by Rady Ananda
Global Research, October 25, 2011
Posted by Admin on October 28, 2011
by Rady Ananda
Global Research, October 25, 2011
Posted in Global Research, Pollution | Tagged: associated press, bp, deepwater horizon, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Ed Markey, Government Accountability Office, gulf of mexico, John Amos, New Orleans | Comments Off
Posted by Admin on July 2, 2011
In this economy, there aren’t too many second chances. But if you’re a corporate titan, fortune may smile on you more than once, even if you damage your firm or even imperil its existence.
The last several years have been tumultuous in corporate America, as a financial crisis rippled through the economy and other disasters brought shame upon once-admired firms. The recession that coincided with the financial crisis has cost the U.S. economy about seven million jobs and left the whole nation slogging through a weak, unconvincing recovery. Yet a number of disgraced CEOs and other grounded high-flyers have fared surprisingly well, either landing plum jobs with new employers or securing golden parachutes that guarantee a luxurious retirement–or both. That’s not always the case. In his 2004 book Why Smart Executives Fail, Dartmouth professor Sydney Finkelstein found that of 51 “failed” CEOs, only two ever got hired again by an existing firm. The rest started their own firms, became consultants, or slunk into retirement. Today, by contrast, companies seem more willing to hire executives with black marks on their resumes.
[In Pictures: 11 Business Leaders Who Profited After Failure.]
Of the 11 corporate “up-failers” on our list, none has been accused of crimes or illegalities, and virtually all of them attribute their controversial performance as business leaders to factors beyond their control. Yet critics blame them for problems that deeply damaged the firms they once ran or helped run. Here are some of the former CEOs and other corporate honchos who seem to have stumbled upward after being involved in some of the most notorious corporate episodes of the last decade:
Martin Sullivan, former CEO of AIG. Sullivan replaced longtime AIG chief Hank Greenburg in 2005, and presided over many of the decisions that led to the insurance giant’s collapse in 2008, the year he was forced out. Under Sullivan’s watch, for instance, AIG issued billions of dollars’ worth of insurance on highly risky mortgage-related derivatives, which left AIG seeking the biggest bailout in corporate history when those derivatives plunged in value and AIG was unable to honor its commitments.
Where he is now: British insurance firm Willis Group named Sullivan its deputy chairman last year and put him in charge of a new global-services division. Research site Footnoted.com reports that Sullivan will earn a base salary of $750,000 and be eligible for a 2011 bonus of more than $1 million. If he stays for three years, he’ll also be able to cash in company stock worth at least another $4 million.
Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP. Hayward’s three-year tenure atop the British oil giant ended in 2010, following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers, fouled the Gulf with oil, and forced BP to set aside a whopping $41 billion for cleanup, litigation, penalties, and other costs. Hayward got a year’s salary when he left–about $1.7 million–and held onto BP stock that could be worth millions more.
Where he is now: Hayward recently launched a new energy firm in the U.K. called Vallares, which raised more than $2 billion in a public offering. The firm plans to use that money to buy and operate energy firms in emerging markets.
Mark Hurd, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. After five years as HP’s top honcho, Hurd’s career seemed to quickly unravel in August 2010 after allegations surfaced of misconduct relating to a personal relationship. Hurd abruptly resigned, with a $12.2 million cash payout from H-P and stock options worth $30 million more, according to the Associated Press. A shareholder lawsuit against H-P–which is still ongoing–argues that the technology giant overpaid the departing CEO.
Where he is now: A month after Hurd left H-P, Oracle hired him as president, with pay that could top $10 million per year.
Stanley O’Neal, former CEO of Merrill Lynch. O’Neal spent much of his career at Merrill Lynch and became CEO in 2002, presiding over the company as it began to place huge bets on subprime mortgages and risky derivatives that generated billions in losses, nearly sank the firm, and led to a takeover by Bank of America in 2008. In 2006–the year Merrill made many of the deals that led to its downfall–O’Neal earned $91 million, according to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. When O’Neal resigned in 2007, Merrill gave him a severance package worth another $161 million.
Where he is now: In 2008, after O’Neal left Merrill, Alcoa named him to its board of directors.
Dow Kim, former head of global markets and investment banking for Merrill Lynch. From 2003 to 2007, Kim oversaw a vast increase in the amount of collateralized debt obligations Merrill created and sold, eventually making Merrill the No. 1 Wall Street issuer of these controversial derivatives tied to mortgages, according to the FCIC. Those CDOs eventually led to billions in losses and severely weakened the firm. Kim left Merrill Lynch in the middle of 2007–shortly before its losses began to mushroom–receiving more than $35 million for his work in 2006, according to the FCIC, a paycheck second only O’Neal’s during that fateful year.
Where he is now: After leaving Merrill Lynch, Kim tried to start a hedge fund, which struggled to attract investors amidst the 2008 financial crisis.
