Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Monday, March 28, 2011

While Slowing BP Spill, Administration Slowed Flow of Information Too, Claims Coast Guard Report

Fox News got this one right.
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration failed to set up an "effective" communications system during last year's BP oil spill and threatened its own credibility by "severely restricting" the release of "timely, accurate information," according to a newly released report commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Quietly posted on the Coast Guard's website two weeks ago, the report offers the first major assessment of the federal government's communications efforts during the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Information centers in Houma, La., and Mobile, Ala. -- established by the Coast Guard in accordance with pre-set plans for major disasters -- were "effectively muted," the report reads.

Photographs could not be released without Washington's blessing, and Coast Guard officials leading efforts on the ground "were not authorized to conduct media interviews, hold press conferences or send press releases without prior approval from DHS," according to the report.

Asked about the report, sources with knowledge of White House and DHS involvement went even further, saying the administration "looked at this as a political problem, not an operational problem." After all, one source said, the 2010 midterm elections were drawing closer as the oil spill crisis deepened, and the White House "went into campaign mode."

In a statement to Fox News, a Coast Guard spokesman said the newly released report "does not reflect the views of the Coast Guard," but one of the sources with knowledge of White House involvement said it "depends on who you talk to." Essentially, the source said, the oil spill response created "a clash of cultures," with operational needs scraping against political ones.

Nevertheless, the report states the communications system put in place was a departure from prior practice, with White House and DHS officials in Washington becoming gatekeepers to information about developments in the Gulf Coast.

"If any level of the response organization is restricted from interacting with the media and the public in any way, it has the potential to damage the credibility of the Federal Government and erode public trust," the report reads.

In addition, the source who said the White House "looked at this as a political problem, not an operational problem" noted the Bush administration looked through a similar prism and likewise took control of the message during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Negative press equals lost votes," the source said. "It's not a political party thing, it's about political operatives and what's in their comfort zone."
The full report is imbedded below and shows failures on many levels to be adequately prepared for a disaster of the magnitude of the BP Spill. In the wake of the ExxonValdez spill, one would think some valuable lessons had been learned, but it appears that was not the case.

Equally troubling is the dismissive attitude of the WH about this CG report:
The administration official, meanwhile, dismissed the report, which offers no direct attribution for its statements, as little more than "an opinion piece." Only six pages of the 167 pages address the issue of "external communications," with the rest of the report analyzing other aspects of the response like other recent reports have. 
"Compared to the meticulously researched and sourced Oil Spill Commission Report (released Wednesday), this one is sufficiently lacking in both and, as such, is being received accordingly," the official said.
Many suspect that the governmental response to the spill was far less than adequate and even though the administration is dismissive in tone, there does appear to be a strong political element to the disaster response. Which leaves us wondering why mid term elections and office position were more important than one of the biggest environmental disasters of our times.

Especially in the Gulf which is the site of hundreds of oil and gas wells, and if someone needs to get oil spill response preparedness right, the Gulf would be at the top of the list.

Yet, permits are still being issued and assurances of renewed responsibility are abundant on the same sub sea containment systems that got us to this disaster in the first place.

Anybody see anything wrong with this picture besides us?
BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR) Final Report*
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Editorial League of Women Voters Alabama--"Here's Why the EPA Matters to Alabama"

The LWV gets it.

Excerpt from the Press-Register editorial March 27, 2011:
"....Alabama’s use of coal is draining $1.39 billion per year from the state in net purchases from Colombia and states like Wyoming. That money could be spent in Alabama on developing a newer economic engine for the state, based on clean energy jobs which would allow us to leave water, soil and air usable by future generations."

"We are being persuaded that we must choose between economic health and environmental health. This is a false choice."

"The BP oil contamination of the Gulf is a clear example for Alabama that both are involved — environment and economy. The Gulf area economy has been severely impacted by the damaged environment."

"Alabama once had a history of selling ourselves based on cheap, unskilled labor. We learned from that mistake, but now we’re selling ourselves based on cheap, dirty energy, which is unsustainable."

"We believe that it is morally and economically important to look out for the prospects of the generations who come after us, rather than selling out the future for a seemingly expedient, short-sighted, short-term gain."
Joyce Lanning
Charlotte Ward

Ms. Kathryn Byrd, Co-President
Ms. Charlotte Ward, Co-President
LWV Of Alabama
134 Norwood Avenue
Auburn, AL 36830

March 15, 2011 letter to the US Senate urging them to oppose legislation to undermine and dismantle the EPA.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Oil in the Gulf March 2011--Overflight Over the Gulf Waters

John L. Wathen and Wings of Care reveal what is in the Gulf in a video recorded March 19-20th.

