BP’’s missing oil is found–where else?–on the bottom of the Gulf

After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, some of the estimated 200 million gallons of oil that spilled were never recovered. They were missing. Now researchers have found some of them: A good 10 million gallons are sitting at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, hypothesizes that about 5 percent of oil from the spill made it to the seafloor. A separate study in October put that number at about 10 percent. ““Our number is a little bit more conservative than theirs,”” said Jeff Chanton, lead author of the new study, “but “if the two approaches agree within a factor of two, that’’s pretty good for estimating all of the oil on the seafloor.”” Basically, a lot of oil is down there.

And that oil can cause a lot of problems. Because there’’s less oxygen deeper in the Gulf, it will take more time to decompose. And the oil can lead to tumors and lesions in sea animals, the researchers found.

““Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It’’s a conduit for contamination into the food web,”” Chanton said. “”This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come.””

The findings come as BP continues trying to weasel its way out of paying fines and reparations for the spill. Reuters reports that the company is pushing back against a multi-billion-dollar government fine under the Clean Water Act:

In arguments that wrapped up on Monday, BP tried to whittle away at $13.7 billion in potential fines if faces under the Clean Water Act for the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history.

BP has said its fine should be modest, as it took extensive steps to mitigate the disaster, and that the defendant named in the case, BP’’s exploration and production unit, known as BPXP, cannot afford a big penalty.

And the Associated Press reports that the company is still seeking to challenge the way in which businesses affected by the spill are compensated — by attacking the man in charge of distributing the funds.

BP says the claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, failed to disclose that he worked on previous oil spill litigation for the state of Louisiana when he was hired to oversee settlement payouts.

Attorneys for Juneau told the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he hid nothing improper and his record of work for the state was public well before BP and others agreed to his hiring in 2012.

All sides hailed the settlement when it was approved in 2012. But BP later argued that Juneau was misinterpreting the settlement and paying claims to businesses that didn’’t deserve them.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and the 5th Circuit ruled that, under the settlement BP agreed to, businesses do not have to prove they were directly harmed by the spill to collect money–only that they made less money in the three to eight months after the spill.

In case you weren’’t feeling sorry enough for BP already, today also brings news that the company’’s profits and share price are both down because of low oil prices. Cue the tiny violins.

Burnaby Mountain ‘warrior’ stands up for us all

Author
Betty Krawczyk

Dear Editor:

Burnaby Mountain Warrior? It only takes one. And Alan Dutton, a retired professor, certainly takes that title in my opinion. He is the only one with the guts and the ability to stand up to what has been a conspiracy between the courts of this province, the resource extraction corporations and both provincial and federal governments. What do I mean by conspiracy?

Because all three of the above conspire to facilitate the use of injunctions to impose the intellectually conniving perceived rights of corporations over the natural rights of the earth and Her inhabitants. When citizens try to stop an obvious harm to land, waterways and habitat for all living things, the corporations turn to the courts. They know the B.C. courts are their friends. Most judges in B.C. were corporate lawyers before becoming judges. They are used to fighting for the artificially perceived rights of death dealing corporations rather than the natural rights of living things to clean water, food, and air to breathe.

But what are these injunctions? Most people know that in some way injunctions make people stop protesting a contested area like Burnaby Mountain, and some even know these injunctions are precipitated by something called SLAPP suits. What is a SLAPP suit? When I heard the actual legal title I was astonished. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation. How anti-democratic! And blatantly anti-public! And anti-everything except the rights of courts, governments and the corporations they serve. However, with a copy of a SLAPP suit in hand to show they have civilly sued a protester, the corporation can take this back to the court and ask for an injunction (or even before the suit is filed). The judge will most certainly give the corporation the injunction requested (they refuse so rarely it isn’t even worth mentioning) et voila!

Now anybody who steps up to try to block any bit of the corporation’s right to do whatever they chose to do to an area will now be breaking a judge’s order.

