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.

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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]

Fears of Pagan Socialism

In Bron Taylor’s 20 April 2011 Religion Dispatches essay Debate Over Mother Earth’s Rights Stirs Fears of Pagan Socialism, he notes that, “Religious and political conservatives have long feared the global march of paganism and socialism. In their view,” says Taylor, “it was bad enough when Earth Day emerged in 1972, promoting a socialist agenda. But now, under the auspices of the United Nations, the notion has evolved into the overtly pagan, and thus doubly dangerous, International Mother Earth Day.” With all 192 member states of the UN General Assembly supporting a 2009 resolution proclaiming International Mother Earth Day as proposed by the socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales, American conservatives hostile to environmentalism responded with their usual religious hysteria.
In Paul de Armond’s 1996 essay A Not So Distant Mirror, he observes that, “I never expected to find parallels between the militant heretics of the Middle Ages and the current convulsions on the far right. The realization thrust itself upon me while I was trying to understand what I was witnessing as I attended meetings of the ‘property rights’ groups which began promoting militia organizing in early 1994.
Everyone seemed instinctively to know what part they played; the endless rants by a variety of characters full of not only themselves, but also full of a sense of a divine mission in struggling against unholy forces. The typical far right meeting is very similar to a service in a lay Christian fellowship of the more militant fundamentalist evangelicals.”
Concerned with a United Nations takeover of public lands in the United States, the militia meetings de Armond described in Northwest Washington State comprised a collection of Christian Patriots and Wise Users who had conflated conspiracy theories with white supremacist propaganda about an imminent UN invasion of the United States. “By chance,” said de Armond, “I was reading Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, a history of the turbulent 14th Century. Tuchman,” he notes, “explains her interest in the 14th Century as starting with ‘a desire to find out what were the effects of the most lethal disaster of recorded history — that is to say the Black Death of 1348–50 — which killed an estimated one third of the population living between India and Iceland.’
“Religious hysteria,” says de Armond, “was what I thought I was seeing at the confluence of the ‘property rights’ and militia movements. In their role as social critics and collectors of grievances, the ‘Patriots’ and Wise Users are remarkably acute, but they are unreasonable in both analysis and action — rejecting a discourse which supplies reasons and appeals to reason and instead relies on force for persuasion.”
“The prophetae of the militia movement,” notes de Armond, “come from the Wise Use anti-environmentalists and Christian white supremacists,” and like the leaders of the medieval social revolutions in Europe, “have been successful in obtaining political power and influence, and as they become part of the establishment and decapitated their own movement, their less successful brethren have repeatedly splintered off into more groups and become more violent and irresponsible in both rhetoric and action.”

Documenting the Dark Side

As noted in Communications in Conflict, research–where social milieus investigate threats by obtaining primary documents that reveal the financial and organizational ties of their enemies–is the foundation of effective education, organizing and community action. As illustrated in the special report Netwar at Cherry Point, primary documents in the fossil fuel export war between Wall Street and Coast Salish Nation include audio and video tapes, political action committee and non-profit incorporation records, and political campaign contributions. The close working relationship between fossil fuel exporters, the Tea Party, the Republican Party, and violent white supremacist organizations—documented by independent, volunteer, citizen journalists—is a phenomenon that should seriously concern tribal leaders and moral authorities.

 

Monitoring the activities of corporations, organizations, and media mobilizing resentment against tribal sovereignty is essential in protecting the protectors, who would otherwise be vulnerable to these threats from the anti-Indian movement. Collating reports from investigative research networks—which can include college students under supervision of mentors—allows organizations like the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) to keep leaders of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians informed with timely and accurate updates on developments that impact their ability to defend tribal sovereignty and the exercise of tribal jurisdiction under federal and international law. These periodic reports, in turn, allow tribal leaders to take proactive measures to protect their members, as well as communicate more effectively.

 

In developing an estimate of the situation facing Coast Salish Nation, the proposed 2017 opposition research conference is in keeping with the goals set forth by CWIS at the 1996 Politics of Land & Bigotry conference. With the impending escalation of the carbon corridor conflict on the shores of the Salish Sea over exporting Tar Sands bitumen and Bakken Shale crude from Port Metro Vancouver in British Columbia and Cherry Point in Washington State, it behooves indigenous leaders to implement monitoring and exposure of organized anti-Indian activities that mainstream media completely ignores or intentionally covers up. As stated in the 1996 call to conference, “The portentous movements in America intent on promoting interracial discord, extremist claims on lands and natural resources, and a growing politics of fear” require “forging a coalition actively committed to achieving a new public consensus.”