Clean water act violations
Please find enclosed copies of correspondence between the National Response Team (NRT) Chairman, EPA, Coast Guard and other interagency officials representing a sampling of several years of stonewalling, failure to comply with FOIA and other action requests from the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO) concerning oil spill cleanup methodology. We are sending this information package to you (attempts to send info copies to you by email were not received) and we are requesting your assistance because the situation described herein impacts your region and you have already taken an active interest in this issue in the not too distant past.
[i] in the National, Regional and Area Contingency Plans to the exclusionof other products that have been proffered in the last 25 years, many of which are/were more effective, less costly and less toxic to U.S. Fisheries, and marine mammals, with less damage to the national environment. It is curious to note that Corexit, an Exxon developed product, is manufactured by NALCO which per numerous reports is a company that BP and Exxon held a majority shares in prior to and during the Gulf of Mexico BP disaster.
Our work specifically involves finding and implementing solutions for cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico, Niger Delta and other notable spill sites around the world. We have done a substantial amount of research and compiled materials and data to educate and encourage global cooperation to invest in the technological advancements that have been made in spill response and oil cleanup. We have also sent educational materials to all interagency members of the U.S. National and Regional Response Teams.
During the course of our work we’ve witnessed and have personal knowledge of numerous instances where EPA and NRT officials have abused their power by illegally and arbitrarily blocking the use of more effective, non-toxic methods of oil spill cleanup that we and other stakeholders have requested be used. EPA and NRT members by their actions, will not use anything but Corexit/dispersants despite the fact that other remedies have been listed on the EPA’s official National Contingency Plan list of products authorized to be selected for use on a spill and, despite all required NCP/CFR 40 Subpart J procedures having been followed. We contend this exclusion and arbitrary blockage practice in favor of certain chemical dispersants also took place during the Deepwater Horizon BP Spill. We published a 44-page research paper in April of 2012 detailing some of this information.
LAEO is now running into this same stonewalling situation in Alaska in opposition to our efforts to engage with the Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT) and assist federally recognized Tribes and other stakeholders who strongly object to the ARRT’s proposed plans for expanded chemical dispersant use in Alaskan waters as stated in their Dispersant Plan Revisions (posted on their site for public comment). Chemical dispersants are highly toxic to wildlife and people and contaminate air and water, but even if that were argued, more significant is that these chemicals are not effective at removing hydrocarbon pollutants from the environment as required by the Clean Water Act whileadding chemicals that are in themselves pollutants.
In Alaska where the people subsist off the land and waters in the Arctic, a healthy environment is crucial to the health of the native peoples and their children. The majority of the peoples of Alaska (including qualified scientists and professionals who have reviewed ARRT’s plan—for example PWSRCAC[ii]) object to the use of chemical dispersants in their waters and have done so with ample scientific documentation going back to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which, to this day, exhibits un-cleaned oil still contaminating the beaches and seabed. A form of Corexit was used during that response and was a colossal failure as it was in the 2010 Gulf spill. (See detailed information on the Alaska situation at:www.protectmarinelifenow.org under Alaska Briefing and facts on dispersants specifically related to Alaska at:http://www.pwsrcac.org/programs/environmental-monitoring/dispersants/ )
Current ARRT activities amount to federal government interagency officials running a chemical dispersant public information and education campaign along with legally questionable Tribal government to government engagement practices using tax payer dollars to ram through their predetermined decision to use Corexit/dispersants. This is being done regardless of citizens’ strenuous objections to dispersant use and the known negative impacts to Alaska Native communities subsistence, commercial fisheries and the long term risks posed to the ecological and human health of the region. The ARRT’s public comment and Tribal consultation Dispersant Plan have been a public deception conveying only positive attributes while omitting any negative information on the subject. The EPA and USCG’s unreasonable and unshakable determination to use these chemicals has made many wonder if the people making these decisions are somehow connected to the oil and gas industry. Their total lack of reason in the face of data and scientific fact that better technologies are available (as demonstrated in many other parts of the world that have banned dispersant use) is curious and raises important questions. Natural Resource Trustees have held this unwavering dispersant-position despite qualified Alaska-specific science based reviews to the contrary and despite clear evidence during and after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and Exxon Valdez that these chemicals absolutely do have questionable efficacy with lethal effects on marine and human lives.
