‘We are all very angry with BP!’

Bryan Parras with Louisiana fishermen at Tuesday night’s meeting
Bryan Parras with Louisiana fishermen at Tuesday night’s meeting

OVER 150 people attended a public meeting organised by the Tar-Sands Network in east London on Tuesday night, in preparation for today’s lobby of the BP Annual General Meeting.

Opening the meeting, Jess Worth of the Tar-Sands Network said: ‘What we are seeing tonight is the coming together of a very broad coalition.

‘We are all really angry with BP. We want to see some major changes.

‘When the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, it killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf and ruined the local economy and eco-system.’

She said that shortly after the Gulf disaster, BP started the Sunrise project for Tar-Sands oil extraction and in January they began the Rosneft deal in the Arctic and most recently announced it is returning to the Gulf.

She said there was an investor revolt going on in the United States.

The first speaker was Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Canadian Indigenous Environmental Network.

He said: ‘In the past four years we have had our campaign against pipelines in America.

‘Tar-Sands is the dirtiest fossil fuel.’

He said some of the biggest companies were investing in its extraction, adding: ‘Some of the billions of lines of capital are going into Tar-Sands.’

He said the project spewed out tons of earth, leaving ‘a scar on our beautiful Mother Earth’.

Jasmine Thomas, from the First Nation of Canadian Indians, said: ‘We are from communities in British Columbia.

‘We came together to stop this pipeline being pressured upon us.

‘The pipeline is going to be crossing 3,000 streams and watersheds.’

She added: ‘We’ve been targeting financial backers, including banks.

‘Royal Bank of Scotland is going to hear from us soon.

‘They are putting billions into something we don’t want.’

She added: ‘We are still the sovereign custodians of these lands.

‘They pollute our water and destroy the plants we pick for medicines.’

An Alberta Indian, Melina, said: ‘I come from a small community that is very isolated. It’s a very beautiful area.’

She added: ‘There have been oil wells and now there are Tar-Sands and they are talking about nuclear power.

‘There is no benefit to the indigenous people.

‘The infrastructure that’s needed for Tar-Sands spans the whole of North America.

‘Tar-Sands is a form of fossil fuel that is not even liquid, so it’s very difficult to extract.’

She explained that it requires a huge amount of heat being applied before extraction.

She said that the Alberta Tar-Sands produce 40 million tons of CO2 emissions.

She said: ‘There is a huge cost to extracting Tar-Sands oil.

‘They are introducing nuclear energy to replace the natural gas needed for Tar-Sands extraction.

‘Left-over toxins are going back into land-fills.

‘The Mackenzie River Basin water system is under threat from the Tar-Sands industry.’

She said: ‘Tar-Sands means the complete fragmentation of the Bereal Forests.

‘Birds are already disappearing as well as a lot of animals.’

She explained that a massive amount of earth is being moved in drilling for Tar-Sands.

She concluded by showing a slide of the result of an explosion on a pipeline as a result of a steam escape.

Bryan Paris of the Gulf Coast Fund in Louisiana talked about the Gulf oil-spill resulting from the Deepwater Horizon blast.

He said: ‘Our problem is the extraction business.

‘From extraction to production, it’s always minority peoples who are affected.

‘What we saw was people just getting back on their feet, when the disaster happened.’

He introduced a group of Louisiana fishermen.

One of them, Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association, said: ‘I’m from a small community in Lower Louisiana closest to Earlsville Port.’

He said that while BP claimed to have recovered the coast, ‘everything is not fine’.

He continued: ‘As fishermen, we want to know where the money is, because we aren’t getting any.

‘I have spent months going to the claims office.

‘We had just had the horrific incident from Hurricane Katrina (before the BP blast).’

He added: ‘The people of Louisiana are resilient. We understand there will be accidents, but we will not accept irresponsibility that is sending communities into poverty.’

He concluded: ‘We are not getting the money.’

Tracy Kuhns said: ‘Our community relies on natural resources.’

She said since Louisiana was ‘hammered with chemicals by BP to sink the oil, the chemicals went into our estuary.’

She insisted: ‘The oil is not gone, contrary to what BP and the government are saying.

‘We are dealing with this every day.

‘There are hundreds of communities just like ours, dependent on natural resources.’

She added: ‘We understand people have to make a profit, but there is a cost to doing business.

‘You should not be allowed to make a profit until the full cost of doing business is paid.’

She said: ‘People’s health is affected.

‘I have a cough. Lots of people have a cough. We call it a “BP cough’’.’

She said that thousands of gallons of chemicals were sprayed.

She declared: ‘We don’t have a National Health Service.

‘We have to pay to get diagnosed and treated.

‘My husband pays $500 a month for insurance, but when he goes to the doctor he still has to pay $100.

‘Companies who cause the health problems should have to pay.

‘We don’t know what’s going to happen financially. We can’t afford to pay for healthcare.’

She concluded: ‘BP: you have a human responsibility to cover the cost of healthcare before you make a cent of profit.’

Michael Roberts said: ‘In Louisiana we have oil and gas.

‘Most people die of cancer.

‘People don’t live beyond 60.

‘The BP oil spill was a disaster.

‘We being fishermen, we knew the oil was going to come in.

‘There wasn’t enough protection, and sure enough it poured into the estuaries.’

He said that in a bay ‘that is one of the most productive in fishing, I could not get away from the oil for a whole day. It made me weep, and I haven’t wept since my father died.

‘I say to BP: I know we can’t live without oil and gas for now. But until we get off oil and gas, we have to do a better job of protection.’

Antonia Juhasz, from California, told the meeting: ‘I wrote a book called “Black Tide’’.

‘There were 20 million gallons of oil that were released into the Gulf.

‘In the Gulf now, there is a layer of oil and there is a layer of chemicals.

‘What there isn’t is life. No new baby oysters or baby shrimps.

‘It wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t an isolated incident. It was the expected outcome of an industry that has extended its technical abilities.’

She added: ‘Neither Exxon nor BP had an idea of how to deal with the Deepwater explosion.

‘They hadn’t prepared for clear-up and they hadn’t prepared for oil collection.’

She said: ‘They absolutely devastated the Gulf.

‘They hadn’t developed any new science. They were using shallow water technology.’

She further alleged: ‘What is happening is endemic to the industry.’

She continued that people lost their jobs and their livelihoods.

She said: ‘We have to say to BP: as long as you are in this business, you should use your wealth to make it the cleanest and the safest.’

Axel Kohler-Schnura, from the Ethical Foundation based in Dusseldorf in Germany, said: ‘I am fighting against exploitation, war and environmental damage.

‘Behind war and exploitation are profits.’

He referred to the slide show at the meeting.

He said: ‘We saw pictures of Canada: all these destroyed areas. That’s what we mean about turning the Blue Planet into the Black Planet.

‘We awarded BP the Black Planet Award. We styled as BP as “Bloody Profits’’.’

Addressing BP, he said: ‘Your actions are threatening not only human rights, but democracy, the environment and humanity.’

Holding up the Black Planet Award, he said: ‘This is the globe we’re going to present to these people tomorrow.’

Chalid Mohammed from Indonesia said that the BP company Prime Co has invested in Indonesia and created big problems.

‘It is destroying the countryside in West Papua,’ Mohammed said.