It was Good Friday, 50 years ago on March 27, 1964, that according to seismologists, the snow peaks of Prince William Sound jumped 33 feet into the air and fell back down. Emergency warnings about an earthquake-spurred tsunami went out to towns from Valdez, Alaska, to Malibu, Calif., but no one thought to send a message to the Chugach Natives in Chenega, Alaska.
Chenega chief Nikolas Kompkoff watched the mountains leap and the waters around his island disappear over the horizon.
Knowing the water would return with a vengeance, he ran his four daughters up a hill toward high ground. But the nine-story-tall tsunami was moving too fast for their little legs. Kompkoff made a decision: He grabbed the two girls closest to him, tucked them under his arms and ran up the slope, leaving the other two to be seized by the wave.
Days later, a postal pilot on his weekly mail drop could not find Chenega because every single house â€“ and a third of the residents â€“ had been washed out to sea.
When he circled back to the site he saw the villageâ€™s church on the hill with …more
By Greg PalastÂ Â | Read the full story at TruthDig
Two decades ago I was the investigator for the legal team that sold you the bullshit that a drunken captain was the principal cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster, the oil tanker crackup that poisoned over a thousand miles of Alaska’s coastline 25 years ago today, on March 24, 1989.The truth is far uglier, and the real culpritâ€”British Petroleum, now BPâ€”got away without a scratch to its reputation or to its pocketbook.
Just this month, the Obama administration authorized BP to return to drilling in the Gulf.
It would be worth the time of our ever-trusting regulators to take a look at my Exxon Valdez files on BP. Â They would see a decades-long pattern of BP’s lies, bribes and …more
Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Greg Palast led a four-continent investigation of BP PLC for Britain’s television series Dispatches. From 1989-91, Palast directed the investigation of fraud charges in the Exxon Valdez grounding for Alaska Native villages.
Some deal. BP gets the gold mine and the public gets the shaft.
On Friday night, the lawyers for 120,000 victims of the Deepwater Horizon blow-out cut a deal with oil company BP PLC which will save the oil giant billions of dollars. It will also save the company the threat of a trial that could expose the true and very ugly story of the Gulf of Mexico oil platform blow-out.
I have been to the Gulf and seen the damage â€” and the oil that BP says is gone. Â Miles of it. Â As an economist …more
The two-grand-a-night call girls are wandering lonely and disconsolate through the Wynn casino, victims of the recession. Badpenny, dressed full-on Bond Girl, is losing nickels in the slots and humming Elvis tunes.
Badpennyâ€™s assigned job here is to look good and get information. Sheâ€™s good at her job. A tipsy plaintiffsâ€™ lawyer is telling her, â€œA woman as beautiful as you should be told sheâ€™s beautiful every five minutes.â€ His nose dips slowly toward her cleavage…
If you donâ€™t read Greg Palastâ€™s investigative reports, you donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on in America. Palast is the journalist who discovered election thefts in the U.S., the real reason behind Bush IIâ€™s invasion of Iraq, and other vital information on the class war that the rich wage every day.
In his new book, Vulturesâ€™ Picnic, Palast presents the inside story of how the financial eliteÂ loots public treasuries and passes the bill on to you. He also writes about recent and upcoming environmental catastrophes. In this excerpt for Razorcake, the Palast team starts investigating the 2010 British Petroleum disaster …more
For two decades, investigator Greg Palast has been on BP’s trail. In BP: In Deep Water, Palast takes Dispatches viewers along on his world-wide investigation of the oil giant. (Sorry, UK only).
One year after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig blew apart and spewed 170 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP claims victory â€“ that most of the oil is gone.
Palast walks across one still-slimed beach with a marine biologist who describes ‘BP’s clean up theatre’ as ‘superficial’ and ‘cosmetic’. He shows us the oil still coming ashore, and the oil still deep beneath the beach surface.
From the Gulf, Palast flies to the Alaskan Arctic and discovers that BP has spilled over 200,000 gallons of oil. The problem: BP had not tested the integrity of pipeline for eight years. The reason? A prosecuting attorney said: ‘BP cut corners with disastrous consequences.’ Palast meets an insider In shadow, a man who programmed the type of testing equipment oil companies can use, called the PIG, says it can cost up to $1 million per mile to test pipes. BP’s failure to test could have saved it millions of dollars, but failure to check the pipeline was at the cost of poisoning the last pristine wilderness.
Palast, who years earlier led an investigation of the Exxon Valdez disaster reveals that, despite the name ‘Exxon’ on the tanker, it was a company called Alyeska, in which BP had a majority share, that was responsible for containing the oil spill. Their response was so slow that oil devastated 1,300 miles of Alaskan shores. The company failed to have the equipment and crews required to deal with the spill. Palast shows viewers the oil still on the beaches, 22 years after the spill.