Rachel Maddow Show March 24th 2011
TMRS Investigates the issue of new regulations on the same faulty sub sea containment system including the blowout preventer. Maddow is Interviewing a former thirty-year veteran of the oil and gas industry Bob Cavnar on "new regulation for unreliable pieces of equipment."

Part II TMRS Investigates March 25, 2011
Rachel reveals in part II that Ken Salazar and the DOI are "bitterly upset" with her investigation:

From the Huffington Post March 25th:
"Investigation of Dolphin Deaths in the Gulf Kept Confidential by the US Government"  
(a gag order has been issued)
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Friday, March 25, 2011

"EPA Promoted the Use of Coal Ash Products With Incomplete Risk Information" OIG Report March 2011

In a report imbedded below, released March 23, 2011 by the US EPA Office of the Inspector General, we see there is much more than we thought to be very concerned about with the EPA's partnership with industry to recycle coal ash.

Especially when we learn that faulty and industry friendly data was used in making beneficial use guidelines. Towards the end of the report note how defensive the EPA becomes to the OIG recommendations, i.e.: "We can't possibly check previous sites because we don't have any records, we thought the states had them and the utility plants probably don't have any either." (paraphrasing) That's very telling.

Some quotes from the OIG:
"EPA has relied on the American Coal Ash Association data to determine the volumes of coal ash used in beneficial use applications." 

"EPA's promotion of CCR beneficial uses to date has been based, in part, on limited leachate testing data that may not be applicable to beneficial use scenarios."
EPA did not follow accepted and standard practices in determining the safety of the 15 categories of CCR beneficial uses it promoted through the C2P2 program. EPA’s application of risk assessment, risk screening, and leachate testing and modeling was significantly limited in scope and applicability. Without proper protections, CCR contaminants can leach into ground water and migrate to drinking water sources, posing significant public health concerns. 
EPA officials told us they relied on individual state beneficial use programs to review and approve specific CCR beneficial uses, and to manage associated risks. EPA established, but did not implement, plans in 2005 to identify environmentally safe and beneficial use practices. Had EPA implemented its plans, it may have known earlier about risks from large-scale disposal of CCRs described as beneficial use.
In other words, they went ahead with this plan in a very haphazard manner, and the OIG is to be commended for holding the EPA accountable and revealing how much they have gotten wrong. And it's a lot.

Relying on the American Coal Ash Association, which is an "umbrella lobbying group" of coal fired power plant giants, to determine anything regarding what application amounts of toxic coal ash are 'safe' is the fox watching the hen house. It's ludicrous beyond belief! What was the EPA thinking?

We would ask the same question of the Alabama legislators who are being inundated with the force of 26 Alabama Power/BARD lobbyists to not classify coal ash as toxic and allow it to be dumped in landfills all across the state. What are they thinking? That one is easy--they're thinking of ways to make big campaign donors happy and how to profit from a foolish law.

If the Alabama Legislature follows the insistence of ADEM, Alabama Power lobbyists and Lance Brown of PACE and allows SB80 (sponsored by Senator Del Marsh-R) to become law with this report in hand, we submit they are derelict in their fiduciary duty to understand the consequences and risks of coal ash to the public at large.

Representative Canfield-R Vestavia Hills, started this ball rolling with the the House version of the bill, HB50, that left the committee he chairs, Commerce and Small Business Committee on a voice vote, avoiding an official record of how each member voted, avoiding their constituents right to transparent government.

We will place the end result of this very risky bill squarely on each one of their shoulders first and foremost, if it becomes another devil may care type of Alabama law. 
EPA OIG Evaluation Report Coal Ash March 23, 2011

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Southern Environmental Law Center Pushes Back Against BARD on SWMP

Clean Water Groups Defend State Effort to Reduce Polluted Runoff

Press Release
March 24, 2011

Gil Rogers, Senior Attorney, 404-521-9900 (email)
Cat McCue, Senior Communications Manager, 434-977-4090
Cahaba River Society - Beth Stewart, 205-322-5326 x411

Montgomery, AL –The Alabama Rivers Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Cahaba River Society have filed a motion to intervene in a permit appeal by a business organization filed against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to help defend the agency's stormwater program for small cities.

Represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the groups say the lawsuit by the Business Alliance for Responsible Development (BARD) is a delaying tactic aimed at keeping local and state stormwater controls weak and ineffective.  Without adequate programs to control polluted runoff from development and urban uses, downstream communities and businesses will continue to shoulder the high costs to clean drinking water and repair flood damages.

"Rivers, streams, coastal waters and lakes are critical to Alabamians for drinking water, recreation, wildlife and the economy.  Polluted runoff is harming those uses.  Every delay in halting polluted runoff means more degradation of our water and higher long-term clean-up costs for the public," said Gil Rogers, head of the Clean Water Program for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which filed the motion earlier this week in with the Alabama Environmental Management Commission. (Click here for a PDF of the motion to intervene.)

Under the federal Clean Water Act, ADEM is required to set up a permitting program for small cities to control their polluted stormwater runoff. In August 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected ADEM's first version because it did not meet basic requirements of the law.  It was the first time the EPA had ever taken such a step with any state. ADEM subsequently made some modest improvements and issued a final permit on February 1.

Stormwater runoff is widely acknowledged as one of the most serious causes of water pollution in Alabama.

 "Many responsible developers in Alabama are already achieving the standards called for in ADEM's permit. Better stormwater practices that safeguard drinking water and help prevent flooding are proven to save money and make money for developers and communities," said Beth Stewart, Executive Director of the Cahaba River Society. "In these tough economic times, green projects with lower stormwater costs give developers and communities a competitive advantage, but lax stormwater controls undercut innovative developers and transfer costs to local governments and downstream neighbors."  

BARD's challenge of ADEM's stormwater permit represents one more salvo in its continued resistance to improving development practices that protect water quality.  For years, BARD has incited local governments to fight against standards that better manage development.  

BARD's misguided advice that local governments are doing too much to stop stormwater pollution has already made some cities and counties vulnerable to EPA audits and enforcement oversight. In 2009 and 2010 the EPA found that the stormwater programs of cities and counties in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area were not meeting basic requirements of the Clean Water Act.

"Traditionally, our organization has been on the opposite side of ADEM, as we consistently challenge them to do a better job of protecting Alabama's waters," said Eva Dillard, Staff Attorney for Black Warrior Riverkeeper. "We're taking ADEM's side in this appeal because we don't want to see the permit weakened even further, which is BARD's main objective."  

"Enforceable permits are absolutely essential to stopping the devastating impacts of uncontrolled stormwater across Alabama," said Mitch Reid, Program Director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. "Protecting our rivers is a shared responsibility of government at every level and this permit provides a level playing field so that no community is disadvantaged for doing the right thing for our environment."

The proposed permit will govern the local stormwater programs of about 60 smaller cities and counties for the next five to seven years.  Just as important, ADEM has indicated that this permit will be the basis for other stormwater permits that will be written for larger cities and counties, as well as for the Alabama Department of Transportation.

The Southern Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to protect the environment of the Southeast.  The Alabama Rivers Alliance is devoted to healthy rivers, healthy people, and a healthy system of government for the state of Alabama. Black Warrior Riverkeeper protects and restores the Black Warrior River and its tributaries.  The Cahaba River Society's mission is to restore and protect the Cahaba River watershed and its rich diversity of life.
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No, It Is Not Silt Or Mud Fouling the Gulf (Again)--It's Oil!

The source of the new oil slicks recently found in the Gulf has been tracked to its source--Anglo Suisse Offshore Partners and an "abandoned well." Whoever schemed up the initial nonsensical notion that it was "mud from dredging" and much ado about nothing should be fired immediately.

The mainstream media finally woke up and covered this important story on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. The clip ran before the Coast Guard had their culprit:

The company claimed it had only leaked "5 gallons of oil" but the Coast Guard found them at the site of the well trying to cap it with a remote controlled submarine. They hadn't bothered to mention they were doing the operation until they were found out.

Until oil began showing up in the Gulf and washing up on shorelines.

But they were caught black-handed and apparently not at all in control of what they were attempting to keep quiet. 

The  newspaper earlier reported that state officials had fingered work being done to the Anglo-Suisse's non-producing oil well near Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River as the likely source, calling it a "well capping out of control."
Rocky Kistner, who broke the story, along with the New Orleans press, has been following it closely and has more here.

