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Why FBI Raids Against Antiwar Activists Should Matter to Activists Fighting King Coal

5:07 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Keeper of the Mountains Larry Gibson defends the mountains from King Coal.

The FBI raided six locations in Minneapolis and two locations in Chicago on Friday. The raids appeared to target antiwar activists, particularly ones who had been outspoken on the U.S. policies toward Colombia and/or the Palestinians. FBI Special Agent contended the FBI was "seeking evidence related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.

The FBI found there was "no imminent threat to the community" after conducting the raids, which might lead one to wonder if the raids are as questionable as previous FBI activity that has been the subject of discussion in the past weeks (see Coleen Rowley’s "Inspector General Criticism Doesn’t Phase FBI Raids on Midwestern Anti-war Activists.").

How interesting is it that just prior to a massive convergence of anti-mountaintop removal activists other progressive activists were targeted for their activism. Those fighting for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining may not take positions on Palestinian or Colombian issues (although a letter from Colombians expressing solidarity with those gathered for Appalachia Rising was read Saturday evening), but they do favor the protection of civil liberties because those liberties protect their right to assemble and organize.

Unfortunately, Appalachian citizens are taking huge risks every time they speak out against coal and fight to keep the land they live on from being destroyed by the coal industry’s weapons of mass destruction. The explosion of mountains and the criminal degradation and exploitation of land where people live may seem like an injustice one should have the right to stand up and oppose, however, those who are friends of coal beg to differ. Though it may seem like they fit the mold, it is not those who aid and abet the coal industry that are targeted for conspiring to commit terrorism. It is, instead, the working class families in Appalachian states, whose histories are deeply entwined with the history of coal, that face targeting.

The coal industry, especially corporations like Massey Energy, have an interest in using the agencies of counterterrorism to target activists for conspiring to commit acts of "domestic terrorism." Corporations like Massey Energy have lobbied for support from federal law enforcement so that they can be protected from the threat posed to them by a movement to end mountaintop removal. And, government has yielded to the power of King Coal and infringed upon the rights of outspoken citizens.

On GreenistheNewRed.com, Will Potter has a post detailing how Eric McDavid (and two other activists) were arrested in California and charged with knowingly conspiring to use fire or explosives to damage property. McDavid went to trial and was found guilty of eco-terrorism. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and he was believed to be part of an operation "to target banks, commercial trucks, mountaintop removal projects in West Virginia, Communist party office, and the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics in California, according to the affidavit."

Potter’s post detailed how an FBI informant or provocateur "provided the group with bomb-making recipes; at times financed their transportation, food and housing; strung along McDavid, who had hopes of a romantic relationship; and poked and prodded the group into action."

McDavid’s attorney said, "There has never been a case in America that has involved this much entrapment, this much pushing by an informant, by the U.S. government and by the FBI behind it." The judge, however, had no problem with applying a "terrorism enhancement" and said, "It’s a new world since September 11th, 2001."

On this "new world," Potter wrote, "One where fears of "terrorism" are used to justify sweeping police powers, government spying and entrapment. Perhaps most damaging of all is that the press has largely swallowed the "War on Terrorism’ rhetoric, labeling activists as "eco-terrorists" at every turn, often long before they even have a foot in the courtroom."

In one session at the Appalachia Rising Conference, two Lynch, Virginia citizens explained those in their community regard them as "domestic terrorists". Jesse Johnson, a West Virginia Mountain Party candidate for the Senate (who has received the endorsement of Democrat Ken Hechler who lost in the West Virginia primaries) has in the past received death threats and been harassed on the road by other vehicles for taking on Gov. Joe Manchin and the corporate powers that be which own West Virginia politics–coal.

Keeper of the Mountains Larry Gibson delivered a speech last night. During the speech, he told of how he has been the victim of drive-by shootings at his home. Gibson has drawn interest among those who work for Homeland Security. Gibson has been followed, harassed, had his phone tapped and had staff in the capitol tell him they were going to have to call Homeland Security. That’s all because he has been protesting the coal industry in West Virginia and standing up for the people of Appalachia.

Today, on Monday, September 27th, about a thousand will rally at Freedom Plaza, march to banks that fund mountaintop removal projects and to the EPA, which hasn’t properly enforced environmental regulations in Appalachia. They will continue on to the White House. At the White House, a protest will take place and then hundreds will cross the line to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience to end mountaintop removal mining in America.

