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Academic, Non-Governmental

After Filing $19 Billion of Lawsuits, Activist Leaders Take a Whirlwind Tour of the Gulf

By Jacoba Charles

Aug 19, 2010

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity, Kieran Suckling, is on his cell phone as he steers a rental car through downtown New Orleans. Beside him, the Center’s assistant director Sarah Bergman gives directions while working on a laptop and sending email from her cell.

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, the controversial environmental organization has filed seven lawsuits worth $19 billion against BP and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Yet this is the first trip its busy directors have made to the place that they have been fighting to protect.

On the second day of Suckling and Bergman’s whirlwind tour of Louisiana, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released a long-awaited report which recommended ending the use of "categorical exclusions" to approve oil drilling in the gulf. Between that news, and an unrelated controversy involving off-road vehicle use in California, Suckling’s phone is even busier than usual as reporters call him for his reliably colorful quotes, and staff call to craft press releases.

He is on the phone as Bergman drives them south through a bayou forest dripping with Spanish moss. During lunch at a roadside diner in Larose, he is outside talking to a reporter from the New York Times while his grilled cheese sandwich (with jalapeño and tomato) gets cold on the table. And on the still-oiled beaches of Grand Isle, he strips off one blue glove to answer his phone while wading in the rainbow sheen of the surf.

Muckraking and Litigation

Most of the calls are from, or about, the media. The Center for Biological Diversity, which is based in Tucson, Arizona, has advocated for environmental change through a combination of muckraking and litigation for over 20 years. Their projects have ranged from preserving owl habitat to restricting pesticide use.

As the scope of the Deepwater Horizon disaster became evident, the Center was quick to take action.

“As soon as we realized it was going to be as bad as it was we’ve been working on it super intensively,” Suckling says. “I’d say 80 percent of my time has been spent on the Gulf since the explosion.”

The Center was instrumental in unveiling the federal Minerals Management Service’s cozy relationship with the offshore oil industry, which led to the dismantling of the agency.

But the organization’s main focus has been on lawsuits to hold BP and the government accountable for violations of the clean water act, the endangered species act, and other rules and regulations.

The Center’s litigation includes a suit to make BP and the Environmental Protection Agency reveal the chemical content of the dispersants, and another to stop 49 drilling projects that had been granted “categorical exemptions” from environmental review. A third suit seeks $19 billion in compensation from BP for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Bergman says that they are concerned that the Federal Government hasn’t signed on as a co-plaintiff in the Clean Water Act violation lawsuit.

“We expected them to join the suit within the first few days, but they haven’t,” Suckling adds. “So we don’t really know what is going to happen.”

A Whirlwind Tour

Even while Suckling and Bergman multitask, they are working to absorb as much of the environmental situation in Louisiana as they can. In keeping with the Center’s mission, their three-day trip is designed to assess not only the oil damage but also the overall diversity of the bayou ecosystem.

“We have a direct relationship with a lot of the issues we work on,” Suckling says. “But here I think we were missing that experience and connection. We’ve put our heart and soul into the work, but we hadn’t seen the place for ourselves.”

The pair starts the day off with a tour of the storm surge barrier that is being built eight miles east of New Orleans. The barrier is a massive wall, two miles long, standing 26 feet high and built from enough steel to make eight Eiffel Towers.

BP has lied since the

BP has lied since the beginning. They were slow to react when the rig sank and the oil started bubbling up to the surface of the gulf.

our govt and oil

To: U.S. State Legislators and Congress
A Testament and Proclamation 

Democracy and popular control of government require public officials who speak truthfully about their intentions and actions; who respect, obey, and execute the nation's laws and treaties without deference to wealth and power and certainly without exceptions for themselves; and who openly and thoroughly investigate defense failures, financial crises, environmental disasters, and other national tragedies. To abrogate any of these responsibilities is to abuse the public trust and attack democracy itself. 

We the Undersigned find, based on substantial available evidence, that the United States Government, including the Office of the President, Congress and ancillary agencies, have intentionally, systematically and serially defrauded the American people in what we find to be State Crimes Against Democracy (SCAD): actions undertaken in direct violation of sworn oaths of office to circumvent, exploit, undermine or subvert laws, the constitutional order, or the public awareness essential to popular control of government. 

Most recently, these State Crimes Against Democracy have included: 

1) The BP oil spill debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, the initiation of and response to which have constituted criminal neglect if not deliberate malfeasance. 

