OBAMA ADMINISTRATION MISLEADS AMERICA ON SAFETY OF GULF CLEAN-UP
On the August 30 edition of my daily Genesis Communications Network radio show, Truth Trial (emordtruthtrial.com), Government Accountability Project Legislative Campaign Coordinator and Investigator Shanna Devine revealed that the Obama Administration and British Petroleum had disseminated false public health and safety information and engaged in a cover-up to mask the harmful effects of chemical dispersants and oil in the Gulf.
Shanna Devine explained that agents of BP and the federal government falsely claimed that a chemical dispersant, Corexit, was essentially as safe as dish washing detergent when in fact it was, when mixed with oil, 52 times more toxic than oil alone. She explained that clean-up workers, physicians, divers, and area residents have suffered related maladies, including blood in urine, temporary paralysis, heart arrhythmias, kidney damage, liver damage, neurological damage, skin lesions, respiratory and central nervous system damage, and seizures. As GAP reports, “[b]lood test results from a majority [of the people GAP interviewed in the Gulf region] showed alarmingly high levels of chemical exposure—to Corexit and oil—that correlated with experienced health effects. These chemicals include known carcinogens.”
Corruption has surrounded government-oil industry relations in the Gulf for decades. Indeed, the history of United States regulation of off-shore drilling is one of government collusion with industry, corruption, and a total lack of accountability.
Years before the BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf, the Obama Administration was on notice of widespread corruption among regulators who oversaw oil rig safety. Shortly after his inauguration, President Obama said he was aware that the U.S. Department of the Interior Minerals Management Service was corrupt and in need of reform. Within the Department of the Interior, the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar had been informed by the Interior Inspector General Mary L. Kendall that the U.S. Minerals Management Service was rife with corruption and was a captive of the oil industry. In June of 2010, after the Gulf oil disaster, the Minerals Management Service was eliminated and replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and then, in 2011, that Bureau was eliminated and replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
On March 21, 2010, Inspector General Kendall released a scathing report on the Minerals Management Service. She found collusion between government inspectors and oil industry personnel in the falsification of inspection reports. Her report revealed routine acceptance of bribes, the exercise of undue influence by oil company personnel over every major aspect of Minerals Management Service inspections of off shore rigs. MMS employees accepted gifts from oil company employees who worked on rigs that the MMS employees inspected, including tickets to sports events, hunting and fishing trips, and meals. She also found that several MMS employees used illicit drugs.
Inspector General Kendall found: “Some MMS inspectors . . . allowed oil and gas production company personnel located on the platforms to fill out inspection forms. The forms would then be completed or signed by the inspector and turned in for review. [Oil rig] operating company personnel completed the inspection forms using pencils, and MMS inspectors would write on top of the pencil in ink and turn in the completed form . . . . MMS inspectors often used pencil to complete inspection forms. Anyone from MMS involved in the platform inspections could author the inspection form, and inspectors routinely signed each other’s names on the forms.” In short, inspections were sham operations in service to the oil industry owners of the platforms.
From his first day in office in 2009, Interior Secretary Salazar was on notice of the corrupt practices. Neither he nor MMS Director Birnbaum nor President Obama did anything to end the fraudulent inspections until after the April 20, 2010 BP Deep Water Horizon oil rig disaster. If you thought Secretary Salazar’s actions to eliminate the Minerals Management Service and fire MMS Director Birnbaum ended the corrupt government industry collusion, GAP’s Shanna Devine has present proof that should make you think again.
In her Truth Trial interview, Shanna Devine explained that the environmental catastrophe caused when BP’s Deep Water Horizon rig blew immediately became a public relations, financial, and liability burdenfor BP of unparalleled proportions. It also created a political and economic crisis for the Obama Administration. Between 2.45 million and 4.2 million barrels of oil gushed out of the exploded rig into the Gulf of Mexico before the rig was capped, the largest oil spill in American history. The entire Gulf region braced for oil to cover the shore lines and estuaries of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, with the prospect of years of ecological and economic damage.
Faced with the broad ramifications of the crisis, BP and the Obama Administration EPA, NOAA, and FDA colluded on the use of a highly toxic dispersant, Corexit, and on public misrepresentation of the chemical’s safety. BP poured some 1.8 million gallons of Corexit into the Gulf. Corexit causes oil to form into globules that sink to the ocean floor. That effect had the aesthetic benefit that BP and the Obama Administration desperately wanted (to make the oil look like it disappeared). In fact, Corexit mixed with oil creates a toxic brew that exacerbates the problem and moves it to the ocean floor. There, sea creatures that occupy the ocean floor, including those humans eat, ingest quantities of this toxic brew. Shanna Devine faults the FDA for declaring the sea food from the Gulf to be safe without adequate scientific evaluation. She explained to NOLA.COM that GAP had evidence “that suggest[s] a higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations and pockets of dead ocean areas where life was previously abundant.” GAP concluded, “[t]he FDA grossly misrepresented the results of its analysis of Gulf seafood safety.”
Among the federal government cover-up activities that GAP found and NOLA.COM reported are the following: “Federally required worker resource manuals detailing Corexit’s potential health hazards were either not delivered or removed from BP worksites early in the clean-up, as health problems began. A government agency regulation prohibited diving during the spill due to concerns about potential health risks, yet . . . divers contracted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were told it was safe to go deep into Gulf waters without protective equipment.” Moreover, as GAP found and NOLA.COM reported, “nearly half the cleanup workers interviewed reported that they were threatened with termination when they tried to wear respirators or additional safety equipment.”
GAP made the following specific findings revealing a widespread Obama Administration/BP cover-up and misinformation campaign: “Contrary to warnings in BP’s own internal manual, BP and the government misrepresented known risks by asserting that Corexit was low in toxicity.”
“Despite the fact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed a highly lauded safety training program for cleanup workers,” GAP foundthat “the workers [GAP] interviewed reported that they either did not receive any training or did not receive the federally required training. Federally required worker resource manuals detailing Corexit health hazards (according to a confidential whistleblower) were not delivered or were removed from BP worksites early in the cleanup, as health problems began.”
GAP reports that “BP and the federal government, through their own medical monitoring programs, each publicly denied that any significant chemical exposure to humans was occurring,” however, “90% of workers and community residents interviewed by GAP reported contact with Corexit or Corexit based chemicals, and blood test results revealed high levels of chemical exposure.”
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GAP discovered that “BP and the federal government believed that allowing workers to wear respirators would not create a positive public image. As a result, OSHA permitted BP threats and retaliation against workers who insisted on wearing this protection. Nearly half of the cleanup workers interviewed by GAP reported that they were threatened with termination when they tried to wear respirators or additional safety equipment on the job. Many received early termination notices after raising safety concerns on the job. All workers interviewed reported that they were provided minimal or no personal protective equipment on the job.”
The Obama Administration/BP misinformation campaign and cover-up activities have placed thousands of people at immediate risk and may lay a foundation for adverse effects that may be felt not only in the Gulf region but throughout the world for years to come. GAP identifies this sobering reality: Despite the fact that Corexit mixed with oil is highly toxic, the EPA now lists the chemical as its primary tool for handling future oils spills. Politics once again prevails over truth and health.
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