Weekly Mulch: One Year After the BP Oil Spill, None the Wiser

 

By Megan Hagist, Media Consortium blogger

One year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history began, key questions about its environmental impact remain unanswered. The 4.9 million barrels of BP oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico continue to threaten marine wildlife and other vile surprises have surfaced along the way.

Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard lists 10 reasonswhy we should not let the BP spill fade into the background. Perhaps the most important is the spill’s effect on locals’ health, about which Sheppard reports:

Of the 954 residents in seven coastal communities, almost half said they had experienced health problems like coughing, skin and eye irritation, or headaches that are consistent with common symptoms of chemical exposure. While the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting health monitoring for spill cleanup workers, residents in the areas closest to the spill are concerned that their own health problems have gone unattended.

Unfortunately, protests from these communities are unheard. Low-income and minority communities are typically targeted for oil production due to inadequate political power, but indigenous women in the United States and Canada are ready to change that.

Acting Against Big Oil

Organizations like Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL),  Indigenous Environmental Network, and Women’s Earth Alliance are working together to apply continuous pressure on oil companies in order to stop some of their more environmentally disastrous projects. Ms. Magazine’s Catherine Traywick shares insight from activist Faith Gemmill:

“We are trying to build the capacity of community leaders who are on the frontlines of these issues so that they can address these issues themselves,” Gemmill says. Her organization trains community members who are confronted with massive industrial projects and provides them with legal assistance and political support. Women’s Earth Alliance similarly links indigenous women leaders with legal and policy advocates who can, pro-bono, help them fight extractive industry, waste dumping and fossil-fuel production on sacred sites.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to neglect the National Oil Spill Commission’s advice to endorse safety regulations, while demands for domestic offshore drilling become more vocal under presumptions of lower gas prices and increased employment. But are these reasons worth the economic and environmental risks associated with drilling offshore?

According to Care2’s Jill Conners and Matthew McDermott, the answer is no. They break down the facts, noting:

Political posturing notwithstanding, offshore drilling will not eliminate US demand for foreign oil or really even make significant strides into reducing that dependency. At current consumption, the US uses about 8 billion barrels of oil per year; conventionally recoverable oil from offshore drilling is thought to be 18 billion barrels total, not per year.  What’s more, offshore oil drilling will not guarantee lower fuel prices — oil is a global  commodity, and US production is not big enough to influence global prices.

What about Wind Power?

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the Cape Wind Project, a plan to build an offshore wind farm five miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod. First proposed 10 years ago, the farm will consist of 130 wind turbines, each 440 feet tall and capable of producing 3.6-megawatts of energy.

The controversial project has been opposed by some environmentalists, who expressed fears that the installation of the turbines could have destructive impacts related to aviation traffic, fishing use, migratory birds, and oil within the turbine generators, among other issues.

Moral issues are raised too, as local tribes have fought against the Cape Wind project. Earth Island Institute’s Sacred Film Land Project has reported on the Wampanoag Indian tribes’ petitions, which ask for protection of sacred rituals and a tribal burial grounds located directly in Cape Wind’s path of installation.

Green-Ed

A somewhat worrisome study published Monday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communicationsheds light on Americans’ climate change knowledge. Results show teenagers understand climate change better than adults, regardless of having less education overall, with a larger percentage believing climate change is caused by humans.

Some of the study’s questions were summarized by Grist’s Christopher Mims, who recounts that only “54 percent of teens and 63 percent of adults say that global warming is happening,” while only “46 percent of teens and 49 percent of adults understand that emissions from cars and trucks substantially contribute to global warming.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets

 

US Court Denies Offshore Drilling Halt

As reported in Al-Jazeera, an Appeals court in Louisiana has recently rejected a request by the federal government to put a halt on offshore drilling and deep-ocean exploration.  This, as if it even needs to be mentioned, comes into place during the infamous BP oil catastrophe occurring off the coast of where this court is actually located.