The court seems to be taking a slightly different tack with Burnaby Mountain protesters than they did with me in the logging protests; instead of the humiliating demand for an apology to the court that I refused, the protesters are agreeing to some sort of settling out of court. Except for Mr. Allan Dutton, who is refusing to settle and is challenging the right of the courts to give out injunctions instead of using the Canadian Criminal Code to deal with protesters.

Okay, so how would that fix things if the Criminal Code was used instead? The Criminal Code has instructions for just about any crime or misdemeanour one can think of. Blocking a road is against the law. So is refusing to move when a police officer commands it. So the police would simply arrest whoever was breaking the law. And then in court a protester could have an actual trial where the contest would be between the protester and the corporation instead of between the protester and the judge for breaking the judge’s order. That’s why the corporations so love injunctions.

The protester can’t argue in court his or her reasons for trying to stop a destruction of the earth when one is arrested under an injunction. There is no defence for breaking a judge’s order. The question just becomes one of if the protester knew about the injunction and if he or she broke the injunction by refusing to move. That’s it. That is what the Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits) culminate in, injunctions and humiliating retreats for the protesters.

Except occasionally, for whatever reason, a protester will refuse to retreat. Like Alan Dutton.

This resounds among the populace. It’s heartwarming. It’s hopeful. Courage is inspiring and it’s also contagious.

Alan Dutton, I understand, is to be back in the courtroom Jan. 19. I wish I could be there. Those of you who can, will you please attend and bear witness? And report the results? A warrior is going to be on the stand.

Betty Krawczyk, by email

Protester fails in court challenge to Kinder Morgan legal attack: Vows to fight back

Author
GENE MCGUCKIN

A failed two-day court challenge to an anti-democratic, corporate legal attack is the latest chapter in the 2014 Battle of Burnaby Mountain over the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline expansion project.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled January 14 that stifling Alan Dutton’s right to protest was not the primary purpose of a multi-million-dollar civil suit and, therefore, his application for a summary dismissal of the case was denied. In an unexpected additional blow, he was ordered to pay the company’s costs for the action.

As revealed in an wide-ranging interview with the Vancouver Sun, the setback has left Dutton unbowed.

A retired academic and active member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan (BROKE), Dutton has indeed been an active protester in the anti-pipeline battle. His challenge sought judicial recognition that he became a victim of strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) when he and four other defendants were sued October 30 by KM.

With the support of fellow BROKE members Dutton filed his mid-December application for a summary judgment to include dismissal of Kinder Morgan’s damage claims and an “Order for special costs payable by the Plaintiff to the Defendant.”

In its suit, the energy giant accuses the defendants of conspiracy to commit illegal acts of trespass, nuisance, assault, intimidation and intentional interference with contractual relations. Their acts, the claim says, resulted in “unlawful interference” with “field studies” required by the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of the expansion project.

A related Kinder Morgan court document projects that each month of delay would cost the company $5,643,000 in expenses, as well as $88 million in lost revenues.

Dutton vows to appeal the court’s ruling, if there are grounds to do so. “I never committed any of the alleged conspiracy, assault, trespass, etc.,” he told this writer. “The charges against me were never proved and don’t have to be under the rules the court followed. Those rules disadvantage and silence defendants in the face of huge lawsuits by large corporations.”

Just before Christmas the energy transnational offered to “discontinue” the suit if defendants agreed not to claim costs. That deal was taken by the other four defendants, whose legal expenses had been paid by an enthusiastic public response to an on-line crowdfunding appeal.

Now, it is not so clear the deal actually settled the suit. A lawyer to two of those defendants barged into the Dutton hearing and was finally permitted to address the court. He expressed his clients’ unease that a discontinuance of the lawsuit was not as final as a dismissal and left them open to further action.

Dutton declined Kinder Morgan’s deal in order to fight the suppression of free speech and freedom of assembly, which he sees as the SLAPP suit’s real goal.

“The issue here is our democracy and the fundamental right to protest,” Dutton told the Burnaby NOW. “It’s to show people we can fight big multinational corporations, and we can be successful.”