Charles Prince, former CEO of Citigroup. Like Stan O’Neal at Merrill Lynch, Prince spent his four years as CEO of Citi trying to capitalize on the boom in subprime mortgages and exotic derivatives linked to them. He resigned in 2007 as those risky bets began to unravel, leading to gargantuan losses that would ultimately require a $45 billion government bailout (which Citigroup later repaid). Citi gave Prince a severance package worth $36 million when he left, on top of the $43 million he had already earned as CEO, according to the FCIC.
Where he is now: Keeping a low profile.
Thomas Maheras, former co-CEO of Citigroup’s investment bank. Maheras helped catapult Citigroup from a bit player in the market for lucrative but risky CDOs into one of the world’s top originators, along with Merrill Lynch. He resigned from Citigroup in October 2007, as the securities his division created began to lose value and generate losses that would eventually overwhelm Citi. Maheras earned more than $34 million for his work at Citi in 2006, his last full year at the bank, according to the FCIC.
Where he is now: In 2008, Discover Financial Services named Maheras a director. He also started a private investing firm called Tegean Capital Management.
Jeffrey Peek, former CEO of CIT Group. Peek arrived at CIT in 2003 and began to convert the sleepy, small-business lender into a broader financial-services firm with expanded portfolios of student loans and subprime mortgages. That turned out to be a bad move, needless to say, and CIT declared bankruptcy in 2009, with Peek resigning shortly afterward. Peek earned about $27 million at CIT through 2008, according to Forbes, but CIT’s acceptance of $2.3 billion in government bailout money prevented him from claiming a severance package when he resigned. Peek’s wife Liz, meanwhile, famously wrote the anonymous “Confessions of a TARP Wife” for Portfolio, which turned out to be a deep embarrassment when her identity as the author was revealed. CIT’s bankruptcy filing meant taxpayers were out the $2.3 billion they had extended to the firm.
Where he is now: Last year Barclay’s hired Peek to be one of its top investment bankers.
John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch. Thain’s illustrious Wall Street career seemed impeccable until he replaced Stan O’Neal as Merrill Lynch’s CEO in 2007. Thain tried in vain to keep Merrill’s losses under control, finally guiding the crippled firm into the arms of Bank of America in 2008. That may have been inevitable, but Thain drew criticism for several events under his watch, including a million-dollar renovation of his office (which he ultimately paid for himself) and $3.6 billion in bonuses granted to Merrill bankers during a year in which the firm nearly collapsed and required federal bailout money to survive. Thain, once thought to be a contender for the top job at the new Bank of America, was instead forced out of the merged firm in early 2009.
Where he is now: A year after Thain left Merrill Lynch, Wall Street’s revolving door ushered him into the top job at CIT, which had emerged from a prepackaged bankruptcy. His pay at CIT: $6 million per year in cash and stock, plus an annual bonus of up to $1.5 million.
Steven Newman, CEO of Transocean. Newman enjoyed a rewarding year in 2010, even though his firm’s Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig–which was leased to BP–blew up on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering the huge oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico. Newman had taken over as Transocean CEO barely a month earlier, yet he had been president of the firm before that, and Transocean awarded him $5.8 million in total compensation for 2010. Newman’s pay included a “safety bonus” of nearly $100,000, which he earned because Transocean “achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate,” according to a company filing with the SEC. After an uproar, Transocean said its top executives would donate their safety bonuses to a memorial fund for the families of the 11 workers killed in the Gulf explosion. Research firm GMIRatings points out that Transocean also gave its outgoing CEO, Robert L. Long–who left right before the Gulf disaster–an exit package worth about $21 million.
Where he is now: Still CEO of Transocean.
Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy. Blankenship and the firm he had run for two decades became enormously controversial after a gas explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia on April 5, 2010, killed 29 miners. The explosion came after inspectors had repeatedly cited Massey for safety violations at the mine, and it impaired the company’s profitability. Massey swung from a $104 million profit in 2009 to a $167 million loss in 2010, and subsequently merged with Alpha Natural Resources. The combative Blankenship endured a 2010 pay cut of more than 40 percent, but as Footnoted.com pointed out, he also got a $14.4 million severance package, plus a $7 million pension and $32.1 million in deferred compensation. It’s good to be CEO. Even a dethroned CEO.
Where he is now: Retired.
Posted in Economic Upheavals | Tagged: AIG, American International Group, Chief executive officer, Collateralized debt obligation, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, gulf of mexico, Hewlett-Packard, Mark Hurd, Martin J. Sullivan, Merrill Lynch, Stanley O'Neal, Tony Hayward | Comments Off
Posted by Admin on February 24, 2011
The recent deaths occurred in birthing areas off Mississippi and Alabama. Six bodies intact enough for dissection were a mix of stillborn, premature and full-term calves that died shortly after birth.
