dumping toxic-laden wastewater into Lake Michigan in 2007. Will BP ever learn that it doesn't pay to pollute?

In light of all this, it is rather astonishing to me that there is a law that can limit oil companies' liability for damage from spills to $75 million. Every dime of liability that BP -- and Halliburton and Transocean, collectively -- avoids is a dime of damage that is picked up by us, the taxpaying public.

So let's tell Congress to remove the cap on liability for Big Oil and its spills. Not One Dime. Not one dime of taxpayer money to cover BP's horrendous mess:

And thanks, as always, for making it all possible.


Ben Wright
Environment Massachusetts Advocate

1] Reuters "Cost of oil spill could exceed $14 billion" (May 2, 2010)
[2] Matthew Wald, The New York Times "Live-Blogging the Senate Hearing on Offshore Drilling (May 11, 2010).
[3] Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Businessweek, "Transocean Asks to Cap Gulf Rig Liability at $26.7 million" (May 14, 2010)
[4] Craig Welch, The Seattle Times, "BP's Trail of Accidents, Scandals stretches to Alaska" (May 5, 2010)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

BP: Billionaire Polluter

BP: Billionaire Polluter offers an extremely brief overview of BP's history and historical arrogance that's worth reading in greater depth.

Sixty years ago, BP was called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. (AIOC). A popular, progressive, elected Iranian government had asked the AIOC, a largely British-owned monopoly, to share more of its profits from Iranian oil with the people of Iran. The AIOC refused, so Iran nationalized its oil industry. That didn’t sit well with the U.S., so the CIA organized a coup d’├ętat against Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. After he was deposed, the AIOC, renamed British Petroleum, got a large part of its monopoly back, and the Iranians got the brutal Shah of Iran imposed upon them, planting the seeds of the 1979 Iranian revolution, the subsequent hostage crisis and the political turmoil that besets Iran to this day.

In 2000, British Petroleum rebranded itself as BP, adopting a flowery green-and-yellow logo, and began besieging the U.S. public with an advertising campaign claiming it was moving “beyond petroleum.” BP’s aggressive growth, outrageous profit and track record of petroleum-related disasters paint a much different picture, however. In 2005, BP’s Texas City refinery exploded, killing 15 people and injuring 170. In 2006, a BP pipeline in Alaska leaked 200,000 gallons of crude oil, causing what the Environmental Protection Agency calls “the largest spill that ever occurred on the [Alaskan] North Slope.” BP was fined $60 million for the two disasters. Then, in 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined BP an additional $87 million for the refinery blast. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said: “BP has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated. ... Workplace safety is more than a slogan. It’s the law.” BP responded by formally contesting all of OSHA’s charges.

Government Exempted BP from Environmental Review

Defenders of Wildlife offers updated information about the BP oil spill.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

DEP: Recycling/Reuse/Compost

The folks in central MA continue their fight against massive landfills and incinerators (Middleboro's former Town Manager Jack Healey's legacy).

Anyone who considers the full scope of the energy issue and their carbon footprint, begins to understand that how we consider solid waste is a significant part of that equation.

Please sign this letter to encourage the DEP to stop burying trash and start pushing recycling/reuse/composting. Recycling and composting create jobs instead of Superfund sites we will have to pay to clean up later. The DEP claims it wants to shut down problem landfills, thus it is not time for huge regional expansions allowing waste from all over New England and NY to be brought in to contaminate our state. Please pass this along!

Additional information available at

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cape Wind: It's Time

Peter & Peeps

Some things don't fit into neat categories, as with the video below that was shared by a recently re-acquainted and very special cousin.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gulf oil spill: The Halliburton Connection and Corporate Arrogance

Gulf oil spill: The Halliburton connection

Investigators delving into the possible cause of the massive gulf oil spill are focusing on the role of Houston-based Halliburton Co., the giant energy services company, which was responsible for cementing the drill into place below the water. The company acknowledged Friday that it had completed the final cementing of the oil well and pipe just 20 hours before the blowout last week.

