OK

BP secretly renegotiates contract, secures "stranglehold" over Iraq oilfields; Hayward oversees "environment, health and safety" (fox, henhouse, carnage) for Glencore in MN; Impatience on both sides of XL pipeline, and Upton tells Big Fat Lies; Environmental protester sentenced to two years; Health crisis worsens a year after spill; Russian refineries accused of "thousands" of violations; Mississippi plume could threaten Gulf; Arctic scientist suspended; Remembering Ken Sara-Wiwa's epic battle against Shell; Oil and Gas Industry Profit Reports Spark Latest Outcry Against Subsidies; Svanberg on the hotseat

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BP 'has gained stranglehold over Iraq' after oilfield deal is rewritten
On a day when the New York Times reports that security in Iraq has fallen to perilously low levels, and that it “remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work,” news breaks that BP rejiggered its contract with Iraq to, among other advantages, keep their oil and money flowing even during civil disruptions.
BP has been accused of taking a "stranglehold" on the Iraqi economy after the Baghdad government agreed to pay the British firm even when oil is not being produced by the Rumaila field, confidential documents reveal.

The original deal for operating Iraq's largest field – half as big as the entire North Sea – has been rewritten so that BP will be immediately compensated for civil disruption or government decisions to cut production.

This potentially could influence the policy decisions made by Iraq in relation to the Opec oil cartel, and is a major step away from the original terms of an auction deal signed in the summer of 2009, critics claim.

"Iraq's oil auctions were portrayed as a model of transparency and a negotiating victory for the Iraqi government," said Greg Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq.

"Now we see the reality was the opposite: a backroom deal that gave BP a stranglehold on the Iraqi economy, and even influence over the decisions of Opec."

95% of Iraq's foreign earnings are from oil.
The Iraq government argued in 2009, when the agreement was signed, that the country had got a superb deal, and this was endorsed by western oil analysts surprised that BP agreed to such terms.

The documents seen by the Observer show that the terms of the original agreement proposed by the Iraqi oil ministry, under which BP comes in as a contractor and operator rather than owner, have been amended to put the British-based company and its Chinese partner in a far more advantageous position.

Section 12.5 of this revised technical service contract shows that BP and its Chinese partner CNPC can obtain payments for "government imposed curtailment" – which could cover quota demands made on Iraq by Opec. This also applies to disruption to the transport of oil – "curtailments of transporter to receive net production at the transfer point through no fault of the contractor or operator".
...
The original draft makes no reference to any "payment of lost income"; it merely suggests that BP and the government should share the cost by increasing the lifetime of the production agreement. There are other significant changes to the original contract, including one to raise the threshold at which project cost payments must be approved by the government from $50m to $100m (£61m) – something that Platform believes could open the door to abuse.

The changes are likely to anger internal critics of the Baghdad regime, many of whom were suspicious of the original deal. It will also increase the prejudice of those who saw the UK's involvement in toppling Saddam as part of a "war for oil".
...
The enormous concessions have been obtained in behind-the-scenes negotiations over terms for the Rumaila field since the deal was originally signed. Industry analysts believe the Iraqi project is more important than ever to BP at a time when investors are accusing it of lacking any vision for growth. BP declined to comment on the grounds that the contract was confidential, but industry sources said the oil company had always insisted any changes in the contract conditions were for "clarification purposes" only.

PLATFORM reports:

During the second half of 2009, Iraq held two auctions of its largest oilfields, awarding them to multinational companies such as BP, Shell and ExxonMobil to operate under 20-year contracts. Between them the oilfields account for over 60% of Iraq’s reserves. The contracts were service contracts rather than the companies’ preferred production sharing agreements, which had been proposed for Iraq but rejected as giving too much away.

Media reports of the auction focused on the headline remuneration fees. These sounded so low – between $1.15 and $5.50 per barrel – that many commentators questioned the profitability of the deals. But as always in oil contracts, the devil is in the detail. And whereas the auctions were billed by the Iraqi government as among the world’s most transparent contracting processes, this briefing reveals what subsequently happened behind closed doors to make the contracts much more attractive to the multinational companies, at the expense of the Iraqi people.

The first contract awarded, for the Rumaila field in southern Iraq, was privately renegotiated between the Iraqi government and the winning BP/CNPC consortium for more than three months after the auction. PLATFORM has obtained the renegotiated Rumaila contract, and can reveal its contents for the first time. The report "From Glass Box to Smoke Filled Room - How BP secretly renegotiated its Iraqi oil contract, and how Iraqis will pay the price" looks at this contract and finds that the terms changed significantly from the published model contract on which the auction was based.

PLATFORM offers the following .pdf downloads:
Report: From Glass Box to Smoke Filled Room
Original contract
Leaked contract






Duke of Disaster and former BP CEO Tony Hayward is now working for Swiss commodities trader Glencore International.  Glencore deals in the usual corporate superpower materials: metals, minerals, energy, and agriculture.  And tony Tony is their head of environment, health, and safety.  

Sure sounds like a punchline to me.  And yet...

Tony Hayward to oversee environment and safety at Glencore

[...] Glencore, the giant global commodities company and the primary investor in PolyMet, which is proposing to launch the controversial open pit copper mine in Hoyt Lakes, Minn.

PolyMet is seeking environmental permits for a hardrock sulfide mine near the cities of Biwabik and Hoyt Lakes, MN.