A different source of oil has been spotted near the Chanduleur barrier islands described as "black streaky plumes over a 20 mile stretch" by groups of environmentalists, scientists and engineers who flew over the area and reported back to the Times-Picayune.
Photo credit: Times-Picayune
Now, let's think about this for a moment and decide how much we really should believe about the safety of the seafood and even swimming in the Gulf, from the talking state heads who are trying so hard to convince us "everything is clean, safe and beautiful."

Do you honestly believe them?
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

HR872 Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act is a Bad Bill

A new bill would amend both FIFRA and the Clean Water Act to clarify congressional intent and eliminate the requirements of a Clean Water Act permit for the use of FIFRA-registered pesticides.

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) praised efforts by a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives to eliminate the possibility of costly and duplicative pesticide permitting requirements that are a result of a misguided decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in National Cotton Council v. EPA.

The 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision, in response to the National Cotton Council v. EPA, overturned the Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule exempting commercial pesticide applications from the oversight provided under CWA. The decision requires NPDES permits for pesticide applications directly to or near waterways in order to reduce and eventually eliminate pollutants in the natural environment. 

Alabama Representative Martha Roby is a co-sponsor for this bill and has taken her support to YouTube because it works in favor of Big Ag and the Timber industry, the two biggest supporters and money machines for the bill to our lawmakers in an attempt to influence them to undo the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court. 

This bill was introduced by Bob Gibbs--R whose top two contributors are the mining and oil and gas industry. Two industries that are the antithesis to farming wouldn't you agree?

Who else in Alabama is supporting the bill and for how much?
Representative Mike Rogers--R  -AL 3     $32,100
Representative Spencer Bachus--R--AL 6     $12,500
Representative Roger Aderholt--R--AL 4     $9,000
Representative Jo Bonner--AL 1     $24,950
Representative Mo Brooks--R--AL 5     $1,250
Representative Mike D. Rogers--R--AL 3     $42,600
Representative Martha Roby--R--AL 2     $3,250
Representative Terri Sewell--D--AL 7     $12,400

 Here's Roby in "her own words"

And from a recent weekly column to RickyStokesNews.com:
Once our small businesses are free from the threats of tax increases and federal regulations, they will be unleashed to grow and create jobs. I talked about federal regulations with members of the Alabama Farmer’s Association this week while they were in Washington for their annual conference. I explained that our federal government is overzealous with their regulatory authority. The EPA is a top example of federal agencies run amok, as evidenced by the long laundry list of regulations that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was questioned about at an Agriculture Committee hearing.
I told members of ALFA that farmers and other businesses owners create jobs, and that I will fight hard to reduce government regulations that stand in their way. The quicker that we can get the government to stop regulating our small business owners and our farmers, the quicker we can get our country back on track. 
She uses a catch phrase that is designed to resonate; "our farmers just want to farm" but she leaves out a few things. Much of the farming in the US today is heavily subsidized by the federal government, the same government that has helped kill our small family farms. This bill is not about "small business" by any stretch of the imagination Ms. Roby, that's disingenuous on its face.

Small farmers are everyday people trying to hold onto to their smaller operations. The average Joe if you will, who probably goes to church every Sunday and is conservative politically.

Ms. Roby claims in her column that she is "fighting for conservative values." By caving to the interests of Big Ag, who has been the other destructor of small farmers, is she picking and choosing which conservatives she is "fighting" for?

Back to the subsidizing for a moment, Big Ag is a big benefactor of federal money, so they are upset now that they have to spend some of their federal handout and give it back to the government? They have to be careful and make sure they aren't polluting our watersheds in following the Sixth Circuit Court decision? Where's the problem? Oh, that's right, it's about the federal handout isn't it? And being judicious with pesticides.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the ruling will affect nearly 365,000 pesticide applicators nationwide and cost $50 million a year to implement. Conner said that the while the impacts of the new requirements will be severe, there is little evidence that they will provide any identifiable environmental benefit.
Conner also noted that EPA has just today requested an extension of the April 9th deadline from the Sixth Circuit Court. “With less than a month to go before the deadline, it is good that the EPA has finally realized that more time will be needed,” said Conner. “We hope the Court grants this request and that Congress will use the added time to clarify the law and ensure a more common sense approach to pesticide regulation.”
Note the $50 million figure. That is not a cost to the federal government according to the CBO document, that's an estimated figure of costs to Big Ag Conner has come up with to fire supporters up to support the bill.  As for the "no identifiable environmental benefit" he claims, what is he basing that on? Is he trying to suggest that lax regulations are of an environmental benefit? We are talking about pesticides here. Poisons. Toxins.

