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May 12 2011


House Passes Third Drilling Bill

May 12, 2011 Washington, D.C. — By a vote of 243-179 the House of Representatives passed a third drilling bill that aims to increase oil production in the Outer Continental Shelf, leaving southern California, all of the Atlantic Coast, Bristol Bay in Alaska and the Arctic Ocean vulnerable to a BP oil spill disaster. Sponsored [...]

July 15 2010


Somewhere Over the Rainbow: EDF Oil Spill Video Illustrates the Tragic Irony Unfolding in the Gulf

Beach cleanupOriginally published at CleanTechies.com by David Yarnold, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund

From a comfortable distance the BP oil disaster is depressing and horrific. But up close, it’s worse.

Two days in the Gulf of Mexico left me enraged – and deeply resolved. Both the widespread damage and the inadequacy of the response effort exceeded my worst fears. I’d spent a full day on the Gulf and we ended up soaked in oily water and seared by the journey.

By Tuesday night, I was home. My throat burned and my head was foggy and dizzy as I showed my pictures and video to my wife, Fran, and my 13-year-old daughter, Nicole, on the TV in the family room.

Images of the gooey peanut-butter colored oil and the blackened wetlands flashed by. Pictures of dolphins diving into our oily wake and brown pelicans futilely trying to pick oil off their backs popped on the screen. And, out of nowhere, Nicole put on the music from the season finale of Glee.

With all these horrific images on the screen, she had turned on the show’s final song of the year, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” The song, a slow, sweet, ukulele and guitar-driven version, couldn’t have added a deeper sense of tragic irony.

I choked up. And then that resolve kicked in: I wanted anyone/everyone to see what our addiction to oil had done to the Gulf and to contrast that with the sense of hope and possibility that “Somewhere” exudes.

Long story short, last weekend, Peter Rice, Chairman of Fox Networks Entertainment, gave Environmental Defense Fund the green light to use the song. The pictures you’ll see were shot by two incredibly talented EDF staffers, Yuki Kokubo and Patrick Brown – and a few are mine.

The inspiration was Nicole’s. This is for her, and for all of our kids – and theirs to come.

This article appears courtesy CleanTechies, an online cleantech network & knowledge hub. CleanTechies provides insights, resources, and opportunities around renewable energyefficiencygreen building, and sustainable transportation.

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July 13 2010


Blotting the Gulf: Latest Impressions from the Gulf Coast and a Look Ahead from Sierra Club's Michael Brune

Michael Brune, the new executive director for the Sierra Club, spoke yesterday at an international gathering of renewable energy entrepreneurs, policy experts, and advocates. In his remarks, Brune spoke of his most moving image yet of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf. It's a moving and heartbreaking story, but from disaster comes opportunity. Brune message yesterday was not only of tragedy but also of solutions: sustainable development, electrifying transportation, and the the "three R's": retiring coal (and eventually all fossil energy), replacing coal generation with renewable sources of energy and rejuvenating the beleaguered economy in the process. The following podcast is edited from his remarks:

June 07 2010


BP, Meet Cassandra

BP’s Deepwater Horizon’s blowout is the largest oil disaster in the United States, far  surpassing Exxon Valdez, which 21 years ago contaminated 1500 miles of coastline, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of birds, otters, seals and whales, and devastated local communities, which are still dealing with the consequences even today.

The lessons to be learned of this incredibly horrific event are as numerous and massive as the gazillions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf and beyond. For starters, offshore drilling is not such a good idea, and never has been, judging by the 1969 Union Oil Rig Spill in Santa Barbara. Secondly – surprise, surprise – oil is not a clean, nor safe, nor a renewable resource. Now really would be the time to kick our addiction to fossil fuels in favor of truly clean, safe, and renewable resources. Third; well, oil companies, (nor really any incredibly huge, corporate industry) cannot be trusted, and definitely cannot be trusted to put safety or its workers or the environment before profits, because heck, why not take the risk. There will always be seagulls, right?

