One month after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, people are becoming increasingly enraged as ask why BP is still in charge of both the “response” and the flow of information. But as straightforward as it may seem for the government to “just take over”, the law actually prevents it.

After the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, Congress decided that oil companies would be solely responsible for dealing with major accidents. The laws were written and orchestrated by Dick Cheney and his cronies at his Mineral Management Service. As White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said “There are no powers of intervention that the federal government has available but has opted not to use.” They are bound by the Law of Cheney.

In repeated tests, Corexit – the dispersant used by BP (700,000 gallons have been dumped into the Gulf thus far with more ordered) – killed 25 percent of all organisms living at 500 feet+ below the ocean’s surface. Of 18 dispersants whose use EPA has approved, 12 were found to be more effective than Corexit while the toxicity was shown to be either comparable to the Corexit line or, in some cases, 10 to 20 times less, according to the EPA.

What heinous bedmates: the company (BP) that, through negligence, shoddy practices, corruption and lies, created a global environmental catastrophe and Nalco (the producer of Corexit) who reaps the financial rewards. Richard Eastman, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. in Milwaukee, estimates that Nalco has so far sold about $40 million worth of Corexit to BP for the “clean-up” project. Ka-ching!

By the way, Nalco’s board of directors includes Daniel Sanders, the former president of ExxonMobil, and Rodney Chase, a 40-year-plus employee of BP.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., suggested that the deep-sea delivery of Corexit was contributing to the development of large underwater oil plumes and that there are “concerns that the dispersant BP chose to use is more toxic than other available formulations.”

“The effect of long-term use of dispersants on the marine ecosystem has not been extensively studied,” Markey added, “and we need to act with the utmost caution.” I would think that this is another stellar example of “too little, too late.”

Meanwhile Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., asked why BP opted for Corexit instead of Dispersit, which is produced by Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.-based Polychemical Corp. Dispersit is one-third as toxic as Corexit, according to EPA data, and has an effectiveness rating of 100 percent. BP placed an initial order for Dispersit before canceling it. Are we surprised?

BP has now admitted that the siphon that they claimed was sucking up 5,000 barrels per day has only extracted 2,200 barrels. Lie upon lie upon lie.

Now we come to Dick Cheney’s infamous “energy task force”.  After stacking the Federal government’s newly-created Material Management Service with his buddies, the agency reversed an earlier 2000 decision requiring a mandatory “accusatorial regulator”. This allowed BP and others to not install a $500,000 acoustic switch to automatically shut down “accidentally” gushing oil wells. Cheney et al decided that the switches were too much of a “burden” on the industry. (Aw, diddums). The Material Management Service has reported that 18 of 39 blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico were due to poor workmanship in injecting the cement around the well casing. Well done, Dick!

Investigators delving into the causes of the gulf oil disaster are now examining the role of Houston-based Halliburton Co., the company that was responsible for cementing the deepwater drill hole, as well as the possible failure of equipment leased to British Petroleum. Remember that Cheney was chairman and CEO of Halliburton and, I’m sure, still holds considerable shares in the company. BP, Transocean, Halliurton…are we seeing a connection, people?

Ah yes…Cheney and Halliburton: the company that reaped vast profits through its billion-dollar contracts to support the war in Iraq  – the war that its former chairman, Dick Cheney, helped draw the United States into when he was vice president. (By the way, have you found those pesky WMDs yet, Dick?)

The Gulf of Mexico, its myriad species, those who make their living from its waters, the eastern seaboard as the oil becomes entrained in the Loop Current – all are being poisoned by oil and chemical dispersants. The deaths of countless creatures, the devastation of multiple eco-systems and the far-reaching economic ramifications stain the hands of BP, Halliburton, Transocean, Cheney and others…and no amount of dispersant (“Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!”) will cleanse them of this.


Author’s Note: I wrote this before I read Andrea Lee Meyer’s excellent article “Oil and Water” so please forgive me if some sections are redundant. Hopefully I added some information but, if not, it has at least allowed me to “vent” and to clarify the “big picture” in my own mind. And it isn’t a pretty picture!

Alex Kearns

Alex Kearns

Alex writes for a variety of national and international publications. A relative newcomer to the United States, she co-founded her town's first environmental organization (The St. Marys EarthKeepers, Inc.). In turns bemused, confused, entranced, frustrated and delighted, she enjoys unravelling the eternal enigma that is the Deep South.