Posted by MataHarley on 31 May, 2010 at 4:33 pm. 8 comments already!

As Herculean efforts to stop the Deepwater Horizon oil flow, and stay a’top the clean up using heavy bureaucratic red tape, pundits and media have had to content themselves with finger pointing, pointing out the finger pointing, and deciding who was the best villain to demonize that day. The favored culprit to assassinate in the media has been BP. So it comes as no surprise that prolific yellow journalism, evidenced by poor (or lazy) research, does the proverbial hit and run – splashing the headline that “BP Buses in 400 Workers During Obama’s visit”, then ignoring the facts and follow up.

Fueled by Jefferson Parish Councilman John Young and Chris Roberts, the local officials insisted the presence of what they claim (by hearsay) was 300-500 workers at the Grand Isle beach when Obama shuffled thru on his rare appearances was all BP smoke and mirrors, and some sort of conspiracy theory/photo op. Leftist and right wing blogs alike jumped on the same “scandal” headline. The left used it to further bash the image of BP, and by proxy, big oil, for their green agenda. The right used it to slyly suggest it was Obama, himself, orchestrating the scam.

Everyone bought eagerly into the hype, and virtually no one cared enough to check up on the timeline: when the oil first washed ashore at Grand Isle, who had been there prior, who was doing “the hiring”, the mandatory training involved for the volunteers, how many local volunteers *are* trained and ready, or even the legality of bringing “posers” to a hazardous area for even a day’s faux work.

The extra workers were brought in for Friday only, at a rate of $12 an hour, [Jefferson Parish] officials told WDSU. They were mostly from Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts didn’t buy into the cleanup effort. “They must think we’re all fools,” he said. Roberts called BP’s efforts “shameful.”

“The level of cleanup and cooperation from BP in the last week in no way compares to the effort shown on the island today,” Roberts said. “This is a total shame that a mockery has been made of this visit by the executives of BP.”

Talk about “shameful” and being the fool… neither councilman did a lick of homework before getting their face time before the cameras. And perhaps it would be more credible if they weren’t sticking their political necks out based on hearsay.

BP Chief Operating Officer and spokesman, Doug Suttles, attempted to explain to an unwilling press that the events were coincidental. No one apparently wanted to believe him.

But the fact is, BP subcontracts tasking needed volunteers and workers to the locations. And in the specific case of Grand Isle, that contractor is Environmental Safety and Health, Inc.

Donald Nalty, spokesman for ESHINC, is no stranger to the emergency clean up industry. He was with Oil Mop LLC – then the largest of six response organizations in Louisiana – when the CG called them in following the 911 terrorist bombings in NYC, as well as the anthrax clean up on one of the nation’s largest post offices following those events.

Nalty, the consummate professional, had a very busy day following Obama’s exit from LA… “cleaning up” not polluting toxins, but the viral accusations that sprung from a lazy, derelict media and network of bloggers from both sides of the political aisle. Local Fox affiliate Ch 8 ran a verbal dual between Councilman Roberts and Nalty… where the latter confirmed that – following the oil land fall at the beach one week earlier – BP had requested teams to that location back on May 23rd after an operations meeting.

In a later CNN Newsroom interview with TJ Holmes, he expounded further.

So my first question is, how many workers before the President’s trip on Friday had you had working in this area on a day-to-day basis?

DONALD NALTY, CONTRACTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND SAFETY GROUP (via telephone): We had 200 — approximately about 250 workers working there prior to — for the past two and a half to three weeks.

HOLMES: So — so this — and what the councilman is saying, he said that these guys were bussed in, he actually put the number at around 300 to 400 but maybe around the same number you’re saying. He says they were actually bussed in, recruited not long ago just to be for the president’s photo-op if you will. And you’re saying that what’s been happening for the past Friday is no different than what’s been happening for the past couple of few weeks there.

NALTY: We — we’ve had a plan, we’ve put together a plan on the 23rd to increase the number of personnel that’s going to be in the Grand Isle, Fourchon and (INAUDIBLE) area. Actually yesterday, we brought in another 400 to Grand Isle, another 100 to Fourchon and 90 to (INAUDIBLE), Louisiana to go into the Terrebonne Bay area.

~~~

Mata Musing: More cogent data on the above paragraph another report from the local ABC affiliate:

But Donald Nalty with Environmental Safety and Health, contracted by BP to hire the workers, says Roberts doesn’t have the facts. “They were not pulled because they just got off the job at six o’clock this evening. They’re working six to six.” He says workers are being ramped up to address all the oiled areas. But he says workers have always been there. “We had roughly 260 people out there. We just moved it up another 400 on Grande Isle, another 100 in Fourchon, another hundred in Cocodrie,” says Nalty. Still, Roberts says he’s keeping a close eye on where, when and how many people are working along the coast.

