Open Letter Encouraging @BP_America and EPA Employees

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Barbara Newell contributed to this letter.

Top Kill has failed and we are looking at a high likelihood of two more months with an active oil spill (image from the Examiner). You – we all – are living a painful time. As hard as it is for those of us watching the nightmare unfold on our screens, it’s got to be extremely tough for you who are working for EPA, BP, or the vendors involved.

You’re decent people just like us, walking a very rough road right now, and I want you to know you’re not alone. I am sure you are as demoralized as I am. It breaks all of our hearts, making us upset as we contemplate the long term implications for our environment and the future.

I have a small inkling of how you might be feeling. I used to represent several defense manufacturers, and a tobacco company. I was not proud of this work, but I had to do it at the time. Sometimes I refused to admit my work to my friends. I was ashamed.

Our families rely on us to bring home a salary and health insurance. We can’t just quit working, even if we want to.

Many of us feel betrayed and lied to by our leaders. And we all are consumers of Big Oil. My wife and I try our best to make conscious choices, but we still drive cars (one is a hybrid). We ride in airplanes. We use oil to heat our home in the winter. We consume and need the products that you produce.

But we cannot just give a collective helpless shrug, look the other way and hope it gets better — somehow, someday. We must act.

We must support you, and you need to help us. Forgiveness is the only option. Your work today — not yesterday — is critical to our collective future. How can we help BP, and everyone who works there (or any oil company for that matter), to get things on the right track – in a real way, and not just for PR’s sake?

The country needs you to show up and do great work, and do so in a manner that places the environment and the general public interest first. That does mean going the extra mile, and sticking your neck out at times. Whether it’s having the courage to question a decision that doesn’t seem ethical, or simply asking for additional help, please step up and do your best.

Our priceless natural heritage and the future are hanging in the balance. I feel this more than ever, as my wife carries my first child. We need to work together to get ourselves out of this crisis.

P.S. Looking for ways to take action online? Check out this Huffington Post article providing details several different efforts, or donate to the National Wildlife Federation’s campaign to Help Wildlife Impacted by the BP Oil Spill (also my birthday campaign).

BP: 2010’s Most Irresponsible Corporate Citizen

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In its continuing Deep Horizon crisis communications effort, BP now claims that it acted in a fully responsible manner. With a horrid combination of PR statements and ads, the oil company tries to maintain its dignity citing flawed efforts (we tried!). Instead BP has destroyed any remaining trust the public had in the organization.

This company has quickly become 2010’s worst corporate citizen, and it will be hard for anyone to beat them in the year’s remaining seven months (much less the decade). As the bard said, the company doth protest too much. Let’s look at what the mounting evidence reveals:

BP claims responsibility. The ethical failure in its actions cannot be dubbed socially responsible. Far from it. These corporate executives are demonstrative of some of the worst villainous behavior we have seen in decades.

The federal government maintains it has its boot on BP’s neck. It’s clear that since Obama has become personally involved — one month after the fact — the federal government is acting more responsibly, suspending further off shore drilling, etc. However, it’s not enough. It’s time to take the guillotine to BP’s neck, and file criminal proceedings against some of the world’s most despicable corporate citizens.

What Will Top Kill?

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Thirty six days after the original Deep Horizon explosion and the beginning of the United States’ worst eco-crisis ever, BP will seek to end this oil spill nightmare with its two-day Top Kill procedure. The cement mud mix would effectively plug the well, the latest in many failed attempts to end the oil spill. In the latest effort to quell th spill and public dissatisfaction, BP will show the procedure live on video. But what remains to be seen is what will finally be killed, the oil spill or the last vestiges of public trust for BP and the Obama Administration’s crisis response team.

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What BP Wants Us to Believe

One thing is certain, everything for BP and the Obama Administration is riding on Top Kill succeeding. If it doesn’t, the oil spill will continue for weeks on end, with no immediate back up plan announced by the oil company.

Public trust in BP, the Administration, and their various partners in this effort is close to (if not already) irrevocably tarnished by Deep Horizon. The crisis PR has been terrible with missteps on resolution, horrific transparency on possible solutions, false accounting of actual daily oil spill amounts, the policing of beaches to prevent media reporting, bickering between BP and the EPA, dispersants’ negative impact, a new climate bill that endorses further off-shore drilling, 19 new off shore drilling licenses since Deep Horizon, etc., etc., on and on.

