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Gulf of Mexico

Chemicals used in Deepwater Horizon spill are harmful to people, study proves; finally

By Charles Digges - Bellona, September 25, 2017

Last week, the National Institutes of Health in the United States released a report that confirmed people living along the Gulf of Mexico who were very ill, but who for seven years have been told to keep quiet up about it, weren’t crazy after all.

Thousands of them had broken out in rashes. They had been coughing up blood, wheezing, experiencing migraines, and were tormented by burning eyes and memory loss. Others were surprised by heart aliments, kidney problems, liver damage, blood in their urine and discharge from their ears. Still others muddled through cognitive decline and anxiety attacks. Many went on to die.

Yet barely anyone in a position of authority was willing to believe they were sick at all. Often, even their own doctors told them that it was all in their heads.

What these people had in common was that they had been cleanup workers on the BP’s Macondo well disaster, which for 87 days in 2010 poured 4.9 million barrels oil into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded that April 20 off the coast of Louisiana. It was the worst oil spill in US history.

Some 47,000 people responded to the blow out. Fishermen rushed their boats into the fray to coral the oil at sea. Others worked to siphon it off beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. In other cases they burned it off the surface of the ocean in flames visible from space.

All of these workers toiled under a haze of chemicals dumped from the skies to bombard the ballooning slick and sink it to the bottom of the Gulf. In most cases, they didn’t have protective gear – BP and its contractors told them they didn’t need it.

The US Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency backed that up – they, too, had been assured by BP and Corexit’s manufacturer, Nalco Environmental Solutions, that it was safe.

Last week, the National Institutes of Health finally told them, after a seven-year wait, that it wasn’t.

Critical Gulf: The Vital importance of ending new fossil fuel leases in the Gulf of Mexico

By various - Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Bold Louisiana, August 2016

As this report was going to press, a massive storm caused unprecedented flooding in Louisiana, destroying tens of thousands of homes and killing at least 11 people. Thousands of others were forced to evacuate. This is exactly the kind of extreme weather projected to become more severe on the Gulf Coast as the climate crisis intensifies.

And that’s what this report is about: the necessity of a rapid and just transition to clean energy to reduce this terrifying threat to the Gulf Coast. We must begin by stopping new fossil fuel leasing in the Gulf of Mexico to prevent offshore drilling and fracking that could ultimately contribute nearly 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to global warming.

“Climate change is never going to announce itself by name. But this is what we should expect it to look like,” was the first line of a New York Times story about the flood. Indeed climate scientists and meteorologists are linking the Louisiana deluge to a series of extreme floods caused by climate change in the United States over the past two years.

The link between burning fossil fuels and heavy rains is clear and direct. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, which warms our atmosphere. “As the atmosphere warms, so does the ocean,” climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe explained in a recent Facebook post about the Louisiana flooding. “Evaporation speeds up, making more water available for a storm to pick up and dump as it sweeps through.”

The National Weather Service in New Orleans measured record levels of moisture in the air during this storm. More than two feet of rain fell on Baton Rouge and southern Louisiana in under 48 hours, sending most of the region’s rivers over their banks on Aug. 17 and flooding thousands of homes. That deluge was the result of a low-pressure storm system that stalled off the coast and kept sucking more moisture from the unusually warm Gulf waters, which will only grow warmer over time.

It’s high time the communities of the Gulf Coast cease to be treated as sacrifice zones. They deserve environmental justice and a clean energy future. Turning away from fossil fuel extraction in the Gulf will allow them to weather future storms, help end our dangerous collective reliance on fossil fuels, and dramatically reduce hazards for future generations.

Read the report (PDF).

EcoUnionist News #45

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 1, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

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What Did the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium Mean for the Workforce?

By Joseph E. Aldy - Common Resources, August 22, 2014

On April 20, 2010, the Transocean Deepwater Horizon suffered a catastrophic blowout while drilling in a BP lease in the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Prospect. This accident resulted in the largest oil spill in US history and an unprecedented spill response effort. Due to the ongoing spill and concerns about the safety of offshore oil drilling, the US Department of the Interior suspended offshore deep water oil and gas drilling operations on May 27, 2010, in what became known as the offshore drilling moratorium. The media portrayed the impacts of these events on local employment, with images of closed fisheries, idle rigs, as well as boats skimming oil and workers cleaning oiled beaches.

In a new RFF discussion paper, “The Labor Market Impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium,” I estimate and examine the net impact of the oil spill, the drilling moratorium, and spill response on employment and wages in the Gulf Coast. The spill and moratorium represented unexpected events in the region, and the resulting economic impacts varied within and among the Gulf states. Coastal counties and parishes were expected to bear the vast majority of the burden of these two events, while inland areas were expected to be largely unaffected. The moratorium was expected to affect Louisiana—with significant support of the offshore drilling industry—but not, for example, Florida, which had no active drilling off of its coastline. Beyond the economic impacts, the timing and magnitude of the spill response varied across the states over the course of the spill as well.

