Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Letter to editor "ADEM fails to meet community’s needs"

ADEM fails to meet community’s needs

Dear Editor:
The Tuscaloosa News’ Lydia Seabol Avant recently did a fine job in the article “EPA Investigates Landfill,” (The Tuscaloosa News, Aug. 14, Page 1A) which described the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation of the discriminatory impact on Uniontown’s citizens caused by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s decision to permit Arrowhead Landfill to receive waste from 33 states.
I am one of those who say the landfill was expanded without proper protections for public health and the environment. Prior to its expansion, the landfill received over
4 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash that came from the 2008 Kingston, Tenn., coal ash spill.
As one of those complainants, I can tell you the impacts and experiences are as horrifying as described in the article. Frustrated residents living near this area suffer from a wide range of medical problems linked to coal ash dust and coal ash wastewater run-off. Concerned families no longer grow vegetable gardens and the smells around the landfill can make one’s stomach turn. Their quality of life has declined as have property values.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management bears significant responsibility for allowing this to happen.
Are ADEM officials violating our civil rights when they fail to properly review and then strengthen permits that result in little or no protection? Are they discriminating against our poor and minority communities when they fail to adequately enforce environmental laws?
Hopefully, the EPA will find out the answer to these questions.
Adam Johnston
Alliance Coordinator, Alabama Rivers Alliance


Thursday, September 4, 2014

BREAKING NEWS! BP found "Grossly Negligent"

Judge: BP Has Been Found Grossly Negligent

Posted: Sep 04, 2014 9:53 AM CDT Updated: Sep 04, 2014 10:35 AM CDT
BATON ROUGE, La. - A federal judge has ruled that BP's reckless conduct resulted in the nation's worst offshore oil spill, leaving the company open to billions of dollars in penalties.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's ruling Thursday could nearly quadruple the amount of civil penalties for polluting the Gulf of Mexico with oil from BP's Macondo well in 2010.

Barbier presided over a trial in 2013 to apportion blame for the spill that spewed oil from April 20 to mid-July 2010. Eleven men died when the well blew wild; BP already has agreed to billions of dollars in criminal fines.

Barbier says BP bears 67 percent of the blame for the spill. He says drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd. takes 30 percent of the blame, and cement contractor Halliburton Energy Service takes 3 percent.

It's about damn time. The Gulf residents found BP "Grossly Negligent" May 20, 2010.
My first view...

Monday, June 23, 2014

1,000-pound tar mat is being cleaned up on Fort Pickens beach.

Nearly four years to the day when BP oil began soiling our beaches, a 1,000-pound tar mat is being cleaned up on Fort Pickens beach. (Pensacola News Journal)

A U.S. Coast Guard pollution investigation team is leading another day of cleanup of a tar mat discovered Friday on the beach at Fort Pickens.
So far, the team has removed about 960 pounds of the mat, which is about 8 to 10 feet off the shoreline in the Gulf of Mexico, just east of Langdon Beach, Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy said
Mats are made of weathered oil, sand, water and shells.
Monday marks the fourth anniversary of when the oil from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster finally arrived on waves slicking our beaches. Tar balls and a frothy brownish-orange petroleum product called mousse, however, arrived earlier that month.
The mat was discovered on Friday by a Florida Department of Environmental Protection monitor who surveys area beaches routinely looking for lingering BP oil.
"The weather plays such a big factor in this," said Murphy. "Friday we got the cleanup crew out there and could see it (tar mat) visibly and attacked it. Then the thunderstorms came in, and they had to stop."
By the time the crew returned Saturday, the mat was reburied under 6 inches of sand, and it took the crew a while to relocate it using GPS coordinates taken Friday, she said.
With the mat located in the surf zone, it's harder to clean up.
"It's always a battle with Mother Nature," Murphy said.
The team returned today and plans to return Monday and for as many days as it takes to excavate the entire mat with shovels, although Murphy said it appears by the smaller amount excavated today they may be getting close to collecting all of it.
But the team will survey about 100 yards east and west of the mat to make sure none is still buried in the sand.
This mat is located about half a mile east of where a mat containing 1,400 pounds of weathered oil was cleaned up in March.
Cleanup is being conducted by a joint effort between BP, the Coast Guard, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and National Park Service.
It will take about a week for test results to confirm whether the oil is from the Macondo well that exploded April 20, 2004.
More than 200 million gallons of crude oil spewed into Gulf in 2010 for a total of 87 days before the Macondo well head could capped, making it the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.
Ironically, the discovery of the near-shore mat comes at a time when the National Park Service has stepped up efforts to search out suspected tar mats farther offshore.
Mats are believed to be submerged in the Gulf of Mexico waters off the seashore's Fort Pickens and Johnson beach areas.
Since April, a specialized team of underwater archaeologists has been scanning the waters looking for areas that might have trapped oil when it began washing up on our beaches four years ago on Monday.
Friday's discovery is not related to the dive team's hunt for oil, although the Coast Guard is testing several samples the team discovered to see if it is oil and, if so, whether it's from the ­Macondo well, she said.
Murphy urges the public to report any tar mat, tar ball or anything they suspected BP oil to the National Response Center hotline.
Report tar balls
Report tar ball, tar mats or anything that looks like oil pollution to the National Response Center hotline 800-424-8802.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TAR SANDS OIL MOBILE Exposes pipeline fiasco


Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings

With all the talk about tar sands oil coming to Mobile Alabama and the lack of current information about the pipeline leading from Pascagoula Miss to the Downtown Mobile terminals to be built there I felt the need to expose it for what it is.
The pipeline crosses the Big Creek Lake basin where Mobile gets it's drinking water. In fact this oil pipeline crosses within less than 1/2 mile from the intake pump for the drinking water of thousands of Mobile residents.
The new storage tanks will be located less than 1/4 mile from a densely populated housing project and just over 500 feet from the head of Royal Street in Downtown Mobile

Not only is this an environmental nightmare, it is also a huge environmental injustice for the people directly impacted by the path. Politicians will tell you that the people in the corridor sold their right of way (ROW) willingly. That is not quite all of the truth. Many people were forced to sell under the threat of takings through imminent domain. (Sell it or we take it)
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
As we flew from Pascagoula to Mobile I was surprised to see how many wetlands were being impacted. In the event of a rupture this will present a nightmare to contain.
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings

One thing sticks out like a sore thumb and that is the crossing of Mobile Alabama's drinking water source at Big Creek Lake. It actually crosses the existing pipeline carrying water to Mobile!

Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
We flew over the 10 Mile Storage facility owned by Plains All American. It was evident from all of the new construction that they anticipate the expansion will be approved. Why not, our politicians seem to think that profits for industry should always outweigh people, health and safety!
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
 Leaving the 10 Mile facility we flew Southeast toward Mobile. Once again the close proximity to residents stood out prominently. I could see children's swing sets, yard equipment, horses, cows, and peoples front doors within only a few feet from the pipeline and the potential disaster looming there.
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
As we entered the Downtown area of Mobile Tom pointed out where the new storage tanks would be built. They will lie only about 1,000 feet from a densely populated housing project and only about 500 feet from Royal Street. (distances taken from Google Earth)
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
Directly across the river is where ARC wants to expand their holding tanks and install a subsurface pipeline under the Mobile River connecting the new tanks at the rail head and the expanded tank farm on Old Spanish Trail (Google)
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
We flew up 3 mile Creek to the ARC Saraland site. Here railroad cars are brought to load trucks with oil reported to be tar sands oil. From the photos it was clear to see that there were already problems with the site.
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
These tank trucks are leaking badly and appear to have been doing so for some time. The trucks can be seen in Google Earth as early as Jan. 2012. 

Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
Photo by John L. Wathen, Pilot Tom Hutchings
Close up shots of the train cars here revealed the same numbering sequence as ones also seen in Downtown Mobile belonging to Canada National Railroad.
ARC Saraland
Downtown Mobile
People living close to and impacted by this project are not being heard. Lands have been taken by greedy oil mongers through good old boy politics. That needs to be exposed and shown to the elected powers that have backed this play for profit. Any politician who supports such a recipe for disaster needs to be replaced at the next election. If such a pipeline is built, it certainly needs to take a different path considering the health and safety of ALL impacted residents.

There are simply too many unknowns and misinformation being released that say this is OK. I call on every group that has any environmental stake in this to examine it for what it's worth and denounce this as a bad idea.

Give them a call and express yourself!
Below is a video I created to expose the entire route of the pipeline and what I consider important issues associated with it. For more information concerning the pipeline and it's impacts to residents of Alabama and Mississippi, contact Tar Sands Oil Mobile

Thursday, June 27, 2013

40,000-pound tar mat unearthed on Grand Terre

40,000-pound tar mat unearthed on Grand Terre

By Nikki Buskey
Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 7:51 p.m.