Remembering the past history of union activism in Appalachia, recalling at least thirty years of activism against the coal companies’ practice of mountaintop removal surface mining, hundreds will make a sacrifice and move forward in solidarity displaying courage. But, that courage is nothing compared to the courage they have to display when they return to their homes in Appalachia.

Especially in states like West Virginia that are entirely owned by coal–that is essentially a coal-o-cracy, individuals will return home and, depending on how much people who work for companies like Massey Energy think they are succeeding in their mission to abolish mountaintop removal, they will be targeted. They will face intimidation, harassment, and will be tracked by the FBI or possibly Homeland Security. (In fact, there will be protesters nearby protesting the FBI raids that took place on Friday.)

This day is as much about ending mountaintop removal as it is about standing up for the rights or liberties that all Americans celebrate. And, it’s also about reclaiming a tradition of rebellion in this country that the Tea Party, with the help of the GOP and Big Business investors, have co-opted and trivialized with their teabagging tomfoolery.

You may not see this event on your local news tonight or even on your cable news. And, if that is in fact the case, just remember that coal is likely the fuel that keeps the lights on for these news companies and likely part of the advertising they need to survive. Also, understand that just because you don’t see it break into the news cycle, just because you don’t get to hear an Appalachian’s soundbite featured, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The coal industry is destroying the land and the very lives of people who live upon that land. They are being treated as sub-humans and they have been treated as sub-humans for decades. So, today they fight to not only restore honor and reclaim sanity but to also claim dignity for themselves, their families, their friends, and for all who work for the coal industry and people this is the only option they have to make a living. All they can do to get by is participate in environmental destruction.

Find stories from today by searching for "Appalachia Rising" on the Internet. Circumvent the corporate news media. That’s what I am doing. And, when one considers the scale of injustice going on in Appalachia, when one notes how much one industry has taken control of business and politics and holds democracy and freedom hostage unless one is willing to march lockstep for coal, making sure the story of these people gets out to Americans is the least anyone can do.

BP, Government Block Press from Reporting Their “Ballet at Sea”

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by kk+

 

"As high tourist season approaches, there will be people who ‘come on down to Alabama’ regardless of the oil spill. A delicate balance between preparation for the worst and the pleasure of tourists is in the making."

 

"At first glance, the process looks chaotic, but after a minute of watching the orchestration a brilliant concert plays out. One of the young men of the Alabama National Guard is from a town not far from the work on Dauphin Island’s west end, as are many others in his outfit. He says that being on active duty in the place he calls home is something state guards hope for. Though they go wherever and whenever they are deployed, often overseas, working to protect home surf and turf is always a welcome assignment""

 

"A ballet at sea as mesmerising as any performance in a concert hall, and worthy of an audience in its own right."

 

 

Anderson Cooper, host of "Anderson Cooper: 360" on CNN, has been tracking BP’s obstruction of freedom of the press. Cooper is in his element when covering the Gulf coast. Having earned respect and credibility through coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Cooper has no problem with publicly challenging attempts by BP to keep journalists or reporters away from the damaged areas of the Gulf.

 

 

COOPER: "the Coast Guard today announced new rules keeping photographers and reporters and anyone else from coming within 65 feet of any response vessel or booms out on the water or on beaches — 65 feet.

Now, in order to get closer, you have to get direct permission from the Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans. You have to call up the guy. What this means is that oil-soaked birds on islands surrounded by boom, you can’t get close enough to take that picture.

Shots of oil on beaches with booms, stay 65 feet away. Pictures of oil-soaked booms uselessly laying in the water because they haven’t been collected like they should, you can’t get close enough to see that. And, believe me, that is out there.

But you only know that if you get close to it, and now you can’t without permission. Violators could face a fine of $40,000 and Class D felony charges.

What’s even more extraordinary is that the Coast Guard tried to make the exclusion zone 300 feet, before scaling it back to 65 feet"

 

The order comes just days after the ACLU of Louisiana wrote the following letter urging an end to blocking of the press and censorship of information:

 

"We have learned from several sources that law enforcement officers have prevented members of the public from filming activities on the beaches affected by the BP oil spill. We have learned of the following incidents, among others: 

Several reporters have been told not to film at spill sites in Louisiana. Incidents include attempts to film on a beach in Grand Isle and near Venice. Reporters are told that they are not allowed to record because BP doesn’t want filming there.

Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge, off of Grand Isle, is blocked by Jefferson Parish deputies. Deputies told one reporter not to photograph them blocking the road.

