April 5th, 2009

Chevron’s Smoke and Mirrors; are you a colonist or an Alaskan citizen?

Chevron's Drift River Oil Terminal,

Before I write anything else let me put one of my beliefs right up front: there has never been a successful remediation of major oil spill any where in the world, ever! All of the talk about having “skimmers” and equipment in place is bullshit. If there is a significant oil spill from Chevron’s Drift River Oil Terminal, or any where else in Cook Inlet Region for that matter, it will impact the lives of thousands of people for hundreds of years.

The question for us Alaskans is, I think, will we act like colonists or citizens[1]. Sorry to be so blunt. Chevron, The Coast Guard and Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation (hey, where the heck is Fish and Game? pdf link added April 05) are conspiring to keep 3 million gallons, or more, of oil at Chevron’s Drift River Oil Terminal despite the risk of a potential spill caused by an active volcano. If we fail to demand that all of the oil be removed we damage Chevron’s business model (colonist). If we demand that all of the oil should be removed we protect our state as well as the fisheries of the Cook Inlet Region (citizen).

Some of us who have sought to shine light on Chevron’s lack of due diligence now think the problem has been solved. Would we be better off with an oil spill into The Inlet of six-million gallons or three-million gallons? Now there’s an oxymoron for you.

A quick look at a quote from Bob Shavelson, a member of Cook Inletkeeper highlights Chevron’s propaganda and the inherint political dilema posed by the oil Chevron has stored at Drift River. Shavelson’s quote is from a KTUU TV-2 story and I think he highlights the political nature of our dilemma (politics being the allocation of scarce commodities and resources – or to put it another way, who can get what they want):

We’ve always felt that human safety is the most important priority,” said Bob Shavelson with Cook Inletkeeper. “But we’ve also been told that oil has to remain in the tanks, but that’s only if Chevron profits are a priority over fisheries protection.

Chevron and The Coast Guard have been highlighting the importance of protecting workers, “human life” to use their words, those folks tasked with removing oil from Drift River. ever since Mt. Redoubt erupted. Worker safety is important; that’s simply a page out of Disaster Planning / Risk Management 101. By highlighting worker safety Chevron accomplishes two important PR goals: 1) Chevron looks compassionate and concerned; and 2) Chevron implies that people who call for the oil to be drained from Drift River are unconcerned with human life – thereby putting citizens who call on Chevron to drain Drift River on the defensive. Don’t be fooled, if Chevron was truly concerned with worker safety the Drift River Oil Terminal would have been emptied before Mt. Redoubt erupted. The blame for the risk and hazard now faced by workers belongs with Chevron not the people who seek to protect Alaska’s resources.

Chevron’s goal from the beginning has been to keep Drift River active and avoid any impermanent that might encroach on their profits from Cook Inlet resources. “But we’ve also been told that oil has to remain in the tanks, but that’s only if Chevron profits are a priority over fisheries protection,” the second part of Shavelson’s quote highlights the political nature of what’s at stake. One need look no further than a press release from the “The Unified Command, Drift River Terminal Coordination” laying out the reasons that water is not an alternative to oil for use as ballast at Drift River (the release was published on a Coast Guard website):

- Water introduced into the tanks at the Drift River Terminal could result in the shutdown of Cook Inlet oil production for months.[2]

This of course, IMHO, is why Chevron failed to drain Drift River when Mt. Redoubt became active. It has been Chevron’s goal from the start to avoid shutting Drift River and draining the pipeline. And now Chevron has The U.S. Coast Guard and the State of Alaska as willing assistants. Indeed they have been putting their ducks in order for quite some time – certainly since long before Redoubt erupted to insure that the oil, and the revenue keep flowing in (out of) Cook Inlet.

In closing, I would urge anyone reading this to look at primary sources (I’ll try to put up a new list of links later today). In one of my comments at www.themudflats.net I wrote, “I apologize for all the “raw source” stuff, but I think it’s important AND where the power of The Internet lies. I remember watching a documentary film about I.F. Stone many years ago. Stone gleaned most of the material for his now famous news letters and reports from the main stream press (salted I suspect with bits and pieces from inside sources that contradicted the main stream press.)” Reading news stories and then comparing them to press releases provides tremendous insight into how the news we are getting is crafted and allows us to gauge how much of what we are reading is propaganda. Please do not ignore the source material provided to you by the powers that be.