A 40,000-pound tar mat unearthed in the surf off Grand Terre island is a sign that three years after the Gulf oil spill, the disaster continues to affect the Louisiana coast, state and environmental officials said Wednesday.

Grand Terre is an uninhabited barrier island east of Grand Isle. The tar mat, which was 165-feet long by 65-feet wide, was a mixture of sand, shells, oil and water. It was removed over a period of a few weeks.

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves said the tar mat is evidence that BP’s cleanup along the Louisiana shoreline has been insufficient.

BP couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Continuing to find oil mats in our shoreline proves that our concerns are warranted,” Graves said.

Federal on-scene coordinators for the spill are ending active cleanup this month in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The Coast Guard and BP are still engaging in active cleanup at several Louisiana sites, including Grand Isle, Grand Terre, Elmer’s Island, Fourchon Beach and East Timbalier.

Louisiana officials have repeatedly voiced concerns about buried oil being left behind.

A joint statement from environmental groups, including the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Defense Fund, says Louisiana’s vital barrier islands, which are in jeopardy due to coastal erosion, took the brunt of the damage from the oil disaster.
“Barrier islands provide a first line of defense against storm surge, protecting communities and habitats, and they are also nurseries and breeding grounds for many species of Gulf fish, wildlife and migratory birds,” the statement says. “BP misleads audiences when it declares cleanup victory in the Gulf. It may try to sweep this recent news under the rug, but it’s going to take a pretty big broom to hide a 40,000-pound tar mat.”

Reports say the tar mat was made up of 15 percent oil and 85 percent sand, shells and water. But the entire mat itself was considered hazardous and had to be removed from the area, the groups point out.

Local officials have said BP and the Coast Guard have responded to concerns about buried oil and tar mats, sampling the beach by drilling augering holes to look for oil under the surface sands and sending scuba Shoreline Cleanup Assistance Teams to probe in the wave line for submerged oil mats on Fourchon Beach. Tar balls and tar mats have washed up regularly on the beach since the spill.

Terrebonne Coastal Restoration Director Nic Matherne said the parish has been working with the state to receive bimonthly briefings on ongoing cleanup efforts.

“There’s so much oil we’ll continue to uncover oil for years. We’re staying informed and staying on top of the issue,” Matherne said.

He added that officials have to balance the need to unearth buried oil with preventing damage to sensitive habitats like barrier islands.

“We’ve worked with the Coast Guard and the incident management team to stay informed of their modelling on wave action and where they are most likely to surface, and that’s an ongoing effort,” Matherne said.

Graves said responders have cleaned up 2.8 million pounds of oil in Louisiana this year alone.

“That’s 99 percent of all the oil removed in the Gulf,” Graves said.

Graves cited statistics that more than 1 million barrels of oil still remain unaccounted for since the spill.

“That’s five times the Exxon Valdez spill,” he said. “We can’t just wait for it to come to shore. Most importantly, we’re only seeing this oil on the beaches we have in Louisiana. What’s happening in our wetlands?”

He called for BP to set up a proactive monitoring system that can identify tar mats offshore and collect them before they wash in.

Staff Writer Nikki Buskey can be reached at 448-7636 or nicole.buskey@houmatoday.com.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Miners, if you can't afford safety then get out