~~~

HOLMES: Now where did you all — did BP direct you to beef up? I guess, whose idea was it that that you need to focus more resources on these particular area?

NALTY: Well, this — it all goes into the operational planning and the meetings and based on the projects — of the projectory of the oil that we’re properly staffed to handle any impact that comes on.

We made the decision on the 23rd that we need to add additional people. We are making as much of an attempt to hire as many local people as we can which means that we have to train them so we — it takes us a few days to number one, process the people and train them.

HOLMES: Now, this very area we’re talking about — and I want to make sure we’re clear here because some of the accusations are — well, have been made quite clear by some down in Louisiana.

You are saying at no point did BP or anyone else tell you, hey, the President’s coming. This is where he will be. Let’s make sure we beef it up on this area, this area and this area because the cameras are going to be around. No one at any point, nor did you make a decision because of the President’s trip?

NALTY: Absolutely without a doubt, no. I had no idea about the President. Whether it’s the President or whatever dignitary that’s coming into the area, it makes no difference to us. We’re there to clean up Grand Isle, clean up Louisiana, and that’s what we need to do. We have to get the proper personnel and equipment out there to do it. That’s BP’s commitment and that’s what we are doing.

Below is a video of the Grand Isle clean up the day following Obama’s appearance – May 29th – from NECN

Compare the above to the WDSU video included with their late breaking accusation story… Despite the anchors’ promises they would follow up, to supposedly get to the bottom of it all, they have not. They did the hit, and then they ran.


Remember that comment by the ill-informed councilmen INRE t-shirts above? Note that the workers wear either blue or red shirts – mostly likely designating the hierarchy of the crew on site. Also that the workers are wearing HAZMAT suits… of which they are limited in the hours of wearing during the heat of the Louisiana days.

What is perfectly plausible to those who read before they report is the coincidence and timing. As I pointed out above, the oil only started washing ashore last weekend at Grand Isle. Ground crews are deployed as the situation calls for. Secondly, you can’t just bus in a bunch of posers and hand off tees and HAZMAT suits. Anyone involved in clean up of hazardous substances – which includes oil – are required to have a degree of HAZWOPER training courses and certificates relative to their function… voluntary or not.

As, the OSHA issued training documentation explains in their publication, Training Marine Oil Spill Response Workers Under OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operation and Emergency Response Standard, there are state and local standards that cover even uncompensated volunteers.

HAZWOPER Requirements that Apply to Marine Oil Spills

The NCP defines oil as any kind of oil in any form, including petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, oil refuse, and oil mixed with wastes but not dredged spoil (dirt or rock). Response actions conducted under the NCP must comply with the provisions of HAZWOPER. You’ll find this requirement in 40 CFR 300.150.

Therefore, if your workers are participating in a response action under the NCP, you must have an occupational safety and health program consistent with HAZWOPER and you must train your workers according to HAZWOPER’s training requirements. This applies whether the responsible party or a government agency is directing the cleanup.

The Councilmen above insist these faux workers were paid $12 per hour to showboat… which would mean that not only would Nalty/ESHINC be guilty of a sleazy photo op (supposedly orchestrated by either BP or Obama, depending on which flavor blog you’re reading…), but of a more serious violation of OSHA and EPA standards that would entail exposing untrained workers to a potentially environmentally hazardous zone without the proper training. This is why Nalty makes his point above in the CNN interview as to the time needed to train volunteers.

This mandatory training is also well documented in the many sites that help direct those that wish to volunteer… such as Oil Spill Volunteers… with links for volunteers in not only Louisiana, but Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Jefferson Parish had started setting up training locations back on May 3rd, but there are no indications of how many volunteers received their certifications for either that parish, or Louisiana. Thus, if not enough locals had received the necessary OSHA training, they would indeed be busing in certified and trained volunteers from elsewhere. Once that location was under control, they would move the bulk of their volunteers elsewhere to a new location requiring the numbers.

NewsBusters’ Noel Sheppard was also sniffing something foul with the Councilmen’s accusations since one of the witnesses says these poser/workers came in via school buses…. vehicles they could not obtain without the parish’s knowledge.

What is, perhaps, most appalling is that few (if any) chose to entertain the possibility – even for a nanosecond – that the reality and fact was exactly as was stated. We have become a nation of disjointed, scattered tabloid news as the norm. And that is a dangerous trend.

All of this could have been easily researched prior fostering scandalous yellow journalism headlines which go viral in hours. None of the reports contained any historic fact, but instead fed the hate oil/hate BP hype to depend upon “hits” or reading audience. The low bar of what can be considered journalism these days creates a hazardous area for we, the citizens, to navigate. And yes, that low bar also transitions to blogs of all stripes as well.

So read voraciously, and further research those presentations that strike your gut as insidiously wrong… because your gut is likely correct.

But apparently, few of the media or bloggers will go back and clean up their toxic yellow journalism errors.

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