We can tell you where his claim did not come from, the EPA, because we checked with the pesticides and water divisions. His claims were not found to have merit by the Sixth District Court, who realized there is a threat to the environment and these chemicals should be regulated under the CWA.

So it's all wordsmithing and spin isn't it?

And just to make you all feel better next time you munch on a bag of peanuts or popcorn, farmers in Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been spreading coal ash FGD Gypsum from power plants on their croplands for thirty years. Cancer rates in all three states are elevated. Is there a connection? We can't say for sure because there are already so many carcinogens filling the air in the Southeast from coal-fired power plants. But it can't be a good idea.

Thirty years. Mind-boggling and in place because of the utility and coal industries. The EPA touts the "beneficial use for agricultural applications" but admits, along with the USDA "more research is needed to ascertain the long-term risks of agricultural application."

Wouldn't it have made more sense to fully know before you acted?

Maybe that's why the EPA is revisiting the issue and doing more testing after the Kingston spill, but this falls into the heel dragging of coal ash regulation despite responses exceeding half a million to the federal agency to classify it as toxic.

Big Ag and Big Coal are not for us. They never have been, never will be. They're not for the small farmer either. We support our small farmers, not the industrialized operations. In our opinions, Martha Roby and company are looking out for big business and not the family farmer. She's pandering, along with all the other political supporters to the big money crowd and forgetting that she is supposed to represent all of her constituents equally. 

This bill is not a solution, it's a problem, it's a way to skirt responsibility and not be held accountable for harming our watersheds. It's for Big Ag not the average farmer. We're firmly against it and urge you to contact your representatives in all states who are acting as cosponsors of this bill.

Here's your link to the list, scroll down to the representatives names and let them know where you stand. The bill is on a fast track, EPA regulations are due to be implemented on April 9th.

Additional link to take action: Beyond Pesticides Daily News
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Governor Bentley Administration Caught Overpaying 3 Top Staffers With Homeland Security Funds

Do as I say, not as I do, my brothers and sisters!
Shell game or scam--you decide.

Montgomery Advertiser reporter Sebastian Kitchens revealed in a a radio interview this morning that Dr. Guy Hunt's three top people in his cabinet, Chief of Staff, former Tuscaloosa Judge Charles R. "Chuck" Malone, Legal Adviser, Tuscaloosa Atty. R. Cooper Shattuck and ALDOT Head John Cooper are all enjoying fat double salaries supplemented by Homeland Security funds.

Here's the explanation: "Well, we have to hire the best and the brightest and these folks could make a lot more in the private sector, so we have to offer them competitive salaries. They all have security clearances so this is not unusual."

It's not the first time Alabama government has pulled this trick either.

Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley was adept at gaming the system in using HS funds to enhance salaries himself. ADECA is another federal fund kitty that previous administrations have scammed to inflate certain favored ones paychecks.

Here's how the game goes--there is a salary cap on cabinet positions of $91,000.00. The administration gives these three men an additional job title in HS, so they draw two paychecks. In other words, it's a job over here, a job over there and they cobble together the job titles to create a double salary.

Chief of Staff Malone--$179,000.00
Chief Legal Adviser Shattuck--$169,000
ALDOT Cooper--$169,000

The cabinet position pays what it does, there is a cap for a reason, but Bentley has skirted around the cap, 'bentleyed' the rules and given his buddies a lot more money for a job that they knew paid $91,000 from the get go.

If you three men, and we suspect there are more benefiting from this yet to be revealed, can do so much better in the private sector well then, stay in the private sector. Because what you are doing is one of the reasons Alabama's finances are in shambles.

And didn't we hear that same excuse of the 'best and brightest deserve more money' from some of the republican senators too, as an excuse to not repeal their grabbed-in-the-night 62% increase in legislative pay raise? With a cost of living increase to boot.

While the average Alabamian struggles to provide for their families.

Here we go again, you know it's coming---how's that "new day in Alabama politics" and "unprecedented ethics" going so far?
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Monday, March 21, 2011

"Before the Mountain Was Moved"

In 1969, after serving 46 years as a coal miner, Elias Bailey stood in the state Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, to testify before a hearing on the ravages of strip-mining. Stricken by black lung disease, Bailey declared: “I’m just a broke down miner now,” whose tiny cattle farm and streams had been destroyed by strippers. 

