The true story of the BP disaster is how private contractors, not the government, are handling the response. Of the 25,000 people responding to the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the nation, 21,000 are under contract to the foreign oil giant BP. This private army includes workers shipped in from California making $10 an hour to clean the beaches, ex-military public relations experts, and submarine robotics companies. There are no contractors working directly for the government. The Center for American Progress — like many other outside observers — recommends that the government take over operational control from BP, to resolve conflicts of interest between the foreign corporation’s shareholders and public health and safety.
BP has been notoriously secretive about the network of companies working to run practically every aspect of the Deepwater Horizon response, including claims processing, hazardous material cleanup, boom deployment, scientific monitoring, and call centers. BP has ignored the state of Louisiana’s request on May 7 for a list of contractors and subcontractors.
On June 3, the Wonk Room called the Unified Command number and talked with USCG officer Rachel Polish, who told me that BP would have to answer my questions. Later that day, a BP subcontractor contacted this reporter, but would only identify himself as “Les.” On June 4, the Wonk Room asked National Incident Commander Thad Allen in the daily briefing for a list of contractors, which he promised to address. USCG officer J. R. Hoeft followed up by email to say he would start working on it.
On Saturday, June 12, the Washington Post published a story on some of the contractors working on the clean up, noting that “BP has major contracts with two national companies to clean up any major spill at Deepwater Horizon: the nonprofit group Marine Spill Response Corp., based in Herndon, and National Response Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Seacor Holdings, based in Fort Lauderdale.” These organizations were established as joint ventures of the oil industry to follow the rules of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, passed in response to the Exxon Valdez incident.
On Wednesday June 16, Hoeft emailed the Wonk Room with a list of fourteen companies “that direct about 68 percent of the total contractors working the spill” — with only the company names. Follow-up calls with the Unified Command, including a contentious discussion with BP spokesman Toby Odone, did not provide more information. The Wonk Room has been unable to determine the identity of one of the contractors on the list, named only “ILES.”
Below is an overview of the other thirteen top contractors identified by Unified Command as working for BP on the disaster, as well as other major contractors now governing the Gulf Coast region:
BP has drawn from a bevy of spill response organizations, such as Clean Caribbean and Americas, which supplied dispersant, boom, and skimmers. Unified Command identified O’Briens, the National Response Corporation, and The Response Group as top contractors. Also listed below are Marine Spill Response Corporation and Oil Spill Response, Ltd., who are providing important high-level support.
O’Brien’s Response Management
Founded in 1982 by its president, former Coast Guard officer Jim O’Brien, O’Brien’s is “the largest and most reputable Qualified Individual and Spill Response Management provider in North America.” Like National Response Corporation, O’Brien’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of SEACOR. O’Brien’s is equipped to “represent the responsible party to the Federal On-Scene Coordinator and state Incident Commander,” run public relations, establish a “claims hotline and/or claims center,” and other spill response needs. In addition to “response management consulting services,” O’Brien’s PIER System “is being used by Unified Command for media and public information management.”
“It is O’Brien’s policy to not provide specific information about its role, personnel, or specific response activities in this event or in any other similar event. The National Incident Management System requires that any response information be provided by Unified Command and not independently by anyone involved.”
The Response Group
The Response Group develops “pre-established” MMS-regulated Oil Spill Response Plans (OSRPs), “designed to both help our clients to meet their regulatory requirements in a timely and effective manner and provide a useful emergency response plan.”
National Response Corporation
National Response Corporation (NRC), like MSRC, had an existing contract with BP to provide emergency spill response. NRC was “created to provide the resources needed to satisfy the requirements” of the Oil Pollution Act. NRC’s “Emergency Response and Crisis Management team has the experience and expertise to respond to any size spill or emergency response.” NRC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the public corporation SEACOR Environmental Services Inc. (CKH) “a global leader in the provision of diversified environmental, industrial and emergency response solutions.”
