Month 6, Day 15: Don’t Get Mad, Get Madder!

I have a houseguest & I’m really tired. I just opened up this piece on Daily Kos, read it, got outraged, and wrote Ed Markey and Henry Waxman a letter asking them to get a little tougher on the gang of criminals who are obviously in charge of British Petroleum.

You should read that piece, too. It’ll make you mad. Maybe you should get mad — and write a letter to someone!

Dear Representatives Markey and Waxman,

We need to understand a few things about what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now. It is absolutely crucial that congressional hearings bring up some of the following questions:

1. Why is British Petroleum apparently giving orders to the Coast Guard — and why is the Coast Guard taking orders from BP? A recent CBS News clip documented an incident of local television journalists being turned away from taking photographs of dead and dying sea life, saying: “A boat of BP Contractors, with 2 Coast Guard officials on board, told us turn around under threat of arrest — explaining ‘This is BP’s rules — it’s not ours’ ” In my naivete, I had the impression that the Coast Guard worked for the people of this country, not a British-owned oil company.

2. Why is BP failing to do genuine cleanup work in threatened areas? Booms have been put in place in wildlife protection areas, but no follow-up or monitoring has been instituted. The result? The only thing actually being contained is bad publicity for BP. The oil, meanwhile, is killing birds, sea turtles, fish and dolphins, and it’s only going to get worse. Frankly, we need more bad publicity for British Petroleum.

3. Why is BP making cleanup contractors sign agreements not to talk to the media? This company blatantly ignored safety regulations, gamed the system to its benefit for decades, and now (through its own negligence and carelessness) poised to wipe out both unique local ecologies and unique local economies. They should not be in a position to dictate terms to their contract employees.

Reporters from the New York Daily News interviewed BP contractors, who took them to locations where dolphin carcasses were dead and rotting. The contractor interviewed said, “When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at. There is a lot of cover-up for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here. The things I’ve seen… They just aren’t right. All the life out here is just full of oil.”

4. Why is BP unable to handle calls from Gulf area residents? Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, BP set up call centers to handle questions and concerns. But according to a Houston television station, they’ve over 200,000 phone calls have been received…but they go nowhere. People whose lives and communities are under terrible threat are made to think their messages are being formally documented when in fact they are not even written down by call center operators.

The overall impression of BP is one of a malicious and often criminal incompetence made possible by a feeble regulatory environment. While congressional hearings cannot get the oil back into the earth, they can be a big step towards ensuring that such a disastrous failure of regulation never happens again.

I’m hoping to see British Petroleum executives testifying under oath, with jail sentences available for any who are in contempt or who are proven to have perjured themselves. There is no need to be nice to these people; they’ve destroyed one of our country’s most important natural resources, and the full extent of the damage they’ve caused won’t be understood for years.

Their incompetence and criminality are yet another set of very good reasons to end our national dependence on oil; it makes these people wealthy and powerful, and they don’t deserve wealth or power — they deserve jail time.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 2: I Hope They Grind Exceeding Small

The Attorney General is going to the Gulf. String ’em high, Mr. Holder, string ’em high!

Dear Attorney General Holder,

I’m glad to learn that you’re looking into a possible criminal investigation of British Petroleum and the other companies which are partnered in the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig.  As you and your staff begin your investigation, please keep in mind that BP may reasonably be suspected of not acting in the public interest — something President Obama said last week.  To be sure, we need the company to continue mitigating the environmental damage it has caused, but it is terribly naive to think that this will be their primary concern.  BP’s principal focus will be on maximizing return to its shareholders and protecting its management — and these goals (while inherent in the capitalist system) emphatically do not serve the public in a time of crisis.

BP has been limiting media access to the devastation it has caused, making it more difficult for press and broadcast media to get a clear picture of the destruction of the Gulf Coast.  Furthermore, there are ample reasons to suspect the company of the possible manipulation and destruction of physical evidence. Their  response to the disaster has been conditioned by the requirements of public relations from the very beginning, and you should expect that they will continue to try to “game the system” as your investigation continues.

While no formal statement of guilt is possible from your office until the wheels of justice have turned, you and your staff need to keep in mind that British Petroleum has displayed criminal irresponsibility toward the needs of environmental protection for years.  Do not trust these people; they are not America’s friends.

The fact that BP continues to control clean-up efforts and mitigation processes is tainted by the likelihood that they have been attempting to limit the visible damage, thereby reducing the likelihood of significant penalties.

Because BP has practical authority over the people of the Coast who are involved in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, they can now intimidate witnesses and workers, conceal damage, and stall investigations.  As long as the company is considered essential by the government, there is a strong likelihood that your investigation will be forced to compromise.  This cannot be allowed to happen.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 22: I Hate These People

It turns out, not to my surprise, that BP has a strong financial interest in preventing accurate measurements of the underwater gusher that is currently destroying the Gulf.

BP’s estimate that only 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking daily from a well in the Gulf of Mexico, which the Obama administration hasn’t disputed, could save the company millions of dollars in damages when the financial impact of the spill is resolved in court, legal experts say.

Sounds like the Obama administration should be doing some disputing, don’t you think? I’m sending one copy of this letter to Ed Markey, and one to the President.

Dear Representative Markey/President Obama —

A recent article from McClatchey Newspapers points out that by grossly underestimating the volume of oil issuing from the undersea openings in the Gulf of Mexico, British Petroleum stands to save many millions of dollars. When BP refuses to allow scientists to take accurate flow measurements of the underwater spill, they claim that this is rooted in expediency: they’re “more focused on getting the spill stopped” than on measuring its output.

But BP’s own regional plan for dealing with offshore leaks explicitly states that “In the event of a significant release of oil, an accurate estimation of the spill’s total volume … is essential in providing preliminary data to plan and initiate cleanup operations.”

By blocking specialists from obtaining this data, and by providing a low-ball estimate to the public and the US Government, the management of what is now on track to be the world’s biggest polluter is ensuring that it will never be held adequately accountable for its irresponsibility and criminal negligence.

To me, this has all the earmarks of a criminal conspiracy, perhaps prosecutable under RICO.

I implore you to put this issue front and center in your dealings with the responsible parties. They must not be allowed to get away with this.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

I’m putting this letter out now because I’m going to be away from the computer until Saturday night (family emergency).