Five years after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, representative of devastated communities from Gulf Coast confronts BP board over failure to address environmental and social damage. Solidarity activists refused entry into the meeting.
Suzanne Dhaliwal (UK Tar Sands Network) on +44 (0)7772694327
Today, outside the BP Annual General Meeting, UK Tar Sands Network, CoResist and Rising Tide held up a 30ft colourful fishing net decorated with messages, images, and slogans from the coastal communities who still feel the impacts of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Monday, 20th April 2015 marks the 5th anniversary of the offshore drilling accident that killed eleven workers and spewed over 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. “Once abundant oyster, shellfish and fin fish populations have yet to return to their previous levels, and scientists are documenting unusually high numbers of dolphin deaths, among other ongoing impacts to the Gulf’s ecosystems.”
Gulf Coast resident and community representative Derrick Evans travelled to London to attend the AGM to ask about ongoing health and livelihood concerns. “Five years since the BP Disaster began, the Gulf’s most severely impacted people and ecosystems continue to suffer. Coastal residents, particularly small commercial fishermen and former clean-up workers, are reeling from severe health problems stemming from exposure to oil and chemical dispersants, compounded by five years of BP-induced stress. Families and entire communities are struggling to maintain their livelihoods, culture and dignity,” said Evans.
Evans was joined by UK activists critical of BP’s extreme energy projects in the Gulf and the Alberta tar sands, including Suzanne Dhaliwal, to whom entry to the AGM was inexplicably denied by company officials although she possessed official documentation and had already passed through security.
“Today BP refused me entry to the BP AGM however they cannot hide the true cost of the Gulf disaster and highly polluting tar sands extraction on the health of communities and the planet“ states Suzanne Dhaliwal, director of the UK Tar Sands Network. “It is unacceptable that people were unable to attend the meeting who had shares and journalists were barred from using phones to tweet inside. BP is attempting to silence the reality of ‘extreme energy’ projects, this can no longer pass for business as usual when communities are dying and they are knowingly pushing us closer to climate chaos. Although the company passed this ‘climate resolution’ today BP is in no way fit to decide our energy future and cannot gain any social license from today’s decision”
Evans, who was permitted inside, addressed the AGM twice and also spoke with company Chairman Carl-Henrick Svanberg after the meeting, reiterating his criticism of BP’s failure to prioritise or mention human health as an aspect of the disaster and the company’s response.
In the face of ongoing suffering and BP’s fraudulent spin, many Gulf residents have banded together and are rising to demand a more authentic response and restoration of the their communities, cultures and environment. Yesterday, on the Gulf Coast, a group staged a sit-in style occupation inside the main entrance to BP’s Houston headquarters, with six arrests. “BP must stop lying and pay what they owe. The oil and gas industry must be held accountable for their ongoing damage to the Gulf, and ultimately we must work towards a just transition to a more sustainable clean energy economy” said Cherri Foytlins, a Louisiana mother who was arrested.
“BP has clearly demonstrated a desire to stick to its historical pattern of putting revenues before safety. As profits were announced at over $12 billion dollars, BP’s board of directors point blank failed to address concerns for the rights and wellbeing of communities affected by its extreme energy projects” said Daniel Balla of CoResist. “This is why we are standing in solidarity with Gulf Coast communities, First Nations in Canada, and other people affected by BP’s reckless scramble for profits.”
The AGM was littered with questions of human rights abuses including the accusation from communities in Columbia that the company colluded with paramilitary forces to violently suppress local people who criticised their extraction activities during the years that they operated there.
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Derrick Christopher Evans – is one of the Gulf Coast’s most articulate and incisive authorities on the coastal recovery process as it affects low-income and minority communities. He is a founding advisor of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health, Bridge the Gulf and The Executive Director of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives (TCCI). As a sixth-generation native of Turkey Creek — a Mississippi Gulf Coast community settled by his freed African-American ancestors in 1866 — Mr. Evans has worked to combat a litany of mounting threats to environmental quality, cultural continuity, and community survival both locally and regionally, from hurricanes Katrina and Rita to BP’s oil disaster. He has been involved with community organising in the midst of crisis for years and continues to do so as he works to conserve, restore and utilize for education and other socially beneficial purposes the diminishing cultural and ecological resources within the gulf coast region