MinnPost's Don Shelby, fresh from a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, explains his concerns about Hayward and the PolyMet mine:

   

PolyMet is just the first of many hardrock mining operations in line to seek permits. PolyMet is outside the BWCA watershed. If there is a pollution problem, it will affect the Embarrass, Partridge and St. Louis Rivers and Lake Superior. The others, if they are permitted to operate and then discharge toxic waste, as nearly every other such mining operation has, the pollution will flow into the pristine boundary waters where I just drank unfiltered lake water. The discharge of toxic waste into the BWCA is not just a pollution problem, it will be, for millions of people, the end of the world. That's not a pollution problem.

Then, of course, there's the matter of Glencore's human rights record and environmental history.

Ex-BP chief now flashpoint in Iron Range mine fight

To have Tony Hayward "leading the way sends chills down my spine," said Nancy Gibson, founder of Ely's International Wolf Center and a board member of Conservation Minnesota's political arm.
...
Hayward was appointed to the Glencore board several months ago, in the wake of the giant commodities company's transition from private to publicly held through an $11 billion stock offering earlier this year.

The change has opened up Glencore, once viewed as highly secretive, to greater scrutiny. It was mired in controversy when founded in 1974 by commodities broker Marc Rich, who fled to Switzerland after being charged by U.S. authorities with selling oil to Iran during the 1979-81 hostage crisis.

After Rich left Glencore in the mid-1990s, it rapidly grew into one of the world's largest -- and lowest-profile -- companies. It develops, trades and processes commodities, minerals, oil and agricultural products on every continent.

Frank Moe, former DFL [Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party] legislator, sent a detailed e-mail to Minnesota legislators, the Governor, and state environmental officials outlining Glencore's "tragic environmental and human rights record," (which, unsurprisingly, a Glencore spokesman called an inaccurate assessment).

Glencore's subsidiary, Mopani Copper Mines in Zambia, "has ignored" environmental rules and routinely has sulfur dioxide emissions over 70 times the legal limit, Moe said.

Glencore spokesman Simon Buerk said those emissions occurred before Glencore acquired the mine. It's invested more than $2 billion in the property, significantly reducing sulfur dioxide emissions, and has agreed with the Zambian government to eliminate them altogether by 2015.

However, Glencore also has been embroiled in financial controversy in connection with the mine, which Moe described as "massive fraud and tax evasion accusations." In May, the European Investment Bank suspended all lending to Glencore, citing "serious concerns" with its governance. The bank is investigating a $50 million loan it made to Glencore for pollution equipment at the Zambian mine, but said its concerns "go far beyond" that investment.

At the time, Glencore said it welcomed the inquiry and expected to be exonerated. On Thursday, Buerk said "we have repeatedly set the record straight on these allegations, which are based on a flawed study which the Zambian government has publicly described as incomplete. Mopani's accounts have been audited ... every year and always given a clean bill of health," he said.

Conservation Minnesota says of Glencore and their recent hire:

Sulfide mining is already like nothing we've ever seen in Minnesota. The technique extracts copper, nickel and other metals from open pit mines usually located under or near lakes and rivers. Around the nation and the world, it has created an environmental catastrophe 100 percent of the time.  In Wisconsin, taxpayers are stuck cleaning up a mine that's been polluting the Flambeau River 13 years after it closed.

Because it's so risky, sulfide mines often have trouble finding investors. PolyMet is no exception.  For the past two years, PolyMet has relied solely on a $50 million investment from one company, Glencore.  In the decades since it formed, Glencore has racked up an appalling list of human rights abuses, illegal dealings with terrorist regimes, and devastating environmental contamination.

Glencore's recent hiring of Hayward as its expert advisor on health, safety and environment is a shocking example of how out of touch the company is with the need to safely do business.

Moe's e-mail contains a summary of some of Glencore's misdeads, and says, in part:

The following summary is just a brief history of the Glencore's tragic environmental and human rights record.  Its recent hiring of Tony Hayward, the former disgraced BP CEO who presided over the largest oil spill in US history, as Glencore's Director of Environmental Health and Safety speaks volumes of where this company's priorities truly are.

At the link, you'll find he cites a source for every charge he lays on Glencore.
Glencore’s legacy is one of human rights violations, massive environmental contamination, child labor atrocities and then taking the money and running.  To punctuate that history Glencore has just hired Tony Hayward, the BP CEO who presided over the Gulf Oil Spill, as its new environment and safety expert.
...
Sulfide mining, the process used to extract the non-iron metals from the ore, has a perfect history.  Its record of creating environmental disasters is 100%.   There’s no question about it, no matter what is said about new mining technologies, how they’ve learned their lessons, how they will return the site to its natural state, their history is clear.  Polymet/Glencore is most likely to drag out in court any efforts by the state or federal government to make them stop polluting the surrounding lakes, rivers and streams.  When the mine is no longer profitable it will be abandoned, leaving the state and the Minnesota tax payer with the impossible task of cleaning up the mess.  And make no mistake, the mess will be massive and toxic.  Sulfide pollution will have run off in both directions polluting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the north and Lake Superior to the south and east.

Polymet/Glencore is saying if they are required to put up a bond or get adequate insurance to cover the real cost of cleanup or restoration costs, it’s a deal breaker.  They can’t afford it.  If a huge multinational mining company can’t afford to clean up its mess, how will the Minnesota tax payer be able to afford it when they leave?  They also have a history of just bankrupting the front corporation that’s running the mine when it’s no longer profitable, again leaving us without the jobs and with a huge toxic mess and no way to clean it up.
...
Glencore's rampage on the Colombian people includes colluding with the Colombian air force in 2010 to burn homes in indigenous communities, wounding several people, and even killing an infant. Described as a "massacre" by a representative of the affected Wayuu Indians, Glencore forced people to evacuate entire villages by using chemical explosions and military force so that it could expand its mine.


