Category Archives: Obama administration

BP’s oil is still out there, right?

Of course it is, but the government and their pals at BP want you to think its all gone. From Naomi Kleins piece up at The Nation:

For the scientists aboard the WeatherBird II, the recasting of the Deepwater Horizon spill as a good-news story about a disaster averted has not been easy to watch. Over the past seven months, they, along with a small group of similarly focused oceanographers from other universities, have logged dozens of weeks at sea in cramped research vessels, carefully measuring and monitoring the spill’s impact on the delicate and little-understood ecology of the deep ocean. And these veteran scientists have seen things that they describe as unprecedented. Among their most striking findings are graveyards of recently deceased coral, oiled crab larvae, evidence of bizarre sickness in the phytoplankton and bacterial communities, and a mysterious brown liquid coating large swaths of the ocean floor, snuffing out life underneath. All are worrying signs that the toxins that invaded these waters are not finished wreaking havoc and could, in the months and years to come, lead to consequences as severe as commercial fishery collapses and even species extinction.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the most outspoken scientists doing this research come from Florida and Georgia, coastal states that have so far managed to avoid offshore drilling. Their universities are far less beholden to Big Oil than, say, Louisiana State University, which has received tens of millions from the oil giants. Again and again these scientists have used their independence to correct the official record about how much oil is actually out there, and what it is doing under the waves.

One of the most prominent scientists on the BP beat is David Hollander, a marine geochemist at the University of South Florida. Hollander’s team was among the first to discover the underwater plumes in May and the first to trace the oil definitively to BP’s well. In August, amid the claims that the oil had magically disappeared, Hollander and his colleagues came back from a cruise with samples proving that oil was still out there and still toxic to many marine organisms, just invisible to the human eye. This research, combined with his willingness to bluntly contradict federal agencies, has made Hollander something of a media darling. When he is not at sea, there is a good chance he is in front of a TV camera. In early December, he agreed to combine the two, allowing me and filmmaker Jacqueline Soohen to tag along on a research expedition in the northern Gulf of Mexico, east of the wellhead.

Ah, don’t you just love the smell of corporate bullshit in the morning?


Grading the Obama administration: Regulatory issues

OMBWatch is a great tool for groups and individuals interested in tracking how our government applies the laws passed by congress to protect the public, with regards to transparency and accountability. This new, three part report (pdf) entitled The Obama Approach to Public Protection: Enforcement, delves into how the Obama Administration creates and administers rules and regulations that protect the public with regard to health, safety and environmental issues and standards. From OMBWatch’s introduction to part one of their report:

This is the first of three OMB Watch reports evaluating the Obama administration’s record on regulatory issues. This report covers health, safety, and environmental rulemaking at federal agencies during the Obama administration from January 2009 through August 2010. The second report will cover many of the same issues and areas as this report but will focus on regulatory enforcement. The third report will focus on the regulatory process, including issues of transparency, participation, regulatory analysis, and scientific integrity, and will more deeply examine the role of the White House, specifically the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in shaping the administration’s record.

Part one is roughly 34 pages long. From part one, a short assessment of their findings:

Based on the research presented here, several trends emerge. First, in stark contrast to the George W. Bush administration, the Obama administration has taken its role of protecting the public seriously and has been far more active in pursuing its rulemaking responsibilities. Obama’s philosophy regarding the role of government is very different from the Bush philosophy. This contrast emerged early in Obama’s tenure as agencies spent considerable time and energy addressing many of the “midnight regulations” the Bush administration enacted or finalized, most of which rolled back essential environmental, public health, and workplace safety standards. While not wholly successful, the Obama administration deserves credit for looking both forward and backward.

Second, the new administration has begun to restore agency resources, recommit leadership to agency missions, and address the toll of neglect from previous administrations. Rebuilding the regulatory agencies, their staffs, and their programs will, however, take years and consistent resources.