Solangi says possible causes include cold winter and disease. He said scientists are investigating whether there was a link to the BP oil spill. But he says only one dolphin species — and no other kind of animal — appears to be dying in unusual numbers.
Posted by Admin on January 17, 2011
JOHN VIDAL – May 29, 2010 [REPOST]
Big Oil is holding its breath. BP’s shares are in steep decline after the debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. Barack Obama, the American people and the global environmental community are outraged, and now the company stands to lose the rights to drill for oil in the Arctic and other ecologically sensitive places.
The gulf disaster may cost it a few billion dollars, but so what? When annual profits for a company often run to tens of billions, the cost of laying 5,000 miles of booms, or spraying millions of gallons of dispersants and settling 100,000 court cases is not much more than missing a few months’ production. It’s awkward, but it can easily be passed on.
The oil industry‘s image is seriously damaged, but it can pay handsomely to greenwash itself, just as it managed after Exxon Valdez, Brent Spar and the Ken Saro-Wiwa public relations disasters. In a few years’ time, this episode will probably be forgotten — just another blip in the fortunes of the industry that fuels the world. But the oil companies are nervous now because the spotlight has been turned on their cavalier attitude to pollution and on the sheer incompetence of an industry that is used to calling the shots.
Big Oil’s real horror was not the spillage, which was common enough, but because it happened so close to the US. Millions of barrels of oil are spilled, jettisoned or wasted every year without much attention being paid.
If this accident had occurred in a developing country, say off the west coast of Africa or Indonesia, BP could probably have avoided all publicity and escaped starting a clean-up for many months. It would not have had to employ booms or dispersants, and it could have ignored the health effects on people and the damage done to fishing. It might have eventually been taken to court and could have been fined a few million dollars, but it would probably have appealed and delayed a court decision for a decade or more.
Big Oil is usually a poor country’s most powerful industry, and is generally allowed to act like a parallel government. In many countries it simply pays off the judges, the community leaders, the lawmakers and the ministers, and it expects environmentalists and local people to be powerless. Mostly it gets away with it.
What the industry dreads more than anything else is being made fully accountable to developing countries for the mess it has made and the oil it has spilt in the forests, creeks, seas and deserts of the world.
There are more than 2,000 major spillage sites in the Niger delta that have never been cleaned up; there are vast areas of the Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon that have been devastated by spillages, the dumping of toxic materials and blowouts. Rivers and wells in Venezuela, Angola, Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda and Sudan have been badly polluted. Occidental, BP, Chevron, Shell and most other oil companies together face hundreds of outstanding lawsuits. Ecuador alone is seeking $30bn from Texaco. The only reason oil costs $70-$100 a barrel today, and not $200, is because the industry has managed to pass on the real costs of extracting the oil. If the developing world applied the same pressure on the companies as Obama and the U.S. senators are now doing, and if the industry were forced to really clean up the myriad messes it causes, the price would jump and the switch to clean energy would be swift.
If the billions of dollars of annual subsidies and the many tax breaks the industry gets were withdrawn, and the cost of protecting oil companies in developing countries were added, then most of the world’s oil would almost certainly be left in the ground. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010
(John Vidal is the Guardian’s environment correspondent.)
Posted in Pollution | Tagged: accountability, Barack Obama, belligerence of neglect, bp, Brent Spar, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Equatorial Guinea, Exxon Valdez, forgotten history, gulf of mexico, insensitivity, Ken Saro-Wiwa, niger delta, oil spills, Petroleum industry, Supermajor | Comments Off
Posted by Admin on December 16, 2010
The government, in an opening salvo in its effort to get billions of dollars for untold economic and environmental damage, accuses the companies of disregarding federal safety regulations in drilling the well that blew out April 20 and triggered a deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Wednesday’s lawsuit is separate from a Justice Department criminal probe that has not resulted in any charges.
“The department’s focus on investigating this disaster and preventing future (spills) is not over,” Attorney General Eric Holder said during a news conference in Washington. “Both our civil and criminal investigations are ongoing.”
The federal lawsuit filed in New Orleans names BP, rig owner Transocean and some other companies involved in the ill-fated drilling project, but not Halliburton — the project’s cement contractor — or the maker of a key cutoff valve that failed. Both could be added later.
BP said it would respond to the claims later but noted that it stands “alone among the parties” in having already stepped up to pay for the cleanup. It said in a statement that it will continue to fulfill its commitments to the Gulf and to cooperate with investigations.
“The filing is solely a statement of the government’s allegations and does not in any manner constitute any finding of liability or any judicial finding that the allegations have merit,” BP said.
The lawsuit makes it possible for the federal government to seek billions of dollars in penalties for polluting the Gulf of Mexico, beaches and wetlands, and reimbursement for its cleanup costs. More than 300 lawsuits filed previously by individuals and businesses, and now consolidated in the New Orleans federal court, include claims for financial losses and compensation for the families of 11 workers killed in the blast.