Further human rights violations, he writes, are rampant in Africa.
[T]here are no safety measures at Glencore's Katanga mines in Congo. Most notably, miners aren't protected from uranium radiation and often crawl into hand-excavated cavities which frequently cave in following days of rain. Also in Congo, Glencore uses intermediaries to buy minerals from so-called "artisanal mines" which employ about 30,000 children who are particularly valuable to the operation because their smaller sizes allow them to crawl into the smallest of crevices to extract minerals.
...
The second chapter of Glencore's story is its abysmal environmental record. Glencore’s environmental practices have been described to be “In the dark ages” when compared with its rivals.

Glencore's subsidiary, Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) in Zambia has ignored environmental regulations and routinely has sulfur dioxide emissions over seventy times the legal limit.  The emissions flow over the surrounding already impoverished communities who have no resources to fight the pollution.
Glencore’s history of environmental contamination has global investors wary.


Much more on these stories at the links.


Put That in Your Pipeline and Smoke It  (h/t DawnN)
Congressman Fred Upton says Keystone XL pipeline can 'essentially eliminate' U.S. dependency on Middle Eastern oil imports
...And an energy economist says (not in so many words) that Upton's a big fat liar.
U.S. Rep Fred Upton said that the United States can "essentially eliminate" dependence on Middle Eastern oil imports by allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to be created.

Upton was interviewed by CNBC a day after the House passed the North American-Made Energy Security Act, which would speed up the final decisions whether to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

The nearly 2,000-mile pipeline would provide 1.3 million barrels of oil to the United States each day as well as create more than 100,000 jobs, according to a release from Upton.


Upton told CNBC:
"According to the Department of Energy, this one project will "essentially eliminate" oil imports from the Middle East. It will create more than 100,000 jobs and strengthen our relationship with a close ally and trading partner. A project like this should be a no-brainer, and there's simply no good reason it has been stuck in the State Department's red tape for nearly three years."
...
In an interview with Reuters, energy economist Phil Verleger said the idea that the pipeline would "essentially eliminate" Middle Eastern oil imports a "fairy tale."

"The United States believes in free trade, and if the oil is priced right, we will get it from the Middle East," he is quoted as saying in the article.

The pipeline has caused concern among environmentalists because there is no regulation that differs between regular crude oil and diluted bitumen.

A press release issued by the National Wildlife Federation, points that TransCanada's newest pipeline, Keystone, has leaked 12 times in the past year. The pipeline was closed for a week in May by federal regulators.

The type of oil that will be shipped in Keystone XL pipeline, diluted bitumen, is the same kind that spilled more than 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in July 2010.

State Dept's Timetable for Keystone XL Pipeline Decision Irks Both Sides

Rep. Lee Terry and Sen. Mike Johanns might share some of the same constituents in Nebraska. But the two Republicans have mighty vast differences in their respective approaches to a controversial $7 billion oil sands pipeline seemingly destined to slice through the biological heart and lungs of their home state.

Terry's "fierce urgency of now" approach is reflected in a fast-tracked bill the seven-term lawmaker authored that would force the Obama administration to reach a decision about TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline by Nov. 1. It soared through the full GOP-majority House Tuesday evening on a 279-147 vote.

However, Johanns has predicted that the North American-Made Energy Security Act (H.R. 1938) doesn't have a prayer of sneaking through the upper chamber.

Alternatively, the rookie senator and former Agriculture Department secretary has politely but firmly coaxed the State Department to reconsider sullying Nebraska's fragile sandhills landscape and thirst-quenching Ogallala Aquifer with a 36-inch diameter underground pipeline.

Conservation organizations dismissed the House vote as a handout to the fossil fuels industry during a Tuesday teleconference with reporters.

It's one more indication that House Republican leadership is pushing harmful and destructive bills at the behest of Big Oil instead of becoming serious about solving the country's severe energy policy shortcomings, said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs with the League of Conservation Voters.

The White House announced its opposition to Terry's bill Monday. A two-paragraph statement from the Office of Management and Budget labeled the bill as "unnecessary" because the State Department has already committed to reaching a decision by the end of this year.

"Further, the bill conflicts with long-standing executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and the secretary of state," the statement read. "[It] could prevent the thorough consideration of complex issues which could have serious security, safety, environmental and other ramifications."


TransCanada has shown a more unruffled response.  Over-confident, even.
"We'll let the process in Congress take the steps it is taking," TransCanada spokesman James Millar told SolveClimate News in a telephone interview. "We'll let the politicians deal with that. More of our focus is on our relationship with the Department of State."

TransCanada is encouraged that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems intent on following through with a decision by Dec. 31.


Clinton's involvement is based on the fact that it's an international deal, and the make-or-break decision lies with her.
Thus far, Keystone XL has been under review by U.S. authorities just shy of three years. December would mark 40 months. TransCanada's other similarly named heavy crude pipeline — known simply as Keystone — took 23 months to approve, Millar pointed out.
...
[W]atchdogs remain leery that despite all the talk about careful review, federal authorities are intent on giving the green light to Keystone XL in the name of energy security and in response to pressure from oil interests.