To summarize key points:
To bring more strength to the message, several organizations representing Tribes with sovereign nation status, and international water protection advocates have formed a coalition with the Change Oil Spill Response Global Alliance (COSRGA). COSRGA’s Alaskan Delegation made a formal submission to the ARRT in May 2013 whichhas received no definitive response. (Please see Attachment C.) Recently, eleven tribal resolutions were officially enacted to ban the use of chemical dispersants in their areas. After five months there has been no action on COSRGA’s request, but they instead have moved forward with seeking public approval for their chemical dispersant plan. Separately, the Chairman of the National Response Team (NRT), Ms. Dana Tulis, an EPA official, directed the Alaska RRT (Regional Team) Chairmen to defer portions of our submission to the (National Team) NRT level. This is unprecedented and unusual. (See Attachment A)
(firstname.lastname@example.org) who claimed budget constraints, lack of resources and time to review the material. (A few weeks ago, after escalating our protest of the inaction to the EPA Administrator, we are now in discussions with Mr. Matthiessen. However, based on all our data and experience to hand, we are not expecting a positive outcome but we are working to move the process forward nonetheless.) We additionally sent a separate request to the EPA Chair of the National Response Team: Dana Tulis to intervene. (See Attachments A and D)
This is a very serious situation. Any intent to further employ chemical dispersants (especially in Alaska and the Arctic which urgently need spill removal solutions that will actually work) is in our opinion a felony violation of and major failure to uphold the Clean Water Act. All EPA officials refusing to review documentation calling for urgent correction should be held accountable for human health and ecosystem destruction caused by out of date science and their refusal to employ better current technology in favor of allowing oil companies to profit from spills by sole sourcing Corexit. (See Attachments C and D)
EPA/RRT behavior as demonstrated in Alaska, Gulf of Mexico States and others, amount to failure to take the affected public into account, a failure to recognize the sovereign rights of Alaskan Natives to have meaningful say in government actions that affect their subsistence and amounts to EPA’s failure to abide by its own mission by denying Tribes and residents their fundamental right to clean water and a clean environment.
Suspending Chemical Dispersant Pre-Authorization Plans being proposed by ARRT in Alaska with a public comment deadline of 14 Feb, 2014. This should remain in place until such time that the contrary data and uncertainties in science and efficacy can be reconciled.
Further, we urge that the pre-authorization status of chemical dispersants throughout all other U.S. Regions be suspended until such time there is unequivocal science that supports safe and effective usage. (Attachment C)
We recommend the set up of a task force consisting of the best and most qualified minds in Science and Technology associated with hazardous spills to find workable solutions to be incorporated into the NCP to solve the problems chemical dispersants do not solve. This would include liaison with the research efforts ongoing by the Arctic Council to devise Oil Spill Response Plans throughout the Circumpolar Arctic hemisphere.
Obtaining a complete answer to LAEO’s FOIA Request from the NRT/EPA Officials who are overdue in providing this information requested on Oct 23rd. (See Attachment A & B) The ultimate goal being to employ a known effective non-toxic bioremediation solution to the Gulf of Mexico extant BP spill remains.
- To sort out charged matters in Alaska between RRT and Tribes and ensure that Tribes whose peoples will be affected by dispersant use are heard and their opinion is factored into any decision made, we suggest the creation of a neutral Tribal Government Natural Resources Observer and Liaison Committee with voting members serving on the ARRT to observe and ensure every step of all planning and engagement processes by the ARRT and other government agencies concerned meet the legal requirements that Tribal sovereignty is entitled to receive.
We believe that Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (AI-TC) in partnership with the National Tribal Emergency Management Council would be qualified to act in this capacity. These organizations could be tasked to form up area Tribal emergency management, preparedness and hazardous spill response teams in designated regions as well as form up a core team of science and technology specialists to provide expert consultation for the tribal regions that would be funded through the National Response Team. Tribal Liaisons with the Coast Guard and other Federal Agencies would work with the AI-TC Natural Resources Tribal Government Liaison Committee. The Committee would advise the ARRT on Tribal government matters, help form Tribal area response teams (counterparts of the ARRT), provide research and educational support, information exchange and communications support with/for Tribal Governments to ensure response measures are adequate and fully in place and prepared.
Effectively addressing the threat of a major oil spill or chemical accident. The lessons learned from the BP spill have resulted in absolutely no significant change in chemical agent plans as part of the U.S. NCP (virtually the same response plan as used on the Exxon Valdez spill decades ago). Current regulatory reviews are way off target—although officials claim much is being done it amounts to the same old decisions over and over to the detriment of the American people, and the environment. For example if there were a significant spill by tanker vessels or drilling in Arctic waters, this would be an international nightmare to deal with due to the unique iceand oceanographic conditions, in addition to the fact that the Arctic is where many fish species and bird species reproduce. Such a spill would crash our fisheries and bring economic devastation to Alaska. There are no spill plans in place that would prevent the catastrophic consequences of a major spill in the Arctic; nor, for that matter, are we prepared for another major spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
- The devastating effects of existing toxic waste spills that are not being effectively addressed throughout the United States.
- Holding industry to higher standards in spill countermeasure plans. Their current plans remediate less than 25% of any hazardous spill –which is an unacceptable plan. Federal agencies need to stop approving and endorsing such plans!