The documentary follows Elias from his mountain home, to the town general store where he has an encounter with an obstinate coal boss, and onto the local community center for a gathering of mountain voices against mining. Then Elias and three others embark on an interesting car trip to Charleston, WV. that gives us a glimpse into the joining of two races for one cause.

All four end at the nation's capital worrying about testifying before the senate. Who will listen to poor folks they wonder. Their testimony is riveting and raw--the little people with the powerful voices make their stand for their mountains.

Bailey's story is still being written long after he met his maker.

Forty-two years later and the same fight is still going on-- many mountains have been blown up since Elias spoke out. 

No one listened. 

They're still not listening.

And more will follow thanks to Big Coal and the politicians they bankroll.

Fast forward forty years later--"On Coal River"

Educate yourself: Alabama coal mining Sourcewatch.org
                          Black Warrior Riverkeeper
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reports of New Oil Slick in Gulf "12 x 100 Miles Long"

*Updated March 20,2011 pm
 2nd update March 21
The Coast Guard is investigating reports of a potentially large oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico not far from the Deepwater Horizon site. According to a knowledgeable source, the slick was sighted by a helicopter pilot on Friday and is about 100 miles long. A fishing boat captain said he went through the slick yesterday and it was strong enough to make his eyes burn.

Zerohedge.com reports:
Independent pilots, including John Wathen of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and Bonnie Schumaker with Wings of Care, are currently flying out to investigate the spill. Schumaker reports having seen the sheen on Friday, March 18, and confirms that it is rapidly expanding.

A Louisiana fisherman, who has chosen to remain anonymous at this time, also reports fresh oil coming ashore near South Pass, LA, and that cleanup crews are laying new boom near the beach.

The site of the sheen, near Mississippi Canyon 243, lies 30 miles from the Louisiana coastline. The Matterhorn field, at a depth of 2,789 feet (850 meters) of water, was discovered in 1999, leased and permitted in July 2001, and came into production in November 2003. It is located 30 miles SE of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

According to W&T, the field has produced an average rate of 5,200 barrels of oil per day, and has production capacities of 35,000 barrels of oil per day.
Stuart Smith of oilspillaction.com:
There are already allegations that the Coast Guard and other authorities are busy trying to cover up the spill, so stay tuned.
And now to our illustrious Alabama Governor Bentley aka Dr. Guy Hunt:
“We want to tell the rest of the world that our seafood is clean, it’s pure, and it’s delicious,” Bentley told members of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce in a speech at the University of South Alabama. 
We understand the motivation to help bring the seafood industry back in the Gulf, but even pre-BP Spill "pure" is not a definition that applies to the Gulf of Mexico. And this guy is supposed to be a Doctor, one who you would expect to always err on the side of his Hippocratic Oath of  "first, do no harm?"

After millions of gallons of oil and Corexit assaulted the Gulf we don't think all this rush rush to push Gulf seafood on the public so soon is at all wise. In fact, it's downright foolhardy and could be dangerous, maybe even actionable, or worse, if these geniuses turn out to be wrong.

But isn't it comforting to know that the Dr. Dr. has his priorities straight and realizes that "one of the most critical things we can do in Gulf Shores" is to spend $100 million dollars on a controversial, let's build our business donors a playhouse aka convention center:
The $100 million project was thwarted in 2008 when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Riley’s plan to let a private company develop the public land violated state law.
Prichard retirees have lost their state pensions, oil is still in the Gulf, we're in proration of our education system, but what the hell, let's just ignore all of that, spend millions we don't have and go right ahead with business as usual.

Is it 2014 yet?

**Update: A Coast Guard officer with a command center in Morgan City, LA, said today the Coast Guard has confirmed that oil is not coming from the Deepwater Horizon well but that they have found what appear to be smaller oil slicks in the Gulf. Their investigation into reports of large oil slicks is continuing. Additional photos and information from pilots John Wathen and Bonnie Schumaker who flew over the area yesterday are expected to be released today.
--Could this be why we are not hearing anything from the mainstream press?
Move along, nothing to see here…
(Raw Story) Journalists who come too close to oil spill clean-up efforts without permission could find themselves facing a $40,000 fine and even one to five years in prison under a new rule instituted by the Coast Guard late last week (2010).
Even Anderson Cooper, Journalist, says this makes it “very easy to hide incompetence or failure.”
The "rule" is still in place and being strictly enforced. FOX News is calling it "silt."
 **2nd update--"Fresh Oil Continues to Wash Ashore in Bayou"
                      (pics and story)

**Wathen has pictures up @ bpoilslick.blogspot.com/
Credit: John Wathen. Photo taken Sunday March 19, 2011
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

WikiLeaks Latest Info Drop--Alabama's Drummond Coal Co.

