Gulf Oil Crisis: Interview With A Technician

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Adam Miller
We Are Change Minnesota
July 16th, 2010

So what’s a concerned citizen to do? War is breaking out world wide lead by the nation I call home, global warming is fixin’ to wipe human life off the face of the earth (so we’re told), overpopulation runs rampant and is a threat to civilized existence (so we’re told), and right now, as I write this, there is a giant hole at the bottom of the friggin’ Gulf of Mexico spewing a gazillion barrels of oil and toxic fumes into the ecosystem! As if that’s not enough, all of this is taking place during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression!

Oil burns during a controlled fire May 6, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. (Source: Justin E. Stumberg/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

How do I know this? Certainly not as a result of the journalistic endeavors of the American mainstream media! Lips have been tight regarding the full extent of the threat from the gusher in the gulf, and I can’t make hide nor hair out of what the big dogs in journalism refer to as a “Jobless Recovery” as it relates to this economy.

So what does a concerned citizen do? When I met Michael Milchak of Hobart, Indiana, and learned that he was a process instrument technician and a union representative for machinists and electricians working for Amoco in the gulf region before, during and after the merger of BP with Amoco in 1998, I couldn’t resist an interview request! After all, what else do we do here at We Are Change but take initiative? We don’t piss and moan about the sorry state of affairs in this world, we do something about it! You don’t like the job the mainstream media is doing? Go become the media! And so I did. It’s not every day you run into someone who has a perspective from inside the industry. So I created 10 questions to ask him about the BP Oil Gusher.

The following is unedited dialogue from a regular guy, briefly interrupted only by my commentary where it’s needed. All too often John Q. Public feels they need to get their news from a Harvard graduate in a 3-piece suit! That ends today. You want to get the truth? You got to get into the trenches with someone who has spent time with the companies at the heart of this environmental and economic disaster known as the BP Gulf Oil Spill of 2010.


Adam: Alright Michael I appreciate you giving me your time, it is 5:15 pm CST, July 13, 2010. 10 Questions about the BP Disaster: Number one, just before Amoco and BP merged in 1998, I understand that you (Mike Milchak) were a process instrument technician and a union representative for machinists and electricians working for Amoco.

Tell me about this position and how your perspective of this disaster is unique as a result?

Michael: Well, we were taken over by British Petroleum roughly in ‘98, and their whole philosophy is—as to how they conducted their maintenance—we were quite proud of our safety record there within the refinery and within the industry, and BP didn’t seem to have the same regard for safety. They were gamblers. Many cases what they would do is if we had a product stream that wasn’t making money for them at the time, they’d shut it down. We often had different repair projects going on some of these streams, and when BP stepped in and took over the management side they laid off some of the older maintenance managers and some of the older maintenance employees. So, continuity of the job meant that people following up behind at a later date when they wanted to run these different product streams… often if not you might… have a high potential for an accident or maybe even a fire. And sure enough, later on this did happen. So what I think is significant, it seems like BP is pretty much following their same course of operation: as that if it’s not making money for them or if they can do it a little cheaper or quicker, they’ll cut corners and they continue to cut corners. And, I don’t think they’re really, really gonna change anything. I think they will continue to still cut corners because basically I don’t see where they uh, they been really reprimanded one way or the other. That’s even in light of the 20 billion dollars that they supposedly had put up… you know, for the clean up. If you look real close… a lot of the companies that they own, subsidiaries… uh, like *I believe Nalco Chemicals is one of them, making that dispersant (Corexit)… It’s more or less money flowing out of one pocket, into another pocket.

The crew of a Basler BT-67 fixed wing aircraft releases oil dispersant over parts of the oil spill off the shore of Louisiana in this May 5, 2010 photograph. (Source: Reuters / Stephen Lehmann /U.S. Coast Guard)

Adam: In a recent poll conducted by, 88.4% of those polled, do not believe the Oil Gusher will be contained by the end of summer, this is interesting in light of the fact that they just tried this new cap strategy. In fact, Dan Pickering of Houston – based oil and gas investment bank Holt & Co. thinks Christmas is a likely target. Some have claimed it may be as many as 2 years before the gusher is contained.

Do you agree with this assessment, and please explain your position either way?