This brings us to the fourth and perhaps the most important lesson: That it is time, once and for all, to learn from our past mistakes. Already in the twenty year history of deepwater drilling there have been serious problems and numerous accidents including fires, gas leaks, loss of power, equipment failures, poor maintenance, blowouts, wells that collapsed, platforms that nearly sank…

BP being a prime example, if not the poster child, of these hazards as it has consistently put profits ahead of safety.

For example, in January 2001, BP employees sent a letter to oil industry watchdog, Charles Hamel, asking him for assistance in getting BP to address their safety concerns:

We were concerned about our recommendations being ignored and disregarded in the OSHA required hazard reviews…concerned about BP’s cost cutting efforts undermining our ability to respond to emergencies, and reducing the reliability of critical safety systems…about the lack of preventative maintenance on our equipment.” Additionally, “It is clear that BP Management has one priority and that is cost reduction…If these concerns are not addressed, we feel that a major catastrophe is imminent. We have only our lives and our futures at risk here."

Since that letter, which Hamel did sent to BP as well as President Bush, BP has been responsible for at least 10 disastrous and deadly accidents resulting from equipment failure and negligence. They have been convicted of felony violations of both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, and have paid at least $158 million dollars in fines and penalties, including the largest fine ever imposed by OSHA ($87,430,000). The second largest fine was issued by OSHA in 2005,  also against BP.

According to Scott West, former special agent of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in charge of a 2005  probe into BP’s activities, in which there had been numerous warnings of safety concerns before the massive Prudhoe Bay spill, “BP turned a blind eye and deaf ear to their experts who predicted a major spill. It wasn't an intentional act to put oil on the ground, but it was an intentional act to ignore their employees. That's negligence and its criminal.” In 2007, The Minerals Management Service cited BP for a “'lack of knowledge of the system, and lack of pre-event planning and procedures."

Ergo, it should come as no surprise that with Deepwater Horizon, "BP made several cost-cutting and time saving decisions in its choice of well designs.” Even BP’s Tony Hayward admitted, “It's probably true that BP didn't do enough planning in advance of the disaster. There are some capabilities, that we could have available to deploy instantly, rather than creating as we go."

And now, more than six weeks after the disaster, and after yet another BP spill in Alaska on May 25, in which BP operators stated, “procedures weren’t properly implemented,” finally President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have announced criminal investigations into the matter. To “ensure that anyone found responsible for this spill is held accountable,” and "prosecute to the full extent any violations of the law.” Which really shouldn’t be too hard. As US District Court Judge Ralph Beistline, who prosecuted BP in 2007 affirmed, oil spills were 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."

There is a reason that environmentalists are referred to as “Climate Cassandras.” Not because they possess the gift of prophecy, but because with knowledge, foresight and hindsight, they understand the potential and likelihood for tragic, catastrophic events. They call for preventative measures – often just decency and common sense – to ensure these disasters do not occur.

So next time someone accuses you of spreading doom and gloom or calls you Cassandra, just remind them what happened in Santa Barbara, Valdez, the Massey Mine, Three Mile Island, Chernoyble and now Deepwater Horizon, to name but a few.  Remind them that that the only way to stop history from repeating itself is to end our addictive dependence on dangerous and dirty fossil fuel and risky nuclear power. Warn them of the urgent need to immediately implement a National Energy plan.

If we fail  to learn from the past and plan for the future, it will soon not be the fall of Troy that we’re worried about, or the devastating destruction of the Gulf, but truly, with climate change and unsustainable resource consumption, the end of the world as we know it.

It is time to wake up.

Image credit: Truthout, courtesy Flickr

Further reading:
Cassandra in the Gulf

June 04 2010


Gulf Conservationists Challenge Phony BP Oil Disaster Cleanup Plan

BP said it could clean up 20 million gallons of spilled oil a day June 3, 2010 New Orleans, LA — Earthjustice filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Minerals Management Service challenging the agency’s arbitrary approval of BP’s oil spill clean-up plan. The clean up plan was approved in July 2009 prior to the approval [...]

May 14 2010


On Our Radar: Senate Clash Over Oil Liability

An Alaska Republican seeks to block a bill that would raise the liability caps for oil companies to $10 billion from $75 million to ensure that they cover the full costs of disasters like the gulf spill.
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