In a letter to to Halliburton Chief Executive David J. Lesar on Friday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, called on Halliburton officials to provide all documents relating to "the possibility or risk of an explosion or blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig and the status, adequacy, quality, monitoring, and inspection of the cementing work" by May 7.

In a statement Friday, Halliburton said "it is premature and irresponsible to speculate on any specific causal issues." The company had four employees stationed on the rig at the time of the accident, all of whom were rescued by the Coast Guard. "Halliburton had completed the cementing of the final production casing string in accordance with the well design," it said. "The cement slurry design was consistent with that utilized in other similar applications. In accordance with accepted industry practice ... tests demonstrating the integrity of the production casing string were completed."

More than two dozen class action lawsuits have been filed after the explosion against BP PLC, the British company that leased the Deepwater Horizon rig, against the rig's owner, Transocean Ltd. and against Halliburton. BP is "taking full responsibility" for the spill and will pay for legitimate claims by affected parties, company spokeswoman Sheila Williams said.

Cement is used at two stages of the deep-water drilling process. It is used to fill gaps between the well pipe and the hole drilled into the seabed so as to prevent any seepage of oil and gas. And it is used to temporarily plug an exploration hole before production begins. At the time of the accident, the Halliburton statement said, "well operations had not yet reached the point requiring the placement of the final cement plug which would enable the planned temporary abandonment of the well."

Experts say cementing is a basic part of drilling, exploration and production of oil on the sea floor. Drill ships or rigs plant large pipes called "conductors" on the sea floor, and casings, or nested pipes, are placed inside of them. The pipes are fixed in place by cement, some hanging inside other pipes, and a drill string is run down a casing, and extended to the sea floor to bore holes.

Mud works its way back up the pipes and the “riser,” a pipe that connects the drill site to the ship or rig above. Or oil is brought up. Cement fixes the operations in place. Cement may also be used to plug a well, pumped down the string until it comes up on the sides, and stops the hole.

Cementing a deep-water drilling operation is a process fraught with danger. A 2007 study by the U.S. Minerals Management Service found that cementing was the single most important factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico over a 14-year period -- more than equipment malfunction. Halliburton has been accused of a poor cement job in the case of a major blowout in the Timor Sea off Australia last August. An investigation is underway.

According to experts cited in Friday's Wall St. Journal, the timing of last week's cement job in relation to the explosion -- only 20 hours beforehand, and the history of cement problems in other blowouts "point to it as a possible culprit." Robert MacKenzie, managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets and a former cementing engineer, told the Journal, "The initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement."

In its statement, the company said, "Halliburton originated oilfield cementing and leads the world in effective, efficient delivery of zonal isolation and engineering for the life of the well, conducting thousands of successful well cementing jobs each year."

The company, which was once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, has been in the media spotlight before -- under under fire in recent years for its operations as a private contractor in Iraq.

--Margot Roosevelt and Jill Leovy

Gulf oil spill swiftly balloons, may move east

VENICE, La. (AP) — A sense of doom settled over the American coastline from Louisiana to Florida on Saturday as a massive oil slick spewing from a ruptured well kept growing, and experts warned that an uncontrolled gusher could create a nightmare scenario if the Gulf Stream carries it toward the Atlantic.

President Obama planned to visit the region Sunday to assess the situation amid growing criticism that the government and oil company BP PLC should have done more to stave off the disaster. Meanwhile, efforts to stem the flow and remove oil from the surface by skimming it, burning it or spiking it with chemicals to disperse it continued with little success.

BP Fought Safety Measures at Deepwater Oil Rigs

BP, the company that owned the Louisiana oil rig that exploded last week, spent years battling federal regulators over how many layers of safeguards would be needed to prevent a deepwater well from this type of accident.

