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Need Another Reason to Hate British Petroleum?

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Need Another Reason
to Hate British Petroleum?
by C. L. Cook
Of course, you that hate need no more reasons to despise BP, author of what is now touted as "the worst environmental disaster in American history," but here's something else to consider: Even as the biosphere in and around the Gulf is laid waste to, BP is pressing on with contracts to develop oil and gas fields in the high north where their safety and environmental record is already abysmal.
 
And now I hear the state of Indiana is greenlighting BP's dumping of mercury into Lake Michigan! 
 
Bobby Carmichael of USA Today today reports an Indiana refinery will be allowed, under permit of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, to continue dumping, yes continue, pounds of the toxic material. This despite a 1.3 ounce annual allowable spill/dump allowance as spelled out in federal regulations designed to protect the Great Lakes, enacted in 1995. 
 
And in case anyone missed the irony of this abeyance to federal law allowed the profligate planet killer BP it gets better: The plant is a stone's throw away from the president's Chicago stomping grounds; and, the poisoning will go ahead in spite of the objections of Mr. Obama's number one man in the White House, Rahm Emanuel.
 
White House chief of staff, Emanuel impotently complained in the House last week;
 
"With one permit, this company and this state are undoing years of work to keep pollution out of our Great Lakes."
 
According to the Toxic Release Inventory, British Petroleum's Whiting, Indiana plant, perched on the state border with Illinois, has reported "releasing" (read: dumped) three pounds of Mercury into the lake for each of the years between 2002-2005.  Carmichael is quick to add; BP's permit to permanently pollute Lake Michigan was granted last July, but since the company's recent moment in the media limelight it is only now stirring up public controversy.
 
But, not to worry, the Obama administration is on top of the issue; they demand BP begin meeting federal standards by 2012. 
 
Carmichael reminds us:

"Studies have shown that mercury, a neurotoxin, is absorbed by fish and can be harmful if eaten in significant quantities, particularly by pregnant women and children. Each of the eight Great Lakes states warns residents to avoid certain kinds of fish or limit consumption. The permit comes as the states, working with the federal government, are trying to implement the $20 billion Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, an umbrella plan to restore the health of the lakes signed in late 2005."
 
Bobby Carmichael goes on to say, Indiana officials say the amount of mercury released by BP was "minor".
 
Am I alone in believing we are past the point of crazy?

Emily Green of the Sierra Club's Great Lakes project expressed her concern, saying;
 
"Lake Michigan is like a giant bathtub with a really, really slow drain and a dripping faucet, so the toxics build up over time."
 
And all those drips are headed straight for the St. Lawrence River.
 
BP is getting far less scrutiny north of the 49th parallel than it deserves. In the far north, at Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, Truthout's Jason Leopold reports on the North's "Gulf" disaster to come.
 
According to the BP workers Leopold talked to, things are even worse than in the Gulf at the company's Alaska operations. Leopold writes;
 
"[T]he Prudhoe Bay oil field, in a remote corner of North America on Alaska's north shore, is in danger. After a serious oil spill last November and other mishaps, the BP employees fingered a long list of safety issues that have not been adequately addressed, making the Prudhoe Bay oilfield vulnerable to a devastating accident that potentially could rival the havoc in the Gulf.

""The condition of the [Prudhoe Bay] field is a lot worse and in my opinion a lot more dangerous," said Marc Kovac, who has worked for BP on Alaska's North Slope for more than three decades. "We still have hundreds of miles of rotting pipe ready to break that needs to be replaced. We are totally unprepared for a large spill."

"Kovac, a mechanic and welder who is the steward of the United Steelworkers union local 4959, said a lot of employees share his feelings, but "don't want to risk their jobs for speaking out." Kovac said he was willing to take the risk because BP has been slow to deal with the Prudhoe Bay problems and that "many lives are at stake.""
 
Off Canada's shores, at the bottom of the frigid Beaufort Sea, BP too has eyes to develop deep water wells. The company had the temerity recently to tell a Canadian parliamentary committee drilling at the bottom of the Beaufort would be no problem. They say the cold temperatures would actually mitigate the effects of any, highly unlikely, well blowout.
 
Veteran reporter Dave Lindorff at This Can't Be Happening is dubious of BP's claims. He wonders what would happen to the millions of barrels of oil seeping out of a blowout in the Beaufort when Winter's icy appearance would halt any reclamation operations. Lindorff says;
 
"BP has paid $1.8 billion for drilling rights in Canada’s sector of the Beaufort Sea, about 150 miles north of the Northwest Territories coastline, an area which global warming has freed of ice in summer months. And it wants to drill there as cheaply as possible. The problem is that a blowout like the one that struck the Deepwater Horizon, if it occurred near the middle or end of summer, would mean it would be impossible for the oil company to drill a relief well until the following summer, because the return of ice floes would make drilling impossible all winter. That would mean an undersea wild well would be left to spew its contents out under the ice for perhaps eight or nine months, where its ecological havoc would be incalculable."
 
Incalculable describes too the monumental lunacy of the moment; where serial crimes against the environment are not punished but permitted, as the offenders dictate the law to the offended.
 
And late in: a BP subsidiary has been given the go-ahead to destroy a pristine area of my province, British Columbia in search of coal-bed methane.
 
Madness.
 

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