2) The mortgage lending fraud and subsequent bailout of the most powerful U.S. syndicated banking interests, precipitating untold hardship upon the American people into the foreseeable future, not to mention world financial destabilization. 
 In at least these instances of the Gulf oil spill and mortgage lending fraud, judicious warnings were well in place to head off catastrophe, warnings that U.S. governmental entities and Congressional oversight committees either suppressed or permitted to be circumvented. There exists a history of collusion between the US government, including the CIA, and agents of BP in executing secretive and illegal actions; now there is a growing body of evidence that both are suppressing the facts on the origins and severity of the current oil disaster and the future environmental, public health and safety, and economic impact. 

Oil Spill

Oil floats on water and sinks in sand.Was BP on US shore? The waters in the gulf, I believe, are between Mexico and U.S.
Does Mexico allow off shore oil drilling on their territory?
When were the drilling rights given to BP
(or sold, by whom and for how much?)

I think that there is a lot of information that We, the People, need to know.

Oil Spill

This disaster has many "parents" and most of them are in Congress directly or under the table. Those who seek power must play with movers and shakers because they can't begin to seek power without money. When Big Business buys them, it isn't the will of the people anymore.

I love the United States of America with all my heart. I believe that our nation wants fairness, equal rights and protection of our beautiful land. Were we all able to know exactly the kind of deals that our congress barters on a regular basis, we might be amazed. Both Representatives and Senators trade votes and favors.

Many Congressmen vote against the President because he was an outsider and, unless one is plugged into clean information, rather than the mainstream news, which tends to follow the party of the Media Owners., we never get unbiased news.

I was thrilled when Obama won the White House but we didn't win the majority and there are bigots that wear liberal badges but never vote that way.The office of President hasn't as much power one might suppose. If you do not have a majority, your hands are tied.He had no insiders to keep him in the loop. I believe that he will fulfill our hopes.

I would like to know why we would allow another country to drill so close to our shores.Obviously I haven't done my research, I am just furious for the suffering of all the creatures of the sand and sea, of the people who have their homes and living in these oil saturated sands and sea.Ought to be a law that our resources cannot be leased out or sold in any way whatsoever.

BP Oil Still Present

I was sure that BP would start running there adds so people will still buy there gas and other products here in the US,then they hire someone that is from the US to say he lives here and he cares about what happens to the place he lives of course oil money pays him so what do you think he will say,they want to lie on TV to the people that it is capped and the problem is almost solved,well they do this because people in the White House along with BP want this to go away they do not want to spend more money which will not help the damage is done to the enviroment and they all want more drilling that goes for BP and the white house they both do not want to loose BILLIONS of dollars off the american people,they do not care about the marine life that will die or animals&birds and land they have changed forever,all they do is one big coverup,we should be used to that from the people in government and oil people,they should try something new like telling the truth for a change,you can tell how responsible government is just by how are country is being run (into the ground ) with the help of big business that looks not to help people but just to make profit off of us,it is a different world we live in,I hope they do not allow any more new WELLS to stop DRILLING find different fuels why should we be at the mercy oil companies find other fuels along with engines improve millage for all cars and trucks.
Thank You
Randall Beatty

info updates

It has been very frustrating to not see video and pictures clearly showing the oil in the water and on the beaches with in a reference frame. For example, you show it on your gloves, but not how it got on the gloves. You say it bubbles up from the sand, but don't show that.

I'm on your side, but I can't show this to the doubters and expect them to be convinced. We really need current footage that shows exactly what you are talking about.

Thank you for all of your hard work!

Gulf's Oil Spill

Actually there are a lot of disappointments. First thing that comes to mind is the lying that has been going on since the explosion and the oil out in the gulf. BP has lied since the beginning. They were slow to react when the rig sank and the oil started bubbling up to the surface of the gulf. The second thing is the most powerful man in our country, doesn't seem to care about how urgent this matter is and how it affects the shrimpers and the fishermen's living. Then the federal government has the nerve to say that all the oil is gone. They must really think people in the south are really that gullable. There is no-way all that oil that had been spilling in the gulf for three months could be gone that quickly. Does the President really expect us to buy what the federal govenment is trying to sell us . Mr. President, I'am a registered voter and very disappointed in your handling of this enormous oil spill that will probably be in our history books and so will your handling of this situation as well as the Federal Government. The Federal Government didn't do their jop when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, they failed then and again now...........

Help us stop the next environmental disaster.DEEP SHALE DRILLING

Please spread the word. Big Oil and Gas wants to get bigger! Coming to a Shale play near you! Please alert your lawmakers asap. See the doc GASLAND on HBO and ask lawmakers to see it too. Say "No FRACING way" to DEEP SHALE HYDRAULIC FRACTURING/HORIZONTAL GAS DRILLING. We are beholden to the fossil fuel industry. It is time to really go sustainable. Cut your energy use in half. Reds and Blues, this is a major health issue. Put politics aside and unite.

The Fight Against Fracking
How New Yorkers won a moratorium on a drilling practice that threatens their lives, homes, and Maura Stephens

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