Then, it’s a flight half-way across the planet to the police state of Azerbaijan, in Central Asia, where the Dispatches crew is detained by state security while attempting to film BP’s operations. Just after Azerbaijan’s ruling family took control after a coup, BP , with other oil companies, took the nation’s oil in a deal called the ‘Contract of the Century.’ Former MP, former BP political advisor and MI6 operative Harold Elletson tells Dispatches how the dictatorship made sure the deals with BP would ‘stick’.
Also saying he helped to make BP’s position ‘stick’ was the oil company’s one-time Deputy Representative in Azerbaijan who tells Dispatches that, to win favour from the petro-state, BP authorised his paying over $2 million in bribes.
And, while working for BP, that he was approached by MI6 to spy for Britain, providing military intelligence to Moscow station chief John Scarlett.
About Greg Palast
A fraud investigator turned journalist, Palast is best known in the US for his discovery of how Katherine Harris fixed the Presidential election of 2000 for George W Bush and, in the UK, for his Observer investigation, ‘Lobbygate: Cash for Access’ about New Labour and lobbyist influence. Palast investigated the Exxon Valdez grounding for the Natives of Alaska, owners of the state’s coastline; and for the government, directed investigations of fraud in the energy industry.
Palast’s investigations are supported in part by the Puffin and Cloud Mountain Foundations and the Palast Investigative Fund, a 501c3 charitable trust.
At Tatitlek Village, Alaska Native Henry Makarka told me, “If I had a machine gun I’d shoot every one of them white sons of bitches.”
Makarka was talking about the executives who came to him and his tribe 40 years ago to purchase their land at Valdez.Â They were from the companies now known as Exxon and BP.
The Tatitlek were paid the handsome price of $1 for Valdez, which the companies knew was worth billions.
Yes, Henry, we want to shoot BP too.Â And Exxon.Â With cameras – which corporations fear more than bullets.
We have launched the multi-national Amazon to Arctic investigation of BP and its oily sisters.
But frankly, we need the cash to do it; for the small charter planes, the detective agencies, the camera batteries and, frankly, our nourishment.
If you have ever considered supporting us, or adding to your prior support, believe me, this is the moment.Â Please donate here and I’ll send you, signed, your choice of thank you gifts: my films on DVD and bestselling books.
For 21 years, I have been hunting BP, Exxon, Chevron and their sisters.
But I simply can’t continue.Â We are, no kidding, dead out of funds for this work.
The result will be a feature-length documentary (a major network has indicated it will distribute), major print investigative pieces and a series of video-enhanced internet news reports for major sites.Â (As always, our reports are given to Democracy Now! and other not-for-profit broadcasters without charge.)
But the preliminary work and deep investigation which they can’t cover must start now.
* $579 buys my ticket to Alaska, BP’s latest drilling target.
* $1100 gets me to a meeting with a BP insider.
* $200 buys us a new concealable mini-recorder.
We need your help. If you believe the issue of oil’s global reach deserves the type of serious, deep investigation the Palast team uniquely provides, then now is the moment to show you support us.
Please, make it at least $100 and I’ll send you my three latest DVDs.
Better yet, become our producer. I mean it. Instead of million-dollar moguls, we are looking for a group of twenty-four “mini-moguls” to launch our films (news report length and feature length). Donate at least $1,000 and we’ll list you as a co-Producer for our next film (with a dozen DVDs of the film when complete).
BP insiders have contacted us from the Caspian to London.Â We need your tax-deductible donation right away.Â If ever there was a journalistic emergency, this is it.
We need to get back up to Alaska, BP’s next offshore target, pay the bills from hunting Chevron in the Amazon, then return to the Gulf where we have more inside information already gleaned that needs verification and publication.
I really don’t want to shut down such an important investigation.Â If you have ever considered supporting us, or adding to your prior support, believe me, this is the moment.
Our special thanks to Mike Papantonio, Bobby Kennedy and their Ring of Fire Radio for supporting our Arctic to Amazon campaign.
On top of this obligation, we have also begun an investigation of nuclear power which has recently arisen from its corporate crypt.Â I know this is a lot to take on, but we must – and we will, with your commitment to join us.
* * * * * * * *
Greg Palast investigated charges of fraud by BP and Exxon in the grounding of the Exxon Valdez for Alaska’s Chugach Natives.
With the Gulf Coast dying of oil poisoning, there’s no space in the press for British Petroleum’s latest spill, just this week: over 100,000 gallons, at its Alaska pipeline operation.Â A hundred thousand used to be a lot.Â Still is.
On Tuesday, Pump Station 9, at Delta Junction on the 800-mile pipeline, busted.Â Thousands of barrels began spewing an explosive cocktail of hydrocarbons after “procedures weren’t properly implemented” by BP operators, say state inspectors. “Procedures weren’t properly implemented” is, it seems, BP’s company motto.