From L-R: Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Drummond Co. President Gary Neil Drummond, Former Chief of Drummond's Colombian Operations Augusto Jimenez

The Colombian newspaper El Spectador.com reports on Embassy cables leaked to the paper March 16, 2011 that details murder and politics involved with Drummond's Colombian coal operations.

The story is widely circulating in the European press, but we haven't seen much in the US papers on it yet.

Over the course of four years U.S. Embassy officials sent 15 diplomatic cables to Washington which expressed concern over the company's labor disputes, lax environmental practices and apparent links with paramilitary death squads.

A year ago, a Federal Court in Alabama, U.S., where the mining company is based, began a civil case against Drummond for its alleged paramilitary links. The case is still underway.

The Florida-based law firm of Conrad & Scherer LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of 252 plaintiffs who are relatives of the 67 victims, including 63 men and four women. Their names are withheld from publication to prevent reprisals against them, said attorney Terry Collingsworth. The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Western Division by Collingsworth, Conrad & Scherer founding partner William R. Scherer and Garve W. Ivey, Jr. of the Jasper, Alabama-based, Ivey Law Firm.

"The 60-page complaint outlines allegation after allegation of brutality, describing how hundreds of men, women and children were terrorized in their homes, on their way to and from work, and often murdered by AUC paramilitaries acting on behalf of Drummond," said attorney Collingsworth. "These are innocent people being killed in or near their homes or kidnapped to never to return home, their spouses and children being beaten and tied up, and people being pulled off buses and summarily executed on the spot."

Victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia accuse Drummond of having paid paramilitary organization the AUC between 1999 and 2005, during which time 116 civilians were murdered, allegedly by the right-wing militia, in the region where the coal company operates.

The civil case also seeks compensation for the relatives of several people who were murdered, which they claim was for refusing to sell their land to to make way for the company's railroad.

Wikileaks cables:
Cable one, created October 16, 2009 Unclassified, released by WikiLeaks March 16, 2011
A US diplomatic visit to the Port of Santa Marta on February 18 and 19 in 2009, detailed a stop at Drummond's coal shipping port. The diplomat that visits expresses no concern then over the possibility that Drummond is cooperating with paramilitary forces, even though a case has been in the news for the past few years. Instead, port expansion and increased production that would lead to the addition of rail line from Drummond's mine to the port is discussed. 
Cable two, created March 3, 2009, Unclassified, released by WikiLeaks March 16, 2011
11. (SBU) Drummond Vice President Gary Norman highlighted Drummond's
environmental and coal-field restoration programs and discussed
Drummond operations and plans, during a luncheon and tour of the
facility.  Since 1996, Drummond has invested USD 1 billion and
increased production from 8 million tons to 22 million tons in 2008,
expecting production to reach 25 million tons in 2009.
15. (U) Colombia is already the world's fifth largest coal exporter, exporting a total of 67.2 million tons in 2008.  Alabama-based Drummond sources all of its non-U.S. coal in Colombia, and accounts for one-third of Colombian coal exports.  In large part due to
Drummond's expansion plans, Colombia could become the third largest
exporter by 2012.

Cable three, created May 26, 2006 Confidential, released by WikiLeaks March 16, 2011
"Although XXXXXXXXXXXX said Drummond was not yet "deeply concerned"
over the strike, the company, its contractors, and the national economy
are facing significant financial losses. He doubted that the company
would be able to make up for lost production as the company was already
operating at 100 percent capacity, and estimated that the company is suffering
daily coal production losses of approximately 70,000 tons, with lost revenue
to be about 3.5 million USD daily. According to the company, its domestic
and international suppliers are losing approximately 2.8 million USD daily
and the GOC is suffering over 250,000 USD daily losses in sales, income, 
and import tax revenue.”

It appears that Drummond may have been seeking the diplomat's help for the bad publicity stemming from the murders of the three union leaders and the company was upset with the US press coverage of the case.

Drummond has successfully defended itself twice, but new evidence has surfaced, and a key witness who was imprisoned during the last trial was released and will testify in the case. In addition, the US Court of Appeals 11th Circuit has allowed the survivors of the three union leaders to proceed with the wrongful death lawsuit in the US.

Justice for Colombia has a number of stories on Drummond.

