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From Bhopal to BP

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Posted on Jun 21, 2010
AP / Prakash Hatvalne

Elderly survivors hold posters as they wait for the verdict at the Bhopal court in India. The court earlier this month convicted seven former senior employees of Union Carbide’s Indian subsidiary of “death by negligence” for their roles in the 1984 tragedy that left thousands dead in Bhopal after toxic gas escaped from a pesticide plant.

By T.L. Caswell

(Page 2)

India defended its good intentions by saying it has been requesting the extradition since 2003 but that the U.S. “has maintained that our request is not covered by the India-US extradition.”

In that same week, Robert O. Blake, a U.S. assistant secretary of state, said in Washington: “I don’t expect this verdict [the Bhopal convictions] to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary, we hope that this is going to help to bring closure to the victims and their families.” In other words, icicles will be forming in the warmest parts of Hades when the United States sends Anderson to face the music.

Blake was wrong about one thing, however—about the verdicts not opening “any new inquiries.” On June 10 the Indian government announced it would form a 10-member panel, headed by the home minister, to look at all issues surrounding the 1984 tragedy.

Certainly there is no shortage of allegations linking the accident to Union Carbide failures or wrongdoing. A number of sources have assembled collections of various official and unofficial charges against Union Carbide that could be placed in the following general categories: slipshod corporate planning and strategies; atrocious workplace practices and policies; faulty equipment; bad maintenance; dealing with employees in improper ways; failure to observe safety standards; failure to respond to a spate of earlier accidents and dangerous incidents. 

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Now I invite you to mentally gather up those seven allegations, close your eyes and turn around three times. After you steady yourself, look in the general direction of the Gulf of Mexico. I guarantee that at that point, unless you have been in a coma since April 20, you will have a vision of a vast expanse of oil-filled water and will think of two initials. Those initials will be a “B” and a “P,” and the menacing mixture will be the abomination that now resides off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Exactly why there was an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig—which BP leased from Transocean, the owner and operator—and why it is taking so long to stanch the resulting undersea oil gusher might be investigated for years. At the moment, no formal findings have been handed down in the case. However, what we do know doesn’t paint a pretty picture of BP’s practices in general and its actions on the Deepwater Horizon in specific. A handful of the reported facts and charges surrounding the BP oil spill follow, and they sketch a disturbing image of corporate negligence. 

On June 8 Truthdig reprinted a ProPublica investigatory article that began, “A series of internal investigations over the past decade warned senior BP managers that the company repeatedly disregarded safety and environmental rules and risked a serious accident if it did not change its ways.” The piece, by Abrahm Lustgarten and Ryan Knutson, went on to say, “The confidential inquiries, which have not previously been made public, focused on a rash of problems at BP’s Alaska oil-drilling unit. …” BP’s practices in Alaska amounted to a troubling attack on industrial safety standards, according to article, which provided extensive documentation. 

In the latter part of their report, Lustgarten and Knutson tell about Kenneth Abbott, a BP contractor employee who was responsible for doing internal audits and checking machinery on Atlantis, a huge BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of what he found and the nature of his dealings with BP, Abbott ended up suing the Minerals and Management Service in May in an effort to force the federal regulatory agency to shut down the operations on Atlantis.

Abbott told ProPublica: “I just hit a lot of resistance from the lead engineers. They got really angry with me. They wanted to shortcut the system and not do the reviews, because they cut short the man hours.” He estimated that BP’s improper maneuverings had saved the company up to $3 million.

“There seemed to be a big emphasis to push the contractors to get things done and that was always at the forefront of the operation,” Abbott said. “I felt there had to be balance. You had to have safety because people’s life depended on it. My management didn’t see it that way.”

In detailing BP’s safety deficiencies in Alaska, ProPublica said that some of the company’s equipment lacked gas and fire detection sensors and emergency shutoff valves:

When gas leaks from a pipeline break or a blowout near a running engine, it’s a lot like stomping on the accelerator of a car: The engine will suck up the fuel vapors and scream out of control. Gas sensors are critical to preventing an explosion, because they can shut down a rig engine before that happens.

Now investigators are learning that similar sensors—and the shutoff systems that would have been connected to them—were not operating in the engine room of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

In sworn testimony before a Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation panel in New Orleans last month, Deepwater mechanic Douglas Brown said that the backstop mechanism that should have prevented the engines from running wild apparently failed—and so did the air intake valves that were supposed to close if gas enters the engine room. … Another system was supposed to kick in and shut the engines down, but that system also failed. He said the engine room wasn’t equipped with a gas alarm system that could have shut off the power.


