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U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, a 1983 Reagan appointee to the federal bench, issued what, on its face, would have to be regarded as an astounding decision [PDF] in which he blocked a six month moratorium on deep water off shore drilling, ruling that the Department of the Interior had erroneously assumed that because one rig failed, there was an imminent danger of others failing as well.
A perplexed Justice Department promptly announced that it intends to seek an immediate stay of Judge Feldman's preliminary injunction pending an appeal.
Setting aside what appears to be an inappropriate judicial intrusion by a Federalist Society-connected jurist into the prerogatives of the Executive branch in protecting public health, safety and the environment, setting aside the misguided notion that the burden rests with the government rather than the oil companies when it comes to demonstrating whether deep water drilling procedures are safe, Judge Feldman's decision --- and his failure to recuse himself despite conflict-of-interest concerns --- raises a significant question as to whether he should be impeached... Read more.
Venezuela has nationalised a fleet of oil rigs owned by a US-based company which had been shut down in a dispute over payments.
In a statement the Venezuelan government said that seizing control of the 11 rigs was the only way to get them restarted after a year of idleness.
The move comes as Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's socialist president, pushes ahead with a policy of energy nationalisation as he seeks to expand the state's role in the economy.
He has also taken over assets in telecommunications, power, steel and banking.
The fleet of oil rigs belonging to Oklahoma-based energy firm Helmerich and
Payne have been idled for months following a dispute over payments by the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA.
Announcing the takeover of the rigs Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan oil minister, said companies that refused to put their rigs into production were part of a plan to weaken Chavez's government,
"There is a group of drill owners that has refused to discuss tariffs and services with PDVSA and have preferred to keep this equipment stored for a year," Ramirez told reporters in the oil producing state of Zulia.
"That is the specific case with US multinational Helmerich and Payne." Read more.
By Robert C. Koehler
You couldn’t call it a dialogue. It was more like a momentary rip in the global power continuum, a spill of outrage on the stage of a major oil conference in London.
On Tuesday, two Greenpeace activists interrupted a speech by British Petroleum chief of staff Steve Westwell — sandwiched him at his podium, trespassed on time and space that didn’t belong to them, and spoke to an audience that hadn’t come to hear them. They had about 20 seconds, not much time to talk about the complexity of ecosystems or draw attention, say, to the plight of the Gulf of Mexico’s Sargassum algae. They did the best they could.
One unfurled a banner that read “Go Beyond Petroleum.” The other, as she was being ushered off the stage and out of the hotel, shouted, “We need to speed up progress and make a push to end the oil age.”
That was it. Time’s up. That’s how protest is — shouted and emotional, sometimes illegal. Even when it’s videotaped and the world gets to witness those 20 seconds of public theater, all we hear are slogans, all we see are disruption and scuffle: disorder, quickly dealt with. Money gets its hair mussed a little, then returns to its agenda. Nothing seems to change. The disorder implicit in that agenda returns to “let our children worry about it” status, and we remain on the track described by Ronald Wright in A Short History of Progress, his investigation into why civilizations collapse:
“The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer.”
Some call him Stanley the Fixer, Catherine Austin Fitts for one, a former high level government and Wall Street insider, now editor of Solari.com and running Solari, Inc., an ethical online investment firm specializing in preserving family wealth. Besides on her own firm and a wealth of information on important topics, her site provides extensive coverage of Sporkin, including unanswered questions about him.
On September 5, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that BP hired him as ombudsman "to hear worker complaints from Alaska and elsewhere in the US," a move to quiet criticism about company operations, given its history of safety and environmental violations, and long record as a serial scofflaw, making daily headlines for the past two months and sure for much longer, keeping Sporkin hyperactive on the job.
"I'll report them as I see them," he said when appointed. "My mandate is to do whatever is necessary to ascertain the facts about and identify solutions for problems that exist today as well as those likely to become issues in the future."
According to Kim Eisler in his Washingtonian.com July 16, 2007 article headlined, "Stanley Sporkin Does Things His Way:"
Sporkin "landed a very big client, BP America, and has been seen around town with (its then) president Bob Malone in tow....attempting to guide (him) through a maze of Capital Hill hearings and state inquests (concerning investigation(s about the company) over everything from Alaska pipeline failures to refinery fires and lost....worldwide CEO in a scandal."
