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May 16, 2005

Oh Give Me A Home, Where the Caribou Roam...

Guest: cntodd

What was the number 1 most under-reported news story from the past 30 days? I’ll give you a hint: Alaska, oil spill, British Petroleum.

Actually, it would be unfair to call it under-reported because in order to count as such, someone would actually have to have reported on it.

Amidst the runaway brides and various other distractions the corporate media have cooked up to keep us happy and apathetic consumers of “entertainment” news, I have not seen a single news organization so much as mention that there has been an oil spill in Alaska.

Correction: Not 1, not 2, but 3 oil spills in BP’s Prudhoe Bay operation during March and April of this year – all of which went unreported to authorities. And of course the media has remained completely silent despite the fact that the spills were exposed to Congress on April 15 by an oil industry watchdog.

The story has all the earmarks of a grand drama – corporate whistle blowers, corporate malfeasance and a subsequent cover up, a federal investigation, and all the while, Congress happily debating whether or not to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve.

Prudhoe Bay is in fact North America’s largest oil field and it sits only 60 miles away from ANWR. BP runs the operation on behalf of Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobile, and other oil companies – an operation known for its hazardous conditions.

But Congress just doesn’t care how shoddy the operation gets – it will not deter them or President Bush from pressing forward with their plans to let the energy industry rape Alaska’s glorious refuge. After all, we wouldn’t want to scare away all the energy money from the next election now would we?

The situation is absolutely criminal. It would be one thing to have an industrial accident. It is an entirely different matter to knowingly keep safety conditions minimal, resulting in accident after accident, and all the while hiding the evidence from the government.

Nor is this the first time that the ridiculous safety measures have been brought to light. In one of two articles I could find on the issue (both written by the same person), Jason Leopold writes:

BP has racked up some hefty fines over the years due to a number of mishaps at its Prudhoe Bay operations. In 2001, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission found high failure rates on some Prudhoe wellhead safety valves. The company was put on federal criminal probation after one of its contractors dumped thousands of gallons of toxic material underground at BP's Endicott oil field in the 1990s. BP pleaded guilty to the charges in 2000 and paid a $6.5 million fine, and agreed to set up a nationwide environmental management program that has cost more than $20 million.

The latest charges against BP stem from claims made recently by BP whistleblowers who exposed their company’s severe safety and maintenance problems that have caused at least a half-dozen oil spills at Prudhoe Bay—North America’s biggest oil field—and other areas on Alaska’s North Slope, which the whistleblowers say could boil over and spread to ANWR if the area is opened up to further oil and gas exploration.

And another BP cover up was brought to the government's attention last year:

Hamel [the industry watchdog] filed a formal complaint in January with the EPA, claiming he had pictures showing a gusher spewing a brown substance in July 2003 and December 2004. An investigation by Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation determined that as much as 294 gallons of drilling mud, a substance that contains traces of crude oil, was spilled on two separate occasions when gas was sucked into wells, causing sprays of drilling muds and oil that shot up as high as 85 feet into the air.

Because both spills exceeded 55 gallons, BP and Nabors were obligated under a 2003 compliance agreement that BP signed with Alaska to immediately report the spills. But they didn't, said Leslie Pearson, the agency's spill prevention and emergency response manager.

But Congress has conveniently forgotten all of this – a particularly relevant history since the exact same technology in use at Prudhoe Bay would be replicated in any ANWR drilling.

The corporate media have failed the public in any last remaining sense of civil obligation that they might feel by completely ignoring this story. President Bush and Congress have failed the public as well - not to mention the 41 Democrats in the House who voted for the Energy Bill which would open ANWR for drilling.

How much longer will we look the other way as our elected officials hand out our public resources with no concern for the consequences?

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

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We had a series of exchanges in the comments here in which Dean Esmay made a series of absurd assertions about the ANWR, such as that it was "dead", "barren", "sterile", and "frozen solid and without any significant w... [Read More]

Comments

I'm certainly with you on this one. - Thanks for some great info.

Thanks, Kyle

this was so sad to see. they have to be responsible for this.

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