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Category Archives: BP

Last summer in Gulfport, MS the 4th of July preparation was different than any year before. The smells of barbeque, fireworks and ocean water that filled the air were mixed with the smell of oil. Planet Harmony's Tuskee Barnes brings tells of her family's experience.

Tuskee Barnes: The Gulf Coast Oil Spill changed lives forever. My city was still recovering from the damages left by Hurricane Katrina, when a new wave of concerns over the area’s health and jobs washed on our shores. It took the form of approximately 3.3 million barrels of oil erupting from the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

At the time, I was in Florida at school. Hearing the news worried me, but the phone calls from family and friends about the setback were the real dagger to the back. I traveled to Gulfport, MS on July 3, 2010. Most of my family lives close to the beach. The smell was the fist thing I noticed. As I approached the beach, I was overwhelmed by the smell of oil. My throat grew tighter the closer I got, and I started to feel faint. Even worse was the thought of my family inhaling this everyday.


Clean-up efforts in Gulfport, MS nearly 1 year ago. (Photo by Goesfast.com)

It wasn’t long before my worries were being seen in sick people along the Coast. Residents reported symptoms such as coughing, vomiting, chest pains and other respiratory issues due to the exposure to the toxins. One of my aunts complained about headaches she started to experience a few weeks after the spill. She mentioned they weren't severe, but happened often for a few months. My aunt wasn't alone, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, more than 300 people had to seek medical attention for their headaches, chest pains, and dizziness.

My family also faced financial stress. My brother qualified for a job as one of the cleanup crew members. The salary offered 12-18 dollars an hour. Many locals jumped at the opportunity, some even left their jobs to work for BP. My brother decided to keep his. After about two months, the locals were replaced by out of town service workers.

A year ago I was shocked to find oil washing upon the shores. memory of last year.  I saw cleanup crews line up bags filled with oily sand for miles down the beaches.I saw a young girl kick up the black, oily sand. Her mother just laughed and told her not to do that.

Today, dark oil still lingers in the beach at Gulfport.  But the smell of oil has subsided.

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Vicki Smith from the Grio posted an article about the Demolle family in Pointe a la Hache, Louisiana.  They’re one of the many families on the Mississippi River Delta that lived off the once plentiful, healthy and delicious fish from the river.  But since the Deep Water Horizon oil leak has hemorrhaged millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, aquatic life has been chocked from their long-fished waters. The families that once lived off these shores now depend on on BP’s compensation checks and charity food. What I love about this article is it shows just how deeply connected we all are to the environment.    
When talking about environmental justice particularly for the black community, it’s a popular question:  "Why don’t more black people get involved in environmental issues?"  The answer is usually one of two: "They have other things to worry about like paying next month’s rent and putting food on the table." Or, "Oh, they’re just not educated enough to understand why they should care."  Both of these answers may be true in part.  But this story is a perfect example of where blacks communities lack fiscal stability or education that we assume are necessary for environmental consciousness.  Even here, the intimate connections to the land are profound.    
The Point a la Hache community and the hundreds of other fishing communities are stewards by necessity, not by option. And it’s these communities that are the first to suffer when the land is spoiled. Now that their relationship with the abundant shores has been severed, gone are the days of locally harvested shrimp, crabs, oysters, and fish.  Now it’s charity given peanut butter and jelly, beans, rice, and cheap "grind meats" like the hot dog and hamburger. 
Check out Vicki Smith’s article here

Photo courtesy of cccpublishing.com

We are pretty green around here (both kinds). But we are not the only new site with the "Planet" in mind.  British Petroleum is launching their own online magazine called Planet BP.  The Wall Street Journal got a hold of an inside-draft of the publication that shows the company desperately trying to put a glossy sheen on the crisis in the Gulf (another glossy sheen).  Since your friendly environmental news site, Planet Harmony, also covers the on-going gusher, I’d hate for people to get us confused. Below are a few differneces so people can tell which "Planet" they’re on.

While Planet Harmony talks to researchers exploring why clean-up crews are falling sick,  Planet BP profiles a shrimper who argues "there’s no reason to hate BP."

