The three companies involved — BP, Transocean, and Halliburton — have paid criminal fines for their actions, money that is supposed to go to states and individuals for the damage they suffered as a result of the spill. But thanks to the dirty tricks employed by BP, those payments have slowed to a trickle.
But for all of their crying over allegedly unfair payments, BP has made out like a bandit in the years since the company destroyed the Gulf of Mexico. For starters, they avoided charges of manslaughter for criminal negligence that led to the death of the 11 rig workers. Since the spill, the company has pulled in a net income of $38 billion over the last three years, and was recently granted the ability to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. For BP, everything has returned to normal.
Republican Sen. James Inhofe said it. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said it. Even former Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson said it.
For over a decade, oil and gas executives and the policy makers who support them have repeated a single bold claim: there has never been a single documented case where fracking contaminated groundwater.
But a blockbuster investigative report by the Associated Press offered up new evidence earlier this month that the shale industry’s keystone environmental claim is simply not true.
Multiple states confirmed that drilling and fracking contaminated groundwater supplies, the investigation found. There have been thousands of complaints from people living near drilling over the past decade, the AP reported, and three out of the four states from which the AP obtained documents confirmed multiple instances where oil and gas companies contaminated groundwater.
Out of the four states the AP obtained documents from, only Texas reported no confirmed oil and gas-related groundwater contamination. But one high-profile incident in Texas has again come under scrutiny, as a report quietly released by the Obama administration on Christmas Eve has called the adequacy of the state’s investigation into question.
On Monday, over 200 environmental groups called on President Obama to reopen the federal investigations into that case and others in Pennsylvania and in Wyoming, and to personally meet with people whose drinking water supplies have been polluted.
“The previously closed EPA investigation into these matters must be re-opened,” said the letter, sent the day before Mr. Obama's State of the Union address. “These three are among a growing number of cases of water contamination linked to drilling and fracking, and a significant and rapidly growing body of scientific evidence showing the harms drilling and fracking pose to public health and the environment.”
W&T admitted that their contractors ran contaminated water samples through coffee filters to remove oil and other pollutants before turning them over for testing.
While the company had secured a permit to dump waste water back into the Gulf, W&T Offshore was required to monitor and report the oil levels in the liquid.
W&T also admitted to failing to report a sheen of oil around the 910 platform that they tried (but failed) to clean up for several weeks after another incident in which an angry worker shot off a flare in November of 2009, which they also failed to report to the Coast Guard.
David Hammer at Eyewitness News reported that when Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Officers inspected the platform, they still found oil staining on the platform deck and a visible sheen in the water, all of which W&T failed to report as required.
As part of the guilty plea agreement, W&T Offshore was ordered to pay $1 million (a fine of $700,000 and $300,000 for community service), will be under probation for three years and will be required to implement an environmental compliance program.
W&T Offshore is headed by founder and CEOTracy Krohn and operates some 107 platforms in the Gulf.
The investigation has been ongoing since August 2011, when the Justice Department announced that they would be looking into the series of abnormalities related to BP’s estimates of exactly how much oil was flowing from their broken well head on the bottom of the Gulf floor. Official estimates say that close to 5 million gallons of oil were released as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Mix is accused of deleting messages that federal officials had requested during their investigation. Mix was a member of the team working on the official flow estimates at BP, meaning he had access to all of the information regarding the spill as it was occurring. BP officials claim that they told Mix to retain all his messages, but he deleted them anyway in October 2010. From CNN.com:
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.