Third, in comparison to expectations, the Obama administration has fallen short. The administration has not changed the dysfunctional regulatory process that agencies must navigate. The rulemaking process is full of procedural hurdles that hinder how quickly and, sometimes, how effectively agencies can respond to public needs. The process is tilted heavily in favor of special interests that have the resources and access to impact the substance of rules; the public’s voice is often drowned out.

 I will give Obama and his minions this: The Obama administration has made a valiant effort to undo much of the fuckery foisted upon us by Chimpy’s administration, including all the Midnight reg’s issued in the waning days of that friggin nightmare of an administration that were designed to weaken enforcement and protection of the public.It’s a long, tedious process and ProPublica keeps track of all of them here.

The watchdog group, OMBWatch, was created in 1983. The group has championed many issues, including the batshit crazy rightwingers ongoing attempts to defund and close down many of our federal governments regulatory agencies. In 2008 they created, a searchable database of federal contracts, grants, and loans dating back to FY 2000.

OMBWatch does all this work as a non-profit agency. Any donations to their work are tax deductible.

BP refuses govt scientist access to Gusher in the Gulf.

 Dr. Ira Leifer was appointed, by the federal government, to the Flow Rate Technical Group. Since BP is still lying through their collective teeth about how much oil is actually gushing from their screw up, and which parts of the ecosystem (including animals) are being destroyed, this is an important study. From DemocracyNow, via CrooksandLiars:

Congressman Ed Markey wrote a letter to BP last month requesting that the corporation provide safe access to the well site and full financial support, but there’s been no response from BP. Dr. Ira Leifer is the scientist leading the proposed research mission known as “Deep Spill 2.” He’s also on the federally appointed Flow Rate Technical Group. He’s a researcher in the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, joining us now on the phone. Dr. Leifer, Welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain what you are requesting and what you are not getting.

DR. IRA LEIFER: Well, Amy, about 10 years ago, almost to the day, there was an experiment in frigid Arctic Norwegian waters to try to learn where the oil would go and because it was a small release, it was artificial. We didn’t learn from that what we need to know now to try to understand where the oil’s going from the Macondo spill. We don’t know, we’re searching in the dark. Deep Spill 2, this experiment that I proposed and created and brought together a team of scientists to research, is trying to understand hypothesis driven science where the oil goes in the water column so that we can actually go and respond to it. And in part it’s for now, to know what it’s effect on the ecosystem is, but a big part of this is for the future and for the next generation, so that in a future oil spill, we actually are not searching blindly for where the oil goes but we have a good idea and we can actually respond to it appropriately.

AMY GOODMAN: What has BP said?

DR. IRA LEIFER: It’s been silent. We put together this experiment, we have literally centuries of field experience from world-class researchers like Miriam Kastner and Rick Koff and Vern Asper, and we’ve heard nothing from BP, as well as other scientists I know who are doing and trying to do research, find themselves blocked at every turn from actually learning what we need to know so we can address this spill safely.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your sense of how much oil is flowing out of this well?

DR. IRA LEIFER: The flow rate team is going to come up with its numbers within, I think, later this week and they’ll be sort of, mine tend towards the top side. But the real problem is not what the amount of oil is flowing out, but where its going, what parts of the ecosystem it’s attacking. Its like a cancer that is metastasizing the patient. The ecosystem may not be dead yet, but its at great risk and patients sometimes die of pneumonia. In this case, a hurricane could come through and my big worry is that if we don’t know where the oil is going and where it’s going to be, then this interwoven network and fabric that is the life of the Gulf of Mexico could be taken out. For example, eagles that never get oiled, if their fish disappear, they too will die. We really need to understand what’s happening and the science is not being done, because in my view and that of many of my colleges, BP is blocking it.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you have to ask BP for permission? Who is in charge here? You’re working for the government. You’re working with them.

DR. IRA LEIFER: As far as I understand, BP is still in charge of access to the well site, as well, it’s unclear in terms of financing and support for science to understand what happens. BP caused this accident and so there’s a certain strong sense that they should in fact support strong efforts to try to understand it, to minimize the damage. And instead, they seem to be worrying about their long-term profits and not the long-term health of the environment.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re not getting permission to do this study but this, it seems to me, this is an indictment not only of BP, but of the U.S. government that allows this to go on. But also reporters, journalists, photographers who are attempting to document this will now be charged with felonies if they come within 65 feet of any site, even to try to photograph an oiled bird?

