Oil, oil, everywhere

BP’s latest eco-crime; City Council Pres. Mike Ross does the right thing; Scott Brown disappoints
By EDITORIAL  |  May 26, 2010

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It is not enough that British Petroleum’s wounded oil well in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico continues to bleed millions of gallons of viscous crude oil, killing marshes that could offer protection from future hurricanes, destroying habitats for migrating birds, fouling coastal commercial-fishing grounds, doing as yet incalculable damage to the deep ocean’s ecosystems, and releasing a vile stench that’s induced headaches, irritated eyes, and nausea in local communities.

On top of this massive act of economic and ecological vandalism, BP’s insensitive — and, perhaps, brain-dead — management has been using toxic oil dispersants in the Gulf, fighting the slick but injecting further poison into the already compromised waters.

This is not unlike American troops more than a generation ago, burning down Vietnamese villages to “save” them.

Some of the more dimwitted members of the mainstream press are trying to christen the Gulf oil spill “Obama’s Katrina.” It is a catchy phrase, but a dishonest analogy. While the EPA’s response so far has been inadequate, there is a world of difference between near-criminal corporate irresponsibility and an act of God or a natural disaster.

To reassure the nation that he knows what is at stake, President Barack Obama should order that the permits Shell Oil needs to proceed with its controversial Arctic Ocean drilling project be withheld. A questionable idea in the first place, allowing this project to go forward without proper safeguards in place is foolish.

As for the talk of the federal government assuming control of the Gulf spill, be careful what you wish for. Knowledgeable officials have conceded that the government does not have the expertise needed to cap the leak — although top scientists from in and outside government are working around the clock to develop a plan if BP continues to fail.

If ever there was a demonstration of how dangerous America’s dependence on oil as the fuel of first resort is, this is it.

Applause for Mike Ross
A common complaint among Boston city councilors is that, as a deliberative body, they do not get sufficient respect.

Well, City Council President Michael Ross earned himself a massive slice of respect and public gratitude last week, when he pledged to reject the firefighters’ union’s new four-year, $74 million contract — unless the union returns to the bargaining table and grants meaningful concessions.

The contract — which would grant firefighters a total pay hike of 19 percent — is the product of arbitration and must be ratified by the City Council as part of Mayor Thomas Menino’s 2011 budget. At a time when workers in the private sector have seen their salaries and benefits frozen or reduced, and the jobs of many co-workers eliminated, this contract arrives for consideration as if it came from another planet, from a galaxy far, far away.

Ross was most forceful in rejecting the idea that the city should have to compensate firefighters for taking drug and alcohol tests. Ross put it clearly when he said that taxpayers should not “have to pay for a firefighter to show up sober for work.”

To date, Ross and Councilor Chuck Turner are the only two members who have publicly pledged to vote against this costly and dangerous contract. We urge other members to join them.

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