At least one person was told by a Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputy working private security detail for BP that he wasn’t allowed to film the outside of the BP building in Houma from a private, non-BP-owned field across the street. The deputy admitted that the guy wasn’t breaking any laws but tried to intimidate him into stopping filming and leaving anyway.

We have reason to believe that deputies in other coastal parishes may also be working with BP to impede or prevent access to public lands and to interfere with members of the public and the media.

This letter is to notify you that members of the public have the right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to film, record, photograph, and document anything they observe in a public place. No one — neither law enforcement nor a private corporation — has the legal right to interfere with public access to public places or the recording of activities that occur there. Nor may law enforcement officials cooperate with private companies in denying such access to the public.

 

Additionally, BP has "reporters" working for them, producing stories on the oil disaster that they contend are not being covered by media organizations.

 

The reporting consists primarily of puff-piece accounts of the damage, how awesome it is to be flying over the damage and looking down at the wetlands that the oil will likely spread into and further destroy. It consists of celebration of the tourism the Gulf coast has to offer and a profile of tourists who have not canceled their vacations. And, it glamorizes the service of the National Guard who have helped BP militarize the Gulf and turn areas into off-limit zones that members of the media are not allowed to venture into.

 

On July 2nd, Anderson Cooper covered BP’s employment of "reporters" to propagandize their clean-up effort:

"It turns out BP has dispatched two employees to the Gulf who call themselves, according to their blogs, BP reporters. But their reporting looks nothing like our reporting or the rest of the media’s reporting. It’s far more positive. (voice-over): Check out this blog by BP reporter Tom Seslar, the same guy who interviewed Vicki Chaisson. Here, he interviewed a family in the seafood business, who says — quote — "There is no reason to hate BP, and, "The oil spill was an accident," this from folks in the seafood business, which has been destroyed by the BP spill"

"…COOPER: The — I mean, for 70-some odd days now, I have been kind of, I guess, complaining or pointing out the lack of transparency that BP has, even though they had promised transparency.

It doesn’t seem like — I mean, that still seems a major issue that no one else seems to be as concerned about as we have talked about.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But they can’t be, because they have an obligation to their shareholders, just like they can’t be transparent about the flow.

We discussed this last night. When the guy says, well, we don’t — it’s irrelevant to us what the flow is, you have to pay probably, maybe $4,000 a barrel for the flow. And so they’re — you can’t — you can’t believe anything that they say, because they have an obligation to their shareholders…"

 

NOLA.com reported that Associated Press photographer Geoffrey Herbert thinks there is reason to be concerned about the restrictions:

"Often the general guise of ‘safety’ is used as a blanket excuse to limit the media’s access, and it’s been done before"It feels as though news reporting is being criminalized under thinly veiled excuses. The total effect of all these restrictions is harming the public’s right to know."

 

In the middle of June, Associated Press writer Tamara Lush wrote:

Journalists covering the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have been yelled at, kicked off public beaches and islands and threatened with arrest in the nearly three weeks since the government promised improved media access.

Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s point person for the response, issued a May 31 directive to BP PLC and federal officials ensuring media access to key sites along the coast. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles followed up with a letter to news organizations, saying the company "fully supports and defends all individuals’ rights to share their personal thoughts and experiences with journalists if they so choose."

Those efforts have done little to curtail the obstacles, harassment and intimidation tactics journalists are facing by federal officials and local police, as well as BP employees and contractors, while covering the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

 

Lush went on to further illuminate how Adm. Allen’s directive on May 31 was likely public posturing, purely an empty gesture to stem the outrage among journalists in attempting to cover the disaster:

_ On June 5, sheriff’s deputies in Grand Isle, La., threatened an AP photographer with arrest for criminal trespassing after he spoke to BP employees and took pictures of cleanup workers on a public beach.

_ On June 6, an AP reporter was in a boat near an island in Barataria Bay, off the Louisiana coast, when a man in another boat identifying himself as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee ordered the reporter to leave the area. When the reporter asked to see identification, the man refused, saying "My name doesn’t matter, you need to go."

_ According to a June 10 CNN video, one of the network’s news crews was told by a bird rescue worker that he signed a contract with BP stating that he would not talk to the media. The crew was also turned away by BP contractors working at a bird triage area _ despite having permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enter the facility.

_ On June 11 and 12, private security guards patrolling in the Grand Isle area attempted repeatedly to prevent a crew from New Orleans television station WDSU from walking on a public beach and speaking with cleanup workers.