Sporkin calls his job troubleshooting, "leading a team of investigators through the charges and countercharges," using his longtime fixer influence. While his compensation isn't known, "it's said to be substantial - more than (he) ever made during his years as a judge or at the CIA and SEC."
Who then is Sporkin, and what about his dark side? More on the latter below.
New Emergency Committee Condemns “Drill, Baby, Drill” Ruling; Demands “Stop Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico”
New Emergency Committee Condemns “Drill, Baby, Drill” Ruling; Demands “Stop Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico” | Press Release
Calls for Mass Independent Action to Stop Gulf Oil Catastrophe | GulfEmergencySummit.org
A new Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster, formed this past weekend following an Emergency Summit in New Orleans, has condemned the Federal Court decision to overturn a temporary ban on oil drilling and has called for a complete half to offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, demanding that all those affected by a shutdown be provided full compensation, retraining and new employment if needed.
“Judge Feldman’s decision that the government didn’t make its case to shut down deepwater drilling flies in the face of common sense and sanity,” said committee member and NOLA resident Elizabeth Cook. “The oil lapping at our shores, killing our wildlife and marine life, IS the case for shutting down deepwater drilling.”
“This decision is an outrage,” said committee member Larry Everest, an author and writer for Revolution newspaper. “Millions of gallons of oil are spewing into the Gulf everyday, BP has removed even its temporary cap on the gusher, and the system is basically saying ‘drill, baby, drill.’ The people must act to stop this catastrophe. This system is not a fit caretaker of the earth.”
The new Emergency Committee argues that this decision and the entire course of this disaster show that “the response to this catastrophe must not be left in the hands of BP and the government.” Organizers state, “We won’t sit by or be reduced to passive spectators, we’re committed to getting out the truth, mobilizing mass independent action, and galvanizing many, many more to act to stop the oil catastrophe.” On Monday, June 21, the new Committee organized the first protest at the offices of the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command Center now in New Orleans, where it presented the following demands:
If you're wondering why BP "agreed" to the $20 billion escrow fund, wonder no more....
In the end, one aim of the fund—and a prime reason BP agreed to it—will be to minimize lawsuits against the company. To do that, Mr. Feinberg will offer big lump-sum payments to workers and businesses as an enticement to stay out of court.
"At some point, I will have to make an offer—'You take this amount in full satisfaction of your claim, but only if you waive your right to future litigation,'" Mr. Feinberg said. "And if I package it right, people will see that it makes no sense to fight it out in court."
Ding ding ding ding.
Now there's the reason for it folks.
There was never a reason for BP to agree to this fund unless they got something in return. Now we know what it was - a means to cap off liability claims against the company, which could otherwise bankrupt them.
If you remember, on the 15th BP's head said he had "no intention" of establishing an escrow account - under oath in Congressional testimony.
So what "changed his mind?" Read more.
Worry Underwater: Oxygen Levels Drop as Oil Continues to Flow
Marine Animals Crowd Shallow Gulf Waters as Worries Over Oxygen Levels Grow
By Matt Gutman and Sadie Bass | ABC News
Biologists told ABC News that the entire food chain had been disrupted -- partly from the mass of oil and partly because the oil has sapped the water of oxygen. "What we're really witnessing may be a shift in the whole ecosystem feeding structure, the food web," said Bob Shipp, director of marine biology at the University of Southern Alabama. "It also may be altered permanently -- as we've seen in other parts of the world where these things happen." The oil spill has disturbed plant life too. Algae cannot survive if there isn't enough oxygen in the water, and a loss of algae could damage the ecosystem and the fisheries that rely on marine life.
Evidence of marine biologists' doomsday scenario thrashes in the Gulf waters as sharks crowd into shallow waters.
Marine biologists say the sea animals flee the spill zone the way others would flee a forest fire. With thousands of gallons of oil contaminating their natural habitats, marine creatures press into oil-free waters.