Despite predictions of major job losses in Louisiana resulting from these events, I find that the most oil-intensive parishes in Louisiana experienced a net increase in employment and wages. In contrast, Gulf Coast Florida counties south of the Panhandle experienced a decline in employment. Analysis of the number of business establishments, worker migration, accommodations industry employment and wages, sales tax data, and commercial air arrivals likewise show positive economic activity impacts in the oil-intensive coastal parishes of Louisiana and reduced economic activity along the non-Panhandle Florida Gulf Coast. The billions of dollars of spill response and clean-up mobilized over the course of the spring and summer of 2010 positively impacted economic activity, similar to the effect of fiscal stimulus. The geographic variation in labor market impacts reflects the focus of spill response efforts in Louisiana and the absence of oil and thus spill response along the Gulf coast of Florida south of the Panhandle.

Read the report (PDF).

Promises! Promises! Promises!

By Joe Womack - Bridge the Gulf, October 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Back in the 60's I could always tell when election time was near. First, city equipment would show up to clean the streets and clear out vacant lots. Then the politician would make an appearance at the Elks and buy a round of drinks for everyone in the place. The next day he would sponsor a chicken and fish fry for the community. At the height of the community outing he would make a speech. That speech would always promise everything but deliver nothing.

One thing I have learned over time is numbers never lie. During the late 1960's through the mid-1970's there existed a large governmental project to widen and deepen the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which stretches 234 miles to connect the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River in Alabama. It was a multi-million dollar project that most Northern politicians considered a waste of government money. However, the Southern politicians banned together and yelled “jobs, jobs, jobs!” They argued that completion of this project would mean jobs for years to come for Alabama and Tennessee residents. They said that this project would take business away from the Mississippi River and barges would run up and down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway 24/7/365. In addition, they said that Mobile would be the “New Atlanta. That the completion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway project would do for Mobile the same thing that the completion of the International Atlanta Airport did for the economy of Atlanta, when it turned Atlanta into the "economic hub of the south".

At that time I was in college in Virginia and upon graduation spent time in the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia near Washington, D.C. For six years living near the nation’s capital, I followed the national debate about the Tenneessee-Tombigbee Waterway. When my active duty period ended, I listed three places I wanted to live, all in the South: Mobile, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and Huntsville, Alabama, in that order. Mobile was at the top of the list because it was home and also because I believed promises made by politicians from my hometown. I listed Atlanta next because Atlanta was becoming the place to be. Good jobs, good people and good fun. Huntsville was next because I had friends there and they all had good jobs. NASA had moved there and so had Hughes and Boeing Aircraft Companies as well as other Fortune 500 Companies. I arrived back in Mobile on a Friday. I spent the entire weekend partying with my high school friends and learned that a position was available with the company that my best friend was employed with. He told me to give him one day to talk to personnel, put on a suit and tie and come for an interview on Tuesday. I did and went to work on Wednesday. That job and company had nothing to do with the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The plant had been constructed years before the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway had begun. The jobs promised from the Waterway did not materialize for my community.

It became a running joke that the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway was “the biggest man-made fishing hole in the United States”. Today, there are places along the waterway where you can barely get one barge through, let along barges traveling in opposite directions. The Mississippi River is still considered the waterway of choice for barges traveling north to south and vice-versa. Politicians that pushed that project through got their rewards and are now living the “life of Riley” in retirement. Construction jobs were available during the 10-year project, however those jobs all went away with the completion of the project. A project considered to be a job creator must create jobs that are sustainable years after project completion.

The Energy "Reform" Scam in Mexico

By Héctor Agredano Rivera - Socialist Worker, September 9, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

IN MID-August, Mexico's Senate approved several amendments to the country's Constitution that opened the door to the privatization of Mexico's vast energy sector.

The U.S. business and political elite has been pressuring Mexico for energy privatization for years. Building on efforts by Mexico's rulers for decades, President Enrique Peña Nieto and ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) prepared the way for the "reform" with two years of attacks on teachers, social movements and unions.

The new law represents a nail in the coffin for one of the most important social gains of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17--a constitution that enshrined state ownership of mineral rights. This is a complete surrender of Mexico's energy sovereignty, secured in 1938, when President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized the oil industry.

The privatization will give way to a speculative frenzy that will only benefit the U.S. government's geostrategic interests, while lining the pockets of global energy corporations and Mexican capitalists alike. Meanwhile, workers will pay the price--both the country's poor and working class as a whole when the energy sector is increasingly opened up to international and domestic private capital, and workers at currently state-run companies.