Few Americans know that BP owns the controlling stake in the trans-Alaska pipeline; but, unlike with the Deepwater Horizon, BP keeps its Limey name off the Big Pipe.
There’s another reason to keep their name off the Pipe:Â their management of the pipe stinks.Â It’s corroded, it’s undermanned and “basic maintenance” is a term BP never heard of.
How does BP get away with it?Â The same way the Godfather got away with it:Â bad things happen to folks who blow the whistle. BP has a habit of hunting down and destroying the careers of those who warn of pipeline problems. …more
I‘ve seen this movie before. In 1989, I was a fraud investigator hired to dig into the cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Despite Exxon’s name on that boat, I found the party most to blame for the destruction was … British Petroleum. That’s important to know, because the way BP caused devastation in Alaska is exactly the way BP is now sliming the entire Gulf Coast.
Deepwater Horizon in flames before sinking. Photo provided by D.Becnel
Tankers run aground, wells blow out, pipes burst. It shouldn’t happen but it does. And when it does, the name of the game is containment. Both in Alaska, when the Exxon Valdez grounded, and in the Gulf over a week ago, when the Deepwater Horizon platform blew, it was British Petroleum that was charged with carrying out the Oil Spill Response Plans (“OSRP”) which the company itself drafted and filed with the government.
What’s so insane, when I look over that sickening slick moving toward the Delta, is that containing spilled oil is really quite simple and easy. And from my investigation, BP has figured out a very low cost way to prepare for this task: BP lies. BP prevaricates, BP fabricates and BP obfuscates.
That’s because responding to a spill may be easy and simple, but not at all cheap. And BP is cheap. Deadly cheap.
To contain a spill, the main thing you need is a lot of rubber, long skirts of it called “boom.” Quickly surround a spill or leak or burst, then pump it out into skimmers or disperse it, sink it or burn it. Simple. …more
The petite Eskimo-Chugach woman gave me that you-dumb-ass-white-boy look.
“Gail, Gail. STICK YOUR GOODDAMN HAND IN IT!”
She stuck it in, under the gravel of the beach at Sleepy Bay, her village’s fishing ground. Gail’s hand came up dripping with black, sickening goo. It could make you vomit. Oil from the Exxon Valdez.
Native dancers, Nanwalek, Prince William Sound, Alaska, center of spill damage.
It was already two years after the spill and Exxon had crowed that Mother Nature had happily cleaned up their stinking oil mess for them. It was a lie. But the media wouldn’t question the bald-faced bullshit. And who the hell was going to investigate Exxon’s claim way out in some godforsaken Native village in the Prince William Sound?
So I convinced the Natives to fly the lazy-ass reporters out to Sleepy Bay on rented float planes to see the oil that Exxon said wasn’t there.
The reporters looked, but didn’t see it, because it was three inches under their feet, under the shingle rock of the icy beach. Gail pulled out her hand and now the whole place smelled like a gas station. The network crews wanted to puke. And now, with their eyes open, they saw the oil, the vile feces-colored smear across the glaciated ridge faces, the poisonous “bathtub ring” that ran for miles and miles at the high tide level. …more
[Thursday, June 26, 2008] Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won’t have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon’s liability by 90% to half a billion. It’s so cheap, it’s like a permit to spill.
Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to Alaska by the Natives whose Prince William Sound islands, livelihoods, and their food source was contaminated by Exxon crude. My assignment: to investigate oil company frauds that led to to the disaster. There were plenty.
But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.
In San Diego, I met with Exxon’s US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, “Admit it; the oil spill’s the best thing to happen” to the Natives.
His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it Â …more
The kids were snoozing so I drove along the back roads skirting the Lackawanna River on a dawn hunt for black coffee and a newspaper.
I think even Norman Rockwell would have found this place too sticky sweet, too postcard: the weathered barns, the fallow fields perfectly snow-frosted; red, white and blue flags already up on the clapboard farmhouses and the white-washed church in the valley already full for Easter prayers.
At a gas station, I scored the paper and coffee, spilled some on the front page â€“ the closest thing Iâ€™ve got to a religious ritual â€“ then parked in front of a row of insanely pretty salt-box houses shining like mad teeth on the river bank.
A Conversation with Ecuador’s New President [Quito] I don’t know what the hell seized me. In the middle of an hour-long interview with the President of Ecuador, I asked him about his father.
I’m not Barbara Walters. It’s not the kind of question I ask.
He hesitated. Then said, “My father was unemployed.â€
He paused. Then added, “He took a little drugs to the States… This is called in Spanish a mula [mule]. He passed four years in the states- in a jail.â€
He continued. “I’d never talked about my father before.”
Apparently he hadn’t. His staff stood stone silent, eyes widened.
