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Gulf of Mexico

Will offshore wind bring ‘good-paying, union jobs’? Texas workers aren’t so sure

By Emily Pontecorvo - Grist, October 14, 2022

Fires fueled by climate crisis expose the intersecting injustices incarcerated people face and the comprehensive reforms needed for a Just Transition:

The Biden administration is gearing up to turn the Gulf of Mexico, long a hub for offshore oil and gas drilling, into a new city of skyscraping offshore wind turbines. Opening up the Gulf to wind development is part of President Joe Biden’s goal to employ “tens of thousands of workers” to establish 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. But in Texas, workers are worried that the new industry will continue the low-wage, unsafe, exploitative conditions that pervade the construction and offshore oil industries there.

For the past year, a coalition of Texas labor unions, along with their allies in Congress and in the environmental movement, have been lobbying the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“We saw the opportunity,” said Bo Delp, the executive director of the Texas Climate Jobs Project, a nonprofit that advocates for the unionization of clean energy jobs. “But we also saw the danger.”

There’s no doubt the offshore wind industry will bring a flood of jobs to communities along the Gulf. There will be jobs manufacturing wind turbines, shipping them out to sea, and installing them; building transmission lines and electrical substations; and operating and maintaining the equipment. But contrary to the White House’s promise of “good-paying, union jobs,” there’s no guarantee they will come with decent wages, benefits, or safety standards — especially in Texas.

I Survived the Rig Explosion That Caused the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill; This Is What I Saw

By Maximillian Alvarez and Leo Lindner - In These Times, October 7, 2022

It’s been 12 years since the catastrophic explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers and causing the largest marine oil spill in human history. A lot of forgetting can happen in that time. A lot of cultural amnesia and historical distortion has set in over the past 12 years, whether that came in the form of a years-long PR campaign from British Petroleum (BP), the high-budget Hollywood-ification of the disaster in the 2016 movie starring Mark Wahlberg, or just the general lack of workers’ voices and stories in the media. 

In this episode, we talk with Leo Lindner, who worked for 10 years at the mud company M-I, the last five of which were spent working on the Deepwater Horizon. Leo was on the rig on April 20, 2010, the day of the explosion. We talk to Leo about his life, about moving to and growing up in Louisiana as a kid, working on tugboats and in oil fields, and about the experience of being a worker in the midst of one of the most devastating industrial and environmental disasters of the modern era.

Ending Federal Offshore Oil and Gas Lease Sales in Next Five-Year Program Would Have Little to No Impact on Gas Prices, Jobs, and Economy, According to New Analysis

By Jackson Chiappinelli, Dustin Renaud, and Kendall Dix - Earthjustice, June 29, 2022

Amid climate crisis and record gas prices, new analysis debunks oil and gas industry claims on need for new federal leasing by offering further evidence that ending new federal offshore leasing would not raise gas prices for nearly two decades, and would have virtually no net economic impact.

According to a new report out today, putting an end to new federal offshore leasing on public waters for the next five years:

  • Would result in less than a cent increase in gas prices at the pump over the next two decades
  • Would still maintain close to current levels of oil production capabilities for many years
  • Would not have the drastic impact on workers in the Gulf or the national economy that the fossil fuel industry has purported. Industry’s claims about economic impacts fail to account for the ways that energy and job markets gradually adapt and the burdensome climate costs averted from transitioning to clean energy
  • Result in between $23 billion and $365 billion dollars in climate benefits through 2040

The new report, which was supported by Earthjustice, Healthy Gulf, and Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) and published by Apogee Economics and Policy, a leader in energy production forecasts and benefit-cost assessments related to energy development, rebuts industry claims that ending leasing would significantly impact production and the economy. Instead, the report provides analysis that shows that the Biden administration can end new leases for the next five years without raising gas prices, preventing oil production, and negatively impacting jobs. The new report supports the opportunity for moving the United States away from fossil fuels and meaningfully addressing the worsening climate crisis, instead of giving into demands by the oil and gas industry to double down on decades of more carbon pollution.

For years, oil and gas development has contributed to worsening climate impacts, devastation for Gulf communities, environmental destruction, and dangerous conditions for offshore workers. Because federal offshore leasing locks in development for decades, putting an end to leasing is essential if the Biden administration is going to meet its national climate pollution and Paris Agreement targets and environmental justice commitments.

The new report comes just ahead of the release of the Interior Department’s next five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program. In the upcoming program, Interior will propose a schedule of federal offshore oil and gas lease sales for the next five years and has the option to not hold any new lease sales over that five-year period.

Climate Change is Killing Workers, but it Doesn't Have to be This Way

By April Siese - Daily Kos, April 20, 2022

Way back when I was splitting my working time freelance writing and working live events, I signed on with an audio-visual company that provides services to hotels. It was considered the retirement gig for production folks, as there was no touring involved and very little stress. As a lighting designer, my job consisted of gussying up a ballroom in corporate colors and making sure the lights I used to illuminate a podium made presenters look good. All that gear came from a warehouse, run by a cherished coworker who used to lovingly chide me for wearing ballet flats on show days because they weren’t exactly as safe as steel-toes. He stood up for me when there did come an opportunity to work out of town and I was the only woman on the gig. And he was known for his relentless work ethic, which was just as strong as his belief in the people around him. That relentlessness may have cost him his life.

A lawsuit has been brought on behalf of this friend, who likely succumbed to heatstroke one blazing summer day in the New Orleans metro and ultimately passed away. The company claimed it was heart-related. Rumblings from his friends and colleagues made it clear: It was likely heat-related.

There’s little recourse for workers who die from extreme temperatures, which have been made much worse due to climate change. As Mother Jones notes in a recent report, median penalties for on-the-job deaths stand at just $12,144 for federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans. State OSHA plans typically penalize companies with median fines of just $6,899 for worker deaths. For companies like the one I worked at, with revenues in excess of $40 million, a penalty like that certainly wouldn’t inspire a whole lot of change. Not that enforcement has even come close to allowing for such penalties to be incurred in the first place: As the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) notes, underreporting of such tragedies is altogether too common.

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.

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