Michael: Well, for one thing I’m not a Geologist. I would say that they got in a little bit over their heads when they tried to bring that well in, the way they did. I think they will continue to have problems. We will not get a reliable report because basically all the media reporting is more or less controlled by BP now. And I don’t think we’ll really get a good, true… assessment of their progress there. So, I look at it quite questionably. Um… no, I don’t think they will be able to get it done… in the length of time that they’ve stated. I think it may well cause other problems on down the line. I see this as a continuing problem.

Adam: You mentioned the main stream media, or the media in general and their reporting being controlled. There has been much documentation of the environmental consequences of this oil spill via the mainstream media. In deed the impact on wildlife will be severe. The impact on human health, however, seems to receive little coverage by comparison.

One website reports that Benzene, a highly carcinogenic gas that can cause death if inhaled at high enough concentrations, has been detected at 3,000 parts per billion (ppb). This article goes on to claim, “The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a maximum workplace exposure limit of 1 part of benzene per million parts of air during an 8 hour workday.”

Assuming this is true, what impact do you feel this will have on the health of residents living in the gulf region and why?

Michael: Well, I think… the biggest problem is going to happen as we start to have storms, um, the storm season down there, with a lot of this material will be washed up on the shore and then have a chance to get in the air. Yes, I think there’s gonna be a significant problem… as far as exposure to Benzene, you know, up and down that coast… particularly the younger people, ah, children and older people I think will probably be more at risk and ah… y’know these levels will be elevated here again with the temperature and the prevailing winds during the hurricane season moving, you know, inward.

Adam: Yahoo News recently reported, “The federal judge who overturned Barack Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium reported owning stock in numerous companies involved in the offshore oil industry — including Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to BP prior to its April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico — according to 2008 financial disclosure reports.” The same article also claims, “U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman issued a preliminary injunction a short time ago barring the enforcement of the president’s proposed six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, arguing that the ban is too broad.” In your opinion, do you believe this disaster could have been prevented by drilling closer to shore or perhaps by a ban on drilling all together?

Michael: Well, I would say drilling closer to shore probably is a better way of more or less insulating against these types of problems; the extreme pressure, plus you have more media built up around your well point as protection. Do I think that it’s possible to drill (at aforementioned depth)? Well, I’d say there that, there would have to be certain assurances / safeties in place before that should ever be allowed. But, ah, here again… I’m not a Geologist and I’m not an Engineer (laughter).

Adam: The ramifications for the economies in the gulf region are unfathomable at this point. In 1990, according to one website, “Congress adopted the Oil Pollution Act. This act set liability limitations to $75 million for oil spills like the one we are witnessing in the Gulf Coast today.”

What impact do you think such legislation will have on these already fragile economies, and do you feel such legislation may lead to a lowering or neglect of safety standards and procedures?

Michael: Well I think it’s gonna have a major, major impact on these economies from the standpoint that you know you’re more or less limiting the liability of these companies that are operating these rigs off shore, and the damage that has been done because of this is almost innumerable. But it gets even worse than that as time goes on when you factor in the health ramifications that this accident imports. It is ludicrous, as far as I’m concerned, to set a limit on a company’s liability for an accident like this. BP was assessed 20 billion dollars, you know, as a starting point. But as time goes on, and as the real damages come in, President Obama is pushing—trying to get that Cap and Trade tax and that’s nothing more than a Green Tax, but it’s going to go on the backs of the American people! And that, that’s crazy. I mean these people have been devastated down there (gulf coast). Now, he wants to either pursue a Cap and Trade that’s going to further damage, you know, Americans, rather than the company that brought this whole problem on. Because they wanted to get at that oil as cheaply as possible within a certain time frame.

Adam: It has been reported that Goldman Sachs, the controversial investment house at the center of the financial collapse scandal sold $250 million of BP stock just before the spill in the gulf. It has also been reported that Peter Sutherland, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs, was until last year a chairman of BP. Also, The Telegraph reports that BP CEO Tony Hayward sold about 1/3 of his shares in the company just weeks before the disaster was reported.
In light of this, and the fact that Bloomberg has reported that BP was battling this leak as early as February, how likely to you think it is that BP executives had foreknowledge of this disaster?