In a letter sent last year to the Department of the Interior, BP objected to what it called "extensive, prescriptive regulations" proposed in new rules to toughen safety standards. "We believe industry's current safety and environmental statistics demonstrate that the voluntary programs…continue to be very successful."

Gulf spill is really a river of oil, environmentalists say

To understand the gravity of the danger facing Louisiana's coast from the oil that began washing ashore Thursday, pollution clean-up veterans offered this starting point: Forget the word "spill."

"This isn't a spill," said Kerry St. Pe, who headed Louisiana's oil spill response team for 23 years. "This isn't a storage tank or a ship with a finite amount of oil that has boundaries. This is much, much worse."

It's a river of oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day that officials say could be running for two months or more. If that prediction holds, much of the state's southeastern coast will become a world-watched environmental battleground that hasn't been seen in the United States since the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska 21 years ago.

For residents of coastal communities and the vast fleet of commercial and sports fishers that call those wetlands home, that fight will become part of the daily scene. Coastal scientists and clean-up experts say the source and volume of the pollution combined with seasonal wind directions and tides have the potential to push oil deep into local estuaries, bringing the army fighting the oil and its miles of containment booms to much of the marsh. And, it has the potential to spread to every state along the Gulf Coast.

"Oil floats on water, so it goes where the water goes," said Roger Helm, chief of the Environmental Contaminants Division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "This is going to be big, very big. They have announced it's five times the release they originally thought, and that release will go on for some extended period of time. Do the math."

The timing couldn't be worse, Louisiana clean-up experts said, because the warm weather months will bring stiff southerly breezes, which can push the oil deep into the long, shallow estuaries.

A complete list of coastal wildlife at risk from an oil spill

"In a lot of places tides are the key for moving oil but we have very small tides here -- a 2-foot tide is a big deal to us," said St. Pe, who now is executive director of the Barataria-Terrebonne national Estuary Program. "So wind is everything in Louisiana. A stiff southeastern blow will defeat a falling tide here. And we're going into the season when we get strong southeasterly winds.

"So, if we've got a steady flow of 210,000 gallons a day and southerly winds pushing it, it's going to get over the marsh into a lot of areas."

Given the volume and the extended flow period, St. Pe said he would expect oil sheets to invade the marshes on the east side of the river north into the Delacroix area, the western reaches of Lake Borgne and most of the Bird's Foot delta. If stiff winds blow more from the east, the oil could flow to the west of the river, and quickly invade the wetlands in Barataria Basin, already battered by erosion, canal dredging and subsidence.

"If this thing comes west into Barataria, there's nothing really to stop it," he said. "The area from Buras to the (Barataria Seaway) is pretty much just open water now."

St. Pe said the public should not expect containment booms to keep all oil from the wetlands.

"Oil gets through, especially in rough weather - it just washes over these things," he said. "With the volumes we're talking about here, and the length it will be coming into the coast, you can see that almost every area in the southeastern coast could be impacted.'

Birds, fish and shellfish will feel the effects, St. Pe said.

"If you get a thick sheet of oil over a large area, the first thing that happens is it cuts off the oxygen exchange with the water column," he said. "You get low dissolved oxygen in the water, so the fish respond by coming to the surface to try to get oxygen, and of course they get their gills coated with oil, and they die."

Birds become fouled with oil by diving on food in oil-slicks, or wading and walking through contaminated areas, then preening feathers, further spreading the oil.

And while birds, fish and marine mammals are the victims most noticed, there is even more damage going on below the surface, St. Pe said. "Shrimp die and crabs die and oysters die, but they don't float to the top. You just never see them, but the damage is often severe."

And in this case, the impact could be long-lasting.

"The worst spill I ever worked was a 10,000 barrel spill in 1997 that was inshore in Lake Barre, and that was terrible," he said.

"But that was a spill. This is worse. This isn't one spill. It's a constant flow for months. This is something a lot of people will be living with for a long time."

Exxon Mobile Q1 profits up by 38% How timely?