In the ruling on Thursday, which upheld a lower court's decision last month, the court said the government failed to show it would suffer "irreparable injury'' if the ban was lifted.

The same appeals court is expected to hear arguments on the merits of the government's moratorium case in late August.

The decision offers a temporary reprieve for 33 oil and natural gas service companies to resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

It said that the administration also "made no showing that there is any likelihood that drilling activities will be resumed pending appeal".

Source:  Al-Jazeera

The proposed 6-month ban, in lieu of the oil spill, seemed pretty reasonable (at least to me) given our current offshore oil drilling situation.  The ensuing, and on-going, appeals process by the Dept. of the Interior will likely be courting (no pun intended) for the temporary ban to stand until the case is ruled on its merits.  

The interior department appealed, asking the appeals court to let the temporary ban stand until it ruled on the merits of the case.

After the moratorium was overturned, Salazar announced he will issue a new, refined moratorium that reflects offshore conditions.

"Effectively the government's getting what they want by default. It's too risky for companies to start up the deepwater drilling process when you know the rug could be pulled out from underneath you"

Dan Pickering, research head, Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co

"We continue to believe that it is not appropriate to drill new deepwater wells in the Gulf until we can be assured that future drilling activity can be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner," Kendra Barkoff, an interior department spokeswoman, said after Thursday's ruling.

An interesting decision by the Appeals court.  No doubt the neo-cons will be happy, but what is this really doing to help the process?  Ensuring that our drilling system isn't broken?  I think thats out of the question.

 

 

 

Weekly Pulse: U.S. Social Forum Tackles Health Issues

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Tens of thousands of progressive activists are converging on Detroit this week for the U.S. Social Forum to envision a better future. In the fight for social justice and sustainability, health and health care are at the forefront. During the meeting, the Washtenaw Reds plan to launch a free clinic in Detroit. They envision the facility as a center of healing and a nexus of political organizing. The USSF also features workshops on reproductive justice and drug policy issues. Urban farming and food justice are also key items on the agenda, Paul Abowd of In These Times reports.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Republicans are still scheming to overturn health care reform. The GOP leadership and its allies in the health care industry plan to use the upcoming confirmation fight over Dr. Donald Berwick, Obama’s nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid, as an opportunity to air their grievances about health care reform, Jamelle Bouie reports in the Washington Independent.

Deadly pollutants

As oil continues to spurt from the wrecked oil well in the Gulf, everyone is wondering how the disaster will affect human health. The scary part is, nobody really knows. The Climate Desk at Mother Jones says that more than 20,000 workers are slogging through as they attempt to clean up the mess. Fresh crude oil contains a many volatile chemicals, some of which have been shown to be carcinogenic. Over 100 workers have already complained of illnesses that may be connected to their work on the cleanup project, according to Louisiana public health authorities.

The Real News Network takes us on a tour of some of the deadliest pollutants in our air. Guest Michael Ash of the Corporate Toxics Information Project (CTIP) at Amherst University takes host Paul Jay on a guided tour of the nastiest gunk in our lungs. U.S.-based corporations emit over 4.5 billion pounds of toxic chemicals into the air every year. Bayer Aspirin and ExxonMobil are two of the biggest air polluters in the U.S., according to EPA emissions statistics. CTIP uses massive amounts of data that the EPA already collects to educate the public and investors about pollution. Ash hopes that socially responsible investors will decline to invest in dirty industries.

Over the counter birth control?

Finally, at RH Reality Check, Kathleen Reeves argues that the birth control pill should be available over the counter. Reeves maintains that anything a doctor might tell a woman about risk factors could be summarized on the package insert: Don’t smoke, use condoms to protect against STIs, and so on. I would argue that full OTC status might be a step too far. When it comes to hormonal contraception, one size does not fit all. Patients need to discuss their options with a health care professional who can explain the risks and benefits associated with each. Of course it’s silly to make a woman go back to her doctor every 6 months to renew a prescription she’s been taking every day for the last decade. A sensible compromise might to extend the length of prescriptions and the number of times they can be renewed following.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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