The judge overseeing those lawsuits had set Wednesday as the deadline to file certain types of complaints, though it was unclear whether the government was bound by that time frame.
“The Justice Department has left its options open to argue that there was gross negligence and therefore should be higher penalties,” said David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan who headed up the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section for seven years. “The government has not limited itself in any way with the filing of its civil lawsuit.”
The suit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.
The government did not set a dollar figure in the lawsuit, saying the amount of damages and the extent of injuries sustained by the United States are not yet fully known.
Under the Clean Water Act alone, BP faces fines of up to $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled. If BP were found to have committed gross negligence or willful misconduct, the fine could be up to $4,300 per barrel.
That means that based on the government’s estimate of 206 million gallons released by the well, BP could face civil fines of between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. BP disputes the government’s spill estimate.
The government did not specify in its lawsuit whether it believes there was gross negligence, but it left open the possibility for such a finding later.
Besides BP Exploration & Production Inc., the other defendants in the case are Anadarko Exploration & Production LP; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; Transocean Holdings LLC; Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc.; Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and Transocean’s insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036. Anadarko and MOEX are minority owners of the well that blew out.
Transocean disputed the allegations and insisted it should not be held liable.
“No drilling contractor has ever been held liable for discharges from a well under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990,” Transocean said in a statement. “The responsibility for hydrocarbons discharged from a well lies solely with its owner and operator.”
Anadarko said ultimate responsibility may rest solely with the operator of the well — BP.
“As a non-operating minority interest holder in the well, we were not involved in the operations or decisions that occurred on the drilling rig,” Anadarko said in a statement. “We recognize that we may have obligations under federal law, and we will continue to look to the operator to pay all legitimate claims as it has committed to do.”
The staff of a presidentially appointed commission looking into the spill has said the disaster resulted from questionable decisions and management failures by BP, Transocean and Halliburton Energy Services Inc. The panel found 11 decisions made by these companies increased risk. Most saved time, and all but one had a safer alternative.
Halliburton and Cameron International, which made the rig’s failed blowout preventer, weren’t named as defendants in the suit. Halliburton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Eric Schaeffer, who led the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement office from 1997 to 2002, cited three possible explanations for omitting Halliburton. The company could be close to a settlement, Justice needs more time to develop its case against Halliburton, or the government thinks it doesn’t have a strong enough case against Halliburton.
Schaeffer said he doubts the government will let Halliburton completely off the hook.
“I would be inclined more toward the first explanation,” Schaeffer said. “If they think Halliburton is maybe less culpable, they may be able to reach a settlement quicker. That could help them build their case against the rest of the companies.”
Bruce Parris, manager of The Dock restaurant and bar just a few feet off the sand in Pensacola Beach, Fla., said “it’s about time” President Obama started to hold BP accountable. He was standing on the restaurant’s deck, watching large tractors sift through the sand as part of BP’s beach cleanup operations.
“I’m all for anything. I don’t care how they get money out of BP. Just get it,” Parris said.
Separately, an administrator is doling out money to spill victims from a $20 billion fund of BP money.
The government’s lawsuit alleges that safety and operating regulations were violated in the period leading up to the explosion.
It says the defendants failed to keep the well under control and failed to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well’s conditions. They also failed to maintain continuous surveillance, and to maintain the equipment and material necessary to protect workers, natural resources and the environment, the suit charges.
The Justice Department isn’t the first government entity to sue BP. Alabama Attorney General Troy King filed federal lawsuits in August on behalf of the state against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other companies that worked on the project.
Posted in Pollution | Tagged: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, bp, Clean Water Act, deepwater horizon, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, gulf of mexico, Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., Oil Pollution Act of 1990, Transocean, United States, United States Department of Justice | Comments Off
Posted by Admin on October 2, 2010
LONDON (Reuters) – BP, which faces U.S. opposition to drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, named fields there that it will use to help finance its $20 billion fund for victims of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
“It’s quite a clever thing that BP’s done which is, here are our deep water Gulf of Mexico assets, and we’re pledging overriding royalties as collateral which should suggest to the U.S. administration not to in any way meddle with these facilities,” said analyst Alan Sinclair.
There have been concerns that the U.S. could ban BP from future drilling after lawmakers in July voted to pass an amendment to a bill that would prevent BP from acquiring new exploration leases after the blow-out at its Macondo well in April.
A BP spokesman declined to comment on whether the move means the U.S. government has told BP, or the company expects, it will not be banned from future drilling.
Shares in BP gained 2.9 percent to 440 pence at 7:02 a.m. EDT on Friday, their highest level since early June, outperforming Britain’s blue-chip index, which was up 0.6 percent and slightly ahead of the European index of which was up 2 percent.