Miners, if you can't afford safety then get out 

OPINION: Our South Island communities are being courted and consulted a little more vigorously than usual, thanks to an opportunity for the big mining companies to explore our ocean floors for signs of gas and oil.
These companies have known for a long time that there is potential for extraction in a number of offshore sites but, for one reason or another, the numbers simply haven't stacked up or the political environment has not been conducive. But things are different now and it seems the best opportunity to make some money is now.
It is not a fait accompli by any stretch of the imagination and in the current environment the best progress is going to be made when all community stakeholders are on board.
This is a big ask, as we saw this week when Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced Bathurst could proceed with opencast mining on the conservation estate.
The whole thing may yet be derailed by legal proceedings but Bathurst believes it can run a viable operation, with all the best practice initiatives in place, and still contribute $22 million to local conservation projects.
I fully understand that where all the factors are well known, associated management challenges are adequately mitigated and the safety issues are implemented and monitored well, then a reliable operation can be run.
This is particularly true of land-based mining.
It is important to note the economic viability of any mining needs to take all of these factors into consideration.
Cost savings when it comes to safety are not an option. A Rolls-Royce operation, which is what we deserve and what we should demand, comes at a cost and that will be the real leveller.
If the figures don't stack up: that is, you can't afford the safety, then get out of town.
The game is a little different in the open sea.
Anadarko is one of the companies that may be drilling in the Great South Basin and it has been actively engaging with iwi and many other community stakeholders.
Not surprisingly, they are talking about the innocuous impact of their exploration technology, and how friendly they are to whales and other charismatic mega-fauna.
All sorts of discussions are being had about how the company can make a meaningful contribution to the community, and ensure an enduring and productive long-term relationship.
Excuse my cynicism but these types of negotiations struggle to pass my sincerity test. That is not to say all multinationals with a reputation for natural resource exploitation should be tossed to the side but, for me, the hurdle is pretty high.
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Yesterday, I met with veteran activist Mike Smith and a photojournalist from the United States who was on the ground, and in the air, during the weeks following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
His view was that the incident, and the subsequent cleanup, was less than transparent and quite convoluted with deliberate misinformation and a poorly co-ordinated operation.
They particularly pointed out that Anadarko, one of the companies possibly operating off the South Island coastline, has been implicated in the Gulf of Mexico spill. Anadarko was a 25 per cent partner in the BP and Haliburton-led operation, although it claims it was only a financial partner.
Others argue that Anadarko was involved in critical decision-making.
It is certainly on the end of legal proceedings in the US that accuse it of not fully declaring how much it knew about the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the impact it would have on the value of the company.
My personal concern with any deep-sea drilling here is the ability to mitigate against any disaster.
I do not oppose the principle of mineral or fossil-fuel extraction but what if it all goes to crap?
It certainly did in the Gulf of Mexico and the means to tidy up the mess were far from adequate or effective.
The primary intervention was the use of something called Corexit, a dispersant that coagulates the spilt oil, which then disappears below the surface of the ocean.
Britain banned the use of Corexit dispersants in 1998 and many expert scientists believe it is more harmful than the oil itself.
A survey of the health impacts of Corexit on cleanup workers showed eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory problems, blood in urine, rectal bleeding, seizures, nausea and violent vomiting, skin irritation, burning and lesions, short-term memory loss, liver and kidney damage, central nervous system damage, hypertension and miscarriages.
In New Zealand, the first line of defence, if we were to experience a significant oil spill, would be to use Corexit.
It was most recently used following the Rena crisis off Tauranga two years ago.
If that is as good as it gets, then it isn't good enough.

(for those in the US, mining in New Zealand is the same as what we refer to as drilling for oil)

