Waterblogged.info plays the blame game! (And points fingers, too!)

It’s my deeply held conviction that BP is to blame for the ongoing destruction of life in the Gulf of Mexico and that every pointer digit of every person in the U.S. should be locked on the multinational behemoth—and its odious little weasel of a CEO, Tony Hayward. More moderate voices, such as Professor Noah Hall at the Great Lakes Law blog, for whom I generally have profound respect, counsel against such emotional and unproductive thinking. “We” need to stop playing the “blame game,” advises Hall, and instead heed President Obama’s call to “break our oil addiction.”

If I had Bill Maher’s power to establish new rules, my first one would be that nobody, particularly someone like Hall who is supposedly providing unbiased expert information, would be allowed to use the term “blame game.” Resorting to it is a lame game, a gotcha gambit that according to current rules, somehow establishes the superiority of the party that first flings it at his/her opponent or uses it to preemptively bolster his/her analysis. In Hall’s case, for those of us who rightfully blame BP, it’s an insult to nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah us with the notion that we are playing some kind of childish game. The reason people are aiming their index fingers at BP (another Noah no-no), is because BP is to blame. It isn’t a goddamn game.

BP is a criminal enterprise. It didn’t simply cut “. . .corners on safety and environmental regulations,” as Hall daintily suggests. As Jon Stewart shows in a laugh-so-as-not-to-cry segment, BP has committed 760 “egregious and willful” safety violations since 2007. A figure I hadn’t seen until today’s research is even more mind boggling: Per this article in the blog maintained by the Center for Public Integrity, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 862 citations to BP between June 2007 and February 2010 for alleged violations at its refineries in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio. Of those, 760 were classified as “egregious willful” and 69 were classified as “willful.” I do not understand the distinction. If a decision to circumvent regulations is “willful,” it’s by definition “egregious,” right?

The reason that its key decision makers haven’t been (and, you heard it here first, won’t be) brought to justice is because of the massive resources the company wields to buy our legislators and to control the public narrative of the energy crisis and the solutions, all of which amazingly require the participation of BP.

Excerpts from a  May, 2010 article in the business section of the New York Times:

  • After BP’s Texas City, Tex., refinery blew up in 2005, killing 15 workers, the company vowed to address the safety shortfalls that caused the blast.
  • The next year, when a badly maintained oil pipeline ruptured and spilled 200,000 gallons of crude oil over Alaska’s North Slope, the oil giant once again promised to clean up its act.
  • In 2007, when Tony Hayward took over as chief executive, BP settled a series of criminal charges, including some related to Texas City, and agreed to pay $370 million in fines. The company pledged to improve its “risk management.”
  • Despite those repeated promises to reform, BP continues to lag other oil companies when it comes to safety, according to federal officials and industry analysts. Many problems still afflict its operations in Texas and Alaska, they say. Regulators are investigating a whistle-blower’s allegations of safety violations at the Atlantis, one of BP’s newest offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Waterblogged.info is slammed!

fandWWWhat does a water blog worthy of the name do when the editor-in-chief is slogging through the swamp of endless demands that constitutes an annoying yet relatively lucrative day gig? Why, said water blog links to a really great site like Food & Water Watch–and lets said really great site do the heavy lifting.

But Waterblogged.info, asks the intrigued reader, what is Food & Water Watch all about? Say, intrigued reader, isn’t that what About pages are for? So I don’t personally have to explain every little thing to you? I’m on deadline here.

I can say that, unlike the weepy whiners here at Waterblogged.info, the folks at F&WW are activists, and only to happy to help you be one, too.

Good stuff, with a pile of information about all sorts of water issues.

Hello Golden Age Lake

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow's name has eleven syllables.

Turkmenistan's President (digging) Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow's name is really long.

Yesterday we posted an elegiac farewell to the venerable Euphrates River, or at least the Iraqi portion. Today it is our happier task to welcome the nascent  man-made Golden Age Lake into the family of planetary bodies of water. (See the essential WaterWired on the same topic, but proper netiquette requires that you read this first, of course. More resources below.)

Central Asia's Turkmenistan is 80 percent desert. Its western border is defined by the saline southern portion of the Caspian Sea

Central Asia's Turkmenistan is 80 percent desert. Its western border is defined by the saline southern portion of the Caspian Sea

Recently conceived in the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan (you can locate it with the très cool Platial map in the right column), the lacustrine fetus is now in a lengthy period of gestation–to be slowly nourished by a intricate system of umbilical canals–in the sandy womb of the Karashor depression. (And with that, we drop the ridiculously overwrought birth metaphor.)