BP: Profits Before Safety or The Environment

Can we afford to destroy our environment for the sake of corporate profits and our arrogance? It's time to consider the risks.

Stop British Petroleum Now
By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News
01 May 2010

A Northern Gannet bird, normally white when full grown, that is covered in oil, 04/30/10. (photo: AP)
[photo available in original article]

An absolute environmental catastrophe is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico right now. British Petroleum (BP), with their "international headquarters" listed as 1 St James's Square London, has opened up the sea floor 40 miles off the Louisiana coast allowing millions of gallons of crude oil to erupt into the Gulf. The scope of the discharge is far worse than being reported in the main-stream-media.

The Gulf of Mexico is not a petroleum production facility, it is one of the most significant life-sustaining ecosystems on earth. The impact on wildlife there is unimaginable. This disaster threatens to destroy not only the vast, complex, life-sustaining ecosystem that exists there, but all of the human industries that thrive in the region as well. What that means is the conversion of everything environmentally, economically and socially to an oil production-based paradigm.

This is not just an oil spill or a cleanup - this is a disaster. No different than Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It must be declared a Disaster Area by the Federal Government, and there must be an immediate Emergency Declaration. It is by every measure an emergency and a disaster.

British Petroleum must be removed immediately from the process, and held fully responsible for everything that follows. If that means freezing their US assets, then they must be frozen and if necessary, subject to seizure.

Let the Army Corps of Engineers bury the damaged and spewing spout under granite boulders and concrete, or whatever other effective emergency measure is needed to bring a stop to this madness at once. BP is buying time in an attempt to find a solution that does not derail their production. That needs to be shut down now.

A massive environmental rescue effort must be undertaken under the Disaster Declaration and it must happen quickly. This is a big problem that requires a big response. Show BP the door now and get busy with serious disaster relief.

Environment Massachusetts - includes email to President Obama

National Wildlife Federation NWF email to Senators

Center for Biological Diversity

Grist offers The politics of the Gulf oil spill

Friends of the Earth offers additional information

Gulf Oil Spill 2010 Photos

210,000 gallons. That's the amount of oil that is spilling off the sunken Deepwater Horizon oil rig into the Gulf of Mexico every day.

As the Gulf of Mexico burns and the oil slick grows bigger than the size of West Virginia, moving closer and closer to the Louisiana coast, now is not the time for us to sit on our hands -- now is the time to push for a strong clean energy policy.

For the past 40 years, the League of Conservation Voters has been leading the fight for clean energy, safer water, and cleaner air. The Senate is on the eve of introducing a clean energy and climate bill that will help us reduce our dependency on oil to overcome the environmental and economic security dangers it has caused.

We need your help right now to put pressure on Congress -- because if 210,000 gallons of oil won't get their attention, thousands of citizens demanding real reform will.

Oil Spills Onto Legal Landscape Damaged by the Roberts Court
Americans are watching in horror as an enormous oil slick is moving across the Gulf of Mexico toward the coastlines of several states. This calamity has already cost 11 lives and promises to devastate the fragile and complex Gulf environment and countless human lives and livelihoods. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families and to a region still reeling from Katrina.

But slithering toward the Gulf Coast, along with the oil mess, is the prospect of a legal mess, as those harmed by this catastrophic event eventually seek recompense for what undoubtedly will be profound, life-altering consequences.

Many commentators are already worried the Deepwater Horizon spill will be worse than the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989. They're mostly referring to the environmental and economic impacts, of course, but thanks to the current Supreme Court, the legal impacts may well be worse, as well.

As Alliance for Justice's brand-new report, "Unprecedented Injustice: The Political Agenda of the Roberts Court," demonstrates, the current legal environment now strongly favors powerful corporate interests at the expense of ordinary Americans. In fact, one of this Court's most egregious cases involved that very Exxon Valdez incident, leaving many of us profoundly concerned that when the inevitable British Petroleum spill cases are litigated, the victims of this environmental crime will find themselves at a serious disadvantage.

Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, is a classic tale of justice both delayed and denied, abetted by the pro-big-business faction on this Court. In the Exxon case, after 19 years of litigation, approximately 32,000 commercial fishermen, Native Alaskans, and property owners were awarded compensatory damages of around $500 million, or roughly $15,000 per plaintiff - not much if your entire life and livelihood have been wrecked. But the jury also awarded $5 billion in punitive damages. Not surprisingly, Exxon appealed.

Along the way, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reduced the original $5 billion award to $2.5 billion, but that wasn't far enough for this Supreme Court. In a 5-3 decision (with Justice Alito recused), a new rule for maritime law was invented on the spot: punitive damages cannot exceed compensatory damages. The original $5 billion award was cut in 2008 to $500 million, the same as the compensatory award. After 19 years of obstruction and delay, the Court willfully substituted its judgment for that of a jury and gave Exxon a $2 billion gift. The people actually harmed by the actions of Exxon? Not so much.

What's startling about this decision, other than the outrageous and palpable unfairness of it, is the Roberts Court's willingness (should we say eagerness?) to take it upon itself to do what legislatures are supposed to do. In this case, determine what kind of caps, if any, should be applied to punitive damage awards in maritime law or in any other setting, for that matter. We will probably, and unfortunately, see the impacts of the Exxon ruling ripple through the current crisis.

Our report shows, in case after case, including this one, that this conservative Court is ready to substitute its judgment for that of legislatures whenever corporate power is threatened or big-business interests are at stake. This is one of the main reasons why the upcoming appointment to the Supreme Court is so important. The next justice must be ready, willing and able to lend a strong and persuasive voice on behalf of people like the fishermen, boat operators, coastal property owners, and other ordinary Americans along the Gulf Coast, and help counter the Roberts Court's determined efforts to tilt the scale of justice in favor of the powerful.

Whistleblower: BP Risks More Massive Catastrophes in Gulf

British Petroleum (BP) has knowingly broken federal laws and violated its own internal procedures by failing to maintain crucial safety and engineering documents related to one of the firms other deepwater production projects in the Gulf of Mexico, a former contractor who worked for the oil behemoth claimed in internal emails llast year and other documents obtained by Truthout.

The whistleblower, whose name has been withheld at the person's request because the whistleblower still works in the oil industry and fears retaliation, first raised concerns about safety issues related to BP Atlantis, the world's largest and deepest semi-submersible oil and natural gas platform, located about 200 miles south of New Orleans, in November 2008. Atlantis, which began production in October 2007, has the capacity to produce about 8.4 million gallons of oil and 180 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

It was then that the whistleblower, who was hired to oversee the company's databases that housed documents related to its Atlantis project, discovered that the drilling platform had been operating without a majority of the engineer-approved documents it needed to run safely, leaving the platform vulnerable to a catastrophic disaster that would far surpass the massive oil spill that began last week following a deadly explosion on a BP-operated drilling rig.

BP's own internal communications show that company officials were made aware of the issue and feared that the document shortfalls related to Atlantis "could lead to catastrophic operator error" and must be addressed.

Indeed, according to an August 15, 2008, email sent to BP officials by Barry Duff, a member of BP's Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Atlantis Subsea Team, the Piping and Instrument Diagrams (P&IDs) for the Atlantis subsea components "are not complete." P&IDs documents form the foundation of a hazards analysis BP is required to undertake as part of its Safety and Environmental Management Program related to its offshore drilling operations. P&IDs drawings provide the schematic details of the project's piping and process flows, valves and safety critical instrumentation.

"The risk in turning over drawings that are not complete are: 1) The Operator will assume the drawings are accurate and up to date," the email said. "This could lead to catastrophic Operator errors due to their assuming the drawing is correct," said Duff's email to BP officials Bill Naseman and William Broman. "Turning over incomplete drawings to the Operator for their use is a fundamental violation of basic Document control, [internal standards] and Process Safety Regulations."
BP did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. Despite the claims that BP did not maintain proper documentation related to Atlantis, federal regulators continued to authorize an expansion of the drilling project.