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Ed Harges's avatar

By Ed Harges, June 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment

Oops. Here’s the proper link:

“Even more oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after an
undersea robot bumped a venting system, forcing BP to remove the cap that had
been containing some of the crude.”


http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37841204/ns/disaster_in_the_gulf/

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Ed Harges's avatar

By Ed Harges, June 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

Um, meanwhile, in America, there’s fresh bad news from the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil is gushing suddenly at a higher rate than ever. A robotic sub damaged a
vent on the containment cap, which forced BP to remove the containment cap
completely.

Remember when they were putting this latest cap on, and they warned that in
order to do so, they’d have to snip off the top of the well, temporarily increasing
the spill rate? Well, now the containment cap is off, and that higher spill rate is
the new normal.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-fg-mcchrystal-fired-
20100624,0,5630483.story

Meanwhile, there’s a new tropical disturbance in the Caribbean that has a
“medium” chance of developing into a cyclone over the next 48 hours,
according to the National Hurricane Center:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

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G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, June 23, 2010 at 7:46 am Link to this comment

BR 549 - “Obama is too busy playing the part of a prostitute, stroking his clients and
doing anything that makes them feel good. Beside spreading his disease from
one client to the next, he contaminates the doorknobs of every aspect of American law that he opens the door to…....”

Bravo!

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, June 23, 2010 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

Re:  tedmurphy41, June 23 at 10:14 am

The government was never even going to give the appearance of due diligence;
to do even that would mean that some moral or ethical boundary might have
been bridged, at least enough to support a facade of giving a shit. In their
mind, no harm to the corporations, no foul.

What’s been happening for decades is the gradual erosion of the connection of
each of our citizens to their fellows and also their country and Constitution.
That has led to a massive loss in individual and collective integrity; nowhere
more blatant than in our legislature and the White House.

It isn’t just Obama. As much as I might criticize him, he is just one small peonic
cog in a massive broken wheel. On his death bed, he will have so much on his
conscience; too much for one man to purge in any one lifetime. I voted for him
(after his and McCain’s minions ran Ron Paul off the stage) and now I feel sorry
for him. When he tilts his head back trying to look authoritative, it’s just a ruse
to mask his knowing that he has screwed so many people and killed so many of
our troops. Like the Clintons and the Bushes, he has so much blood on his
hands that was illegitimately drawn.

If a man has no integrity, he has nothing.

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By tedmurphy41, June 23, 2010 at 6:14 am Link to this comment

It’s one thing putting executives on trial and another thing getting real justice, which never really happened in the Bhopal case, and how long did it take to get there?

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, June 23, 2010 at 5:38 am Link to this comment

Obama is too busy playing the part of a prostitute, stroking his clients and
doing anything that makes them feel good. Beside spreading his disease from
one client to the next, he contaminates the doorknobs of every aspect of
American law that he opens the door to.

Sooner or later, all these emaciated crack-whores are found in a garbage bag
by the side of the road or in a dumpster somewhere. It’s just a matter of time.
Whether it’s literal or figurative, the point is that these people sold their soul to
the devil a long time ago when they lost any touch with any integrity they
might have had.

Obama will be doing everything he can to give lip service for prosecution of BP
execs, but in the end, the execs will get a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card and some
middle management schmucks will get pilloried by the MSM.

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By rollzone, June 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment

hello. you may as well compare crisis BP to the 2012
Mayan end of the world as we know it. perhaps that
will help take the edge off the public outcry. how do
you garner sympathy for globalists? tough assignment
...as long as they are operating under American
standards and regulations, while within American
jurisprudence, and are held accountable for mistakes
without cost containment- capitalism rocks. if
globalists pick what global law they want to adhere
to- i send them packing with the steel toe of my
boot. any comparisons -to an unprecedented
catastrophic environmental disaster still unfolding;
is ludicrous, and a desperate attempt by public
relations to cap the flow of outrage by damages:
better than they could stop the oil. keep putting the
money into the account. the damages have only begun.