They are curious how the State Department can continue to issue what they label superficial instead of substantive documents when EPA specialists have insisted they respond to a litany of direct queries. Never mind, they add, that the Keystone pipeline has experienced a dozen leaks since it opened in June 2010, that Keystone XL proponents are overpromising on the number of jobs for Americans and that some economists claim Midwesterners will pay 10 cents to 20 cents more per gallon of gas if the proposed pipeline is built.  

"It's clear we need a better regulatory structure," Tony Iallonardo, a spokesman with the National Wildlife Foundation, told SolveClimate News in an interview. "We still have the view that the process is broken. The State Department does not have the expertise in the oil market, public health or public safety to make these decisions."

Having Clinton's team proceed with a Keystone XL review is putting the cart before the horse, he continued. Oil sands crude is heavier and more toxic and corrosive than conventional oil, he said, adding that the recent array of pipeline ruptures should serve as an alarm that pipeline operators need to be able to account for exactly what type of fuel is flowing when and where.


The article is quite comprehensive and link-heavy, and well worth taking the time to read.

If you've had enough of this story, feel free to move on to the next one.  For those seeking more complete background, SolveClimateNews is a gold mine.  From February:
Pipeline Corrosion and Safety Issues Take Spotlight in Keystone XL Debate

Environmental organizations are recommending that the U.S. State Department put a controversial and potentially dangerous Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline on hold until safety issues are fully understood and addressed via government oversight.

Pipelines transporting oil sands crude raise the risk of spills and damage to waterways, aquifers, ecosystems and communities because they are carrying a highly corrosive and acidic blend of diluted bitumen and volatile natural gas liquid condensate, according to the report released this week.
...
At issue is Keystone XL, a 1702-mile, $7 billion pipeline that Calgary-based TransCanada wants to construct from tar sands mines in its home province of Alberta to oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
...
Due to the international nature of Keystone XL, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's team is tasked with granting a thumbs up or down to TransCanada's request for a presidential permit to build and operate infrastructure being designed to pump up to 900,000 barrels of heavy crude daily.
...
The Natural Resources Defense Council joined research forces with the Pipeline Safety Trust, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club to publish "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks."

"Tar sands extraction in Canada destroys boreal forests and wetlands, causes high levels of greenhouse gas pollution, and leaves behind immense lakes of toxic waste," the report states. "Less well understood, however, is the increased risk and potential harm that can be caused by transporting the raw form of tar sands oil [bitumen] through pipelines to refineries."
...
The 16-page report(.pdf) describes diluted bitumen as a raw and thick form of tar sands oil that is significantly more acidic and corrosive than standard oil and requires increased heat and pressure to move through pipelines. Those attributes make it more difficult to clean up after a spill.

Plus, that different chemical composition — five to 10 times as much sulfur as conventional crude and more chloride salts — can weaken pipelines and make them susceptible to breaking during pressure spikes. As well, researchers found that refiners are discovering more quartz sand and other solid material in diluted bitumen that essentially sandblasts pipe interiors.

An analysis in the report points out that Alberta's pipeline system — which is newer and carries more oil sands — has experienced 16 times more safety incidences due to internal corrosion than the U.S. pipeline system.
...
Diluted bitumen is the primary product transported on Keystone, which runs from Alberta to Illinois and Oklahoma. Both conventional oil and tar sands oil are shipped via the Lakehead system that goes from the Canadian border to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

If built, Keystone XL's six-state U.S. portion would stretch 1,375 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.  Leaks of diluted bitumen on that pipeline would threaten the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground water source in the Midwest and Great Plains that supports agriculture and provides drinking water for millions.

Michigan's Kalamazoo River is still fouled by the aftermath of a rupture along an Enbridge pipeline between Indiana and Ontario that dumped more than 800,000 gallons of oil last July. Submerged oil means an Environmental Protection Agency-enforced ban on wading, swimming and fishing along a 30-mile stretch of the river remains in place.

The report highlights how pipeline spills in the Upper Midwest threaten the Great Lakes, which account for one-fifth of the world's freshwater. It also describes the risks that pipe ruptures in the central U.S. pose to other iconic waterways and already-compromised landscapes that provide crucial habitat for birds, fish and other creatures.
...
A Canadian regulatory agency issued a lengthy news release [...]  claiming NRDC's analysis of pipeline data were flawed and resulted in misleading and incorrect conclusions.

However, NRDC countered the statement, saying that Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board based its argument on an earlier and incomplete version of the report from December.

From early June of this year:
EPA Smacks State Department Again: Oil Sands Pipeline Analysis 'Insufficient'

EPA authorities are still far from satisfied with the State Department’s ongoing environmental review of a controversial 1,702-mile pipeline that would pump diluted bitumen from Alberta, Canada’s tar sands mines to Gulf Coast oil refineries.

The department’s second effort not only falls short by failing to fully address safety and oil spill risks along a less-than-satisfactory route of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, but it also misses the mark on calculating lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, potential damage to wetlands and migratory birds, and the dangers to at-risk communities along the six-state route, according to an Environmental Protection Agency document released Tuesday.

EPA gave the State Department its lowest grade of “inadequate” back in July 2010 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team issued its first draft of the environmental review on Keystone XL. That harsh dressing-down forced the department to collect more data before completing a revamped draft in mid-April.

But evidently the State Department still hasn’t done enough homework.

Even though EPA bumped up its grade on this second attempt from “inadequate” to “insufficient information,” the agency noted that it has “identified significant environmental impacts that must be avoided … to provide adequate protection to the environment.”
...
With two drafts completed, the State Department is now tasked with writing what is supposed to be its final environmental review of the Keystone XL.
...
Despite the environmental hoops the State Department seems to have to jump through, watchdogs still fear authorities are intent on giving the green light to Keystone XL in the name of energy security and in response to pressure from oil interests.

