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Barbier rules out RICO charges, turns back Anadarko; Strange vows continued pursuit of BP; Kent Wells' deceptive graphics; NA archeological finds revealed and threatened by spill clean-up; Capping stack anniversary taken to the streets in LA; Guerilla theater disrupts BP-funded opera; BP's "new and improved" safety protocols appropriate for all, says BOEMRE; Latest lobbyists for BP? Spies!; BP can't even haul by land without mishaps.

You are in the current Gulf Watchers BP Catastrophe - AUV #538. ROV #537 is here.

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Part one of the digest of diaries is here and part two is here.

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Barbier Throws Out Rico Charges
 Despite accusations that BP was deceptive in claiming safety standards and protocols that did not exist, federal judge Carl Barbier has ruled out racketeering charges against the company.  
Gulf residents and businesses alleged that BP defrauded regulators in connection with the safety of its drilling operations, its ability to respond to any oil spill, and its response to the actual spill. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO law, was originally enacted to combat the Mafia.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans dismissed the claims, saying there is no proof the plaintiffs were directly harmed by the alleged racketeering. The decision does not affect other damage claims still pending against BP and others from the same plaintiffs. A trial is scheduled for February to determine whether Transocean can limit what it pays claimants under maritime law and to assign percentages of fault to Transocean and other companies involved in the disaster.

Additionally, Barbier set aside a lawsuit brought by Anadarko against BP, seeking to exempt themselves from fines to be paid by BP and its partners.

[Barbier] stayed Anadarko's claims because its contract with BP required arbitration of such disputes, rather than litigation. BP was the majority owner of the well that blew out. Anadarko owned a minority stake. Transocean owned the rig that BP was leasing to drill its Macondo well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

Anadarko brought suit against BP claiming that BP alone, through their own actions, is responsible for the Macondo blowout.

BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to stall the lawsuit, contending that a partnership agreement required the companies to first attempt arbitration to resolve disputes. Barbier today sent the claim to arbitration.

“Anadarko has not met its burden to overcome the presumption in favor of arbitration,” Barbier said in his ruling. “Accordingly, Anadarko’s claim against BP must be stayed pursuant to the arbitration clause” in the joint operating agreement between the parties, he said.

Today’s decision “does nothing to diminish our claims,” John Christiansen, Anadarko’s spokesman, said in an e-mail. “It simply addresses the venue in which they may be resolved.”

“Plaintiffs’ failure to allege a direct relationship between BP’s alleged defrauding of government regulators and their economic injuries is the fatal flaw,” said Barbier.

The three key partners in Macondo -- BP, Transocean, and Anadarko -- had, according to BP, agreed to take all disagreements to arbitration before seeking court remedies.

While declining to comment on Barbier's ruling, BP spokesman Scott Dean sent an e-mail stating: "Anadarko has blatantly disregarded its responsibilities to the residents of the Gulf Coast by failing to pay its fair share of the costs relating to the accident and resulting spill.  BP remains focused on ensuring that Anadarko lives up to its obligations."

What BP does about their own obligations is, of course, anyone's guess.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, lead attorney in all states' suits filed against BP, vows he'll continue to hold BP to their (empty) promise to "make whole again" the victims of the spill.
“That’s what we’re after, holding them accountable to that promise,” Strange said at the Foley Civic Center. “They can either do it voluntarily or the court’s going to make them do it, we’re going to make them do it.”

Strange called the litigation to determine the liability for the spill “one of the most complex” in U.S. history, though he expected the process to move swiftly. A federal trial is set for February in New Orleans.

“This won’t be an Exxon Valdez situation where we’re sitting here 25 years from now, worrying about, ‘When are we going to be getting our money?’ and appealing this case,” Strange said during his speech to the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce. “Everybody wants to get this settled quickly, brought to a conclusion quickly, because we need the money, we need to get this behind us and move forward.”

Last week, the oil giant asked the Gulf Coast Claims Facility to reduce damage payments because of the recovery of the tourist economy and fishing industry. Strange called the request “ridiculous.”

“I think it’s outrageous that they would say that,” Strange told the Press-Register after the speech. “I was very sorry to see them make that statement. It’s ridiculous.”

Speaking of ridiculous, remember all those charts behind Kent Wells during his mid-crisis briefings?  The ones that showed all that progress?  Yeah, well, turns out... not so much.  But they sure did look like progress, didn't they?

Stephen Few does for images what George Lakoff does for language.

In an article called BP Oil Collection – Is the Effort Really Improving?, Few discusses a particular slide Wells showed, that would seem to indicate a steady rise in oil collection during the spill.