Eighty percent of Turkmenistan–which is roughly the size of California–is the black-sand Karakum desert. It’s understandable that the former Soviet republic would both want to “bring life” to the sand-covered immensity and to carry out what the AP article accurately calls “a Soviet-style engineering feat” to accomplish the transformation. What’s puzzling is why they think it will work.

You can read the article and the resources listed below for details. Broadly speaking, the Turkmen plan to create the lake by transferring excess water from the country’s soggy cotton fields to the northern Karashor depression via an enormous network of irrigation canals. Per the article:

Turkmen leaders say the massive lake will help drain water-logged cotton fields and encourage plant life and attract migratory birds to the desert.

And the hapless migratory birds will probably die, because, as critics of the project note, runoff from the cotton fields is heavily laced with toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

There is a long history of massive water transfers like this carried out by the Soviet Union that have devastated Central Asia’s water ecology. From the article:

For decades, Central Asia’s environment has suffered as a result of Soviet-era irrigation projects. The Aral Sea, which once lay on the border between the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was the world’s fourth-largest lake, but has since shrunk by almost 90 percent, devastating fisheries as salinity levels spiked.

Please see our two-part ranting and raving about the Aral Sea calamity here and here: a brief and bitter history of a beautiful lake-based ecological system teeming with life, now, despite current efforts at revivification, remain a wasteland of  brackish  lifeless “water” and sand.

See WaterWired for a more detailed explanation of the Turkmenistan project, written in a sardonic voice that rivals our own. It’s the work Michael E. ‘Aquadoc’ Campana–hydrogeologist and Professor of Geosciences at Oregon State University–who writes on 6/9/09 that the project may be shelved due to almost unanimous global dismay and scorn, but it looks like the bulldozers and shovels are up and running at this point.

Resources:

Michael provides this link to an excellent comprehensive Science magazine article on the project.

A four-page report that looks to have been done by a French organization tied to UNESCO. Maps and charts.

Other articles:

Turkmenistan to create desert sea

Turkmenistan tries to green its desert with manmade lake

Giant Turkmen Lake Sets Off Environmental Alarms

Eureka! California is No. 1!

No. 1 in the heated global competition to annihilate natural hydrological systems, that is. This article by Rachel Olivieri of Alternet tells the whole obscene– almost NSFW–story. We’re not surprised at any particular item in this grim synopsis of California’s full-frontal and unrelenting assault on the environment, but seeing all of them distilled in a five-page article is truly distressing. The article’s subhed (that is not a typo; we insider editorial types spell it that way):

California has spared no expense to taxpayers or natural ecosystems to become the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet.

But cheer up! Sure, as Oliviera points out, “Ninety percent of the coastal salt marshes between Morro Bay and San Diego are gone,” and “the [San Joaquin Delta] “is not on the verge of collapse, it is collapsing,” there’s always fun music! Click on the image to visit the MySpace page of a nice UK pop crew who inexplicably call themselves Pacific. They are also No. 1, if their latest album title isn’t some kind of Sarah Palin-type bald-faced prevarication. Warning: pretty sweet pop, if you’re watching the calories.

It’s a drought, stupid! pt. 3: Georgia and the Chattahoochee River

The first three words of the prologue of Jeffry Rothfeder’s 2001 book, Every Drop for Sale (at Amazon you can read the prologue; also a comprehensive review here) are The Chattahoochee River, set off from the text that follows with tasteful small caps. The Chattahoochee feeds Lake Lanier, Georgia’s rapidly-depleting primary reservoir.

Titled Beginning: Scenes of a Crisis, the chattahoochee_watershed.pngintroductory pages more or less predict Atlanta’s current desperate situation and help put the city’s water woes and the Southeast’s drought in perspective: Atlantans–or at least its ruling junta of developers and their cronies–are not victims of the current drought. They are victims of their own greed and failure to act responsibly.

Admittedly, Rothfeder is an unusually well-informed fellow, but we can probably assume that if he knew of the dangers in 2001, then powerful Atlantans knew as well and just ignored them and hoped for the best. If Atlanta runs out of water, it is their fault.

