Wetlands Front Group Funded By Big Oil Wants To Ensure Taxpayers Foot The Bill For BP's Gulf Destruction

Tue, 2010-08-03 13:46Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Wetlands Front Group Funded By Big Oil Wants To Ensure Taxpayers Foot The Bill For BP's Gulf Destruction

UPDATE: Sandra Bullock has issued a statement through her publicist saying that,

“Ms. Bullock was originally contacted through her attorney to be a part of the PSA in order to promote awareness of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At no time was she made aware that any organization, oil company or otherwise had influence over Women of the Storm or its message. We have immediately asked for her participation in the PSA be removed until the facts can be determined. Her commitment to the Gulf region has been apparent for many years and she will continue to pursue opportunities that will bring awareness and support to the plight of the Gulf region.”

A group of oil companies including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Citgo, Chevron and other polluters are using a front group called “America’s WETLAND Foundation” and a Louisiana women’s group called Women of the Storm to spread the message that U.S. taxpayers should pay for the damage caused by BP to Gulf Coast wetlands, and that the reckless offshore oil industry should continue drilling for the “wholesale sustainability” of the region.

Using the age-old PR trick of featuring celebrity messengers to attract public attention, America’s Wetland Foundation is spreading a petition accompanied by a video starring Sandra Bullock, Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz, Emeril Lagassi, John Goodman, Harry Shearer, Peyton and Eli Manning, Drew Brees and others.

The video urges petition signers to “Be The One” to demand the government devise and fully fund a plan to restore the Gulf. There is no mention that BP, Halliburton, Transocean, Cameron, or any other oil industry player “be the one” to pay for the damage done to the Gulf. Why call on the government to once again foot the bill for this dirty industry’s reckless behavior?

Perhaps the celebrities featured in the group’s videos are unaware of AWF’s true intent, and signed up thinking that they were helping the Gulf Coast cause in the wake of the BP gusher. But under the surface it sure looks like they are being used as pawns to lure the public into the oil industry’s corner, ensuring that taxpayers pick up the tab for much of the damage caused by BP et al to the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Coast communities, economies, and the environment.

The celebrity video announcement leads viewers to RestoreTheGulf.com where a curious reader would learn that a group called Women of the Storm is behind the effort. But a click through to the “sponsors” page reveals that this effort is actually led by America’s Wetland Foundation, which is funded chiefly by the same oil companies who have ruined the Gulf and endangered the planet with their global warming emissions.

The America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) was launched in 2002 with primary support from Shell Oil and a host of other oil companies. AWF is run by the PR shop Marmillion+Company, whose founder previously served as a PR manager at ARCO and staffer to various GOPers. According to the Washington Post:

“Shell Oil, worried about its offshore drilling platforms, put up several million dollars for a PR campaign to rebrand Louisiana’s marshes as ‘America’s Wetland.’”

A quick look at the sponsors of America’s WETLAND Foundation reveals the oily underpinnings of this greenwashing campaign, with Shell serving as “World Sponsor,” and a long list of oil companies, the American Petroleum Institute and other polluting interests who back the group financially as well.

Founded in January 2006 in response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Women of the Storm might seem like a truly grassroots organization to the casual observer. Is it possible that they never figured out that the oil companies behind America’s Wetland Foundation had an ulterior motive in ‘partnering’ with their group - to greenwash the oil industry’s efforts to stick taxpayers with the bill for damage caused by drilling activities in the Gulf? Perhaps Women of the Storm were willing to take any help they could get, given the horrible response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by the Bush Administration.

Anne Milling, founder of Women of the Storm, says that the organization has never received a penny directly from BP or any other major oil company, although she did acknowledge Women of the Storm received advisory assistance from some of these entities when originally launching the project after Hurricane Katrina. Mrs. Milling was unapologetic when asked about the prominent placement of the America’s Wetland Foundation banner on the group’s website and its various partnerships with the oil-backed group. She sees nothing wrong with AWF’s cozy relationship with the same oil and gas giants that are partly responsible for the coastal wetlands degradation that is the focus of her group’s concern.