These fears were the backdrop to last fall's militant strike movement by Mexico teachers. Over a period of 20 years, dozens of unions have been smashed and their members' jobs liquidated due to privatization schemes--including some 40,000 workers in the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) who lost a fight to save the public electrical utility in Mexico City.

Ain't NOTHING's Changed!


This images is not an official image of the IWW or the IWW EUC.

Dispersant illness robbing a once strong local generation of work, economic security

By Charles Digges - Bellona, September 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

NEW ORLEANS/BAYOU LABATRA, Alabama – Lamont Moore’s short dreadlocks and mammoth fists make a shot glass of his coffee mug in the well of his knot-knuckled hand as he leans back to ponder a question, shying vampirically from the light bellowing into the Waffle House on Alabama State Road 39.

Adjusting his Terminator shades with his other meaty mitt, he radiates the impression of a retired prizefighter tired of talking to the media.

But Moore, 34, is fatigued for other reasons. He can’t climb a flight of stairs without having to sit down and catch his wind. He pinches the bridge of his nose against the swirling hurricane of a debilitating migraine. He’s chosen not to join the rest of us in breakfast because of stomach pain. And he can’t read the menu anyway – the sunlight is too much for his eyes.

lamar

Lamar Moore, who cleaned beaches in Alabama during the Deepwater Horizon spill. (Charles Digges/Bellona)

Even the sunglasses that he fashioned out of welder’s goggles don’t help. Most of the time, he says, he bumbling around in a whiteout.

He finally breaks the silence, rubbing a cyst the size of cherry on his jaw that’s been there since he worked the beaches of Dauphin Island, Alabama to help cleanup the oil of the Deepwater Horizon spill. “I’m really sorry, but what did you ask?”

The memory loss is part of the overall symptomology of Corexit poisoning, or “BP syndrome,” as it’s sometimes referred to by Dr. Michael Robichaux, one of the few Gulf area physicians to treat and document the symptoms of poisoning by crude and Corexit, the oil dispersant that BP dumped 1.84 million gallons of to hide the effects of its 4.9 million barrel blowout in the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo well.

Obama Opened Floodgates for Offshore Fracking in Recent Gulf of Mexico Lease

By Steve Horn - DeSmog Blog, August 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In little-noticed news arising out of a recent Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas lease held by the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the floodgates have opened for Gulf offshore hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

With 21.6 million acres auctioned off by the Obama Administration and 433,822 acres receiving bids, some press accounts have declared BP America — of 2010 Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill infamy — a big winner of the auction. If true, fracking and the oil and gas services companies who perform it like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger came in a close second.

Canada: Land of the Toxic Lakes

By Richard Mellior, AFSCME Local 444, retired - Facts for Working People, November 27, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the aftermath of the crash, polls have indicated that as much as 36% of the US population looks more favorably to socialism, and a recent Pew survey of America's youth between 18 and 29 found that more have a positive view toward Socialism than they do toward Capitalism, Socialism: 49% Capitalism 46%.  While there is no doubt what people mean by socialism varies I think it is fairly accurate to say it means a more egalitarian society, or more accurately, a more just social system.

The problem is that capitalism cannot deliver these goods.  Capitalism is an exploitive system of production in which production or the production of social needs is set in to motion on the basis of profit, on how it can enrich that small minority that own the means of producing human needs and the production process itself. Human needs are secondary as are the needs of the natural world.

Hunger, disease, war, these are the by-products of capitalism.  But so is environmental degradation as land, water, and the natural world is simply there to be exploited regardless of the long-term damage. I read now that Chevron is fighting back against an $18 billion judgment against the company by Judge Nicolas Zambrano in Ecuador. The ruling supported villagers, claims that Texaco had contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. Texaco was bought by Chevron. Ecuador's Supreme Court has since reduced the amount to $9.5 billion.  Chevron attorneys have accused the US lawyer for the villagers, Steven Donziger, of orchestrating an international criminal conspiracy by using bribery and fraud in Ecuador to secure a multibillion-dollar pollution judgment against the oil company.”

Meanwhile, BP which is responsible for the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has been accused of lying about the amount of the spill and is resisting paying reparations saying claimants who were not harmed are demanding payment.

No amount of court theatrics will stop the catastrophic environmental destruction that will at some point reach a tipping point with vast swathes of the planet becoming uninhabitable. Life on this planet cannot survive the ravages of capitalism forever, or more accurately, a system of production which places profit above all else and in which the means of producing humanity’s needs like energy, are owned by private individuals. We have absolutely no say in how decisions about these issues are made, decisions that have life and death consequences for all of us.

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