Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today in BP Oil Spill: Day 54

Posted By on Sat, Jun 12, 2010 at 5:00 PM

"The guy that runs BP didn't exactly go down there and blow up the well." — New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, showing where his sympathies lie.

What a horrible week in oil-catastrophe news. I have to admit that I busted out crying this week watching TV coverage of the employees of P&J Oysters -- many of whom had worked there for more than 20 years -- clutching forms and looking bewildered as the company was forced to lay off all its shuckers. And I agree totally with The Times-Picayune's esteemed food critic in the matter:

click to enlarge batp

The news:

Every time we hear "worst-case scenario," it seems that there's a worser worse-case scenario in the wings:

While the earlier worst-case scenario pegged the spill at 42 million gallons, the new numbers mean that up to 89 million gallons could have spewed into the ocean already, eight times the size of the Exxon-Valdez disaster.

More tankers headed to the site of the oil volcano. They may get there by mid-July, says Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.

Today will see protests against BP in 44 cities around the world. (New Orleans seems to do these things on its own timetable.)

• Tony Hayward: How do you "make it right" when you've killed a town?

Grand Isle, a normally picturesque seven-mile stretch of barrier beach off the Louisiana coast, is slowly waking up to a grim reality: the impact of the April 20 spill will not be measured in months, even if BP manages by fall to plug the well that is gushing oil 50 miles off the coast.

It is likely to be measured in years of oil-streaked beaches and marshes, of plummeting property values in a maritime community suddenly cut off from the water, of teams of hazmat-suited workers on beaches lined with orange booms, and cleanup crews in tourist motels.

• And Congress: How do you hold them responsible for killing a town? How much does Billy Nungesser have to yell? How much does David Carmadelle have to weep?

• The Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press says in a staff editorial that BP has forfeited the right to drill in the Gulf.

• BP and the federal government (the lines are so blurred any more) are planning to burn off more oil in the Gulf. But what about the workers?

Harmful byproducts of burning the light crude flowing into the Gulf include fine particles; toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which result from the incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials such as oil; and volatile organic compounds such as benzene toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. ...

The new burning comes as BP's plan to protect workers fighting the massive oil spill has come under criticism for exposing them to higher levels of toxic chemicals than generally accepted practices permit.

Moreover, BP isn't required to give workers respirators, to evacuate them from danger zones, or to take other precautions until conditions are more dangerous.

Critics are questioning the quality of the company's plan as dozens of oil spill workers are becoming sick.

BP and government health and safety officials are monitoring air pollutants offshore and haven't found toxins that exceed federal standards. However, outside experts say the current levels still could pose health risks, and health and safety officials acknowledge that they are struggling with whether to require certain workers to wear respirators.

Yeah. They're "struggling" with whether to bring in respirators.

• And, finally, an unexpected side effect from this whole mess: public stock in the normally-dreaded mainstream media seems to be rising, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. At least people are trusting journalists more than they are BP or their own government:

Fully 67% say they have a lot (20%) or some trust (47%) in information on the oil leak coming from news organizations. That compares with 51% who have at least some trust in information from the federal government and 39% in information from BP.

Maybe stories like this are why: check out WDSU-TV's video of anchor Scott Walker attempting to access a public beach, only to be stopped by what seems to be a civilian contractor. Walker actually has to get the Jefferson Parish sheriff's office to intervene:

Private security guards patrolling an oil-stained portion of Grand Isle attempted repeatedly to prevent a WDSU news crew from walking on a public beach and speaking with cleanup workers -- a confrontation that followed a BP corporate promise not to interfere in such a manner.

Walker has more on his personal blog:

We weren’t interested in crossing the boom, but we wanted to walk up to it and shoot video of the workers on the other side and explain what was happening on the beach. That was fine, according to security guy #1. But as we walked toward the boom, security guy #2 sprinted over to us like we just jumped the fence to the White House lawn. He said we couldn’t come within 100 yards of the cleanup workers. Huh? I pressed him on the issue and he said those were his orders. Finally, the supervisor for security guys #1 and #2 showed up and told us we could walk up near the boom. Really? Thanks. Legally, these guys have no jurisdiction over the beach.

The disconnect between BP and the people they’ve hired to work for them is unbelievable and, in my view, unacceptable. These people need to find a way to get on the same page and stop trying to intimidate the media with idle warnings from people who have no power to do anything anyway.

Anyone in Congress concerned with the fact that private companies seem to have control over our public lands -- control that supersedes that of local law enforcement? Because that's as scary as the oil gusher itself.

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