_ On June 13, a charter helicopter pilot carrying an AP photographer was contacted by the Federal Aviation Administration, which told the pilot he had violated the temporary flight restriction by flying below 3,000 feet. Both the pilot and photographer contend the helicopter never flew below 3,000 feet. However, the federal government now says helicopters in the restricted area are allowed to fly as low as 1,500 feet.

 

The federal government has sided with BP and helped BP obstruct press freedom. Even if the coverage would not condemn BP as criminal, even when press is willing to go along and play by the rules BP has outlined for media, the federal government has refused to give credence to the concerns of members of the press.

 

Now, with Adm. Allen’s order, it appears the government will continue to protect BP. If it is protecting BP now, what will it do for BP later? Does such behavior warrant concerns about whether BP will actually pay one hundred percent for what it should as a result of the company’s negligence and risky deepwater drilling operation?

 

In Obama Administration-speak, how long before the mantra becomes , "We need to move forward instead of looking backward," and Americans find it impossible to hold BP accountable because attention is no longer being directed at BP and the Gulf? Certainly, it seems the Administration and BP would like Americans especially journalists to concede that there’s nothing to see here (or there) and, yes, they should move along.

 

People in areas nearby the damaged areas of the Gulf are depending on reports. In the same way that those impacted by Hurricane Katrina depended on reporters and journalists to cover what was really going on in the aftermath, fishermen, BP workers, residents who live on the coast, etc. are all depending on those who understand the value of reporting to society to stay firm, hold strong and not bow to the orders of BP or government officials to shy away from telling real stories of the people and areas most impacted in the Gulf.

Obama’s Oval Office Address: Is the Gulf Half-Empty or Half-Full?

12:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Nearly sixty days after an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed eleven workers, injured seventeen others and created an oil gusher that has been spewing black clouds of oil ever since, President Obama delivered an Oval Office address with the hope of stemming the flow of anger among Americans.

President Obama explained that this is "already the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced." Seemingly forgetting the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he added, "Unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years."

The term continued to be "spill" despite the fact that it should now be accurately referred to as a "leak." It isn’t a spill; if a coffee cup falls over and coffee spills, it doesn’t continue to produce coffee for hours and hours after it spills. If a coffee cup could do that, there’d be no reason for people to buy over-priced cups of coffee from Starbucks.

And, actually, "leak" is too timid. This is not a "leak" or "spill." This is a "gusher." It’s a hemorrhage. The planet is hemorrhaging and those at the top who are running the cleanup effort have no idea how to make the planet clot so the hemorrhaging will stop.

President Obama essentially broke the address up into three parts: the cleanup effort, the recovery and restoration of the Coast, and steps being taken to make sure another disaster like this never happens again.

Outlined by President Obama was the fact that "millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods" and that "over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. " Obama also explained that the federal government has "approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore" and is also "working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines."

President Obama claimed, "if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it" and "if there are problems in the operation, we will fix them." There was no mention of the fact that fancy paper towels are being used in the cleanup effort–that cleanup technology seems to be very simple and inadequate. (Perhaps, if relief wells fail, BP and all those involved in the cleanup efforts will try to shove a ginormous tampon into the floor of the ocean to stop the flow.)

There was also no mention of the Corexit dispersant being used, which Pro Publica reports has been removed from a list of products approved for use on oil spills in the U.K and is "more toxic and less effective on south Louisiana crude than other EPA-approved dispersants."

Obama’s talk of focusing on recovery and restoration becomes even more hollow when you consider further information on the use of Corexit to disperse the oil:

What’s more, the EPA and the Coast Guard are allowing BP to use these dispersants underwater near the ruptured well. They’ve called it a "novel approach [31]" that will ultimately use less dispersant than if the chemicals were applied on the surface. The undersea application, however, is not the recommended [32] application [33] procedure laid out in the EPA’s information on Corexit.

The EPA has acknowledged that dispersants entail "an environmental trade-off [34]," and that their long-term effects on the environment are unknown. It has promised to continue monitoring their use, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency is working with BP [35] to get less toxic dispersants to the site as soon as possible.

On behalf of the fisherman whose way of living have been completely under attack as a result of this disaster, Obama said, "Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party."

However, this meeting is only scheduled to last 20 minutes. That is hardly enough time to properly address the situation and use the bully pulpit of the presidency to force BP to spend less time trying to save their image and more time trying to save the ecosystem in the Gulf.