Marine Spill Response Corporation
MSRC is “an independent, non-profit, national spill response company dedicated to rapid response” formed by the oil industry in response to the Oil Pollution Act, with an existing contract with BP to respond to spill emergencies. The company is “currently recruiting for all marine positions on board our Oil Spill Response vessels,” fifteen 210-foot-long ships with “temporary storage for 4,000 barrels of recovered oil, and “the ability to separate oil and water aboard ship using two oil-water separation systems.” Two hundred MSRC staff are overseeing over 1000 contractors, and coordinating four dispersant-spraying aircraft. MSRC is funded by the Marine Preservation Association, an industry group directed by BP and other oil companies.
Oil Spill Response, Ltd.
Oil Spill Response is an international non-profit oil industry funded spill response organization headquartered in London, the European analogue to the Marine Spill Response Corporation in the Global Response Network. In addition to boom and a Hercules aircraft, Oil Spill Response has provided a team of 14 top-level managers to run operations. Unlike other contractors, Oil Spill Response commendably provides weekly updates and a full list of participating personnel on their website, from Incident Manager Rob Bly to Duty Administrator Lorraine Newman.
The offshore drilling industry is providing resources, facilities, and experts, including ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Diamond Offshore Drilling, and Newfield Corporation. The Unified Command identified Fluor and Swift as top contractors, presumably for their petroleum engineering expertise.
Fluor is a publicly traded company (FLR) headquartered in Irving, TX that provides a “full range of integrated services to the global oil and gas production and processing industries.” There are no public reports of what services Fluor is providing in the Gulf.
Fluor representatives have not yet returned the Wonk Room’s calls. The Coast Guard representative answering media calls at the Joint Information Center gave the Wonk Room the BP press office number (281 366 0265) because this information “falls under their jurisdiction.” BP spokesman Toby Odone refused to tell the Wonk Room what Fluor was contracted to do. “We’re employing hundreds of companies,” he said, “and I’m not going to go through every one on the list.”
Swift Worldwide Resources
Swift Worldwide Resources (also known as Smith Oil & Gas) is “the leading specialist supplier of manpower resources to the global oil & gas industry,” headquartered in Houston, TX, with offices around the world, including New Orleans, LA.
HAZARDOUS WASTE RESPONSE
Day laborers working to clean the beaches are being paid $10-$12 an hour ($15-$18 for crew leaders), hired through a bevy of staffing companies (Able Body Labor, Associated Marine Staffing, Construct Corps, Westaff, SOS Staffing, Lofton Staffing & Security, System One, Automation Personnel Services, Worldwide Labor Support, USA Green Jobs Now, Aerotek, Allegis Group.
Contractors supplying safety and environmental science workers — such as those known by the jargon as Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) personnel — include RM Safety, WT Resources, Entrix, Aerotek, Matrix New World Engineering.
Training modules for workers have been prepared by Texas Engineering Extension Service, a member of the Texas A&M University System and home to the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center.
There are many hazardous material and spill response companies that have been contracted by BP to respond to the disaster, such as Advanced Cleanup Technologies, which has sent about 140 staff from Rancho Dominguez, CA. The top contractors identified by Unified Command for oil cleanup are:
Vessels of Opportunity (Parsons Corporation)
The Vessels of Opportunity program “was designed and implemented to provide local boat operators an opportunity to assist with response activities, including transporting supplies, assisting wildlife rescue and deploying containment and sorbent boom.” The program is managed by Parsons Corporation, a private engineering and project management company based in Pasadena, CA.
There are “over 2,000” participants registered, and no more applicants are being accepted. On Tuesday, “there were 819 Vessels of Opportunity deployed in Alabama, and 363 in Florida.” Charter-boat owners are concerned that the $3000-a-day contracts are instead going to pleasure-boat owners.
Clean Harbors is a publicly traded company (CLH) that “is involved in every aspect of the spill response from containment, removal, and ultimate treatment and disposal/recycling of recovered product.” The company, based in Norwell, MA, expects to make about $70 million this quarter in profits from the BP disaster. Clean Harbors is hiring local residents and looking for local equipment and lodging.