If that happens, rules under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) allow other Cabinet secretaries to challenge that decision. That would put the pipeline ball in the president’s court.

In addition to EPA, other “cooperating agencies” on the Keystone XL review team include the Departments of Energy and Transportation.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which coordinates NEPA, is responsible for ensuring that the State Department’s environmental impact statement is executed correctly, National Wildlife Federation senior vice president Jeremy Symons said in a teleconference about Keystone XL with reporters Tuesday.

“So, ultimately the buck stops with the president on this,” emphasized Symons, who said earlier he was alarmed the president wasn’t already intervening in what he called a broken process. “I certainly believe President Obama needs to get more involved with this process because the State Department isn’t handling it appropriately.”

Then there's the involvement of those Fabulous Koch Boys.
Koch Brothers Positioned To Be Big Winners If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved

What's been left out of the ferocious debate over the pipeline [...] is the prospect that if president Obama allows a permit for the Keystone XL to be granted, he would be handing a big victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his bitterest political enemies and among the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda.

The two brothers together own virtually all of Koch Industries Inc. — a giant oil conglomerate headquartered in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenues estimated to be $100 billion.

A SolveClimate News analysis, based on publicly available records, shows that Koch Industries is already responsible for close to 25 percent of the oil sands crude that is imported into the United States, and is well-positioned to benefit from increasing Canadian oil imports.
...
The Koch brothers are not run-of-the-mill political opponents. An investigative report last year by the New Yorker magazine on the secretive and deep-pocketed pair have shown them to be "waging a war against Obama."  They have bankrolled the Tea Party movement, climate change skepticism and right-wing think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Through Flint Hills Resources LP based in Wichita, Kan., the Koch brothers provided $1 million in 2010 to the failed effort to suspend California’s groundbreaking 2006 global warming law.

After the 2010 midterm elections, they have become established at the center of GOP power, according to The Los Angeles Times. The paper reported this week that Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
...
"The Koch brothers are architects of the dirty energy strategy, both in Washington and through their commercial interests," Jeremy Symons of the Reston, Va.-based National Wildlife Federation said. "It wouldn't make any sense at all for the president to give this pipeline project the thumbs up and undermine his own clean energy efforts."


Once again, much more and many links at the originals.




Environmentalist Sentenced to 2 Years in Jail for Pranking Oil Companies
Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher has been sentenced to a two years in jail on felony charges for an ultimately harmless prank he pulled on oil companies in 2009.

Meanwhile, not a single BP executive or crooked banker who decimated public pensions by placing them in toxic investments they themselves were betting against has ever faced felony prosecution. What’s wrong with this picture?


During the Bush years (Baby Doc, that is), there was a federal auction of Utah land.  DeChristopher bid aggressively on 22,000 acres of wildlife reserve, won the parcel, then admitted he didn't have the money to pay for it.  But his bidding had snatched it out from under energy companies, which was his sole motive all along.
Ultimately, this didn’t make the land unsellable to energy companies—it simply disrupted an auction. For this, DeChristopher was convicted on two felony charges and yesterday sentenced to two years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

What’s more, in DeChristopher’s trial it appears the US District Judge skewed the standard mores of the American legal system to pursue especially harsh treatment for him.

Even though motive is considered an essential part of the value of a crime, in this particular case Judge Dee Benson decided that motive could not be considered by the jury in the case. “We’re not here about why he did it,” Judge Benson said, “We’re here about whether he did it.”


In a highly irregular move, the judge refused to allow DeChristopher's defense attorney to explain his motive: that he “saw the auction as both illegal and contributing to the ‘exacerbation of global warming and climate change.’”
Meanwhile, none of the BP executives, including former CEO Tony Hayward, who presided over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which caused irrevocable personal and environmental damage, have ever been prosecuted for a felony. Nor have the corrupt financial titans who decimated the savings of ordinary Americans with investments they themselves were betting against.
...
Not one BP executive or corrupt banker will ever see the inside of a jail. And yet, for pranking oil companies to make his point, Tim DeChristopher gets two years.

Why? Because those are our priorities. Corporate well-being will always take precedence over that of individual or planetary well-being.





BP Disaster a Year Later, Healthcare Crisis Worsens
When news of the disastrous BP oil well explosion reached the residents of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana last April, Mayor Tim Kerner did the only thing he could think of to stop the oil from destroying his community. He encouraged everyone in his town to join him on the water, working day and night throughout the disaster to clean-up the spill.
...
"I'm afraid my neighbors will come to me and say, I wouldn't have listened to you and kept my job if I knew it would kill me," Kerner said.

Kerner's story was one of many shared by Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, at a briefing Wednesday evening, the day after she led a delegation to the Gulf Coast to assess the scope of the emerging healthcare crisis in the wake of the BP drilling disaster.

"The residents are sick," Kennedy told IPS. "They don't know what the exact cause of their illness is, but because they never suffered this way before the spill and they were all out on their fishing boats throughout the clean-up, they suspect this has something to do with the toxins."

According to Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade - an environmental justice group that partnered with Tulane University's Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy to conduct an on- the-ground survey of residents living in impacted communities - nearly 75 percent of those who believe they were exposed to crude oil or dispersant reported experiencing symptoms consistent with chemical exposure.
...
Kennedy told IPS that local physicians are hesitant to link their patients' symptoms to the oil.