Atlanta has shown an almost bizarre disregard for the inevitable consequences of unbridled growth in an area that relies almost solely on one source of water, the mightily overused and abused Chattahoochee, which has got to be the hardest working river in flow business. [Ed note: Sorry.] A small body of water north of Atlanta, Allatoona Lake, is a secondary source, but the city currently faces losing rights to some of that.

But the developers and their political enablers in the behemoth of northern Georgia have also shown similar indifference to their fellow citizens, not just those of Florida and Alabama (related story here), who also depend on the Chattahootchee, but also fellow Georgians to the south who use the river’s water for irrigation.

The map above highlights the Apalachicola River system—the more detailed river at the left, which forms half of the Georgia/Alabama border, is the Chattahoochee, which Georgians refer to as the Hooch. The juncture of the Chattahoochee and Flint river near Florida’s border marks the beginning of the Apalachicola River, which eventually pours into the Apalachicola Bay.

As the astute Waterblogged.info notes in this entry about Atlanta’s predicament, (gracias a information from Cynthia Barnett’s book Mirage):

The [Apachicola] bay remains pristine not because of high-minded environmental concerns on the part of Floridians–don’t make us snort tap water out of our noses–but because it is the home of a thriving shellfish industry. A continued flow of freshwater dilutes the seawater, keeping ocean-based predators out of the bay and guaranteeing that their prey will be served in the restaurants and homes of land-based predators.

In 1991, Atlanta pumped 3.8 billion gallons of water from the Hooch; in 2001 the figure jumped to 20 billion gallons. Rationality would dictate that the powers-that-be advocate conserving water and limiting growth. But until very recently rationality has been off the table in greed-driven Atlanta, and the city’s “leaders” have chosen instead to grab more of the beleaguered Hooch’s water with new dams and reservoirs and to merrily continue building out every square foot of the region. All of this of course is enraging municipalities, regions, and states to the south.

Oh, and Atlanta is polluting the Hooch’s water for the folks downstream as well. This blog entry from North Georgia writer and naturalist, Randy Golden, traces the flow of the Chattahoochee, from a tiny stream north of Atlanta to a river that provides water to millions of Georgians:

Finally, the river passes to its death, at least for the next 50 miles downstream. The city of Atlanta so heavily pollutes its waters that the river becomes a wasteland. And according to the city, little can be done to prevent the pollution that costs Atlanta millions of dollars a year in EPA fines.

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Praying for a rainy night in Georgia, and soon

(Update: The blog Atlanta Water Shortage seems to have closed its doors. The url is now occupied by the web host and domain name sleazebags at Godaddy.com)

This just in from our generally reliable Atlanta source: Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue cover1-1_50.jpghas declared a state of emergency due to the alarmingly persistent statewide drought. Georgians are waking up to the fact that they are running out of water and that the weather isn’t poised to perform a last-second rescue–meteorologists predict an unusually dry winter. For an ongoing source of clear-headed updates on the drought, visit the aptly-named blog, Atlanta Water Shortage.

Read this page of archived news stories beginning early this year that tracks Georgia’s slow awakening to the hard dry facts. Ain’t it funny how water drains away? Especially when it’s obvious that there is an unusually tenacious drought and everyone completely ignores it.

What would an unquestionably professional news outlet–say, Fox News–do in this situation? Why, march down southern-vintageladywpinkroses1.jpgSouth quicker than Sherman and get the point of view of the average Georgian–the crucial human angle with a touch of down-home wisdom that is most convincingly delivered with a southern accent.

Not wishing to be regarded as any less professional than the fab Faux, we sent our top investigative reporter to visit the très southern Southern Lady’s Vintage (caveat: The site’s deep-south ambience is enhanced with music that you can’t turn off.) to get the proprietor’s take on the situation.

Good call! Turns out that Barbara (her About Me gives no last name, but does inform us that she’s from the Sweet South, Georgia and that’s all the bona fides we need) is so concerned that she took time off from posting many seasonal pictures of punkins and way many of her extremely cute grandson, to entreat her readers to pray for the end of the drought! Hey, God, get ‘er done!