Last May, Mike Sawyer, an engineer with Apex Safety Consultants, was asked by the whistleblower's attorney to evaluate BP's document database the whistleblower worked on that dealt with the subsea components. The whistleblower made a copy of the database and took it with him upon his termination from the company.

Sawyer looked into the whistleblower's allegations regarding BP's document shortfall related to Atlantis and concluded that of the 2,108 P&IDs BP maintained that dealt specifically with the subsea components of its Atlantis production project, 85 percent did not receive engineer approval. Even worse, 95 percent of Atlantis' subsea welding records did not receive final approval, calling into question the integrity of thousands of crucial welds on subsea components that, if they were to rupture, could result in an oil spill 30 times worse than the one that occurred after the explosion on Deepwater Horizon last week.

In a report Sawyer prepared after his review, he said BP's "widespread pattern of unapproved design, testing and inspection documentation on the Atlantis subsea project creates a risk of a catastrophic incident threatening the [Gulf of Mexico] deep-water environment and the safety of platform workers." Moreover, "the extent of documentation discrepancies creates a substantial risk that a catastrophic event could occur at any time."

"The absence of a complete set of final, up-to-date, 'as built' engineering documents, including appropriate engineering approval, introduces substantial risk of large scale damage to the deep water [Gulf of Mexico] environment and harm to workers, primarily because analyses and inspections based on unverified design documents cannot accurately assess risk or suitability for service," Sawyer's report said. He added, "there is no valid engineering justification for these violations and short cuts."

Sawyer explained that the documents in question - welding records, inspections and safety shutdown logic materials - are "extremely critical to the safe operation of the platform and its subsea components." He said the safety shutdown logic drawings on Atlantis, a complex computerized system that, during emergencies, is supposed to send a signal to automatically shut down the flow of oil, were listed as "requiring update."

"BP's recklessness in regards to the Atlantis project is a clear example of how the company has a pattern of failing to comply with minimum industry standards for worker and environmental safety," Sawyer said.

The oil spill blanketing roughly 4,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed eleven workers, was exacerbated, preliminary reports suggest, by the failure of a blowout preventer to shut off the flow of oil on the drilling rig and the lack of a backup safety measure, known as a remote control acoustic shut off switch, to operate the blowout preventer.

Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a letter Thursday to BP Chairman and President Lamar McKay seeking documents related to inspections on Deepwater Horizon conducted this year and BP's policy on using acoustic shut off switches in the Gulf of Mexico.

The circumstances behind the spill are now the subject of a federal investigation.

Profits Before Safety

Whether it's the multiple oil spills that emanated from BP's Prudhoe Bay operations in Alaska's North Slope or the explosion at the company's Texas refinery that killed 15 employees and injured 170 people, BP has consistently put profits ahead of safety.

In November 2007, BP pled guilty to a misdemeanor and paid a $20 million fine related to a 2005 oil spill in the North Slope, the result of a severely corroded pipeline and a safety valve failure. The federal judge presiding over the case put BP on probation for three years and said the 201,000-gallon oil spill was a "serious crime" that could have been prevented if BP had spent more time and funds investing in pipeline upgrades and a "little less emphasis on profit."

A month earlier, BP paid a $50 million fine and pleaded guilty to a felony in the refinery explosion. An investigation into the incident concluded that a warning system was not working and that BP sidestepped its own internal regulations for operating the tower. Moreover, BP has a prior felony conviction for improperly disposing of hazardous waste.

The incident involving Deepwater Horizon, now the subject of a federal investigation, may end up being the latest example of BP's safety practices run amuck.