"They don't have the expertise to make a diagnosis in toxicology, they don't know how to treat that diagnosis, and if they do attempt to treat it, they risk losing their medical licenses," she said.


In these primarily rural areas, access to specialists like toxicologists is unlikely.
"Even where that expertise is available, few can afford the expensive tests and medicines needed to treat toxic poisoning," she continued.
...
"They don't have the medical staff able to understand the effects of these toxins...so [patient's complaints] sound very fanciful and are quite often written off," said Steven Bradberry, executive director of the New Orleans-based Alliance Institute, which hosted the delegation.

Kennedy and her colleagues are pushing Congress to establish a group of low-cost medical centers to deal with just such problems.
Their appeal has critical timing, as the explosive budget debate currently rocking Capitol Hill has been rife with calls to slash funds for programmes like Medicare, that are crucial to the livelihoods of low-income oil spill victims with new health concerns.

"We think it's a serious crisis and the federal government needs to grab hold of this in a more aggressive way and provide the wherewithal to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of people who were impacted by the spill have their health care protected,"
Phil Johnston, a member of the RFK Center's board, emphasised.
...
"We found that in past disasters, the folks who were filing claims did not have to show proof of causation. All they had to do was say they were ill, they were at this place or in this location, and so it was. Their claims were taken care of," Michele Roberts, campaign and policy coordinator for AEHR, told IPS.

However, in the case of the BP Oil Spill Compensation Fund, Gulf residents have learned that their claims are denied if they cannot provide proof that BP and its dispersant are the exact cause of their illness, Roberts said, calling the inconsistency "a direct human rights violation."

Rolfes is equally unimpressed with BP's compensation efforts.

"You look around, you don't see health clinics, all you see are BP- sponsored ads around town and in newspapers that say everything is fine," Rolfes told IPS. "It's not fine. Until I see health centres being built in every parish where there was an impact, I haven't seen an adequate response."

"What we need is healthcare now and that should be funded by BP," Rolfes added. "It's not right for the tax payer to pick up the tab for BP's oil disaster."

Sidebar: Long-Term Impact Needs Long-Term Funding

Edward Trapido, associate dean for research and professor of epidemiology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, told IPS that the short term health impact observed in the year following the BP oil disaster could be minimal compared the the longer term effects on the population.

"Nobody has ever looked long term at the health of the population following a major oil spill," Trapido said.

"We know that there were carcinogens in the oil. We know that there is entry into some levels of the food chain. But we don't know what the hazards are of ingesting food that potentially could have evidence of contamination and these things are not answers we can get today and they are going to be the kinds of answers that will take multiple years of funding."
...
Trapido called on the corporations responsible for the disaster to shoulder the long-term commitment necessary for determining the real health impact of the spill.

"It's hard to imagine any other possibility," Trapido told IPS. "I would be inclined to think that BP in this case has a moral obligation to support long term studies of human health related to oil spill exposure, and they should want to know, from the point of view of their own workers, what the long term effects are because they can do a better job of mitigating the impact of future oil spills on their own workforce."

Trapido of called BP's initial commitment of 500 million dollars towards research "a good down payment.

"But I would like to see a 20 year-long commitment," Trapido said.






Russian Refineries Accused of ‘Thousands’ of Safety Violations
Russia’s industrial safety watchdog discovered “thousands” of violations in a national inspection of oil refineries.
...
The Ryazan refinery, owned by TNK-BP, the Russian oil producer half-owned by BP Plc, is “in particularly bad shape,” he said. “It will require major investment to bring it into normal condition.”

TNK-BP has received the results of the inspection and plans to submit a detailed plan to the watchdog, Dmitry Sergeev, a spokesman for the company, said by telephone.

“TNK-BP is working in close cooperation with the inspection and oversight agencies and is pleased with the objective nature of the inspection,” he said.

I'm shocked -- shocked -- to find there is gambling in Casablanca.




Mississippi plume could threaten life in Gulf
More than a trillion gallons of polluted water — a volume equal to Tampa Bay — cascaded from the flood-swollen Mississippi Delta watershed into the Gulf of Mexico daily during May. Now, scientists say, the vast plume could trigger toxic algae blooms and harm sea life as far away as Southwest Florida and the Florida Keys.

Some of that dirty water is circulating in a large 10,800-square-mile eddy about 150 miles west of Sarasota. Another smaller, but more concentrated slug is flowing southeast toward the Florida Keys.

Loaded with nutrients, pesticides and other land-based pollutants, the contaminated water may feed blooms of toxic algae or create marine-life-killing "dead zones."
...
River flows to the Gulf in May were the highest recorded since 1973 and the rate of discharge to the Gulf exceeded records going back to 1930, according to a report in June.

That report predicted an unprecedented dead zone forming in the northern Gulf as a result. The dead zone is caused by a proliferation of algae and bacteria that rob the sea of oxygen, suffocating the creatures trapped in it.

But the algae-spawning Mississippi plume is spreading to other areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

If it reaches the Florida Keys and lingers it could damage coral reefs and fish that inhabit them. It also could stir up toxic material left over from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, said Jerry Ault, a biologist with the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
...
The BP spill and the Mississippi floodwater have compounded chronic strains on the Gulf from oil and gas extraction, overfishing and storm-water runoff.

"The Gulf is under significant pressure," Ault said.

