Givers and Takers

My piece de resistance — Netwar at Cherry Point — turns one on April 1st.

This case study about the dark side of white power on the Salish Sea focuses on fossil fuel export versus indigenous peoples, or perhaps better stated — Wall Street versus human rights.

For some, the beloved San Juan Islands beckon as paradise in a world of total chaos. For Warren Buffett, BP and other major energy investors, they are collateral damage in the pursuit of oil portfolio profits.

Bellow Travelers

British Petroleum Cherry Point refinery and friends are presently promoting a “preserve cherry point jobs” campaign to mislead Whatcom county voters into thinking that stopping fossil fuel export will harm local jobs and taxes that support schools. The truth is that the property taxes paid by BP and Phillips 66 remain the same with or without export, as do the refining jobs to meet domestic demand for gasoline and aviation fuel.

The tourism industry of the San Juan Islands is huge, but we mustn’t forget the Dungeness crab commercial fishery at Cherry Point and Georgia Strait that supports families in Anacortes, Blaine, and on the Lummi Indian Reservation. The seafood processors in Blaine are some of the last jobs available in a community that once canned more salmon than anywhere else in the region.

Here’s a child-friendly slide show about how to preserve jobs without “more toxic fuels” polluting the “sacred waters of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.”

Industry-Funded Indians

350 and IEN, both of whom are funded by Dakota Access Pipeline investor Warren Buffett, issued a joint statement on DAPL February 7. Tides Foundation, a money laundry for tar sands investors and oil industry magnates such as Buffett, is used to corrupt NGOs such as 350 and Indigenous Environmental Network. While they are allowed to oppose pipelines in order to maintain credibility as so-called “water protectors,” they are noted for maintaining silence about their benefactor’s investments in pipelines and bomb trains.

Recidivist Offender

One thing we learned watching the movie Deepwater Horizon is that British Petroleum puts greed ahead of concerns for human life and the environment. That greed led to BP paying $4.5 billion in fines and penalties in the largest criminal resolution in US history.

In mid-February, National Audubon Society’s director of bird conservation for the Gulf Coast spoke at the Whatcom Museum about the risks facing vulnerable communities of the Salish Sea. Those vulnerable communities include Coast Salish Nation, the San Juan Islands, and endangered species such as Chinook salmon and Orca whales.

In 2012, BP Cherry Point was fined $81,500 by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries for willfully violating workplace safety and health rules. As Fred Felleman reported, “the Gulf gusher was not an isolated event in BP’s accident-riddled record.”

Felleman also reports that BP led the effort to lift the crude oil export ban, and “is investing in the highly polluting Alberta tar sands that are connected by pipeline to its Cherry Point refinery and marine terminal.” The terminal, says Felleman, “is surrounded by the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve that was created in 1999 to recover the state’s once-largest herring spawning stock.”

The Chinook eat herring, and the Orca eat Chinook. No herring, no Orca.

As Felleman notes, “In 2000 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitted BP to build a new tanker dock at Cherry Point without conducting an environmental impact statement.” In 2005, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals mandated that the Corps prepare a full EIS and re-evaluate whether the permit is in compliance with federal law–the Magnuson Amendment–“to reduce the risk of an oil spill caused by increasing the number of tankers transiting the narrow waterways through the San Juan Islands.”

Between June 2007 and February 2010, BP had 829 refinery violations  as compared with 33 for the rest of the industry. In 2011, federal prosecutors sought to revoke BP’s criminal probation that had been on and off since 2001, stating BP is a “recidivist offender and repeated violator of environmental laws and regulations.” In 2016, BP settled out of court with Whatcom County, agreeing to pay property taxes it tried to get out of through sleight-of-hand.

BP at a glance

BP has been directly involved in several major environmental and safety incidents. Among them were the 2005 Texas City Refinery explosion, which caused the death of 15 workers and resulted in a record-setting OSHA fine; Britain’s largest oil spill, the wreck of Torrey Canyon; and the 2006 Prudhoe Bay oil spill, the largest oil spill on Alaska’s North Slope, which resulted in a US$25 million civil penalty, the largest per-barrel penalty at that time for an oil spill.[13]

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest accidental release of oil into marine waters in history, resulted in severe environmental, health and economic consequences,[14] and serious legal and public relations repercussions for BP. 1.8 million gallons of Corexit oil dispersant were used in the cleanup response, becoming the largest application of such chemicals in US history.[15] The company pleaded guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter, two misdemeanours, and one felony count of lying to Congress, and agreed to pay more than $4.5 billion in fines and penalties, the largest criminal resolution in US history.[16][17][18]