P.S. What is the status of the tanks at the Drift River Oil Terminal, and why hasn’t the press reported on the 5 tanks that are empty; all we get is a wink and a nod? If all 5 are all clean, I suppose it’s OK to leave them without ballast and let them float away if the dike fails, but DEC in it’s response to Alaska legislators on March 27 reported that at least one of the empty tanks is “dirty.” APRN reporters, omitted mention of 2 of the 5 “empty tanks” at drift river in their report issued shortly after the first “unified command” press conference. Chevron and the Coast Guard are claiming that the reason for leaving 3-million gallons of oil in 2 of the tanks is so that, “dirty” tanks (assuming they were drained) don’t float away. I have seen no mention, anywhere, of anchoring the “dirty” tank that DEC mentioned on March 27. I smell a rat – this does not pass the “sniff” test. What exactly is the status of the 5 empty tanks at Drift River – how many are dirty, how many are clean???? Given the arguments for leaving oil in 2 of the tanks shouldn’t the “dirty” tank reported by DEC be filled to provide ballast?

Update 01 (2009 April 06): The “Unified Command” issued a press release today that said, ” After a major eruption Saturday and continuing unrest at Mt. Redoubt volcano, the Unified Command, Drift River Terminal Coordination, has agreed to suspend Cook Inlet Pipe Line Company (CIPL) operations.” It is not exactly clear what this means. It is not clear if all of the oil will be removed from Drift River Oil Terminal. A press conference is scheduled for 13:00 AKDST at AVO in Anchorage.

[1] See Stephen Haycox, Alaska: An American Colony and Frigid Embrace; politics, economics and environment in Alaska.. Haycox is a professor of history at the University of Alaska. He has made a cogent argument for Alaska’s continuing status as the last colony of the United States. I would add that some poor industrial communities in the lower 48 might also be regarded as having colonial status.

[2] USCG, 2009 April press release stating the reasons for not using water as ballast for Drift River Oil Terminal tanks. Link: http://coastguardnews.com/drift-river-terminal-water-usage-options/2009/04/01/ text copied from URL on 2009 April 04.

April 3rd, 2009

Volcanic Mudflows threaten crude oil tanks (updated 2009 April 03)

AVO webcam - 2009 March 30

It’s ironic that only a few days after the 20th anniversary of The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound a new environmental disaster may be looming on the Alaskan horizon. This time it’s a potential crude oil spill into Cook Inlet. The press has only recently started paying attention to the peril of a tank farm containing more than six-million gallons of crude oil. The Chevron tank farm is located just northeast of the currently active Mt. Redoubt volcano where the Drift River empties into Cook Inlet. I suspect the current attention from The Fourth Estate is due in part to the mention of the potential for disaster by Alaska blogger AKMuckraker at Huffingtonpost and at Mudflats (here and here)

Please call your Congressional Representatives and urge them to push for Federal Action if Alaska’s government does not take steps to see that the tanks at Chevron’s Drift River Terminal are drained immediately. You might also consider contacting The Obama Administration, Secretary of the Interior
Ken Salazar might be a good person to start with.

It is this kids opinion that the failure of The State of Alaska and the Federal Government to demand that the tanks be drained the moment that Mt. Redoubt erupted (Sunday night, 2009 March 22) demonstrates callous indifference, stupidity and perhaps even malfeasance on the part of those who claim to be protecting the public and our nation.

Update 01: I think it’s worth noting what Tom Kizzia reported in ADN a couple of months ago about Chevron’s refusal to disclose the quantity of oil stored at its Drift River facility. ADN published the article in January and updated it in February. Chevron invoked “Homeland Security” as justification for not disclosing how much oil was being stored at its Drift River facility. This too is ironic and is all too common in our brave new world – “doublespeak” has become a matter of course for the powerful and the elite:

Citing new homeland security rules, a spokeswoman for Chevron refused to say how much oil is normally stored at Drift River these days, how much is currently on hand and whether there are plans to summon extra tankers and drain the tanks.

“That’s not public information,” said Chevron’s Roxanne Sinz. “We can’t release any numbers.”

State and federal oil spill officials will go a bit further. They say the storage at Drift River is being reduced this week. But they won’t say by how much.

Update 02: For readers unfamiliar with Alaska, Mt. Redoubt is located in The Lake Clark National Park. Chevron’s Drift River tank farm lies just outside The Parks boundary. Lake Clark National Park is consider by many to encompass some of the most beautiful country in Alaska. Map (Lake Clark Park and Reserve); Map (detail Mt. Redoubt and Drift River)

Update 03: State/Federal Joint Command: Drift River Terminal Flooding. The current status reports for official appraisals and actions are updated daily at 4 pm.