The dead zone's size depends on the amount of nutrients in the Mississippi and the weather. A stormy season mixes oxygen into the water. More calm weather this year could contribute to a record-breaking dead zone covering an area the size of Delaware and New Jersey combined.

Mississippi water usually flows west, muddying the northern Texas beaches. The difference this year is the Mississippi's volume, impacting a wider area of the Gulf.
...
Even if the Mississippi water causes little discernible negative effects for Southwest Florida or the Keys, large species of fish that swim in Southwest Florida waters rely on the northern Gulf for a seasonal feast of menhaden — a small baitfish that usually flourishes in riverine plume waters.

"That area where the Mississippi comes out is super important as a prey source," Ault said, suggesting that recent blows from oil and pollution could lead to major fish kills or chronic reproductive problems that appear much later. "It's this combination of effects. It's not a single source. We're adding to a stressed situation."






Arctic scientist who exposed climate threat to polar bear is suspended
It was seen as one of the most distressing effects of climate change ever recorded: polar bears dying of exhaustion after being stranded between melting patches of Arctic sea ice.

But now the government scientist who first warned of the threat to polar bears in a warming Arctic has been suspended and his work put under official investigation for possible scientific misconduct.

Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist [employed by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement], oversaw much of the scientific work for the government agency that has been examining drilling in the Arctic. He managed about $50m (£30.5m) in research projects.
...
"You have to wonder: this is the guy in charge of all the science in the Arctic and he is being suspended just now as an arm of the interior department is getting ready to make its decision on offshore drilling in the Arctic seas," said Jeff Ruch, president of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "This is a cautionary tale with a deeply chilling message for any federal scientist who dares to publish groundbreaking research on conditions in the Arctic."

The group filed an official complaint on Monnett's behalf on Thursday, accusing the government of persecuting the (PDF) scientist and interfering with his work. It seeks his reinstatement and a public apology.
...
[In 2006] Monnett and a colleague published an article in the science journal Polar Biology, writing: "Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues."

The paper quickly heightened public concern for the polar bear. Al Gore, citing the paper, used polar bear footage in his film Inconvenient Truth. Campaigners focused on the bears to push George Bush to act on climate change, and in 2008, the government designated the animal a threatened species.

It was the first animal to be classed as a victim of climate change.


BOEMRE began investigating Monnett's work in 2010, and he was suspended without pay on July 18, presumably under gag order.  A BOEMRE spokesperson said the agency will continue research on the impact of drilling in the Arctic regardless of Monnett's suspension.
Other organisations [...] accused the government agency of a long record of meddling in science. A 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office found huge gaps in Boemre's research on the impacts of drilling in the Arctic. And the Alaska Wilderness League stated: "Alaska Boemre has continued to ignore science and traditional knowledge in its decision-making about oil and gas development."





Please, please, please go here for a remembrance of Ken Sara-Wiwa, murdered (yes, I'm committing libel) by Royal Dutch Shell in 1995.  It can't be done proper justice here.




Oil and Gas Industry Profit Reports Spark Latest Outcry Against Subsidies
Congressional Democrats and environmentalists are resurrecting their calls to end a suite of tax breaks for the oil industry as the largest energy companies have announced their second quarter profits this week and debt discussions are dominating Capitol Hill debates.

The Senate in May voted down a proposal from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that would have repealed several tax breaks for the largest oil companies in order to pay down the deficit by $21 billion over the next decade. The vote came as both parties in Washington tried to score political victories from the soaring oil and gasoline prices plaguing the nation.

The Senate vote in May failed, but that has not stopped some lawmakers from continuing their calls to strip the industry of the tax incentives.

"America is swimming in debt, and oil companies are swimming in profits, yet Republicans continue to defend giving these companies special tax breaks that could help reduce the deficit if they were repealed," Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. "Instead of asking seniors for a cut in Medicare or Social Security, it's time for the oil companies to do their part and contribute to solving our debt crisis."


As the debt limit arguments debates reach fever pitch and oil companies report record-breaking second-quarter profits, environmentalists and Democrats are amping up their argument for the slashing of subsidies to the oil and gas industry.
Earlier this week, BP PLC reported second-quarter earnings of $5.6 billion, a hefty improvement over the same quarter last year when it reported a net loss of $17 billion related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- but down 21 percent from the $7.1 billion in profits posted during the first three months of this year.

"BP's 'disappointing' quarter of only $5.6 billion in profits shows just how absurd their taxpayer subsidies are," Menendez said in a statement. "Without them, BP would have had to scrape by with just $5.5 billion in profits this quarter."

"Why some in Congress think BP deserves these extra profits but seniors do not deserve Medicare is beyond me," Menendez added. "We need a balanced approach to reducing the deficit."

Yesterday, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC reported 41 percent and 97 percent increases in profits, respectively. Exxon Mobil earned $10.7 billion in April, May and June of 2011. Shell earned $8.7 billion during the same time period. Chevron Corp. will announce its earnings today.

"It's outrageous for taxpayers to be writing checks to the oil industry at the very moment when we're talking about austerity budgets due to lack of revenue," Oceana senior campaign director Jacqueline Savitz said in a statement. "Why should those who are posting record profits be exempt from sharing the sacrifices we all will be making?"


Oil company mouthpieces and the American Petroleum Institute are making noises about how the enormous profits are critical to the industry's future stability.  The API even released an analysis tying industry profits to the well-being of the American economy.
"When our industry does well, much of America does well also," Kyle Isakower, API's vice president of regulatory and economic policy, said in a briefing with reporters Monday, adding that the industry's reinvestment drives "economic progress and translates to billions of jobs supported, vast amounts of retirement income protected and billions in government revenue generated."

Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum sounded the same note yesterday. "When you see big headline numbers come from a company like Shell, it relates directly back to the size of the company. So when the business is doing reasonably well, the numbers are going to be very large," he told reporters after a speech in Washington, D.C. "I think the real question is the amount of profit that's been made based on the business that we do and what are we doing with that money in terms of reinvestment."

"You basically see us investing at higher levels than we have profit coming into the company," he added. "But then also recognizing the stimulus that the economy, revenue to the federal government, and so forth, it comes from having that business take place.

And he took the argument a step further.

"More oil and gas production, more energy production means more revenue into the federal government. Getting it through additional taxes, which disincentivizes more development, is the wrong way to do it."



Shareholders target BP chairman
The role of Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s chairman, whose position came under fire last year in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill, is under scrutiny again amid investor dissatisfaction over the oil group’s lack of clarity on its strategic
direction.

Several top-15 shareholders have warned that they want to see evidence of momentum by the UK oil group in the next few months
in the wake of Tuesday’s disappointing earnings.
...
[A] well-informed shareholder added: “The focus is still on the chairman. There is a view that he is not providing sufficient leadership, direction or urgency.”
...
Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, acknowledged on Tuesday that investors were impatient and signalled the company was not being idle in its “internal thinking” about strategy. He stressed, however, that BP had always said 2011 was “a year of consolidation”.

Top-15 investors contacted by the Financial Times conceded that the group had been unable to communicate fully with them in the first six months of the year – when it was focused on arbitration
proceedings with its Russian partners in TNK-BP over the Rosneft alliance – and noted that Mr Svanberg had been more proactive in recent weeks. Mr Dudley is also expected to meet shareholders in the coming days as part of a regular roadshow after results.

However, they stressed that board leadership remained an issue.


BP investors impatient over lack of momentum
[BP's] investors want more, and faster. With BP’s share price still trading below the level it was at before last year’s accident, shareholders are getting impatient. Several top 15 shareholders contacted by the Financial Times after the results expressed their frustration with what they said was a lack of momentum. Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s chairman, is also under scrutiny.

“There is a view that he is not providing sufficient leadership, direction or urgency,” said one well-informed investor.

Some want BP to adopt a “shrink-to-grow” strategy and keep on selling assets.  Analysts have also focused on whether it should follow the example of ConocoPhillips and split off its refining and marketing arm.

Bob Dudley, chief executive, said on Tuesday they were well aware of investors’ impatience. He hinted the company was further ahead in its thinking than it has so far made public.





Florida lawsuit against GCCF removed to federal court
A Florida state lawsuit against Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) Administrator Kenneth Feinberg has been removed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

In June, Tampa attorney Brian Donovan filed suit against Feinberg and the GCCF, claiming the process "starves" claimants before paying a "miniscule percent of all damages."
...
Feinberg and the GCCF have been harshly criticized by plaintiff attorneys in the massive multidistrict litigation (MDL) surrounding the oil spill, which is taking place in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
...
This week, the plaintiff steering committee (PSC) filed a motion seeking a special master to oversee the GCCF.

The PSC's motion claims that BP uses "coercive" tactics when dealing with claimants seeking compensation through the GCCF.

The motion asks U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the MDL, to appoint a special master to ensure BP and the GCCF are OPA compliant.

The motion also asks that Barbier place a hold on releases signed by claimants who gave up their right to sue BP in exchange for quick payments.

The motion claims that the GCCF is violating OPA by only paying 16 percent of interim claims filed.

"This telling statistic demonstrates that the GCCF continues to follow the BP litigation mandate of settling as many claims as possible to reduce the size of the putative class," the motion states.

"The abject failure of the interim claims process administered by the GCCF is the latest, and most troubling, in a long line of actions by BP designed to 'close the books' on the oil spill."


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asked for an idependent audit of the claims facility last week; Feinberg said he'd begin one before the end of this year.
Alabama, Mississippi Florida and Louisiana all filed memos criticizing Feinberg and the GCCF.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's memo claimed that Feinberg was not complying with OPA.

In March, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange wrote a memo that said the GCCF payments "do not amount to much" and Alabama residents have been "reduced to begging for handouts from an organization ... whose primary missions seems to be turning them down."

In April, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed a request that Barbier intervene in the GCCF process.

Feinberg's attorneys fired back against critics who say the GCCF has given out too few payments since it was established.

"To date, in just nine months of operation, the GCCF has paid almost $4 billion to over 174,000 claimants in honoring approximately 300,000 claims," it states. "In the face of such overwhelming statistics, the [Mississippi] Attorney General's naked claims of malfeasance ... must be summarily dismissed."

The Louisiana legislature also expressed concern with the GCCF and has formed a special committee to oversee the claims process.

In Florida state court, a marine salvage company filed a lawsuit against Feinberg and the GCCF alleging that they committed negligence and fraud in the claims process.

Conversely, BP has criticized Feinberg and the GCCF for handing out payments that are too high and that there "is no credible support for adopting an artificially high future loss."


PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!

Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
c
7-29-11 06:31 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party - Chop Wood, Carry Water - DIY Edition Lorinda Pike
7-27-11 04:35 PM Gulf Watchers Wednesday -BP's Dudley Disappoints - BP Catastrophe AUV #541 shanesnana
7-24-11 12:13 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Who Knows Where The Money Goes - BP Catastrophe AUV #540 Lorinda Pike
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.
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