"Their habitat is shrinking, tens of thousands of square miles are affected, and animals moving away from them," said Mobi Salangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. "There are changes in food, the food they eat and their prey."
Plumes of dense oil in shallow waters, up to 50 feet below the surface, have sucked up oxygen. Tests by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab usually show oxygen levels in the shallow waters at nearly eight parts per million. They're now down to two parts per million -- four times lower than normal. Read more.
BP Oil Spill Disaster: Two Killed in Accidents; Containment Cap Removed After Robot Sub Collision
Gulf of Mexico Well Leaking at Nearly Full Force Until Repairs Can Be Made
By Ned Potter | ABC News
Oil from the BP oil spill disaster is spewing again into the Gulf of Mexico at nearly full force after a venting system connected the so-called containment cap over the blown-out wellhead was damaged in an accident with a robot sub, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the commander in charge of the government's effort to control the 65-day-old spill.
Separately, Allen said two cleanup workers have died in unrelated accidents in the Gulf, the first deaths reported since 11 people died in when Deepwater Horizon drilling rig burned and began the crisis in April.
Allen said the small sub bumped into the venting system connected to the containment cap. That sent gas rising through the plumbing that sends warm water down to the cap to prevent solid crystals -- known as hydrates -- from forming in the cap.
"They are checking the containment cap right now," said Allen at a midday briefing in Washington. "If there are no hydrates in the containment cap, they will attempt to reinstall the containment cap and begin producing later on today. If there are hydrates they will probably have to re-run the pipeline and that'll take a considerable amount longer."
Before the problem with the containment cap, Allen said it had collected about 700,000 gallons of oil in the previous 24 hours. Another 438,000 gallons were burned. Read more.
Hear the horrors of the front lines and behind scenes workings of the BP Gulf Oil Spill Catastrophe.
BP is blocking access to rescuing turtles and is incinerating turtles in the oil. Interview by Catherine Craig.
TomDispatch: Michael T. Klare: BP-Style Extreme Energy Nightmares to Come, Four Scenarios for the Next Energy Mega-Disaster
From TomDispatch this afternoon: In our extreme energy era, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico isn't a one-shot disaster but an arrow pointing to a nightmarish future -- Michael T. Klare, "BP-Style Extreme Energy Nightmares to Come, Four Scenarios for the Next Energy Mega-Disaster."
If you think the catastrophe in the Gulf is some kind of anomalous event (needing only better safety regulations), think again. "The only question is," writes energy expert and TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, "What will the next Deepwater Horizon disaster look like (other than another Deepwater Horizon disaster)?"
In his latest post, Klare offers four striking scenarios for future energy catastrophies in a world desperate for ever tougher-to-find, tougher-to-extract fossil fuels in ever more geologically, environmentally, and politically unsafe areas. A giant oil platform off Newfoundland is destroyed by an iceberg in a fierce north Atlantic winter storm in 2018. ("As a result, one of the world’s most prolific fishing grounds -- the Grand Banks off Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Cape Cod -- is thoroughly poisoned.") The U.S. finds itself in a literal quagmire oil war in Nigeria in 2013. A rare cyclone hits Brazil's "pre-salt" oil rigs, drilling for energy a mile and half under the water and from beneath two-and-a-half miles of shifting sand and salt, in 2020. ("In a matter of weeks, parts of Brazil’s coastal waters have become a 'dead ocean.'”) In 2022, China and Japan launch a resource war over disputed natural gas fields in the East China Sea amid environmental disaster.
None of these particular catastrophes is guaranteed to happen -- though all are based scrupulously on what's known today -- but what's guaranteed is an era of "extreme energy nightmares."
Another great post from Klare. This is must-read stuff.
"Let Them Eat Oil"
By Cindy Sheehan
I am now on an airplane heading home (for two days) after my very profound and moving experience in the Gulf Region.
Monday, June 21st, a few dozen activists, scientists, environmentalists and concerned citizens gathered in front of the Deepwater Horizon Response Unified Command Center to present our list of demands to the office that houses BP and 14 Federal Agencies (the FBI also has offices in the building).