HEPACO is a private “emergency response, environmental remediation, and homeland security services company” based in Charlotte, NC. According to its Twitter account, the company has deployed more than 40,000 feet of boom with at least 1,299 personnel, including 193 MS, 33 AL, 9 TX, and 52 LA employees. HEPACO is running staging areas in Louisiana and Mississippi.
U.S. Environmental Services
USES is a private “professional, full-service environmental contracting firm specializing in environmental emergency response, in-plant industrial services, contaminated site remediation, chemical / biological terrorism response, safety training and industrial hygiene” based in New Orleans, LA. USES is deploying boom and transporting oil cleanup supplies. USES Chief Operating Officer George Malvaney is a former Klu Klux Klan member who reformed after going to prison for an attempted military coup of Dominica.
Eagle-SWS is a private “environmental services company” based in Panama City, FL that is managing the Florida response, including boom deployment. Eagle-SWS environmental engineer Steve Hamilton is “running the logistics of beach cleanup as well as marine recovery of oil” in the region.
Miller Environmental Group
Miller Environmental is a company headquartered in Calverton, NY, owned and operated by Mark Miller. The company has “nearly 800 workers, 60 vessels, 100 vehicles and miles of containment boom to do their part to help clean up the massive spill,” operating primarily out of Pascagoula, MS.
Oil Mop, LLC
Classified by the United States Coast Guard as an Oil Spill Response Organization, Oil Mop has “complete oil spill response capabilities utilizing response vessels up to 30 feet in length, vacuum trucks and portable vacuum systems, skimmers and self-propelled skimmer boats along with 50,000 feet of containment boom,” making it “the leader in Emergency Spill Response on the Gulf Coast.” Oil Mop is a primary subcontractor for cleanup efforts in Louisiana.
Environmental Safety and Health
Environmental Safety and Heath (ES&H) is a Houma, LA, hazardous material cleanup company founded by Lawrence X. “Trey” Boucvalt III. The company’s current president is Davian M. Ploger. In an unusual move, Terrebonne Parish, LA is contracting directly with ES&H to handle the spill response, bypassing bP.
(Note: there is an unrelated environmental services company named ES&H, Inc., based in Knoxville, TN.)
ESIS, a wholly owned subsidiary of the public corporation ACE Group (ACE) “is currently working at BP’s direction to administer claims associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident.” ESIS has more than 500 claims professionals in 31 field offices in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
WILDLIFE RESCUE AND SCIENTIFIC MONITORING
Organizations contracted by BP to handle wildlife rescue include the the oil industry-funded non-profit organizations Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research of Newark, DE, the International Bird Rescue Research Center of Fairfield, CA, and the Louisiana State Animal Response Team of Baton Rouge, LA.
Numerous organizations and companies have been engaged to assess the environmental damage from the BP spill and monitor the spread of the oil. B&B Laboratories is an affiliate of TDI-Brooks International, a Texas-based firm that “provides scientific services on a global basis with a focus on petroleum geochemistry.” Scientists from Seattle-based BioSonics are traveling to the Gulf of Mexico “where they will use scientific sonar equipment to locate oil spilled as a result of the Deepwater Horizon accident,” working with the National Response Corporation.
The Joint Information Center told Greenwire that the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health and Total Safety are “the primary monitors of offshore worker exposure during the ongoing oil disaster,” with the government providing “checks and balances.” Other toxics-monitoring contractors include the British Bureau Veritas (BVI) and East Syracuse, NY, company Galson Laboratories, which is handling “much of the air quality testing.” BP’s contractors rely on this testing to determine that cleanup workers do not need respirators when recovering oil.
John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is seeking a “centralized, coordinated, transparent database” of health data on Gulf workers, which BP has yet to deliver.
Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, LLC
The North Little Rock, AR, company Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH) is “the primary monitor of offshore workers in the Gulf of Mexico.” CTEH is regularly hired by polluters after toxic disasters, with a consistent pattern of being unable to find any connection between toxic chemicals and damage to the environment or public health.