Why? Perhaps because she is married to R. King Milling, the chairman of America’s Wetland Foundation, Mrs. Milling sees nothing wrong with the oil connections.

America’s Wetland Foundation and Women of the Storm are partners in another affiliated campaign called “America’s Energy Coast” whose tag line is “Shore Up, Fuel The Nation.”

Last fall, America’s Energy Coast released a white paper called Region at Risk: Preventing the Loss of Vital National Assets [PDF], which called on Congress and the Obama administration

“to resolve the maze of bureaucratic roadblocks that threaten the long-term sustainability of region.”

The AWF’s “America’s Energy Coast” white paper lays out what the oil-funded campaign is primarily concerned with protecting:

“At
 risk
 is
 an engine 
that
 fuels,
 feeds
 and
 supports
 the
 American
 economy.
 This
 is
 the
 nation’s
 energy
 corridor
 that
 provides
 90%
 of 
the
 domestic 
offshore 
oil
 and
 gas
 supply
 and 
is 
tied 
to 
50% 
of 
the 
nation’s 
refining 
capacity.”

Never mind the pelicans and dolphins, this is all about oil production. In language that demonstrates fully the bastardization of the word “sustainability” by polluting interests, the paper suggests:

…our
 nation
 does 
not
 fully
 appreciate 
the
 benefits 
derived 
from
 these 
working 
wetlands. … 
The 
ongoing
 debate 
at 
the 
national 
level 
on 
the 
best 
use 
of 
the
 region’s
 natural
 resources
 has
 failed 
to
 recognize 
the
 urgent
 need
 for
 comprehensive
 solutions 
to
 the
 challenge
 of
 wholesale 
sustainability.
”

“Wholesale sustainability?” And by that the AWF apparently means:

…
no 
greater 
threat 
to 
sustainability
 exists 
than the
 threat 
of
 inaction 
or
 the
 maze
 of
 governmental
 processes that
 prevent
 efficient
 solutions.

 … 
the 
long-term
 survival
 and
 success
 of 
this
 region 
is
 ultimately
 tied
 to 
large-scale
 Federal
 recognition 
and 
support.
”“Among 
the
 most
 challenging
 obstacles
 to
 achieving
 sustainability 
along
 America’s
 Energy
 Coast 
are 
inconsistent
 laws, 
policies 
and
 regulations
 at
 all
 levels 
of
 government.
”

And why is the oil-backed group such a big fan of restoring wetlands and achieving “A New Sustainability”? Could it possibly have anything to do with protecting oil rigs and refineries?

These
 coastal
 landscapes
 provide
 protection 
to millions
 of
 people
 and
 hundreds
 of
 billions
 of
 dollars worth
 of
 property
 and 
infrastructure because 
they
 serve
 as 
buffers
 against 
hurricanes
 and
 storm 
surges.”

The AWF paper even has the gall to blame global warming for threatening oil and gas infrastructure, oblivious to the irony of such an argument:

“energy
 production
 and
 navigation
 activities
 are 
essential
 to
 America’s
 economic
 interests,
 but
 environmental
 threats,
 such
 as 
increasingly
 intense
 storms,
 rising
 sea
 levels,
 and
 ongoing
 coastal
 erosion
 and
 subsidence
 pose
 a 
significant
 risk 
to
 the
 physical
 infrastructure that
 supports
 these
 activities.”

This week, AWF ran ads in several DC and Gulf Coast media outlets touting a letter the group sent to Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. The top priority item requested in the letter:

“Accelerate [Outer Continental Shelf drilling] revenue sharing to Gulf producing states for coastal restoration.”

That would of course mean more risky offshore drilling, one of the primary threats to the Gulf’s health, as the BP disaster has made clear.

So next time you sign a petition ostensibly about ‘saving’ the Gulf ecosystem, make sure you know who is behind it first. America’s Wetland Foundation seems more interested in saving face for the oil and gas industry and tapping taxpayer coffers to protect oil and gas infrastructure than truly protecting the Gulf Coast.