[Wells] talks about adjustments that they’ve made to the siphon, then says “Here you can see how we’ve continued to ramp up.” But is this really what’s happening?
[Kent and his pretty picture]
Although the graph doesn’t outright lie, BP is relying on the viewer’s assumption that a series of bars that increases in height represents an increase in performance. In this case it does not, however, because the bars display the cumulative amount of oil collected per day, not the daily amount. In my graph below, which shows daily oil collection, the story is obviously quite different.
[Reality bites back]
While the amount of collection increased in the beginning, it has decreased or held steady for the last four days and is now well below the average amount of daily collection for this period as a whole. Things are definitely not getting better. How do you spin bad news like this? One way is to create a misleading graph, but cover your ass by doing it in a way that isn’t an outright lie.

Oil-spill cleanup turns up Indian relics in Fourchon area
Pottery, weapons, bones both human and animal, all critical finds from the area's mound dwellers of more than a millennium ago have been unearthed during clean-up efforts.  But just as quickly as these extraordinary finds are revealed, they are at risk of being lost to oil damage or erosion before they can be properly studied.
So far, teams of archaeologists hired by the oil giant have visited more than 100 sites and sent back a growing list of finds to labs for radiocarbon dating and other tests, though extensive excavations haven't been done. Scholars have also accompanied cleanup crews to make sure they don't unwittingly throw away relics.

The disaster that began when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in April of 2010 has highlighted the urgent need to protect the sites, but a government scientist says neither their discovery — nor the money to study them — would have come as quickly without the spill.

"We're filling in gaps. There is some pioneering archaeological work going on as a result of the oil spill," said Larry Murphy, lead archeologist for a council of government agencies and trustees overseeing the oil cleanup.

He said uncovering the sites, many of them prehistoric, represents "a great leap in cumulative knowledge" about Native Americans in coastal Louisiana, who have been less studied than their counterparts in other regions.

Still, the oil represents an added threat to an area that already was under siege from land loss and rising sea levels. Oil has contaminated some artifacts and can interfere with radiocarbon dating, a primary technique for determining the age of an object. Many shores are still scattered with tar balls.

The locations of the sites have not been revealed so as to prevent looting.

Prehistoric artifacts had been found and recorded on the headland before the spill, but not to the extent now being done. Travirca began finding more of them while keeping watch for BP's black oil last summer on a remote stretch of beach that looks onto the silhouettes of oil rigs and platforms. The headland was one of the hardest-hit spots.

"I was walking on marine shell, rangia clam shell, walking out on a point I know, when I looked down, found a pot sherd, and then I started finding more and more," Travirca recalled.

Travirca, of coastal Louisiana Indian heritage himself, works for the Wisner Foundation, a New Orleans-based public land trust that owns vast tracts of the headland. He's also a member of the Louisiana Archeological Society, and has submitted his research to it.

Travirca believes many artifacts he's finding come from middens, or mounds where families lived and buried their dead. Perhaps, he says, some of the dwellings were built along a meandering bayou that's been lost to sea level rise and land loss. Many artifacts appear to be washing in.

Archaeologists say the sites date to around 700 A.D., well before the earliest known European contact in the 1500s.
"To me it would have been like a small subdivision," Travirca said as he walked the sands and looked for artifacts. "You would have had three, four family units, huts; the women making pottery, the men making (weapon) points."

As he walked, pointing out tar balls left over from the BP spill, his eyes scanned the beach, awash in driftwood and trash from oil platforms and shrimp boats — hard hats, propane tanks, a tied-up trash bag full of waste from an offshore kitchen.

Amid the debris, he spotted something. He leaned over and picked up what looked like a piece of brown wood.

"That's a piece of pottery," he said, inspecting the smooth curved fragment in his hands. "You see this piece has been in the water a while. You see that barnacle right there."

Much more detail at the link.

Photos from the Times-Picayune -
Photos of anti=BP demonstration in New Orleans at the one-year anniversary of the placement and closing of the capping stack..

‘Guerilla Ballet’ disrupts BP-sponsored opera event in Trafalgar Square
Three ballet dancers interrupted BP’s third and final Summer Screen in Trafalgar Square[1], 30 minutes before the scheduled broadcast of the opera Cinderella began. The disturbance took the form of a short piece of dance based on Swan Lake [2], with the classic tale used as analogy for BP’s controversial investment in the Canadian tar sands [3],[4]. The performance featured the White Swan being smeared by an oily substance and suffocated with a cloth. The crowd of opera-lovers were very receptive, greeting the grand finale with applause and cheers.

Charlie Byers, who played the prince, explained: “The tar sands are one of the biggest threats to the future of our climate [5]; they are also destroying local communities and wildlife, trampling indigenous rights, and running Canada out of water and natural gas. It is a key time to pressure BP to withdraw, as the corporation has already substantially invested in the tar sands but will not start profiting for years to come.”