Another analyst, who did not wish to be named, noted that BP is planning to sell $30 billion of assets and said the deal between Chinese refiner Sinopec and Spanish oil major Repsol, announced earlier could be driving on asset prices.
“Repsol’s got a very good price for some of its assets today so maybe people are getting hopeful on that,” he said.
The pledging of the assets is in line with the terms of the fund set out in August, when BP agreed to give the fund first priority to some oil revenues to finance its $5 billion contribution this year and the $1.25 billion every quarter from 2011 to 2013.
(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Erica Billingham)
Posted by Admin on September 17, 2010
NEW ORLEANS – After five months, the oil well that had spewed millions of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico is on the verge of being plugged once and for all.
A relief well drilled nearly 2.5 miles beneath the floor of the Gulf of Mexico intersected BP’s blown-out well, a prelude to permanently killing it, the U.S government said late Thursday.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. , the government’s point man on the oil spill, said in a statement that data shows the two wells are joined. The next step will be to pump mud and cement down through the relief well to seal the ruptured well from the bottom.
According to the government, the final seal should happen by Sunday, five agonizing months after an explosion killed 11 workers, sank a drilling rig and led to the in U.S. history. But BP said Friday in a statement that it expected the well to be completely sealed Saturday.
“I am ready for that cigar now,” John Wright, who led the team drilling the relief well, said in an e-mail Friday to The Associated Press from aboard the Development Driller III vessel.
Wright, who is not a but is working on a contract basis, had told the AP in August that he was looking forward to finishing his mission and celebrating with a cigar, a dinner party with his crew and a trip somewhere quiet to unwind with his wife.
The gusher was contained in mid-July after a temporary cap was successfully fitted atop the well. Mud and cement were later pushed down through the top of the well, allowing the cap to be removed. But the blown-out well cannot be declared dead until it is sealed from the bottom.
The April 20 blast sank the Deepwater Horizon rig and triggered the spill that eventually spewed 206 million gallons of oil from the well. BP PLC is a and was leasing the rig from owner Transocean Ltd.
The disaster caused an environmental and economic nightmare for people who live, work and play along hundreds of miles of Gulf shoreline from Florida to Texas. It also spurred civil and criminal investigations, cost gaffe-prone chief Tony Hayward his job and brought increased governmental scrutiny of the oil and gas industry, including a costly moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling that is still in place.
Gulf residents will be feeling the pain for years to come. There is still plenty of oil in the water, and some continues to wash up on shore.
Many people are still struggling to make ends meet with some waters still closed to fishing. Shrimpers who are allowed to fish are finding it difficult to sell their catch because of the perception — largely from people outside the region — that the seafood is not safe to eat. Tourism along the Gulf has taken a hit.
BP took some of the blame for the Gulf oil disaster in an internal report issued earlier this month, acknowledging among other things that it misinterpreted a of the well. But in a possible preview of its legal strategy, it also pointed the finger at its partners on the doomed rig.
Meanwhile, Wright, the driller, has never missed his target over the years, successfully drilling 40 previous relief wells that were used to plug leaks around the world. He has now made it 41-for-41.
Posted by Admin on July 22, 2010
Posted by Alexander Higgins
July 16, 2010
If the people of the Gulf have had one advocate throughout the BP Gulf Oil Spill it has been the scientific community.
They have not been afraid to step and challenge BP and The Federal Government over the existence of underwater plumes, the dangers of the dispersants BP is using, or the safety of Gulf waters.
The scientific community has sounded the alarm on skyrocketing arsenic levels in the Gulf while the Government has kept quiet and has exposed the improper BP cleanup practices that are contaminating Gulf beaches.
Scientist have come forward to reveal the real location of the oil spill, exposed the lies about oil and methane plumes, and have alerted the public to severely low-balled flow rates.
The list goes on and on.
However those days may soon becoming to an end.
A startling new report from the Alabama Register reveals BP is trying to buy up Gulf scientists and Universities in mass to prevent them from releasing research data to the public.
For the last few weeks, BP has been offering signing bonuses and lucrative pay to prominent scientists from public universities around the Gulf Coast to aid its defense against spill litigation.
BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university, according to scientists involved in discussions with the company’s lawyers. The university declined because of confidentiality restrictions that the company sought on any research.
The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.
“We told them there was no way we would agree to any kind of restrictions on the data we collect. It was pretty clear we wouldn’t be hearing from them again after that,” said Bob Shipp, head of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama. “We didn’t like the perception of the university representing BP in any fashion.”
BP officials declined to answer the newspaper’s questions about the matter. Among the questions: how many scientists and universities have been approached, how many are under contract, how much will they be paid, and why the company imposed confidentiality restrictions on scientific data gathered on its behalf.
More than one scientist interviewed by the Press-Register described being offered $250 an hour through BP lawyers. At eight hours a week, that amounts to $104,000 a year.
