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.