The city of Blaine, Washington has approved a settlement agreement with Lummi Nation to transfer ownership of a piece of land on Semiahmoo spit, where artifacts and human remains were disturbed in the late 1990s during expansion of a wastewater treatment plant. It has since been replaced and relocated away from the former Lummi village.
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 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.
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, 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. 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.
In 2017, San Juan Island Art Museum features three exhibits: Forest Dialogues (opening March 4), Legends from the Human Spirit: Traditional and Contemporary Coastal Peoples (opening May 26), and Old Growth/From Rocky Outcroppings (opening September 15).
Old photos and notes courtesy of Saltwater People Historical Society.