The issues related to the repeated spills in Prudhoe Bay and elsewhere were revealed by more than 100 whistleblowers who, since as far back as 1999, said the company failed to take seriously their warnings about shoddy safety practices and instead retaliated against whistleblowers who registered complaints with their superiors.
In September 2006, days before BP executives were scheduled to testify before Congress about an oil spill from a ruptured pipeline that forced the company to shutdown its Prudhoe Bay operations, BP announced that it had tapped former federal Judge Stanley Sporkin to serve as an ombudsman and take complaints from employees about the company's operations.

That's who the whistleblower complained to via email about issues related to BP's Atlantis operations in March 2009 a month after his contract was abruptly terminated for reasons he believes were directly related to his complaints to management about BP's failure to obtain the engineering documents on Atlantis and the fact that he "stood up for a female employee who was being discriminated against and harassed." The whistleblower alleged that the $2 million price tag was the primary reason BP did not follow through with a plan formulated months earlier to secure the documents.

"We prepared a plan to remedy this situation but it met much resistance and complaints from the above lead engineers on the project," the whistleblower wrote in the March 4, 2009, email to Pasha Eatedali in BP's ombudsman's office.

Federal Intervention

Additionally, he hired an attorney and contacted the inspector general for the Department of the Interior and the agency's Minerals Management Service (MMS), which regulates offshore drilling practices, and told officials there that BP lacked the required engineer-certified documents related to the major components of the Atlantis subsea gas and oil operation.

In 2007, MMS had approved the construction of an additional well and another drilling center on Atlantis. But the whistleblower alleged in his March 4, 2009, email to Eatedali in BP's Office of the Ombudsman that documents related to this project needed to ensure operational safety were missing and that amounted to a violation of federal law as well as a breach of BP's Atlantis Project Execution Plan. The ombudsman's office agreed to investigate.

MMS, acting on the whistleblower's complaints, contacted BP on June 30, 2009, seeking specific engineering related documents. BP complied with the request three weeks later.

On July 9, 2009, MMS requested that BP turn over certification documents for its Subsurface Safety Valves and Surface Controlled Subsea Safety Valves for all operational wells in the Atlantis field. MMS officials flew out to the platform on the same day and secured the documents, according to an internal letter written by Karen Westall, the managing attorney on BP's Gulf of Mexico Legal Team.

But according to the public advocacy group Food & Water Watch, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, which became involved in the case last July, BP did not turn over a complete set of materials to MMS.

"BP only turned over 'as-built' drawings for [Atlantis'] topsides and hull, despite the fact that the whistleblower’s allegations have always been about whether BP maintains complete and accurate engineer approved documents for it subsea components," Food & Water Watch said in a 19-page letter it sent toWilliam Hauser, MMS’s Chief, Regulations and Standards Branch.

During two visits to the Atlantis drilling platform last August and September, MMS inspectors reviewed BP's blowout preventer records. Food & Water Watch said they believe MMS inspectors reviewed the test records and failed to look into the whistleblower's charges that engineering documents were missing. The blowout preventer, however, is an issue at the center of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
An MMS spokesperson did not return calls for comment.

Last October, Food & Water Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for expedited processing, seeking documents from MMS that indicate BP "has in its possession a complete and accurate set of 'as built' drawings ... for its entire Atlantis Project, including the subsea sector." "As-built" means lead engineers on a specific project have to make sure updated technical documents match the "as-built" condition of equipment before its used.
MMS denied the FOIA request.

"MMS does not agree with your assessment of the potential for imminent danger to individuals or the environment, for which you premise your argument [for expedited response]. After a thorough review of these allegations, the MMS, with concurrence of the Solicitor's Office, concludes your claims are not supported by the facts or the law," the agency said in its October 30, 2009, response letter.

In response, MMS said that although some of its regulatory requirements governing offshore oil and gas operations do require "as built" drawings, they need not be complete or accurate and, furthermore, are irrelevant to a hazard analysis BP was required to complete.