Scientists from Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and Texas A&M have reportedly accepted, according to academic officials. Scientists who study marine invertebrates, plankton, marsh environments, oceanography, sharks and other topics have been solicited.
The contract makes it clear that BP is seeking to add scientists to the legal team that will fight the Natural Resources Damage Assessment lawsuit that the federal government will bring as a result of the Gulf oil spill.
The government also filed a NRDA suit after the Exxon Valdez spill.
In developing its case, the government will draw on the large amount of scientific research conducted by academic institutions along the Gulf. Many scientists being pursued by BP serve at those institutions.
With its payments, BP buys more than the scientists’ services, according to Wiygul. It also buys silence, he said, thanks to confidentiality clauses in the contracts.
Richard Shaw, associate dean of LSU’s School of the Coast and Environment, said that the BP contracts are already hindering the scientific community’s ability to monitor the affects of the Gulf spill.
“The first order of business at the research meetings is to get all the disclosures out. Who has a personal connection to BP? We have to know how to deal with that person,” Shaw said. “People are signing on with BP because the government funding to the universities has been so limited. It’s a sad state of affairs.”
“This is not an agreement to do research for BP,” Wiygul said. “This is an agreement to join BP’s legal team. You agree to communicate with BP through their attorneys and to take orders from their attorneys.
“The purpose is to maintain any information or data that goes back and forth as privileged.”
The contract requires scientists to agree to withhold data even in the face of a court order if BP decides to fight such an order. It stipulates that scientists will be paid only for research approved in writing by BP.
The contracts have the added impact of limiting the number of scientists who’re able to with federal agencies. “Let’s say BP hired you because of your work with fish. The contract says you can’t do any work for the government or anyone else that involves your work with BP. Now you are a fish scientist who can’t study fish,” Wiygul said.
Perhaps even more startling is the scientists that BP isn’t paying off to keep quiet the Federal Government is.
A scientist who spoke to the Press-Register on condition of anonymity because he feared harming relationships with colleagues and government officials said he rejected a BP contract offer and was subsequently approached by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with a research grant offer.
He said the first question the federal agency asked was, “‘is there a conflict of interest,’ meaning, ‘are you under contract with BP?’”
Other scientists told the newspaper that colleagues who signed on with BP have since been informed by federal officials that they will lose government funding for ongoing research efforts unrelated to the spill.
NOAA officials did not answer requests for comment. The agency also did not respond to a request for the contracts that it offers scientists receiving federal grants. Several scientists said the NOAA contract was nearly as restrictive as the BP version.
The state of Alaska published a 293-page report on the NRDA process after the Exxon Valdez disaster. A section of the report titled “NRDA Secrecy” discusses anger among scientists who received federal grants over “the non-disclosure form each researcher had signed as a prerequisite to funding.”
“It’s a very strange situation. The science is already suffering,” Shaw said. “The government needs to come through with funding for the universities. They are letting go of the most important group of scientists, the ones who study the Gulf.”
Posted by Admin on July 13, 2010
NEW ORLEANS – With a tight new cap freshly installed on its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, BP planned gradual tests starting Tuesday to see if the device can stop oil from pouring into the sea for the first time in nearly three months.
Engineers will slowly shut down three valves that let oil flow through the 75-ton capping device to see if it can withstand the pressure of the erupting crude and to watch if leaks spring up elsewhere in the well. National Incident Commander Thad Allen said the process of closing the valves, one by one, would start later Tuesday.
If pressure inside the cap stays in a target range for roughly six hours after the valves are closed, there will be more confidence the cap can contain the oil, Allen told a news briefing at BP’s U.S. headquarters in Houston. That target range is 8,000 to 9,000 pounds per square inch, he said. Anything lower could indicate another leak in the well.
Allen and BP officials repeatedly cautioned there are no guarantees about the delicate work a mile below the sea. Allen urged Gulf Coast residents watching the possible fix evolve to be patient.
“They ought to be interested and concerned but if they hold their breath, they’ll run out of oxygen. I won’t be,” Allen told The Associated Press after the briefing.
The tests could last anywhere from six to 48 hours, Allen and BP said.
Kent Wells, a senior vice president at the oil giant, declined to talk about BP’s next steps until the test results are in hand.
“It’s not simple stuff. What we don’t want to do is speculate around it,” Wells said in a BP news briefing.
The cap’s installation after three days of undersea preparations was good news to weary residents of the coast from Texas to Florida, who have waited for BP to make good on its promise to clean up the mess. Still, even if the oil is stopped, the consequences are far from over.
“I ain’t excited about it until it’s closed off completely,” said James Pelas, 41, a shrimper working on his boat at a marina in Venice, La. “Oil’s scattered all over the place.”