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By tazdelaney, June 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment

just today, i read at democracynow that the govt of india has once again sought to extradite UnionCarbide’s CEO at the time of bhopal. he had fled india after posting bail. all attempts to extradite him have failed. i think we can pretty much assume this one will fail too.

imagine if say, a company based in india caused 15,000 deaths here in america due to criminal negligence; also severely damaging the health of half a million more and causing a generation of birth defects… then fought makingany payments for these deaths and suffering while the CEO was rushed back to india… the US would threaten embargoes and sanctions until payments were made and the CEO extradited. but america protects its terrorists and corporate criminals to the hilt. The govt of india should do exactly that and declare economic war on the US and evict all of the US government’s officials from india. they should turn the ‘terrorist’ tables on teh US and declare to the UN that the US is harboring known terrorists and those with massive crimes against humanity. that might, just might, get the US’ attention.

i think of posada, an anti-castro cuban working for the CIA who bombed a cuban jetliner, killing all. but will the US extradite this terrorist to cuba for trial? under no circumstance.

if a team of bhopalese were to get into america and execute the UC CEO; they would be loudly denounced as terrorists. but as jefferson said, “if the people cannot gain justice through their courts; they must and will find other means.”

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By gerard, June 22, 2010 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

As long as corporate laws are not changed, corporate crime will continue unabated and unpunished. The law says corporations are supposed to maximize profits for their investors.  Period.  Almost no restrictions. No controls. No limits on method, degree, time, place. Just maximize profits.
  Rescind the law that says corporations are “persons”—a complete fabrication.  Put limits on what they can do and how they can do it.  Then enforce those laws.
Support current challenges against the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns—a death knell to democracy.
  All the post-mortem belly-aching in the world isn’t going to bring about the necessary changes.  Put your money where your mouth is and support organizations working for these necessary changes.
  Google “Changing Corporate Law” to get started.

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By balkas, June 22, 2010 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

We live in lawlessness; i.e., under THEIR laws. THEIR laws= a diktat.

Not only that THEY [criminals] write the diktats or ‘laws’, THEY, and only THEY, also interpret THEIR ‘laws’.

But before that u must first own army echelons, cia-fbi-police-banks; then, it matters not a tad who writes ‘laws’ or interprets them.

The tanks, artillery, guns, jets, helis, warships soley decide what the interpretation wld be.

This simplicity cannot be, methinks, simplified, but will be complexified to the degree that no one wld be any wiser for it. Also spricht bozhidarevski, der mann who finished last in his class! danke, grazia!

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G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, June 22, 2010 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

When are the people of this country going to finally get it? I’ve given up on the media.

No, this class of crminal is above the law. Because they own this country and it’s laws. Which has been demostrated by the fact that the US government refuses to allow Warren Anderson’s extradition to India to stand trial.

He’s publicly admitted to removing the safety controls from the Bhopal plant. He’s not swimming here freely because his lucky, or just happened to avoid scrutiny. It’s because our plutocratic government refuses to extradite. They protect their own.

Nothing will happen to BP, that 20 billion dollar fund is chump change to them. They will probably avoid liability anyway by going bankrupt.

Even if somehow we avoid an Extinction Level Event with the Gulf Disaster, it’s only a question of time, until millions die, from some F’UP, by the Plutocracy.

As it is now, millions are dying in slow motion, from the poisoned food we eat, the water full of Herbacides, the die off of birds, bats, honeybees, Frogs, Even though they know full well what they are doing.

There are many possible candidates for our demise, Mad Cow disease or a variation caused by GMO’s that have never been evaluated for safety, a catastrophic poisioning of medication imported from some un inspected manufacturer overseas, a catastrophic out break of E-Coli from some imported vegtable, a catastrophic crop failure caused by a glyphosate resistant pathogen - which is happening on a small scale right now, or the melt down of the Z-Machine, or the LHC. 

The plutocracy, is immune to the law, immune from public recourse, because they own the law, they own the government. Ownership has privledges.

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By grumpynyker, June 22, 2010 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Damn shame the executives weren’t tried in China;
would’ve been executed by now.  Here’s a thought, send
all of our war criminals, corrupt executives,
neocons/zionists for trial.  I would suggest Japan, but
seppuko is on the individual.

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By Earthling, June 22, 2010 at 4:12 am Link to this comment

Dream on!
We will exact against the BP criminals the same punishment we exacted against Bush and Cheney….
Be that as it may, we’re like the addict screaming “Unfair!” at our dealer.

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