Correa’s dad took that frightening chance in the 1960s, a time when his family, like almost all families in Ecuador, was destitute. Ecuador was the original “banana republic” – and the price of bananas had hit the floor. A million desperate Ecuadorans, probably a tenth of the entire adult population, fled to the USA anyway they could.
“My mother told us he was working in the States.”
His father, released from prison, was deported back to Ecuador. Humiliated, poor, broken, his father, I learned later, committed suicide.
At the end of our formal interview, through a doorway surrounded by paintings of the pale plutocrats who once ruled this difficult land, he took me into his own Oval Office. I asked him about an odd-looking framed note he had on the wall. It was, he said, from his daughter and her grade school class at Christmas time. He translated for me.
“We are writing to remind you that in Ecuador there are a lot of very poor children in the streets and we ask you please to help these children who are cold almost every night.â€
It was kind of corny. And kind of sweet. A smart display for a politician.
Or maybe there was something else to it.
Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation. Certainly, one of the first from the streets. He’d won a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador, the owner of the biggest banana plantation.
Doctor Correa, I should say, with a Ph.D in economics earned in Europe. …more
Nineteen goddamn years is enough. Iâ€™m sorry if you donâ€™t like my language, but when I think about what they did to Paul Kompkoff, Iâ€™m in no mood to nicey-nice words.
Next month marks 19 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped its load of crude oil across the Prince William Sound, Alaska. A big gooey load of this crude spilled over the lands of the Chenega Natives. Paul Kompkoff was a seal-hunter for the village. That is, until Exxonâ€™s ship killed the seal and poisoned the rest of Chenegaâ€™s food supply.
While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised theyâ€™d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil companyâ€™s lawyers argued that they shouldnâ€™t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.
They canâ€™t pay Paul anyway. Heâ€™s dead.
That was part of Exxonâ€™s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxonâ€™s response was, â€œWe can hold out in court until youâ€™re all dead.â€
Nice guys. But, hell, they were right, werenâ€™t they?
But Exxon didnâ€™t do it alone. They had enablers. One was a failed oil driller named â€œDubya.â€ Exxon was the second largest contributor to George W. Bushâ€™s political career. Enron was firstr. They were a team, Exxon and Enron.
To protect their corporate backsides, Enron’s Chairman Ken Lay, prior to his felony convictions, funded a group called Texans for Law Suit Reform. The idea was to prevent consumers, defrauded stockholders and devastated Natives from suing felonious corporations and their chiefs.
When Dubya went to Washington, Enron and Exxon got their golden pass in the appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts. On Wednesday, as the court heard Exxonâ€™s latest stall, Roberts said, in defense of Exxonâ€™s behavior in Alaska, â€œWhat more can a corporation do?â€
The answer, Your Honor, is plenty.
For starters, Mr. Roberts, Exxon could have turned on the radar. What? On the night the Exxon …more
The â€˜Boo ainâ€™t no N.O. Plus: George Bush, Flame Retard What color is your disaster? It makes a difference. A life and death difference.
Population of San Diego fire evacuation zone: 500,000 Population of the New Orleans flood evacuation zone: 500,000
White folk as a % of evacuees, San Diego: 66% Black folk as % of evacuees, New Orleans: 67%
Size counts, too. Size of your wallet, that is:
Evacuees in San Diego, in poverty: 9% Evacuees in New Orleans, in poverty: 27%
The numbers would be even uglier, though more revealing, if I included evacuees of the celebrity fire in Malibu.
The President didnâ€™t do a photo-strafing of the scene from 1700 feet this time. Instead, we have the photo op of George, feet on the ground, hanging with Arnold the Action Man. (However, Iâ€™m informed that the President was a bit disappointed that he didnâ€™t get to wear one of those neat fireman hats like Rudi G got at Ground Zero.)
In 2005, while the bodies were still being fished out of flooded homes in New Orleans, Republican Congressman Richard Baker praised The Lord for his mercy. â€œWe finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldnâ€™t do it, but God did,â€ he said about the removal of the poor from the project near the French Quarter much coveted by speculators.
But as this weekâ€™s flames spread, no Republican Congressman cried, â€œBurn baby burn!â€ to praise the Lord for cleaning up them â€˜Boo, the sin-and-surf playground of Hollywood luvvies.
In New Orleans, Godâ€™s covenant with real estate developers has been very profitable. Over 70,000 families …more
The Brilliantly Profitable Timing of the Alaska Oil Pipeline Shutdown
For The Guardian (UK)
Is the Alaska Pipeline corroded? You bet it is. Has been for more than a decade. Did British Petroleum shut the pipe yesterday to turn a quick buck on its negligence, to profit off the disaster it created? Just ask the “smart pig.”
Years ago, I had the unhappy job of leading an investigation of British Petroleum’s management of the Alaska pipeline system. …more