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What We Really Believe

Though BP has tried to address these issues, the end result has been public anger, and ridicule rivaling Jon Stewart. One must think Bush era Katrina FEMA officials and Exxon Valdez crisis communicators are relieved to see the grand scale of the Deep Horizon Laurel and Hardyesque bumbling and stumbling.

Unfortunately, the crisis PR probably cannot recover. The chance to save face was lost long ago.

The only thing that can end this is a swift conclusion to the oil spill, and then a much better job from all parties on recovery efforts, now and in the long term. So as Top Kill proceeds, it will surely end one thing — the oil spill — or another — any hope for BP and Obama EPA communicators ending this year on a happy note.

P.S. Generally speaking, the environmental blogosphere’s coverage of Deep Horizon has been apathetic and non existent. It’s been disappointing to have to go to CNN instead of my favorite green blogs for news and opinions. In fact, it’s been a failure in my mind of another kind, and it makes me wonder how serious the U.S. green movement is.

I do want to thank Joe Romm at Climate Progress for standing above the rest and rising to the occasion. Until BP successfully resolves this, we should follow Joe’s footsteps and cover Deep Horizon relentlessly.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

Remove Off Shore Drilling from the Climate Bill

“A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction,” James Madison.

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Off shore drilling provisions with a state veto option are still a part of the Climate Bill in the wake of the horrible, ongoing BP Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (image courtesy of the Grassroots Mapping project). While many claim the provisions as necessary to get 60 votes and surpass a GOP filibuster, there’s no excuse for this. Off shore drilling has no place in the Climate Bill introduced last week.

The reality of its continuing presence as a viable new source for energy demonstrates the continue influence big oil and corporate America continue to hold over our legislatures. Lest we deceive ourselves with a partisan argument, President Obama received more money from Deep Horizon offender BP than any other politician in 2008.

In fact, the Obama administration’s rather light handed handling of BP — especially as the crisis has continued — leads one to continuously mull this disturbing fact. That, and the Obama administration’s continued support of off shore drilling.

How has this trust in BP and big oil been rewarded? With the impact likely to be as far ranging as East Cost waters thanks to the widespread plumes resulting from oil spill, we get platitudes and half measured results from BP. It was so bad on Sunday that two different U.S. government departments issued a join statement warning citizens that BP’s oil pipe “fix,” was anything but an answer (see my Mashable post on how to monitor the oil spill using social media).

Meanwhile the IndependentPetroleum Association of America (yeah, the official lobby for big oil) has not issued one official announcement about Deep Horizon. Once again, we have clear evidence demonstrating that big oil doesn’t care about this incident or the environment in general.

There’s no more room for this kind of behavior from big oil, or their trust fund recipients, our United States Congress and president. Big oil doesn’t deserve our trust. It’s time to remove off shore drilling from the climate bill. Write your Congressmen, in particular, your senators today.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

Renew Our Rivers

Cleaning up seems to be a prescient topic with the horrible BP oil spill (see a recent satellite image here)facing the country and Gulf States in particular. It’s too bad that it takes an accident of this nature to focus our attention on this region’s beautiful resources and its conservation efforts.

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In one of the more interesting corporate social responsibility plays I’ve seen in a while, Alabama Power has activated its local community for the Renew Our Rivers project. Ironically, it’s not a new initiative, but one that has evolved over the past ten years to encompass more than 10,000 people in the state of Alabama. The effort includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle, and focuses on six river systems.

A combination of old and new media tools have been used to activate the community. The goal of the online effort is to show the actual work the volunteers have done. To date, more than 10 million pounds of trash have been cleaned up from the six river systems from 2000 to 2009. The trash and debris removed includes bottles and cans to tires, water heaters, refrigerators and boats.

Perhaps the most compelling tool to date, at least for me as a photographer, is the Flickr stream. You can see how bad some of the river spots are, including abandoned house boats. It’s pretty cool to see the hard work and progress. So kudos to Renew Our Rivers.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.