The cap will be tested by closing off three separate valves that fit together snugly, choking off the oil from entering the Gulf. BP expects no oil will be released into the ocean during the tests, but remained cautious about the success of the system.
Pipes can be hooked to the cap to funnel oil to collection ships if BP decides the cap can’t take the pressure of the gusher, or if low pressure readings indicate oil is leaking from elsewhere in the well.
Even if the cap works, the blown-out well must still be plugged. A permanent fix will have to wait until one of two relief wells being drilled reaches the broken well, which will then be plugged up with drilling mud and cement. That may not happen until mid-August.
Even if the flow of oil is choked off while BP works on a permanent fix, the spill has already damaged everything from beach tourism to the fishing industry.
Tony Wood, director of the National Spill Control School at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi said the sloppiest of the oil — mousse-like brown stuff that has not yet broken down — will keep washing ashore for several months, with the volume slowly decreasing over time.
He added that could keep hitting beaches and marshes each time a major storm rolls through for a year or more. Those tar balls are likely trapped for now in the surf zone, gathering behind sand bars just like sea shells.
“It will still be getting on people’s feet on the beaches probably a year or two from now,” Wood said.
But on Monday, the region absorbed a rare piece of good news in the placement of the 150,000-pound cap on top of the gushing leak responsible for so much misery.
Around 6:30 p.m. CDT, live video streams trained on the wellhead showed the cap being slowly lowered into place. BP officials said the device was attached around 7 p.m.
Residents skeptical if BP can deliver on its promise to control the spill greeted the news cautiously.
“There’s no telling what those crazy suckers are going to do now,” Ronnie Kenniar said when he heard the cap was placed on the well. The 49-year-old fishermen is now working in the Vessel of Opportunity program, a BP-run operation employing boat owners to lay boom, ferry coast guard officers and deliver supplies.
As of Tuesday, the 84th day of the disaster, between 90.4 and 178.6 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico
BP underwater video: http://bit.ly/bwCXmR
Weber reported from Houston. Associated Press writers Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, Matt Brown and Tom Breen in New Orleans and Holbrook Mohr in Belle Chasse, La., contributed to this report.
Posted by Admin on June 20, 2010
by Riki Ott
Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor
11 June 2010
Orange Beach, Alabama — While President Obama insists that the federal government is firmly in control of the response to BP’s spill in the Gulf, people in coastal communities where I visited last week in Louisiana and Alabama know an inconvenient truth: BP — not our president — controls the response. In fact, people on the ground say things are out of control in the gulf.
Even worse, as my latest week of adventures illustrate, BP is using federal agencies to shield itself from public accountability.
For example, while flying on a small plane from New Orleans to Orange Beach, the pilot suddenly exclaimed, “Look at that!” The thin red line marking the federal flight restrictions of 3,000 feet over the oiled Gulf region had just jumped to include the coastal barrier islands off Alabama.
“There’s only one reason for that,” the pilot said. “BP doesn’t want the media taking pictures of oil on the beaches. You should see the oil that’s about six miles off the coast,” he said grimly. We looked down at the wavy orange boom surrounding the islands below us. The pilot shook his head. “There’s no way those booms are going to stop what’s offshore from hitting those beaches.”
BP knows this as well — boom can only deflect oil under the calmest of sea conditions, not barricade it — so they have stepped up their already aggressive effort to control what the public sees.
At the same time I was en route to Orange Beach, Clint Guidry with the Louisiana Shrimp Association and Dean Blanchard, who owns the largest shrimp processor in Louisiana, were in Grand Isle taking Anderson Cooper out in a small boat to see the oiled beaches. The U.S. Coast Guard held up the boat for 20 minutes – an intimidation tactic intended to stop the cameras from recording BP’s damage. Luckily for Cooper and the viewing public, Dean Blanchard is not easily intimidated.
A few days later, the gig was up with the booms. Oil was making landfall in four states and even BP can’t be everywhere at once. CBS 60 Minutes Australia found entire sections of boom hung up in marsh grasses two feet above the water off Venice. On the same day on the other side of Barataria Bay, Louisiana Bayoukeeper documented pools of oil and oiled pelicans inside the boom – on the supposedly protected landward side – of Queen Bess Island off Grand Isle.
With oil undisputedly hitting the beaches and the number of dead wildlife mounting, BP is switching tactics. In Orange Beach, people told me BP wouldn’t let them collect carcasses. Instead, the company was raking up carcasses of oiled seabirds. “The heads separate from the bodies,” one upset resident told me. “There’s no way those birds are going to be autopsied. BP is destroying evidence!”
The body count of affected wildlife is crucial to prove the harm caused by the spill, and also serves as an invaluable tool to evaluate damages to public property – the dolphins, sea turtles, whales, sea birds, fish, and more, that are owned by the American public.
