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.

NEB v BC

As noted in the Vancouver Observer, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s pipeline panel released a report last Thursday on community concerns regarding the Kinder Morgan proposal to triple Tar Sands bitumen flowing from Alberta to the Burnaby, British Columbia shipping terminal in Greater Vancouver. Of particular interest is the fact that

former Prime Minister Stephen Harper removed pipeline reviews from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and handed it to the industry-dominated National Energy Board. This government “regulator” looked more like a Calgary oil company boardroom, even requiring its members to reside in the tar sands capital.

The author goes on to note that, “In the 2015 federal election, candidate Trudeau promised to overhaul the NEB and restart the review for the Kinder Morgan pipeline project. After the election, Prime Minister Trudeau apparently forgot his campaign promise. In January, the NEB hearings continued despite growing protests.”

Sensing that the NEB decision has already been made, and that the oil-industry-dominated NEB couldn’t care less about the impacts on British Columbia and the Salish Sea, Greenpeace–as reported in the Vancouver Sunannounced a Nov. 12 “workshop” in Vancouver to train pipeline opponents in methods of civil disobedience.

Tactics being presented include “peaceful sit-ins in offices, blockades to prevent bulldozers from reaching a construction site, art installations in the pipeline right-of-ways,” said spokesman Keith Stewart.

Alliance vs Tar Sands

The First Nations Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion–signed by 50 Indigenous nations in Vancouver and Quebec on September 22–opposes TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, and Enbridge pipeline projects in their traditional territories. As reported in the National Observer, the treaty builds on “major First Nations victories” against the Northern Gateway project and Keystone XL pipeline.

Omitted in the article, however, is any mention of the fact that the deciding factor of Obama’s rejection of Keystone XL is that it pitted Canadian Alberta Tar Sands oil against US-produced Bakken crude, made possible by his approval of fracking on millions of acres in North Dakota. The resulting glut of oil, which overwhelmed Gulf Coast storage capacity, made it possible for Obama’s advisor Warren Buffett to corner the oil-by-rail market now threatening the Pacific Coast of Northwest Washington and Southwest British Columbia.

The Voice Within

As Swinomish Tribal Chairman and President of the National Congress of American Indians Brian Cladoosby remarked recently, “Over the last 100 years, our most sacred site, the Salish Sea, has been deeply impacted by our pollution-based economy. We have decided no more and we are stepping forward.”

The pollution-based economy Cladoosby refers to includes environmentally devastating oil and coal mega-projects in Canada and the United States. As Wall Street seeks to cash in on fossil fuel export, the Tar Sands, the Powder River Basin coal mines and the Bakken Shale oil fields are a notorious part of that pollution-based economy threatening the Salish Sea.

As Dine scholar Larry Emerson noted, “our relationship to seventh generation principles of sustainability has been disrupted.” Contending with a legacy of corruption, plundered land, water and air, Dine (Navajo) youth — who’ve been culturally and ecologically devastated by the intergenerational traumas from uranium and coal mining — are demanding “the right to healthy Dine identities and ethical, sacred ecological lifestyles.”

Fear and greed are tools companies like Peabody Coal, Pacific International Terminals and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad use to divide and conquer indigenous peoples and American communities from the mountains of Appalachia to the mesas of Arizona and the shores of the Salish Sea. Stepping forward together as peoples of conscience means enlisting our humanity in combination with others.

As the renowned human rights organizer Bill Wassmuth observed, “To enhance and ensure our survival, it is not only noble, but necessary, to act upon the voice within.”