BP and the rest of the offshore drilling industry should “Be The One” to clean up their mess, not the U.S. taxpayer.


Co-authored by Brendan DeMelle and Jerry Cope.

Comments

While I applaud the research that went into this, and I think it is a very scammy thing for the oil companies to do, you lost me on the very last line. “BP .. should .. clean up their mess, not the U.S. taxpayer.”

From day one the person or group I was most disappointed in was not BP or the oil companies, but the U.S. President. The proper reaction would have been to head up a government run task force and focus on recruiting the best people to help clean the spill up in the shortest time possible, recruiting from BP and all other Oil companies that drill in the gulf first, then reaching out for a world-wide effort.

The main problem with the clean up efforts is that everyone wants to blame someone else and have them pay for it. This is the very worst side of a Capitalist nation. The first reaction should have been to stop the leak, and then clean up the spill, and then, AFTER it is all fixed, worry about money.

Should the U.S. Taxpayer have paid for it? My answer is simply, can you think of a better current use for our taxes?

Should BP have paid for it? They probably couldn’t without bankrupting themselves. They should be made to pay for as much as possible, but this wasn’t a small company issue at any point along the way. It is a GLOBAL problem, and we shouldn’t be trivializing it into the responsibility of one single company.

They should be doing their share, but we can’t realistically expect any money-driven company to be responsible enough to save our planet in such a crisis.

“There is no mention that BP, Halliburton, Transocean, Cameron, or any other oil industry player”

Is there another Cameron, or did you really mean the British Prime Minister?

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/08/gulf_of_mexico_oil_spill_is_ju.html

i appreciate your blog and interest in La. oil and gas problems. Our history and loss of wet lands really started around the 1940’s. Plaquemines Parish’s colorful and corrupt boss Leander Perez, allowed through kickbacks and extortion, oil companies to lease state lands for exploration and drilling /the proceeds going to shadow companies under his control. (no $ for the state) The damage done at that time is what is allowing salt water intrusion destroying lands and culture of our rich coastal regions. The canals that were dug and the vehicles that were used scared the land permanently. if you Google Earth our coast land you can see the damage done. Luckily these practices have not continued. The Nutria(THIS IS A BIGGIE) and global warming have not helped our cause.

Louisiana does not receive ANY revenue from Big Oil. The money goes directly to the Feds. What the Women of the Storm are advocating is that Louisiana receive part of the revenue that goes to our wonderful Gov. Alaska has a great deal. They actually get a percentage of the Big Oil money for their state.

THAT IS THE ISSUE/IT IS FALSE INFO THAT THE TAX PAYERS PICK UP THE BILL!!!IT IS A SHARE OF THE REVENUE FROM BIG OIL BEFORE IT GETS TO THE FEDS SO LOUISIANA CAN FIX ITS OWN COAST! AND IT IS NOT TO FIX WHAT BP HAS DONE/BP JUST ADDED TO OUR MISERY.

Basically Louisiana is a state that has a love hate relationship with Big Oil..Thousands are employed and lively hoods depend. As an informed and expert on such matters I am sure you have watched all of the CSPAN coverage with direct testimony as most of us here in Louisiana have. As you know the persons directly involved ..on the rig… you would also heard testimony from the widow of Shane Roshto, who wants the ban on Gulf Coast TO BE LIFTED. Go figure..
Hey if change is going to occur stop driving your car and help to lower the demand..
We are so screwed down here/ now we don’t even have a seafood industry! And.. the real problem, the much denied ” Plumes”are still there.

I am not by any stretch a WOMEN OF THE STORM. Nor do I care a hoot about what Sandra Bullock does. I am a politically active artist that has seen first hand how ineffective our Gov. is. By the way, ART is thriving in this environment of continuing activism.

All the lawyers are arriving..and the real show is about to begin.

and its publisher, Ashton Phelps, says that your story is inaccurate and that the newspaper supports Mrs. Milling and her organization.

http://www.hoggan.com/clients

Sandra Bullock continues in Women of the Storm’s Restore the Gulf campaign. Here: http://bit.ly/9ty4q1

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