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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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20 Things We Need to Know About the Spill

Everything rides on the two relief wells being drilled on either side of the Deepwater Horizon well. At just over 18,000 feet below the water surface, at least one of the relief pipes will, hopefully, punch into the seven-and-a-half-inch well pipe and close it off with cement and mud. If these two relief wells don’t work, there are probably no options left but to drill more relief wells. There may be a trillion gallons of oil under the well, under enormous pressure and flowing through that one well pipe. We hope.

If there are breaks in the well casing below the sea bed, venting oil and natural gas, it can erode the surrounding soft rock and lead to a massive uncontrolled flow. This is the worst possible scenario.

If oil is seeping up from additional leak points on the sea floor, we need to be told.

Because we need to prepare.

An oil sheen has been spotted off the coasts of Cuba and Mexico.

The Gulf Stream runs about 160 miles east of Long Island. However, storm activity could break up oil on and below the surface, dispersing it to Long Island beaches. This possibility, still remote, has been publicly acknowledged by local, state and federal officials who reviewed preparations and emergency plans at East Hampton Town Hall two weeks ago.

As of December 2009, 40 percent of BP stock shares were owned in Great Britain and 39 percent were owned in the United States. There are six British citizens and six American citizens on the BP Board of Directors.

President Obama’s six-month moratorium on deep-well drilling in the Gulf, blocked by a controversial New Orleans federal judge, affected the 33 deep-water “exploratory” rigs that do active drilling, less than one percent of the oil platforms in the Gulf.

Each rig employs two crews of 120-130, alternating every few weeks. Crew members usually work 12 or 13 days a month, typically earning $300 a day. That’s less than 9,000 rig jobs directly affected by any temporary moratorium. BP set up a $100-million fund to support laid-off workers. Some jobs may not be worth saving at high risk.

There are hundreds of “Jones Act” attorneys in Louisiana alone, specializing in offshore oil rig worker injuries and wrongful deaths.

Oil companies claim that each job on a rig generates four support jobs off-rig. The shore workers who support the 33 deep-water rigs have other work supplying the 3,600 pumping platforms that dot the Gulf. The deep-water rigs are generally leased, costing the oil companies $250,000 to $500,000 a day, some of which isn’t covered by insurance.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said “…the moratorium is a terrible thing that is not only bad for the region, it’s bad for America.” No, inconvenient for maximum corporate profits.

Websites for jobs in the off-shore drilling industry: oilcareer.com, rigworker.com, donpedroshipping.co.uk. “Thousands of Job Vacancies in the Oil Industry!” says one site.

Around the world, BP employs 20,000 U.S. citizens and only 10,000 British citizens.

Most oil rigs are vessels. They even have Captains. The Deepwater Horizon was registered under the flag of the Marshall Islands. The safety inspections conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard on American rigs takes two weeks. The safety inspection conducted by the Marshall Islands can often be completed in as little as four hours.

Even though the Environmental Protection Agency told British Petroleum not to use the highly toxic dispersants Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A (both banned in Great Britain), BP used them anyway. Only on June 10 did chemical manufacturer Nalco reveal the final key ingredient of EC9500A to EPA. By that time, over 1.1 million units of the two dispersants had been sprayed and pumped into the Gulf, much of it by U.S. military aircraft. Makes it pretty clear who is and who isn’t in charge.

Corexit EC9500A is four times more toxic by volume than oil. BP pulled 9527A from use in the Gulf. The full list of ingredients is still a secret.

BP holds enough oil in its reserves to single-handedly supply the United States for two years.

The rise in crude prices brought about by the spill also increased the value of BP’s reserves, so the $20 billion clean-up contingency fund will likely be covered.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net