Emily Coats, a campaigner with the UK Tar Sands Network, who played the White Swan Odette, said: “Most people have never heard of tar sands, and BP would be happy to keep it that way. We used classical dance – an unusual campaigning medium – to introduce the issue to a new audience. The performance was meant to be enjoyed, but also to shock, with a visible struggle between a vulnerable creature and a powerful oil giant.”

Will McCallum, of campaign group Art of Activism, who played the ‘BP’ villain Rothbart, said: “By sponsoring the Summer Screens, BP is bringing art to thousands of people, but it is also creating a false image which hides its dirty investments. Public pressure has in the past caused institutions to stop accepting sponsorship from destructive companies. Without being able to put its name by our beloved cultural institutions, BP would suffer a real blow to its public legitimacy.”

I love that story.  Makes me happy.

BP vows to tighten its standards for any future drilling in Gulf

I'm sorry... I need a few moments to stop laughing.

(Wild laughter cascades through the halls of Gulf Watchers)

Okay.  I'm better now.  Thanks.  

(Suppresses giggle.)

No.  Really.

Signaling its desire to resume Gulf Coast operations, the oil giant BP said Friday that it is ready to implement more stringent standards for any future drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

"BP's commitment in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident is not only to restore the economic and environmental conditions among the affected areas of the Gulf Coast, but also to apply what we have learned to improve the way we operate," BP group chief executive Bob Dudley said. "We believe the commitments we have outlined today will promote greater levels of safety and preparedness in deepwater drilling."

BP Exploration and Production Inc. made its intentions known in a letter to Michael Bromwich, director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, who was the sole witness at a hearing Friday morning of the House Natural Resources Committee on his reform of the regulatory regime.
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., the top Democrat on the Natural Resources panel and a supporter of tighter regulation of drilling operations, suggested to Bromwich that perhaps BP's new regimen should be applied to other oil companies.

Bromwich said that while these augmented standards might find their way into new rules being developed by his agency, he would not want to introduce new standards in the meantime.

But under prodding from Markey, Bromwich acknowledged that the other four major oil companies [including Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell] could afford the additional practices that BP has pledged itself to.

Bromwich also told Republicans on the House committee, who have been bitterly critical of the pace of permitting, that their proposed budget for the next fiscal year would only slow its work, by depriving it of about 20 new permitting personnel and 50 inspectors.

At the outset of the hearing, Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said that lawmakers had provided BOEMRE with "significant additional funding." But Bromwich said it was $35 million below what the president had requested.

He also said the Republican narrative that his agency was involved in some kind of "slowmatorium" on permitting, as Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, called it, was based on outdated data and a shopworn "narrative."

The sharpest, and least cordial exchanges, were, as usual, between Bromwich and Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, who tangled over the pace of permitting for work plugging and abandoning idle wells, and Bromwich's assertion that contractors -- and not just operators -- should be subject to BOEMRE's authority.
Landry also criticized Bromwich's indication that BOEMRE's authority should extend to contractors.

"I'm not a big-government guy, in case it never occurred to you," Landry said. "I'm concerned you want to extend your reach into service contractors."

Landry said that BOEMRE should continue to confine its regulation to operators, who he said would punish rogue contractors by not hiring them.

But Bromwich said that, while he had no intention to impose new regulations on contractors, it made no sense not to go after them when an investigation into a spill or other mishap revealed "extremely egregious" problems on their part. It would, he said, be "silly and misguided" not to.

BP promises safer drilling after oil spill, without admitting flaws

BP PLC promised improved drilling practices on Friday as the company balances twin aims of rebuilding investor and public confidence after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and not admitting flaws in its own procedures.

BP said it would in future more closely oversee the work of its contractors, echoing its position that the rig blast, which killed 11 men and led to the spill, was the fault of its contractors, including driller Transocean and Halliburton.

The companies have filed lawsuits worth tens of billions of dollars blaming each other for the blast, and any admission by BP that its existing drilling procedures needed improvements could weaken its legal position.

BP said it would also establish centres for monitoring its drilling wells in real time — something some rivals already do and which might have prevented the well blow-out which caused the disaster.

The London-based company declined to comment on whether it was addressing shortcomings in its own internal procedures that were highlighted in government investigations, such as its reliance on a single barrier to keep oil and gas in the well.
“BP clearly understands that they have to win back not only the regulators’ confidence, but the confidence of the public as well,” the head of the U.S. offshore drilling regulator Michael Bromwich said at a congressional hearing in Washington.

BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley[...] has declined to say whether BP was adopting enhanced well design measures, although Bromwich told reporters on the sidelines of a conference last month that BP had told his agency it was adopting improved internal standards in such areas as well design.