Disappeared body counts means disappeared damages – and disappeared liability for BP. BP should not be collecting carcasses. The job should be given to NOAA, a federal agency, and volunteers, as was done during the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
NOAA should also be conducting carcass drift studies. Only one percent of the dead sea birds made landfall in the Gulf of Alaska, for example. That means for every one bird that was found, another 99 were carried out to sea by currents. Further, NOAA should be conducting aerial surveys to look for carcasses in the offshore rips where the currents converge. That’s where the carcasses will pile up–a fact we learned during the Exxon Valdez spill. Maybe that’s another reason for BP’s “no camera” policy and the flight restrictions.
On Saturday June 12, people across America will stand up and speak out with one voice to protest BP’s treatment of the Gulf, neglect for the response workers, and their response to government authority. President Obama needs to hear and see the people waving cameras and respirators. Until the media is allowed unrestricted access to the Gulf and impacted beaches, BP – not the President of United States – will remain in charge of the Gulf response.
Posted by Admin on May 31, 2010
By BEN NUCKOLS | Posted: Sunday, May 30, 2010 12:06 am
The most ambitious bid yet to stop the worst oil spill in U.S. history ended in failure Saturday after BP was unable to overwhelm the gusher of crude with heavy fluids and junk. President Obama called the setback “as enraging as it is heartbreaking.”
The oil giant immediately began readying its next attempted fix, using robot submarines to cut the pipe that’s gushing the oil into the Gulf of Mexico and cap it with funnel-like device, but the only guaranteed solution remains more than two months away.
The company determined the “top kill” had failed after it spent three days pumping heavy drilling mud into the crippled well 5,000 feet underwater. It’s the latest in a series of failures to stop the crude that’s fouling marshland and beaches, as estimates of how much oil is leaking grow more dire.
The spill is the worst in U.S. history _ exceeding even the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster _ and has dumped between 18 million and 40 million gallons into the Gulf, according to government estimates.
“This scares everybody, the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far,” BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Saturday. “Many of the things we’re trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet.”
Frustration has grown as drifting oil closes beaches and washes up in sensitive marshland. The damage is underscored by images of pelicans and their eggs coated in oil. Below the surface, oyster beds and shrimp nurseries face certain death. Fishermen complain there’s no end in sight to the catastrophe that’s keeping their boats idle.
News that the top kill fell short drew a sharply worded response from President Barack Obama, a day after he visited the Gulf Coast to see the damage firsthand.
“It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole,” Obama said Saturday.
In the days after the spill, BP was unable to use robot submarines to close valves on the massive blowout preventer atop the damaged well, then two weeks later ice-like crystals clogged a 100-ton box the company tried placing over the leak. Earlier this week, engineers removed a mile-long siphon tube after it sucked up a disappointing 900,000 gallons of oil from the gusher.
In the latest try, BP engineers pumped more than 1.2 million gallons of heavy drilling mud into the well and also shot in assorted junk, including metal pieces and rubber balls.
The hope was that the mud force-fed into the well would overwhelm the upward flow of oil and natural gas. But Suttles said most of the mud escaped out of the damaged pipe that’s leaking the oil, called a riser.
Suttles said BP is already preparing for the next attempt to stop the leak that began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, killing 11 people.
The company plans to use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser, and then try to cap it with a containment valve. The effort is expected to take between four and seven days.
“We’re confident the job will work but obviously we can’t guarantee success,” Suttles said of the new plan, declining to handicap the likelihood it will work.
He said that cutting off the damaged riser isn’t expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly.
The permanent solution to the leak, a relief well currently being drilled, won’t be ready until August, BP says.
Experts have said that a bend in the damaged riser likely was restricting the flow of oil somewhat, so slicing it off and installing a new containment valve is risky.
“If they can’t get that valve on, things will get much worse,” said Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama.
Johnson said he thinks BP can succeed with the valve, but added: “It’s a scary proposition.”
Word that the top-kill had failed hit hard in fishing communities along Louisiana’s coast.
“Everybody’s starting to realize this summer’s lost. And our whole lifestyle might be lost,” said Michael Ballay, the 59-year-old manager of the Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, La., near where oil first made landfall in large quantities almost two weeks ago.
Johnny Nunez, owner of Fishing Magician Charters in Shell Beach, La., said the spill is hurting his business during what’s normally the best time of year _ and there’s no end in sight.
“If fishing’s bad for five years, I’ll be 60 years old. I’ll be done for,” he said after watching BP’s televised announcement.
The top official in coastal Plaquemines Parish said news of the top kill failure brought tears to his eyes.
“They are going to destroy south Louisiana. We are dying a slow death here,” said Billy Nungesser, the parish president. “We don’t have time to wait while they try solutions. Hurricane season starts on Tuesday.”
Associated Press Writers Matthew Brown, Janet McConnaughey and Mary Foster in New Orleans and AP Radio correspondent Shelly Adler contributed to this report.