If President Obama’s only going to spend 20 minutes, then he should just call Tony Hayward and "ask" him his question about a third-party account and the cleanup. He should just friend BP on YouTube and then engage in a chat in the comments thread of one of BP’s videos that, as Jon Stewart said last week, treats Americans like they are victims of domestic abuse.

Also, as Chris Matthews pointed out just after the address, no specifics were laid out on how this account to be "administered by an independent, third party" will be organized and properly handled:

"…[Obama] never mentioned what power he has as chief executive of this country to make [BP] understand they need to put this escrow account in third party hands. Is he gonna litigate? Is he gonna file an amicus brief with a class action suit, wait seven years for this to happen or is he really gonna demand it happens? He said, "I can ask them to do this." I’m amazed he just says he has that power…"

That President Obama thinks the American people will believe he has this situation under control when he intends to still ask BP and not make demands of them is confounding. The government should be past asking. It should be discussing accountability and consequences for the massive cover-up that has taken place in the Gulf, which has contributed to an increase in the devastation in the Gulf.

But, there was no mention of jail time for those responsible and no mention either of a more feasible option, debarment, a move that could "bar BP from receiving government contracts" and "cost the company billions and end its drilling in federally controlled oil fields."

President Obama casually explained that he was assured everything would be fine, that limited offshore drilling "would be absolutely safe" and "the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken." Who or what agency told him this and why does it seem that what they had to say was taken at face value? Given the reservations environmentalists, scientists, and engineers have had about drilling, why doesn’t it seem those people were talking to the president when he made a decision to open up limited offshore drilling?

Shakeups at Mineral Management Services (MMS) were detailed as if to show that regulatory agencies will now handle and regulate corporations like BP properly. But, given the way the EPA has handled the Corexit dispersant and the reports that the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) may not be properly updating their standards on the levels of chemical exposure that cleanup workers are allowed to be exposed to, should we really believe oversight is going to hold oil corporations accountable from this point on?

If one considers Jason Leopold’s recent investigative report on BP’s Alaska oilfield and its safety, one must question how BP is conducting operations all over this country. One must also ask if other oil companies are getting away with safety issues as well.

No portion of the speech addressed the reality that BP is stemming the flow of information in the Gulf and the reality that "journalists in the gulf are now dealing with a hybrid informational apparatus that does not reflect government’s legally mandated bias toward openness and transparency."

If President Obama really wanted to address the way the disaster is being handled, he would have asked why BP has been permitted to invest and expend valuable time, money and resources on public relations and use the National Guard to help protect the corporation’s image and increasingly bleak future instead of putting a hundred percent of BP’s available manpower, equipment, and assets into cleanup operations. If he really wanted to give an address that was not simply void of specifics and instead filled with platitudes and great speechifying, President Obama would have said his administration will condemn any further attempts by BP to block scientists’ access to information and take up air time disinforming and misinforming the public on the extent of the damage in the Gulf.

Keith Olbermann characterized the situation correctly, "We needed to hear the president articulating the anger of this nation at this fiasco, at this ongoing and unstoppable fiasco in the Gulf."

Something needed to be given to lift Americans’ spirits, to make Americans believe that this could be the critical juncture where American government not only makes the transition to pushing for a clean, renewable energy future in this country but also a future where corporations are not just simply allowed to reign supreme and go unchecked.

In the end, all Obama could give Americans was a prayer, a short anecdote about shrimpers who are joined by community during shrimping season for a "Blessing of the Fleet" that involves clergy from many different religions praying for the safety and success of the men and women who will be going out to sea.

Obama’s message at the end of his speech was not only will God "remove all obstacles and dangers" but He will "be with us always" and "even in the midst of the storm."

If this was what we Americans are to hang our hopes on, we can reasonably expect that this disaster will continue until way past Christmas. We can count on BP to still be trying to halt the flow of oil when boys and girls are looking forward to Santa Clause coming to town.

This disaster is not in need of a clergyman or a preacher. It’s not in need of a benevolent, kind and understanding man. It’s not in need of a collegiate and professorial person or someone who was quite the corporate candidate for president in 2008.

This disaster needs a champion of people sovereignty over corporate sovereignty. And, when Obama becomes that champion —someone closer to the trust-busting President Teddy Roosevelt than President Grover Cleveland, who was president when the Supreme Court granted personhood to corporations.

Obama’s Oil Spill Panel: Will It Be Better or Worse Than Carter’s Three Mile Island Accident Commission?

9:25 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

In the next few days, President Obama will announce the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster. The commission will likely be similar to previous commissions convened by presidents to investigate the space shuttle Challenger disaster and the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.