On the first morning of Dutton’s application hearing, B.C. Civil Liberties Association Executive Director Josh Paterson, held a press conference with Dutton’s lawyer Neil Chantler. Paterson told reporters that Dutton “is basically making the argument that the reason for which this lawsuit is brought is actually improper and was to shut down people’s lawful and democratic expression.” The BCCLA also put out an “advisory” on the case.

Hoping his action would discourage future SLAPP suits and help bring anti-SLAPP legislation back to B.C., Dutton accepted that he could face growing legal expenses. Crowd-funding and other donations had covered most of his legal costs before this week’s hearing. But this challenge and the court’s unexpected turn-about on awarding costs have added thousands more in legal expenses.*

Kinder Morgan ‘s suit came after a two-and-a-half year battle against its plan to “twin” a 60-year-old pipeline not designed for, but now carrying, tar sands diluted bitumen through Burnaby to a supertanker marine terminal on the municipality’s northern border.

Kinder Morgan ‘s latest revision to the intended route for the “twinned” pipeline has it tunneling under Burnaby Mountain, home of SFU and of a large municipal conservation area.

Kinder Morgan ‘s expansion project would triple the bitumen being piped through suburban Burnaby to nearly 900,000 barrels per day. It would also triple — to five million barrels — the storage capacity of a tank farm on the side of Burnaby Mountain (uphill from residential neighbourhoods, schools, parks, etc.). And it would increase seven-fold, to 400 loads a year, the super-tanker traffic under two bridges across the narrow, busy Burrard Inlet, which is flanked by Vancouver and four other cities in addition to Burnaby.

Opposition to the project has centred on concerns about climate change, as well as about spills on land (already happened) and water, toxic fumes from the marine terminal and tank farm, fire and leaks from the latter (with no response plan in place), and earthquakes affecting the tunneled pipeline section.

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has been a steady, engaged and persuasive voice against the Kinder Morgan expansion, while Burnaby North Liberal MLA Richard T. Lee has been living on another planet.
Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan and his entire city council have held and attended several public meetings explaining their objections in detail.

In addition, the city fought several losing court battles to stop Kinder Morgan work on Burnaby Mountain. Those activities resulted in a September opinion poll that revealed an astonishing 93 per cent of citizens were aware of the Kinder Morgan expansion project and 68 per cent of those were opposed. Affirming this result was Corrigan’s November 15 re-election to a fifth term with 68.5 per cent of the vote and a three-peat of his party’s sweep of council seats.

BROKE, through holding community meetings and rallies and through its website, has worked diligently to educate and mobilize the community against the project since it announcement in 2012.

This past summer and fall, another small group calling themselves “caretakers” came together on the mountain to provide vigilant patrols of areas where Kinder Morgan crews were expected to work. As the fall unfolded, another layer of “land defenders” formed around the “caretaker” nucleus.

In late October, some protestors came into confrontation with a crew of contractors hired by Kinder Morgan to do work at several sites on and around Burnaby Mountain. This led with startling rapidity to the lawsuit and an application to B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction barring protesters from several areas on and around the mountain.

That injunction, which the B.C. Supreme Court did grant, gave birth to a pair of 24/7 work camps ringed by police. It also drew hundreds of protesters to the mountain day after day. Between November 19 and 27, over 100 people “crossed the line” into no-go zones ordered by the court and were arrested, only to have their contempt-of-court charges thrown out when Kinder Morgan revealed it had given the court the wrong GPS coordinates to designate the no-go zones.

Meanwhile, various other constitutional and procedural challenges to the Kinder Morgan project and to the NEB review process of it have been launched by the City of Vancouver, by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, by a citizens group and by Robyn Allan, an economist and former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of BC who has become a formidable anti-pipeline crusader.

Dutton pledges to continuing the fight and is still committed to new anti-SLAPP-suit laws, “a fight both the BCCLA and West Coast Environmental Law have indicated they would support,” he said.

Gene McGuckin is a resident of Burnaby who worked for 29 years in a Burnaby paper recycling mill. He is a member or BROKE and of the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group.

*In an email to this writer Dutton emphasized that a new fundraising effort is underway, again primarily through crowd-funding.