Unsatisfied with MMS's response, Food & Water Watch contacted Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), a member of the Committee on Natural Resources and chairman of the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, about the issues revolving around BP's Atlantis operations and provided his office with details of its own investigation into the matter.

"Unsubstantiated" Claims

On January 15, Westall, the BP attorney, wrote a letter to Deborah Lanzone, the staff director with the House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals, and addressed the allegations leveled by Food & Water Watch as well as indirect claims the whistleblower made.

Westall said BP "reviewed the allegations" related to "noncompliant documentation of the Atlantis project ... and found them to be unsubstantiated." But Westall's response directly contradicts the findings of Billie Pirner Garde, BP's deputy ombudsman, who wrote in an April 13 email to the whistleblower that his claims that BP failed to maintain proper documentation related to Atlantis "were substantiated" and "addressed by a BP Management of Change document." Garde did not say when that change occurred. But he added that the whistleblower's complaints weren't "unique" and had been raised by other employees "before you worked there, while you were there and after you left."

Westall noted in her letter that "all eight BP-operated Gulf of Mexico production facilities" received safety awards from MMS in 2009.

"Maintenance and general housekeeping were rated outstanding and personnel were most cooperative in assisting in the inspection activities," MMS said about BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling facilities. "Platform records were readily available for review and maintained to reflect current conditions."

Westall maintained that the whistleblower as well as Food & Water Watch had it all wrong. Their charges about missing documents has nothing to do with Atlantis' operational safety. Rather, Westall seemed to characterize their complaints as a clerical issue.

"The Atlantis project is a complex project with multiple phases," Westall said in her letter to Lanzone. "The [August 15, 2008] e-mail [written by Barry Duff, a member of the Atlantis subsea team] which was provided to you to support [Food & Water Watch's] allegations relates to the status of efforts to utilize a particular document management system to house and maintain the Atlantis documents. The document database includes engineering drawings for future phases, as well as components or systems which may have been modified, replaced, or not used."
But Representative Grijalva was not swayed by Westall's denials. He continued to press the issue with MMS, and in February, he and 18 other lawmakers signed a letter calling on MMS to probe whether BP "is operating its Atlantis offshore oil platform ... without professionally approved safety documents."

Grijalva said MMS has not "done enough so far to ensure worker and environmental safety at the site, in part because it has interpreted the relevant laws too loosely."

"[C]ommunications between MMS and congressional staff have suggested that while the company by law must maintain 'as-built' documents, there is no requirement that such documents be complete or accurate," the letter said. "This statement, if an accurate interpretation of MMS authorities, raises serious concerns" and requires "a thorough review at the agency level, the legal level and the corporate level. The world's largest oil rig cannot continue to operate without safety documentation. The situation is unacceptable and deserves immediate scrutiny.

"We also request that MMS describe how a regulation that requires offshore operators to maintain certain engineering documents, but does not require that those documents be complete or accurate, is appropriately protective of human health and the environment."

On March 26, MMS launched a formal investigation and is expected to file a report detailing its findings next month.

Zach Corrigan, a senior attorney with Food & Water Watch, said in an interview Thursday that he hopes MMS "will perform a real investigation" and if the agency fails to do so, Congress should immediately hold oversight hearings "and ensure that the explosion and mishap of the Horizon platform is not replicated."

"MMS didn't act on this for nearly a year," Corrigan said. "They seemed to think it wasn't a regulatory or an important safety issue. Atlantis is a real vulnerability."

From the League of Conservation Voters:

Last year Big Oil and other corporate polluters spent a record $168 million lobbying Congress. They’ve launched an unprecedented smear campaign to defeat comprehensive climate legislation and protect their profits.

Making matters worse, a recent Supreme Court ruling opens the floodgates for oil companies like Exxon Mobil to tap their vast corporate profits to also influence the outcome of federal elections.

We need your help now more than ever to continue building on the important progress we’ve made towards creating a cleaner, more sustainable future.

210,000 Gallons of Oil Per Day

From the Sierra Club