Monday, June 07, 2010

The other recent BP oil spill you may have missed

With all the devastation going on in the Gulf of Mexico and the 24-hour coverage of it by seemingly every cable news channel, you and I may be forgiven for not paying too much attention to matters oil-related that were transpiring elsewhere in the US. But what of our national media? Apparently they did not see fit to report on it too intensively, if at all. "It" being the Alaska incident, in which no-one was killed and which obviously did not rise to the level of urgency and shock value of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in terms of catastrophic environmental and economic damage, but which nonetheless corroborates the larger narrative herein: that BP's negligence and malfeasance is part of a pattern that rises beyond coincidence. Indeed, I'd argue that such a pattern of willful negligence and criminal malfeasance is intrinsic to BP's business model: this is the very definition of racketeering.

On May 25th 2010, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was shut down after a power failure led to a spill of "several thousands" of barrels of oil. A containment area consisting of gravel and impermeable tarp was reportedly successful in heading off any environmental damage, though there are ongoing concerns--amid watchdog groups and reporters who've covered the pipeline in general and the activities of BP specifically--about the pipeline's serious corrosion problems, the system's insufficient staffing and the lax maintenance of equipment, and the integrity of the pipeline itself.

Subsequent to this incident, the pipeline was re-opened, first at a reduced flow, then an even more reduced flow, for days; normal oil flow has since been restored.

BP (British Petroleum) is the majority owner of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline's operators, Aleyska. According to the wildflower-bedecked Aleyska corporate website, here's the breakdown of Aleyska's ownership (ironically, though not at all surprisingly, Aleyska is an Aleut word that means mainland, yet the consortium described below would not appear to include any Native Alaskan people or groups whatsoever):

BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc. 46.93%
ConocoPhillips Transportation Alaska, Inc. 28.29%
ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, 20.34%
Unocal Pipeline Company, 1.36%
Koch Alaska Pipeline Company, L.L.C., 3.08%

(You may recognize the name Koch: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has reported on Koch Industries' significant and secret funding--to the tune of $24.9 million between 2005 and 2008--of global-warming denial campaigns via organizations such as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. These campaigns disseminate lies and disinformation and, among other nefarious, self-serving goals, seek to affect public policy. They do this by undermining support for developing alternative energy sources like wind and solar as well as by downplaying and even denying the benefits of reducing, and ultimately doing away with, the nation's dependence on fossil fuel, aka oil.)

BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast has been covering the TAPS concerns for years. Here's his latest:
With the Gulf Coast dying of oil poisoning, there's no space in the press for British Petroleum's latest spill, just this week: over 100,000 gallons, at its Alaska pipeline operation. A hundred thousand used to be a lot. Still is.

On Tuesday, Pump Station 9, at Delta Junction on the 800-mile pipeline, busted. Thousands of barrels began spewing an explosive cocktail of hydrocarbons after "procedures weren't properly implemented" by BP operators, say state inspectors. "Procedures weren't properly implemented" is, it seems, BP's company motto.

Few Americans know that BP owns the controlling stake in the trans-Alaska pipeline; but, unlike with the Deepwater Horizon, BP keeps its Limey name off the Big Pipe.

There's another reason to keep their name off the Pipe: their management of the pipe stinks. It's corroded, it's undermanned and "basic maintenance" is a term BP never heard of.

How does BP get away with it? The same way the Godfather got away with it: bad things happen to folks who blow the whistle. BP has a habit of hunting down and destroying the careers of those who warn of pipeline problems.

In one case, BP's CEO of Alaskan operations hired a former CIA expert to break into the home of a whistleblower, Chuck Hamel, who had complained of conditions at the pipe's tanker facility. BP tapped his phone calls with a US congressman and ran a surveillance and smear campaign against him. When caught, a US federal judge said BP's acts were "reminiscent of Nazi Germany."
I encourage readers to click over and read the entire article.

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