We pulled this protest together in two days and I was gratified at the turnout (one woman, Cyndie, came up from Florida) and especially with the turnout from the media. Usually the corporate media presents some hostility, but not today. After my interviews, many of them said words to this affect: "Thank you for being here to help us call attention to this disaster." Wow! Even the jaded press realizes what an enormous tragedy this is!
A U.S. judge Tuesday ruled against the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the wake of the BP oil spill. The White House, which had hoped the ban would provide time to ensure other wells are operating safely, immediately said it planned to appeal.
The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by drilling companies to reverse the ban imposed by the Department of Interior, which halted the approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling at 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.
District Judge Martin Feldman said the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning and that the moratorium seems to assume that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs countered that "continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened does not make any sense and ... potentially puts the safety of those on the rigs and the safety of the environment in the Gulf at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford right now."
During a two-hour hearing Monday, plaintiffs' attorney Carl Rosenblum had argued that the suspension could prove more economically devastating than the spill itself. "This is an unprecedented industrywide shutdown. Never before has the government done this," Rosenblum said.
Interior countered that while 33 deepwater drilling sites were affected, there are still 3,600 oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf. Read more.
June 21, 2010 4:13 PM
Katie Couric flies into the front line of the Gulf disaster to get a first-hand look at the complicated operation to recover and burn off millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf every day.
"Gasland" Premieres on HBO Tonight, Monday, June 21st. Download House Party Guide. Click here for the latest information and resources.
This first is a cut of one I just posted, elsewhere, to show at least a little of what has been going on. But as to this agency I have added just a few, and there's plenty more, links to how the previous administration as well as the republican controlled congresses nearly gutted OSHA, but it isn't only OSHA as we've seen as to regulations and the countries well being, they had eight plus years to nearly destroy everything about this once envied country and it's innovations, workforce and research etc.!
BP enlists Kevin Costner to clean up spill
Energy giant buys 32 machines manufactured by the actor's company to fight oil spill in Gulf of Mexico
Three centrifugal oil-water separating machines manufactured by a company founded by Hollywood actor Kevin Costner are on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Energy giant BP PLC has purchased 32 of the machines from the Costner's Ocean Therapy Solutions to fight the oil spill in the Gulf caused by a broken well head leaking up to 60,000 barrels of oil a day.
The 2,000-kilogram machines will be deployed along 193 kilometres of the oil-scarred Louisiana shoreline over the next 60 days, according to Ocean officials, and three are headed there this weekend.
Costner said the machines can separate oil and water at a rate of 757 litres a minute without the use of chemical agents.Read more.
BP CEO Tony Hayward says the reservoir that feeds the gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico probably still holds about 2 billion gallons of oil.
Appearing before a House subcommittee, Hayward estimated that the reservoir tapped by the out-of-control well holds at least 50 million barrels of oil. At 42 gallons per barrel, that's 2.1 billion gallons. Read more.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is not just an industrial accident – it is a violent wound inflicted on the Earth itself. In this special report from the Gulf coast, a leading author and activist shows how it lays bare the hubris at the heart of capitalism
Everyone gathered for the town hall meeting had been repeatedly instructed to show civility to the gentlemen from BP and the federal government. These fine folks had made time in their busy schedules to come to a high school gymnasium on a Tuesday night in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, one of many coastal communities where brown poison was slithering through the marshes, part of what has come to be described as the largest environmental disaster in US history.
"Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to," the chair of the meeting pleaded one last time before opening the floor for questions.
And for a while the crowd, mostly made up of fishing families, showed remarkable restraint. They listened patiently to Larry Thomas, a genial BP public relations flack, as he told them that he was committed to "doing better" to process their claims for lost revenue – then passed all the details off to a markedly less friendly subcontractor. They heard out the suit from the Environmental Protection Agency as he informed them that, contrary to what they have read about the lack of testing and the product being banned in Britain, the chemical dispersant being sprayed on the oil in massive quantities was really perfectly safe.
But patience started running out by the third time Ed Stanton, a coast guard captain, took to the podium to reassure them that "the coast guard intends to make sure that BP cleans it up".