Update 04:
Cook Inletkeeper – Watershed Watch has information on their webpage about what is going on with the Drift River tanks as well as a copy of a letter, sent yesterday, March 26, to “Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security, requesting oil drawn-down at Drift River Terminal” and signed by many of the organizations that work towards maintaining our environment here in Alaska. [addendum: on March 27 Inletkeeper added this (in PDF format), "Petition to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Requesting an Emergency Declaration for the Drift River Oil Terminal at the Base of Mount Redoubt"]

Update 05 (2009 March 30): This afternoon at 1 pm the “Unified Command established to address Drift River Terminal situation” held a press conference at AVO located on the APU Campus in Anchorage. I was unable to attend and would be interested in hearing from someone who attended.

* Reuter’s reporting on the news conference.
* Seattle Times coverage.
* APRN: “Officials Consider Removing Oil at Drift River Terminal”
* KTUU: “Unified command formed to deal with Drift River Terminal” (CK says, “good job Lori.”)

On Friday AK State Representatives Les Gara, Beth Kerttula, Berta Gardner, Harry Crawford, Pete Petersen, Chris Tuck, Bob Buch, Max Gruenberg and Woodie Salmon wrote a letter to the Commissioners of The Department of Fish and Game and The Department of Environmental Conservation expressing their concern and requesting information on the situation, the feasibility of draining the Drift River tanks and the coming need to store more oil (from platform production). PDF copy of 2009 March 27 letter from AK Reps – click here; Text copy of response from DEC Legislative Liaison Carlson-Van Dort (formatting may not match original) – click here.

Other resources you might find of use (PDF format):
* Cook Inlet Pipeline Co, Drift River Terminal Fact sheet (EPA)
* Drift River Final Permit (EPA)

Update 06 (2009 March 31):

* APRN: “Plan to Remove Oil from Tanks Near Mount Redoubt” [HMMMM, there is a problem with this report from APRN - in their report, and on their webpage, APRN says "about 6 million gallons of oil is currently sitting in 2 tanks at the facility, 3 other tanks on site are empty and cleaned." OK - but there are 7 tanks at the Drift River OIL Terminal, what's the status of the 2 tanks that APRN fails to mention? DEC reported to AK State Reps on Friday that, "There are two crude oil storage tanks at the Drift River facility each of which contain approximately 75,000 barrels of crude oil. Of the remaining five, 4 are scrubbed out and completely empty, one tank is empty but has not been scrubbed out.." Seems to me that this would shoot big holes in the argument that Chevron should be allowed to leave some oil in for ballast supposedly, some Coast Guard employees have claimed, to avoid the same thing that happened in New Orleans. Personally, I think the "ballast" argument may be a ruse to allow Chevron to maintain oil production at current levels in The Inlet. Despite the risks, Chevron etal. want to use Drift River Oil Terminal even as Mt. Redoubt threatens the facility. Several reports have noted that by leaving oil in the tanks Chevron could "start-up" the oil terminal much quicker. Quicker might be better for Chevron, but is the risk to Cook Inlet worth it? APRN's report leaves me wondering if there is one dirty and empty tank (as claimed by DEC), or two "dirty" but empty tanks at the oil terminal now? The public needs to know what's up - please finish the story.]

Update 07 (2009 April 01-02)

comment: Honey Pie, now you’ve hit the bigtime!

Press conference this afternoon at 1300h
Press conference announcements are sort of like watching the AVO website. If it’s happening you can count on the press to be there. Too bad because they could report the news w/o the help of “The Joint Task Force.” Now, look for the ash.

* CNN has a big thing on – “Oil to be moved from huge tanks near volcano”

*AP – via Google “The plan is to leave nearly 1.7 million gallons in each tank” [ugh - that's 3.4 million gallons]

*ADN reports: “A Coast Guard official said this afternoon that a tanker is scheduled Saturday to begin loading 6.3 million gallons of crude oil from the Drift River oil terminal and two other “critically full” storage facilities on the west side of Cook Inlet.” [ADN is fibbing / lying, unless all the other news outlets have got it wrong. I assume ADN got its lead from the news conference held April 02. It would seem that according to the "Unified Command" or whatever they call themselves (I've lost track) at least 1.6 million gallons of sweet crude will remain in the tanks at Drift River. So ADN is playing with words, I wish I was better with words - but lets see, if I have 6.3 million gallons of oil and I plan on removing 4 million gallons, I could say that I've started pumping 6.3 million (or could I?) - shame on ADN!!!! What do they take us for, small town dweebs? Ahem.]

* (from April 01, before the most recent press confernce) Homer Tribune, “‘Move the crude now,’ group urges”

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