Adopting the courtly deference of a southern gentleman, Waterblogged.info makes way for a lady. Barbara on the drought:

Georgia is in a level 4 state of emergency due to it’s ongoing drought. Currently 85 of our northern counties are in a state of disaster. All exterior watering in North Georgia is banned. Restaurants are asked to only serve water to customers who ask for water. Extreme rationing will most likely be on the horizon. Many businesses are already affected by our lack of water. Our lakes are drying up and the authorities are saying that we have less than a three months supply of water in our Lake Lanier (emphasis–and punctuation–Barbara’s).

Lake Lanier is a crucially important reservoir, but federal law requires that much of its water be released to Florida lake_lanier_satellite_map.jpgso that it can feed the Apalachicola Bay, which water expert Cynthia Barnett (see below) describes as “the last unspoiled bay in Florida.”

The bay remains pristine not because of high-minded environmental concerns on the part of Floridians–don’t make us snort tap water out of our noses–but because it is the home of a thriving shellfish industry. A continued flow of freshwater dilutes the seawater, keeping ocean-based predators out of the bay and guaranteeing that their prey will be served in the restaurants and homes of land-based predators.

What, we asked Barbara–with that wheedling, high-pitched urgency practiced by actors posing as concerned journalists on television–can people do to help? Says Barbara:

I am again asking that you please remember to pray for God’s intervention and for God’s blessings on our state to help us avoid running out of water. Not only do we need rain, but please also pray that God gives our authorities the wisdom needed to guide us thru this drought (emphasis ours this time).

0472115634.jpgWhoooaaa, Barbara, nice thought, but that last one is a toughie, even for God, if you’re defining wisdom as enlightened knowledge. You see, your authorities already have their own brand of wisdom–let’s call it unenlightened self-interest–which tells them that the best way for them and their developer buddies to get even richer than they already are is to avoid doing anything until the problem gets so serious that they can’t ignore it anymore. And then they sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who, bless their incompetent little hearts, are just doing their job.

Hey, you might as well pray. You might as well do a goddamn rain dance–or precipitation rite, as we prefer over here at the scientifically-inclined Waterblogged.info–and you might as well attribute any eventual water falling from the sky to your superstitious supplications. The gods help those who help themselves, drawls Waterblogged.info, and until the South–particularly Georgia and the criminally wasteful state of Florida–starts responsibly addressing the problem of too-little-water-for-too-many-sweet-Southerners by passing stringent conservation laws and imposing limits on growth, it faces inevitable disaster.

At this moment, our minds turn, without a hint of ironic sarcasm, to Barbara’s grandson, who aside from being cuter than a water bug’s ear, happens to be a resident of Georgia. It’s his water, too.

To understand how one of the soggiest places on the continent can suddenly find itself running out of water, we suggest that you buy and–here’s the important part–read, Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S., by Cynthia Barnett, a real investigative reporter. The title, as titles do these days, says it all. The focus is on Floridian water follies which take place in the context of a full frontal assault on the environment waged by the entire Southeast.
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Congress is failing to act!

When Waterblogged.info’s sources* revealed that the move to restore California’s San Joaquin River is stalled in Congress, an eerie hush fell over our newsroom; the clattering of the typewriters ceased, the editor stopped chewing on her cigar, the copy boy tip-toed out the door to find a better job. Why, we asked ourselves individually and collectively (in italics the way we always do when dumbfounded), why would Congress fail to fund an agreement that’s been almost 20 year in the making, and that has been ordered by a federal judge?

Our sources cleared up the mystery, and restored Waterblogged.info’s characteristic water-news-mongering din, by adding this:

The delay in Congress, according to supporters of the bill, is being caused by new Pay as You Go requirements, meaning the money needed for the restoration has to be offset somewhere else in the budget.

Oooohh, pay as you gooooo! Just like the war in Iraq! Well, that explains it! Satisfied that sanity had be reestablished, we turned back to editing and writing, and in the case of our star reporter, to finishing what the old-timer calls a snort from the bottle he keeps in his top left desk drawer.

Our sources, graciously—and for no additional fees—added the following, in case the reader needs additional information to fuel his or her outrage about the destruction of California’s second-largest river:

The once-mighty river, which literally foamed with spawning salmon back in the day, was dammed in 1943. Now, during summer months, two long sections of the river often dry up for more than 60 miles.

Environmentalists have characterized the draining of the San Joaquin as one of the most egregious examples anywhere of habitat destruction to quench man’s thirst for water.

*The San Francisco Chronicle—that in a rare courageous move—printed a great, well-researched story.