The commission convened will likely face tremendous pressure from BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other oil and energy company interests who wish to ensure the commission organized by the Obama Administration does not come to a decision that puts further constraints on offshore drilling or drilling for oil altogether.

McClatchy Newspapers reported May 18, 2010, that BP is withholding facts about the oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico and the Obama Administration is allowing BP to withhold facts. The story said:

"… the results of tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

Moreover, the company isn’t monitoring the extent of the spill and only reluctantly released videos of the spill site that could give scientists a clue to the amount of the oil in gulf.

BP’s role as the primary source of information has raised questions about whether the government should intervene to gather such data and to publicize it and whether an adequate cleanup can be accomplished without the details of crude oil spreading across the gulf.

Private assurances to not follow all the data and testimony from workers, researchers, and scientists on the disaster may also be made so that information in any published report will have a limited negative impact on oil companies like BP.

Time constraints will likely be placed on the commission that will impact or hurry the work of the commission like time constraints did for the commission that investigated the Three Mile Island accident.

A "Supplemental View by Bruce Babbitt," former governor of Arizona who served on the commission that investigated the Three Mile Island accident stated:

"We had a real problem coming to grips with this issue because of the time constraints on examining the characteristics of other utilities operating nuclear power plants. I can, therefore, understand the difficulties in formulating a specific recommendation at this time.

Yet I must believe that our findings do support more than what we have said here by way of recommendations. We cannot simply urge the utility, industry, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to pay more attention to safety and to establish higher standards.

While this Commission has clearly addressed the institutional shortcomings of the NRC in its recommendations, it has not addressed the institutional problems of the industry."

The likelihood that the commission will not investigate the full extent of the accident and address the systematic or institutional failings of oil companies certainly exists.

The Three Mile Island Commission was a decent selection of individuals that combined a diversity of institutional perspectives. In addition to Babbitt, Patrick E. Haggerty, co-founder of Texas Instruments, Inc., Carolyn Lewis, Assoc. Prof. of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, Paul A. Marks, Vice President for Health Sciences and Frode Jensen Professor at Columbia University, Cora B. Marrett, Prof. of Sociology and Afro-American Studies at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Lloyd McBride, President of the United Steelworkers of America, Harry C. McPherson, a partner with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson, Russell W. Peterson, President of the National Audubon Society, Thomas H. Pigford, Prof. and Chairman of the Dept. of Nuclear Engineering at U.C. Berkeley, Theodore B. Taylor, visiting lecturer at the Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, and Anne D. Trunk, a resident of Middletown, Pennsylvania, all served on the Commission.

Voices present on that commission that should be present on the one convened by the Obama Administration include a health scientist, a voice who can speak about the impact oil has on wildlife, a union leader who can speak on behalf of the workers, an engineer who can discuss the reality of oil drilling, and, most importantly, a resident from the Gulf coast who can testify on the impact of the oilrig disaster in his or her community.

There is a small likelihood that the Obama Administration convenes a truly diverse panel on the oil rig explosion and leak in the Gulf. As Politicoreports, there are at least two investigations that have been started on the disaster: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is leading a study of the causes of the oil rig explosion; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is working on how to split up the Minerals Management Service (MMS) into two agencies so oil drilling can be better regulated and reviewing the rules for drilling. Those investigations may be continued and finished and become the extent of the commission’s investigations; whether new, original investigations are launched for the purposes of a comprehensive public report on the disaster is probably unlikely given the track record of presidential commissions in the past decade.

Finally, it is possible that voices will not be as independent as the administration would like us to believe. Players appointed to investigate will likely be from institutions that sound like good organizations that conduct good research and studies. Upon further investigation, they will probably be revealed to have ties to the very companies or industry being investigated.

The public should hope the Obama Administration surprises those concerned about the future of the Gulf of Mexico, the people in communities on the Gulf coast, the nature and wildlife in the region, the wellbeing of workers who are employed by energy companies, and the impact on oil on planet Earth. But, the reality is that President Obama made an announcement calling for new areas to be open for offshore drilling weeks before the oil rig disaster.

Be weary of the fact that companies could use this disaster to re-brand their companies, regain the confidence of politicians, up their funding of key political leaders in shrewd manners that are not altogether obvious when campaign spending reports are disclosed, and continue to obstruct movement towards dependency on clean, renewable energy in this country.

The oil rig disaster was tragic. The aftermath could be even more tragic if the people are not vigilantly following the work of all those involved in investigating the tragedy.

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