"Put it in writing!" someone shouted out. By now the air conditioning had shut itself off and the coolers of Budweiser were running low. A shrimper named Matt O'Brien approached the mic. "We don't need to hear this anymore," he declared, hands on hips. It didn't matter what assurances they were offered because, he explained, "we just don't trust you guys!" And with that, such a loud cheer rose up from the floor you'd have thought the Oilers (the unfortunately named school football team) had scored a touchdown. Read more.
Failure of Rig’s Last Line of Defense Tied to Myriad Factors
By David Barstow, Laura Dodd, James Glanz, Stephanie Saul and Ian Urbina | NY Times
Excerpt: An examination by The New York Times highlights the chasm between the oil industry’s assertions about the reliability of its blowout preventers and a more complex reality. It reveals that the federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure.
It also shows that the Obama administration failed to grapple with either the well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers or the sufficiency of the nation’s drilling regulations even as it made plans this spring to expand offshore oil exploration.
“What happened to all the stakeholders — Congress, environmental groups, industry, the government — all stakeholders involved were lulled into a sense of what has turned out to be false security,” David J. Hayes, the deputy interior secretary, said in an interview.
Even in one significant instance where the Minerals Management Service did act, it appears to have neglected to enforce a rule that required oil companies to submit proof that their blind shear rams would in fact work.
As it turns out, records and interviews show, blind shear rams can be surprisingly vulnerable. There are many ways for them to fail, some unavoidable, some exacerbated by the stunning water depths at which oil companies have begun to explore. Read more, watch video.
Local power: tapping distributed energy in 21st-century cities
By David Roberts | Grist
Residents of Hammarby Sjöstad, a district on the south side of Stockholm, Sweden, don't let their waste go to waste. Every building in the district boasts an array of pneumatic tubes, like larger versions of the ones that whooshed checks from cars to bank tellers back in the day. One tube carries combustible waste to a plant where it is burned to make heat and electricity. Another zips food waste and other biomatter away to be composted and made into fertilizer. Yet another takes recyclables to a sorting facility.
Meanwhile, wastewater is taken to a treatment plant, from whence it emerges as biosolids for more compost, biogas for heat and transportation fuel, and pure water to cool a power plant, which also runs on biofuels grown with the biosolids. Looking at a chart of all this is enough to induce dizziness. "In terms of what you can do at the local level for energy efficiency and renewable energy, it's incredible. It's just amazing," says Joan Fitzgerald, author of Emerald Cities (Oxford University Press, 2010).
After they are done, district authorities hope Hammarby Sjöstad will produce about half its power independently, a task made easier by the fact that residents, thanks to a broad range of efficiency and conservation measures, will consume half the energy of the average Swede (who already consumes only about 75 percent as much as the average American). These intrepid Swedish urbanites are pushing the envelope on a phenomenon catching on in cities across the developed world: "distributed energy."
Appalachia mine permit system suspended; coal miners angry
By Steve James | Reuters
Federal authorities suspended the mine permitting process in six states on Thursday, prompting the coal industry to charge the Obama administration was targeting surface mining and that the change would hurt the economies of the poor Appalachian region.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency that issues permits relating to waterways, said it is suspending the NWP 21 permit system that covers dumping of earth and rocks in rivers and streams.
The system is in effect nationwide, but will be suspended in parts of traditional mining states of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Companies proposing surface mines in that region that discharge dredged or fill material into waterways will now have to obtain an individual permit from the Department of the Army under the Clean Water Act, it said. That will prolong an already long and costly process, mining experts said. Read more.
Estimates from at least two sources have determined the cost of cleanup for the BP oil disaster at up to $100 billion, while Moody’s on Friday lowered BP’s credit rating amidst concerns that the initial $20 billon escrow account to be funded by BP would only be a fraction of what is needed for the cleanup. Standard and Poor’s lowered BP’s credit rating on Thursday citing numerous “challenges and uncertainties.”
Reuters reported on Thursday that Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy stated that the total cost of the oil spill could be anywhere from $40 billion to $100 billion. Read more.