More specifically:

BP said that with regard to its drilling operations in the Gulf in the future it will:

—Require that one of its engineers or an independent third-party monitor conduct lab testing of the cement used to seal its deepwater wells. It will provide the results to government officials.

—Require extra precautions be taken with blowout preventers used on rigs it leases to drill its wells. The measures involve using blowout preventers with extra shearing devices that would cut through drill pipe and seal a well in the event of a mishap.

—Include in its oil spill response plan information about enhanced response measures based on lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The cement and blowout preventer used with BP's well and the oil spill response plan it employed during the disaster all came under fire in numerous investigations of the disaster by the government, Congress and the companies involved.

New drilling rules have been imposed, a high-tech system for capping a blown-out well and containing the oil has been built, and regulators have taken steps to ramp up oversight of the industry.

But industry experts have said that despite the extra measures taken by government and industry since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, they believe another disaster could happen again.

They have noted that the effectiveness of the much-touted containment system has been questioned, and a design flaw in the blowout preventers widely used across the industry has been identified but not corrected.

The Houston Chronicle makes this important point:

Although BP is a financial partner in several offshore oil and natural gas projects launched since last year's spill, the company has not received the government's permission to take the lead role in operating any new wells.

Bureau officials have said there is no agreement with BP to let it resume offshore drilling, and Bromwich stressed that any of its drilling proposals still will be judged individually on their merits. The agency doesn't disclose applications from specific companies.

We know BP is dishonest enough to present wildly misleading graphics (see above), arrogant enough to lie about the amounts of oil both spilled and collected during the Macondo disaster (see anywhere), and immoral enough to negotiate the release of a convicted terrorist to the nation that backed him (see perfidy).  What else could they possibly do to demonstrate their utter contempt -- now that Tony's videos have been yanked by a judge from the internet -- for all human life forms with which they must "cooperate" in order to reap their filthy reward?

Why, they could hire former spies to do their lobbying!  

As you might expect, that practice has caused some raised voices.  As you may not have expected, those raised voices have little to do with the absolute cynicism of such hirings.

Ex-MI6 spy lands BP job

A top spy is at the centre of a row after being hired by BP as a highly-paid lobbyist immediately after taking early retirement.

The former MI6 officer, a Russia and China specialist, has been given an influential role at the heart of the oil giant, where he is believed to receive double his previous salary.

His appointment has raised fears of a ‘revolving-door’ policy in which former spies are taken on by companies soon after leaving the security services so their knowledge can be tapped for commercial gain.

The former spy is one of at least 12 senior MI6 officers, called the ‘Dirty Dozen’, who had six figure pay-offs as part of a confidential deal with the Treasury when they accepted early retirement earlier this year.
Other former MI6 officers hired by BP include Sir Mark Allen, a special adviser since 2004 on their Middle East interests.

While at MI6, Sir Mark brokered negotiations to rehabilitate Colonel Gaddafi with the West and the release of the Lockerbie bomber. He hosted a series of meetings at the Travellers Club in Pall Mall.

After joining BP, he flew to Libya with the company’s then chief Lord Browne to negotiate with Gaddafi.  

Sir Mark is still active in protecting BP’s assets in Libya and last year he was summoned to appear before a US senate committee investigating the oil giant’s role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
A Whitehall source and BP said that the latest MI6 appointment had been cleared by the Government.

Of course it had.

On a Long Haul: Truck pulls hundreds of tons through Belmont County

Granted, this isn't really big news, unless you're stuck in a West Virginia traffic jam caused by a 407,000-pound turbine BP will be using to generate power....  Still, it has a certain familiar feeling to it...

At Bellaire Harbor, situated near the East Ohio Regional Water Authority's sewage treatment plant, it will be placed on barges and floated down the Ohio and then the Mississippi River. It is expected to arrive in Baku, Azerbaijan, in four months.

The turbine was made at a Rolls Royce factory in Mount Vernon, Ohio. It is the first of three such units, with two others expected to travel through Belmont County at later dates. The turbines will be operated by BP.

Oops, sorry -- that's not the funny part.  This is the part that's... well... maybe not so funny, when you really think about it...

Dubbed a "superload," it reached the Ohio Valley Mall after 11 a.m. following a couple of delays due to mechanical problems, including when a hydraulic line on the hauling truck burst and had to be fixed.

Can't these bastards do anything without mechanical failures causing leaks?

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:
7-15-11 08:11 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party--WTF? Nobody home? Phil S 33
7-13-11 03:50 PM Gulf Watchers Wednesday -Hey BP... We Haven't Recovered! - BP Catastrophe AUV #537 shanesnana
7-10-11 12:13 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Generating an Alternative Reality - BP Catastrophe AUV #536 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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