In another legal action involving Big Coal, federal prosecutors want to block Massey Coal shareholders from reviewing documents gathered during civil and criminal investigations on the Upper Big Branch (UBB) disaster. The feds claim it would hamper their efforts to prosecute Hughie Stover, who's accused of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice for ordering thousands of pages of security documents on UBB to be destroyed.

The business of Big Coal is black for reasons besides the obvious-- where there's coal, money and great power, strange and sordid things cling to it like a bad shadow or coal ash, whichever you prefer.

**WikiLeaks cable 1 & 3 verbiage appears to be some of Kevin Gosztola's writing. It was sent to us, unsourced and we want to make certain to credit sources that it appears to be from.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Big Business Uses the Religious Right as its Messengers--EthicsDaily.Com

The Cornwall Alliance is a Big Oil funded greenwashing group connected to many right-wing religious groups, and they are using religion to manipulate people. They are trying to convince gullible people that environmentalism, of all things, is evil and nasty and threatening American’s belief in Jesus. Does that make any sense? Of course it doesn’t.
Reverend James L. Evans writing for Ethicsdaily.com makes the case for why we should care for the environment and the misuse of the poor as political pawns by the religious right and corporate America. The coal ash bill currently moving through the Alabama legislature is a prime example of this nefarious agenda in our opinions, because it will disproportionately affect Alabama's poorer communities. But it must be "good legislation" because 'self-professed upright, Christian lawmakers' in the legislature are pushing for it right? Not!

The Psalmist declares, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."

However, a group of evangelicals known as the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation seems to take issue with that notion. According to Alliance spokesman, E. Calvin Beisner, "God put humans in charge of nature."

The Cornwall Alliance is cosponsor of a recently released DVD series titled "Cult of the Green Dragon."

The message in the DVD series is basically that efforts to save the environment and to curb global warming and pollution are the direct result of "a cult" that worships the creation rather than God.

"Around the world," argues Christian radio talk show personality Janet Parshall, "environmentalism has become a radical movement."

In a promotional video for the DVD series, Parshall expands her criticism. "It's something we call the 'Green Dragon.' And it is deadly to human prosperity, deadly to human life, deadly to human freedom. And deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ."

I must pause here and ask every serious reader of the New Testament if they really believe that human prosperity was one of Jesus' chief concerns. If I recall, one of the most prosperous individuals Jesus ever encountered was encouraged to take his wealth and give it to the poor, and then become a disciple.

But, I digress.

The Cornwall Alliance, walking in lockstep with conservative political ideology, questions the danger of global warming.

Alliance members, not surprisingly, oppose legislation that would tax carbon use, fearing that such measures will drive up the price of energy, hurting the poor most of all.

Don't you love it when conservatives suddenly begin to care about the poor, especially when it dovetails with efforts to protect corporate polluters?

G. Dodd Galbreath, executive director of Lipscomb University's Institute for Sustainable Practice, has some issues with the logic of the producers of "The Green Dragon."

His view is that the world's poor stand to get hurt most by pollution because they're more likely to work and live around it.

"God expects us to have faith in Him to deliver what we think we are losing when we do the right thing," said Galbreath in an interview with HTRnews.com. "I don't see fear as having anything to do with faith."

Galbreath went on to downplay the notion that environmentalism is a radical movement.

"We've seen this phenomenon when Jesus was introduced," he told HTRnews.com. "He was called radical. Christianity is supposed to grow. It's not a static faith."

The effort of some in the Christian community to demonize the environmental movement is unconscionable.

The image of the "Green Dragon" is an intentional effort to link the environmental movement to images of Satan in the Bible. Alliance director Beisner points to images of the serpent in the Garden of Eden and the dragon of the Book of Revelation as inspiration for the imagery.

While there is certainly room for honest disagreement and debate on the impact of human activity on the environment, there is no room for casting that debate in terms of a contest between the forces of good and evil.

Common sense alone would suggest that the level of industry, coal burning and fossil fuel emissions, along with the introduction of vast urban areas covered with concrete and asphalt, cannot help but impact the environment in some ways.

Calling those concerns demonic, however, contributes nothing positive to the conversation.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama

**NY Times "Delay in Coal Pollution Rules Took Toll in Lives"
For clean air advocates, the release of the rules is a milestone. But for some they will have come too late.
“This could have been done 20 years ago,” Mr. Bachmann said. “These delays, as they’ve mounted up, have had a cost in people dying sooner. And it’s not trivial.”
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