Local doc presses BP claims

Local doc presses BP claims

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 11:42 am
In the weeks, months and years following the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, Dr. Mike Robichaux drew international attention as he cared for people he maintains were sickened by the incident’s aftermath, occasionally advocating on their behalf within the legal system.
And he’s not done.
The Mathews physician, who calls himself a “simple country doctor,” has been busy with a letter-writing campaign seeking to have the medical aspects of a class-action settlement re-defined. And although the federal judge overseeing the matter has approved a program for medical settlement that Robichaux faults, he is still not done.
“I realize that I’ve worn out my welcome over the last few months,” states a letter from Robichaux to U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier. “However, the health and care of my patients supersedes my reluctance to annoy you any further.”
Robichaux, a former Louisiana state senator and LSU football star, has also written the attorneys general of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. He wants them to look at his opinion – from a medical perspective – that the settlement process has been “corrupted” because it ignores matters he sees of clear medical importance.
Robichaux’s letter questions the manner in which claims of illness are being handled in the settlement. While court papers refer to various ailments related to exposure of people to crude oil and other chemicals, Robichaux says there is in no way enough emphasis on long-term effects. Chronic conditions that may still be developing as well as various cancers, in Robichaux’s opinion, are not being taken seriously. Failing to clearly state illnesses that he is convinced show signs of manifesting now, Robichaux maintains, could result in difficulty should people now involved in the settlement press claims of chronic illness later, even though there is some protection against that built into the settlement.
In December, Barbier issued a judgment certifying who qualifies for the class of people suffering economic and property damage due to the disaster and approved a settlement agreement.
Approval of the medical portion was announced late last week.
“Parts of the agreement between the Plaintiff Steering Committee, appointed by Judge Barbier, and BP relied on premises that, in my opinion, had no basis in fact and completely distorted the reality of the long-term consequences of these illnesses,” Robichaux said Monday in an interview.
Last spring, advocates for workers and residents saw the inclusion of potential compensation for future illness as a big plus while the litigation package was being hammered out. Robichaux says he is convinced, however, that the process does not go far enough.
Top among the credentials Robichaux presents as a man of medicine who should be heeded is the fact that he has personally treated people affected by the spill. Robichaux also opines that some of the most important chronic potentials are likely to mirror Gulf War illness.
He notes in his letter to Barbier a statement entered into the court record by Dr. Michael Harbut, a physician with impeccable background but who did not – in the court statement – refer to aspects of the longer-lasting medical problems.
Robichaux was disturbed by this, he said, because he has seen medical literature that shows Harbut and other experts who appear to be ignoring long-term aspects of exposure are well aware of the long-term risks.
“I was fascinated when I realized that he is an exceptional clinician and genuine ‘Good Guy,’ who is a formidable presence in our profession and in his medical specialty,” Robichaux told the judge.
Robichaux has advised Barbier that, in his opinion, the settlement contains flaws that could keep people who contracted chronic illnesses from being adequately compensated and getting the care that they need.
Robichaux’s letter is dated Dec. 7 and has not received a reply from Barbier.
The medical settlement program is limited in most cases to people living with certain physical proximity to the disaster, or who worked directly in its proximity during the cleanup.
Those people may still press claims at a later time if it is discovered that they have developed illnesses related to the spill. But Robichaux says that’s not good enough, that there should be a way to give greater assurance within the settlement.
Local attorneys involved with the litigation confirmed that there are options for people who may have other illnesses at a later time, but also acknowledged that they were not entirely sure of the limitations and that the claims they handle are largely been limited to those now before Barbier.
“It is my most sincere belief that the proposed agreement between BP and the Plaintiff Steering Committee has been severely corrupted and should be rejected,” Robichaux’s letter states.
Asked to explain in detail what he desires, Robichaux said the goal is for Barbier “to reject the medical part of the settlement. The chronic illnesses stated in there are false. This is supposed to be a true document. The attorneys will say it is the best we can get in negotiation.”
Robichaux notes that while people working on the attorney steering committee and representatives from BP got to speak at a recent hearing, the people most affected – those who say they are ill – did not.
“So there is no public record on any of these things, no record that these sick people existed,” the Mathews doctor said, complaining that the potentials for chronic illness have been cast into the land of “what if.”
Robichaux is not the only physician with a strong opinion about the process.
Dr. Kaye Kilburn, a Pasadena medical toxicologist who has seen patients with illnesses related to the spill, not only agrees with Robichaux, but says the geographic area used to determine who is eligible for a medical claim should be made bigger.
Kilburn said enough tests have not been done to ensure that all areas with potential wind-blown effects from burned oil and other chemicals during the cleanup process are identified.
“I have examined some of the people and Dr. Robichaux and I agree that we have a huge health problem that is being actively suppressed, in Raceland and all the way to Grand Isle,” Kilburn said in a telephone interview last week. “I think the problem is far wider, that it extends 200 or 300 miles from the site. What I found was lots of neurological impairments. These people in Louisiana, they are not complainers. They are stoic people. Some had few complaints but they showed with impairment of balance and slowing of reaction time, difficulty discriminating color. They had memory and brain fog, confusion. We have methods for doing objective testing on these things, on these concealed damages. An ordinary doctor would say it’s all in your head … but these doctors are misleading the people. This is the worst type of misjudgment and inhumanity.”
Robichaux and Kilburn have sought help from private donors for enough testing to be done to make a clear and convincing case to attorneys or to the courts.
Although he is receiving no compensation for his efforts, Robichaux said this weekend he plans to keep pressing the issue, even though the chances he will go unheard are great.
“There are a large number of formerly healthy American Citizens who have suffered life-altering illnesses as the result of exposure to chemicals released by a foreign corporation in American waters.” Robichaux said. “To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a penny paid out for the care of these individuals by this corporation and this corporation has been successful, to date, in obscuring the severity and extent of the illnesses being suffered by our fellow countrymen.”