A Forum of Misinformation: Confronting BP's Shills in Slidell

You Killed Our Way of Life
By Elizabeth Cook
 
A so-called “community forum” was held June 1 in Slidell, east of New Orleans. It was organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and not by local officials. It was a PR stunt paid for by BP. It was held in Slidell - we believe for the purpose of excluding as many folks as possible who have been directly impacted. They would never hold such a meeting in St. Bernard, for example, or Plaquemines Parish.
 
But it was a PR stunt that went badly wrong for them, because myself and two friends attended. One woman who went with me spoke to PR consultants from New Orleans who were hired by BP to be there. Several of them kept walking up to me asking me either to calm down. It was disturbing to see the state agencies represented there: the Department of Environmental Quality, Coastal Restoration, and the Louisiana Department of Health. Other than the state agencies, this was a forum of misinformation: the Environmental Protection Agency, the NOAA, BP and the Coast Guard all colluded on spreading lies. The Coast Guard, EPA and NOAA are embedded in BP.

The EPA official acknowledged that Corexit (the “oil dispersant being used by BP) is banned in the UK, and that it has never before been used in such massive quantities as it is in the Gulf. Rest assured though, they are studying its impact. He could not say how much is actually being dumped in the Gulf, nor what mechanism they have in place to assure that BP doesn't use more than the EPA has approved. He pointed to the Coast Guard for those answers.

One BP official acknowledged the existence of "one plume". I pointed out that university researchers have discovered others, but he claimed he personally knew of only one. I overheard One BP official explaining to other BP employees that the Corexit will degrade the oil "naturally". When I questioned him about this, he denied knowing how the oil has gotten into the marsh; he denied, essentially, that the dispersant is causing the oil to sink below the surface to move into the marsh, below the surface, rendering the booms incapable of stopping the advancing oil.

I spoke to folks from the state Coastal Restoration department. My father retired from that department, and they knew him. I asked them why hasn't the state tapped into the vast wealth of research and information that's already been conducted by LSU on oil spills and natural enzymes and such that can break down the oil and get rid of it out of the marsh. They replied that they asked the same question in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, and didn't get an answer.

The stranglehold that BP has on the flow of information and transparency is absolutely the problem with the "response". I confronted the Coast Guard on this issue, and I accused them of protecting a corporation over and above the people of Louisiana. They looked pretty sheepish. These are lower level grunts of course, there to shill for the response "efforts" on behalf of BP. This is corporate fascism in action: a BP PR forum, with all attendant federal and state agencies dutifully attending and talking up the "response".

At the end of the forum, which was really a set of tables with officials from various agencies talking to folks on an individual basis, I was approached by a woman who said they were "wrapping up". She kept interrupting me because I was confronting BP officials. It turns out, she was with NOAA. I said, "Oh, NOAA is embedded in BP also." This infuriated her, and she stalked off. I held up a protest sign done by a local artist, depicting a dying sea creatures in an oily pot of BP jambalaya. She stalked off angrily to ask a police officer to escort me out of there. He approached me, and was actually nice about it. Other security also approached me, and I held the sign aloft as I backed out of the meeting room, declaring that it was my wish that more fisherman had attended to confront these officials.

More from someone else who attended:

It was a waste of time, not a public forum at all. We were to get in line to ask question to each expert. I asked to change the venue so that everyone could hear the questions but was turned down. Many people walked out at that time. 

Every solution that BP has offered still involves getting oil out of the drill hole. I asked a BP official why they could not just PLUG it and at first he said the pressure was too much, which did not hold water with me. When I suggested a long, cone like device that could be pushed into the hole, he said there was too much debris. That does not hold water with me either.

An attendee there suggested that if they plugged the well, BP would lose their lease. I am thinking that is part of the problem as well.

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.