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Vol. 74/No. 20      May 24, 2010

(front page)
BP oil rig disaster devastates
workers’ lives, environment
Reuters/Sean Gardner
Angry Louisiana shrimpers of Vietnamese and Cambodian descent listen to a BP “community coordinator” at China Sea Restaurant in Buras, Louisiana, May 6.

HOUSTON, May 10—Three weeks after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig left 11 workers dead and hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, no measures have succeeded in containing the oil.

An estimated 3.5 million gallons have spilled since the April 20 explosion. At its current pace of 200,000 gallons a day, the disaster will surpass the 11 million gallons released in the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill by next month.

BP, the oil giant that leased the rig, abandoned a project to siphon off much of the spewing oil May 8 after part of the massive apparatus used to do this—which took two and a half weeks to build and transport—became clogged.

Spraying chemical dispersants and surface burning have had limited effect. BP has dropped about 250,000 gallons of chemical materials from planes across the affected areas in the Gulf designed to disperse the oil into smaller droplets. They have suspended pumping a second dispersant into the main oil line in response to questions about the chemical’s impact to the ocean floor.

The environmental consequences of these operations is unknown.

The government closed an area of coastline to commercial and recreational fishing May 2 from Florida’s Pensacola Bay to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries expanded its ban on fishing and oyster harvesting coastal areas west of the Mississippi this week.

Fishermen have been hit hard by the closure of the fishing grounds and at least 65 potential class-action lawsuits that claim economic damage from the spill have been filed.

More than 100 angry Vietnamese and Cambodian shrimpers in Plaquemines Parish turned out for a meeting with BP representatives and government officials in Buras, Louisiana, May 6, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

One of the lawyers running the meeting began a question and answer period by telling fishermen to refrain from hostile questions or threats of lawsuits. A fishermen responded by shouting, “We are normal people. We are not animals. Talk to us like we are human beings!”

As the disaster continues to grow more questions are being raised about profitable shortcuts taken by BP that were approved by government agencies.

According to an AP review of records, BP never filed a plan to handle a major oil spill from an uncontrolled blowout at its Deepwater Horizon project because the government agency responsible changed its regulations two years ago, exempting it and some other projects in the central Gulf region.

BP discounted any possibility of a oil-spill disaster last year in its exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon site.

Details about BP’s disregard for the workers on the rig are also now surfacing. The Galveston Daily News reports that three workers forced to escape on lifeboats after the explosion were kept floating at sea for more than 10 hours. They were not allowed to call their families, and were kept by the company until the workers filled out forms and took a drug test.
Related articles:
Stewardship of nature falls to working class
Explosions in Russian coal mine kill dozens  
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