When Planet Harmony shares videos of hip hop criticisms of the spill (By Mos Def and the Cornel West Theory), Planet BP publishes sunny stories about how BP is helping the Gulf tourism industry, including claiming that "hotels have been prospering because so many people have come here [the Gulf] from BP and other oil emergency response teams"

And while Planet Harmony covers environmental issues pertaining to communities of color (and sometimes writes sarcastic commentary), the "Massive flow of Bullshit Continues to Gush from BP Headquarters."
 
Image Courtesy of Virzaq

With 70,000 barrels of crude gushing in the Gulf of Mexico daily, what’s a lawmaker to do? Capitol Hill is awash in answers.

Six Western Senators want to stop all new drilling off the Pacific coast with a moratorium to replace the one that expired in 2008. The West Coast isn’t part of the president’s offshore drilling plan, so the move is largely symbolic. But it would make it harder for California’s large offshore reserves from being tapped post-Obama. Click above to listen to excerpts of Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Maria Cantwell, and Jeff Merkley (in that order) state their case in a press conference.

Then there’s the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act," an effort by angry Senate Democrats Bob Menendez, Frank Lautenberg, and Bill Nelson Senators Menendez to raise the current ceiling on how much oil companies can to pay in liability from $65 million to $10 billion.

BP American president Lamar McKay said in one of three Congressional hearings that BP will pay damages above and beyond the current cap, but whether that will still be BP’s position when the disaster has faded from headlines and the claims keep piling up remains to be seen. (As for Transocean– it’s already asked a federal court to limit its liability to $27 million.) 

Republican Lisa Murkowski blocked consideration of the bailout prevention bill and has been pushing legislation of her own that would raise the federal fund that helps clean up oil spills to $10 billion (paid for through a per barrel fee for oil companies).

Eager Senators will try to squeeze the contents of their offshore drilling legislation into into any energy or climate change bill that’s makes it to the Senate floor. That could mean the American Power Act– Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman’s attempt to cap greenhouse gas emissions and please everyone (just a little bit) in the process. Their bill addresses offshore drilling with that compromise spirit– reaching out to the pro-drilling crowd with enticing incentives for states to allow oil and gas off their shores (37.5 percent of royalties directly to them), while acknowledging concerns over the current crisis with a temporary ban on new drilling until what went wrong in the Gulf can be established and remedied, and giving states the right to veto any drilling within 75 miles of their shores. 

Stay connected for more on what action, if any, Congress will take on offshore drilling in coming weeks…

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Under oath and in the spotlight, the presidents of BP, Transocean, and Haliburton say they can’t promise another massive oil spill can be avoided in the future. Listen to excerpts from a Senate hearing, with Senators Frank Lautenberg, Ben Cardin, and Barbara Boxer posing the questions, and Lamar McKay (BP),  Steven Newman (Transocean), and Tim Probert (Haliburton) responding. Lautenberg is the first voice heard. 


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Iran says it wants to help the U.S. cleanup BP’s mess in the Gulf of Mexico.

After all, Iran has known oil as long as BP has. Before it was Beyond Petroleum, even before it was British Petroleum, BP was the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, incorporated after a wealthy Londoner discovered the Middle East’s first commercial oil field in Khuzestan, Iran in 1908. The British company had exclusive rights to drilling in most of Iran and soon established a monopoly, sharing relatively few profits with its host country. One coup d’etat, one revolution, and more than one hundred years later– and Iran is frequently cited as an enemy state when making a case for energy independence. 

Read about Iran’s offer here.

The oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is now leaking 210,000 barrels of oil a day destroying not only marine life but also the livelihoods of Louisiana fisherman.  Once the oil slick contaminates shrimp beds, the shrimp season which is only beginning, will be over.  Clean up efforts may last years and it is uncertain when fishermen will be able to continue fishing.  Roger Halphen, a local teacher, told the Associated Press "There is a lot of bitterness.  Most of these people are second, third, fourth generation fisherman and now they are looking at the end of their industry."

Many of these fisherman are paying off boat loans costing up to tens of thousands of dollars.  In desperate need of work, hundreds of fisherman have signed up to be a part of the clean up effort. 
Read more about Louisiana fishermen.