DR. IRA LEIFER: I don’t really understand that, it makes no sense to me. Where there’s clear safety issues, of course, there’s some issue. But here in Santa Barbara, we have oil, and people work around it and photograph it, and so on. As a scientist, my concern is that if we do science, everyone wins but if we don’t, we’re actually doing a disservice to humanity. That is just inexcusable, in that, if we don’t do the science and nobody learns from this horrible catastrophe to try to be ready for the future one— to myself that is inexcusable—so I and my scientific colleges, are trying to do everything we can to make sure we can learn as much about that. And I would include that the free and fair flow of information, reporters having access is part of the learning process as a society, so that when there are accidents in the future, we actually can respond intelligently and not with a lot of unknown assumptions and just waving our arms and trying to hope we get things right.

AMY GOODMAN: So BP does not want you to study them, but how high up have you gone in the U.S. government—since you work with the U.S. government—to demand access?

DR. IRA LEIFER: What I have done is, I have put together this experiment and I have shared it with members of the Technical Flow Rate Team and other people within the government, hoping to get the go-ahead on being able to do this experiment. As a scientist, I can only make proposals for what to do and try to share what our efforts are with the public through venues like “Democracy Now!”

 This is also an indictment of the Federal Government who BTW.. has also restricted access to the area for all members of the press. From the C&L writeup:

The Coast Guard has announced new rules keeping the public, including photographers and reporters covering the spill, from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches. Violators could face a fine of up to $40,000 and felony charges. In order to get within the 65 foot limit, media must get direct permission from the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans. (emphasis mine)

Bureaucracy and bullshit at it’s finest folks!! Thanks Obama…so much for transparency eh dude? Obama’s really heading to the top of my shit list lately in record time.

Right on Mr. Reich!

I love this man, he makes so much sense…it’s almost scary!!!

Once again, BP fails at containment.

These fuckers couldn’t touch their asses with both hands, I swear to Buddha. Why are there score’s of professors and other technical types blasting BP for their so-called methods whilst very few actually touting their pathetic attempts?

Now the fuckers are saying it’s all gonna keep pouring out of their hole in the ocean floor until August.

Oh, and Carol Browner…Obama’s shill says and I quote: “American people need to know that it is possible we will have oil leaking from this well until August when the relief wells will be finished,” (emphasis mine)

A leak is a slow, irritating thing you friggin jackass. This shit is pouring out to the tune of millions of gallons a day.

Next, the health risks associated with working in and around BP’s disgusting chemicals. From WaPo:

“There’s no way you can be working in that toxic soup without getting exposures,” Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s office of solid waste and emergency response, said during an interview Thursday. He likened the response to previous toxic waste disasters and the World Trade Center cleanup, which left workers with long-term respiratory problems despite repeated official claims that workers did not need respirators because the working conditions were safe. “It’s unbelievable what’s going on. It’s like deja vu all over again,” he said.

The situation is being complicated by weather conditions, which include severe heat and humidity. That can cause symptoms similar to those triggered by some of the chemicals workers may be exposed to.

Assessing the health risks is also difficult because of several unknowns, including a lack of information about the makeup of chemicals being used to disperse the oil and how those substances might affect the toxicity of the oil, several experts said.

The most worrisome chemicals are volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, which can cause cancer at high levels and in long exposures. But those and other substances in the oil can cause acute symptoms including severe skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea and burning eyes, as well as breathing problems and neurological complications including memory problems, confusion and disorientation.

Most acute symptoms from the chemical exposure disappear after the exposure ends, but long-term complications can occur. Some fishermen involved in cleaning up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska suffered long-lasting neurological problems.

Ain’t that some shit? I’m telling ya…it’s fucking criminal sportsfans.