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Obama’s Job: Protect Us from Pollution [video]

3:27 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

While Obama’s jobs speech is being framed as a turning point for his tenure as President, there is another job I would respectively suggest he concentrate on: protecting the lives of America’s children.

Here’s a quick video ad that I think gets right to point:

Late last week the President blocked reforms to the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to improve pollution measures to protect Americans against the harmful effects of toxic ozone smog. The President chose to side with big corporate polluters instead of with the 12,000 Americans that, according to the EPA, would have been saved by these proposed updates to pollution controls. Obama also chose to side with the big polluting industries instead of with the estimated 24 million men, women and children suffering from asthma in this country who are forced to suffer even more because of heightened smog levels.

The decision outraged his biggest backers in the Democratic Party. Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said that environmentalists should sue the Obama administration over the decision: “I hope they’ll be sued in court and I hope the court can stand by the Clean Air Act.” Read the rest of this entry →

White House Hid the Truth on Spill: The Truth and the Oil is Still Out There

7:57 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

The President’s National Oil Spill Commission released preliminary findings today from its investigation into BP’s oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

And its initial findings will cause at least two major headaches, I mean headlines, for the White House.

First, the report finds that the White House blocked efforts by federal scientists to publicly reveal how high the oil spill rate was based on modeling they had to estimate the worse case scenario.

Visiting the Gulf of Mexico

In section 2 called The Fate of the Oil Released, there are two major issues. First says that the numbers that the Administration used to base its announcement that most of the oil had just disappeared was in fact not meant to be rigorous accounting. And second, in a section called The Fate of all Hydrocarbons, a study done in late September concluded that "most of the initial biodegradation in the plumes involved gaseous hydrocarbons (propane and ethane), rather than oil". Meaning that what happened to most of the oil remains a mystery.

Let’s take the first piece. The Obama White House, for whatever reason and we can make a fair guess, did not want to disclose to the public how bad the oil spill could really be. Much like BP, the government instead chose to paint rosy scenarios about the size and impact of the spill. Who was the White House protecting? Certainly not the good people of the Gulf Coast. Certainly not the American public. And certainly not the Gulf of Mexico.

Now part 2, the White House continues to shakily stand by their initial assertions that 75% of the oil has disappeared. They based that on an "Oil Budget" estimate meant to help responders with their efforts, not as a definitive estimate. However, the commission report states that the Oil Budget was simply not designed to explain, or capable of explaining, the “fate of the oil”. It was not robust enough scientifically for that. Much like BP who wants to down play the presence of oil in the ecosystem and it’s effects because of legal liability, the White House is joining the industry chorus perhaps to down play it’s political liability.

There’s much in this report that’s revealing but one last piece perfectly states why the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise is in the Gulf conducting independent science and why we’re thankful others are as well. In the study mentioned above, much of the bio-degradation the Administration hoped was eating the oil was not. It is eating gaseous hydrocarbons like propane and ethane. The oil is still out there and instead of ‘fessing up to the extent that remains and the damage it will do likely for decades, the government joins with industry to keep us in the dark.

Now the White House hopes we will take their word that we can indeed go forward with more offshore drilling and that it can be done safely. How many more fossil fuel disasters will it take for our politicians to lead us out of this rut and into the secure and environmentally friendly renewable energy future we need? Instead the White House and Congress are all pushing for Drill Baby Drill as per the President’s statement back in March.

[Philip D. Radford is the Executive Director of Greenpeace US.]

Dear White House Re: Oil Spill Not Gone

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

Ms. Carol Browner
Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

August 16, 2010

Dear Ms. Browner,

During the week of August 4, 2010, you served as the administration’s principle spokesperson appearing on multiple national television programs, including NBC’s Meet the Press and ABC’s Good Morning America, to report findings from the interagency BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Budget. You stated repeatedly that "the vast majority of the oil appears to be gone."

This week, multiple independent scientists have released calculations and investigations that show quite the opposite:

* from the University of Georgia that upwards of seventy nine percent of the spilled oil still remains in the Gulf

* from the University of South Florida oil found on the bottom of the ocean in a vast area of subsea canyons some 40 miles from the Florida panhandle

* and from the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution, published today in Science, new mapping of the disputed massive underwater plumes of oil.

This new scientific information tells a story that is a complete reversal of what you conveyed to the American public just two weeks ago. We are mystified about how you and government’s top scientists could have gotten the numbers and the interpretation and translation of this data so wrong. The only plausible explanation is that you rushed to put an optimistic face on the worst environmental catastrophe in American history.

Your major media appearances the first week of August included the following quotes:

"The good news is that the vast majority of the oil appears to be gone…The scientists are telling us about 25 percent was not captured or evaporated or taken care of by mother nature"
on ABC Good Morning America, August 4, 2010

"I think it’s also important to note that our scientists have done an initial assessment and more than three-quarters of the oil is gone, the vast majority of the oil is gone…The EPA has been monitoring, NOAA is monitoring, the Food and Drug Administration is looking at the fish; and, right now, nobody’s seeing anything of concern."
on NBC Meet the Press, August 8, 2010

Today, in a congressional hearing, NOAA and EPA testified that preliminary results released August 4th have not been peer-reviewed, and that this must and will be done before any conclusions can be made about the state of the Gulf. Furthermore, NOAA’s preliminary statement about oil cleaned up includes the 800,000 barrels of oil captured by ships – which never entered the Gulf but was instead likely sent to refineries and into America’s gas tanks.

Did the NOAA and EPA scientists who briefed you for the August 4th release affirm that it was accurate and credible to use the language, that "the vast majority of the oil appears to be gone."?

While you falsely reassured the American people and residents of the Gulf region on the ongoing environmental impact in the Gulf, we are also concerned that this optimistic assessment may have further undermined the administration’s credibility and the longer term efforts of the Federal government to fully prosecute BP and others for the damage to the Gulf. We remain very concerned about any possible industry influence on the collection of accurate scientific data and dissemination of information about this oil disaster by the government’s reliance on British Petroleum assets and other oil industry actors involved in the assessment and clean up response.

Greenpeace remains committed to independent review of the oil disaster’s impact and support demands made today by Representative Ed Markey that all data, calculations, formulas and citations of scientific literature behind the Oil Budget calculator be immediately released to the public and to independent scientists.

Our research vessel the Arctic Sunrise is currently hosting scientists from multiple academic institutions investigating the ongoing impacts of the oil that remains in the Gulf of Mexico as we help independent scientists in the pursuit of the truth. We will be happy to share the results of this mission with your office.

The President rightly promised the American public an unprecedented amount of transparency and rededication to science in his administration (versus the behavior of previous administration). We feel the President has been unfairly blamed for the Gulf disaster, but there is no getting around the fact that you were on national television telling the American public something that has now been severely contradicted by independent expert scientists.

We sent a FOIA request to NOAA on August 5, 2010, asking for disclosure of the calculations and data behind the Deepwater Horizon Oil Budget. While we await a response to our FOIA request, we would kindly request that you formally amend or retract your comments of the week of August 4th based on this new evidence.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Best regards,

Phillip Radford
Executive Director
Greenpeace US

Oily Hand