Current Mood: Alarmed & Sickly
Shortly after BP’s catastrophic oil spill in the gulf, the New York Times spoke to Quenton Dokken, the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, about the environmental impact. “The sky is not falling,” Dokken told the paper, adding “it isn’t the end of the Gulf of Mexico.” ProPublica dug into the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, and reported that the Times had failed to disclose that Dokken and his group are funded by a consortium of oil companies with business in the gulf, including companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon rig, Transocean and Anadarko. Today, the Times reported that the Foundation has been downplaying effects of the spill, possibly because of its funding from oil companies.
ThinkProgress has obtained more documents and evidence that the Gulf of Mexico Foundation has operated as a front for the oil companies involved in the spill. In addition to Transocean and Anadarko, this 2008 “Guardians of the Gulf” award ceremony hosted by the Foundation shows that BP is also a “CEO council member” of the nonprofit.
On May 20 and 21, about thirty days into the BP oil spill, the supposedly pro-”environmental conservation” Gulf of Mexico Foundation hosted a conference with oil industry lobbyists to promote further deep water drilling not only the in Gulf of Mexico, but in environmentally sensitive areas throughout the United States. The Foundation pretends it is just a do-gooder organization, sponsoring learning trips for Middle School students and other positive events. But clearly displaying the Foundation’s true goal of greenwashing the oil industry and suppressing the environmental impacts of oil spills, Dokken spoke at length downplaying the impact of the current BP oil disaster, minimizing the impact of ExxonValdez, boasting that the BP oil spill clean up jobs are better than “normal jobs,” and even “guaranteeing” that a hurricane will clean up any remnants of BP’s spill:
Dokken explaining why the “sky is not falling”: “Oil is not new in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s been entering the Gulf of Mexico for as long as the oil has existed.”
Dokken on how the spill has helped the local economy: “In Alabama, speaking on a sea grant program, the big problem he had was the spill response jobs were paying so much more than the normal jobs, everybody was leaving their normal jobs for spill response.”
Dokken on minimal impact of ExxonValdez: “And don’t forget, it was Governor Sarah Palin who championed the drill, baby, drill slogan, and that was after Exxon Valdez! So apparently, it didn’t scare Alaska away from the spill or the oil and gas industry, and you know I can, say after the smoke cleared and the headlines cleared or the headlines were cleared with another catastrophe, the true and financial impact was not the disaster that was predicted or portrayed.”
Dokken on how a hurricane will clean the oil: “I guarantee you there will be very little evidence that the Deepwater Horizon ever blew out, if its shut off by the time the hurricanes gets here. And it’s not magic, its just dilution. It mixes it up, spreads it out, breaks it down and it’s gone. We still shouldn’t be putting it in there, don’t get me wrong, but storms and nature is what keeps getting us out of these binds.”
In reality, the courts struck down ExxonValdez settlement payments, and victimsstill have not been compensated for their losses. In addition to the lives ruined and suicides caused by Exxon’s spill, the environment is poisoned and herring, the prime economic engine of the Prince William Sound, have not returned.
Current oil drilling trade association head Randall Luthi, who previously worked for Dick Cheney on the team that signed off on a vast expansion of dangerous drilling leases and who later served in the Minerals Management Service in the Bush administration, gave a presentation at the conference. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a close friend of the oil industry who previously said wellhead blowouts are “impossible,” spoke at the Foundation conference, telling attendees “we should be careful and not pass reactionary legislation that hasn’t been fully thought through” in response to the spill. Notably, Murkowski blocked legislation to raise the liability cap for oil companies.