Michael: I’d say they had foreknowledge way in advance of this disaster in the potential that it imported just by the action of what they did to more or less protect themselves—their financial position that is. Here again this is something that is, by the regular press (main stream media) is, glossed over or ignored entirely and never really brought to the forefront. And, a number of these individuals that hold these positions also have held positions with Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions and whatnot. They travel in the same circles.

Adam: There are those who have attempted to assign political blame for this disaster to the Obama Administration. As one source illustrates; the Reagan Administration signed legislation that banned drilling along the gulf coast, which can be argued is far safer drilling due to the shallow depths of the water, we touched on that earlier. Clinton’s administration later played a crucial role in the energy industry—gaining legal access to deep water drilling and exploration without regard for the inherent dangers.

In your opinion, who or what entity should suffer the political fallout of this tragedy?

A man holds a plastic bag with seawater and oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill south of Freemason Island, Louisiana May 7, 2010. (Source: Reuters / Carlos Barria)

Michael: I think, all, both parties… should share some of the blame on this. Not just Obama, although it… he took quite a bit of money, ah, politically, you know, in his campaign to become president, from BP. As far as drilling in… different places, I think even the Bush Administration and assigning… government properties to be drilled on up in the North slope, (Alaska) um… is another area of some concern, although the companies involved there have the better, a better track record, than BP.

Adam: It has been reported that the BP well could be spewing anywhere from 2.52 million to 4.2 million gallons of oil into the gulf a day. Meanwhile, another Gulf of Mexico spill that has been leaking for over 5 weeks, a spill in Alaska that began in early May and one more in Nigeria on land described as “dwarfing” the BP disaster are continuing largely unreported by the mainstream media.

Why do you suppose that is?

Michael: (Chuckles) Well they want the emphasis to be primarily down in that gulf right now. You don’t take a perfectly good disaster and not try to exploit it one way or another.

Adam: I guess it’s like Rahm Emmanuel is quoted as saying, “One should never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Michael: Certainly not. Yeah. And, and granted as of late, this has taken a back seat to other news of, you know, like Lebron James and his move to Florida to the Miami Heat. Most Americans probably should be watching this story even more closely in that it may have more consequences than they realize. For one thing if those Benzene levels do get high enough, they may have to pull people back from along the coast there. And like I explained to you earlier, over 40% of your refining capacity is there in Texas and Louisiana. So, you could see gasoline prices rise significantly. Summer time is the time when most of these refineries are building new inventories for the rest of the year. Plus, all your oil—crude oil—is offloaded down there in the Gulf of Mexico to be fed into pipelines that travel all across this country. So, there is significant impact from this disaster down there.

Adam: The fact that BP has spent billions on controlling news and information about the oil spill is well documented. Recently, however, it has been reported that both BP and the US Coast Guard have been blocking the media from not just public beaches but even more recently from aerial coverage as well.

Under common law, all public lands are free to be traversed by all men and no authority other than God can deprive them of this right. That the US government would attempt to do so is of no surprise. What is surprising is the authority that BP is exercising in this region to stifle proper journalism. In your opinion, who is in control (BP, Feds or some other entity) and what does this mean for the common American citizen?

Michael: Well, it means that (chuckle)… it means that corporations seem to be above the law that common men have to operate under, and that the American Constitution is not being enforced and we have only our politicians to look at for this—both Republicans and Democrats. And I think it’s time that maybe we start reminding those politicians when we go to the polls, and vote out the incumbents and get somebody in there that represents the people, and the Constitution, and not this corporate world government that they seem to be trying to impose upon us.

Adam: Thanks again for your time Michael, my final question is; in what way have you been personally impacted by the BP Oil Spill of 2010?

Michael: (Long pause) Probably the most significant way that I’ve been impacted… myself and most Americans… I’m 61 years old… I’ve got two grandchildren. And I wonder just… what does America hold for them in the future? We seem to be moving towards a corporate world government… where we have no input and no say. Where financially we’re being robbed on a daily basis. By the same politicians that we put in there and by these off shore bankers. This is not the America of our forefathers. This is not the America that we fought Great Britain over (chuckles) in two wars in ’76 and 1812. And I really think and hope and pray that the Americans will finally come awake and come to realize that the greatest part of their problems, the reason why they’re unemployed, and the reason why things aren’t going so well for them in their lives is directly responsible to them not taking part, and participating in government and being a little bit more demanding of these politicians, and holding them accountable.

(Adam): I’m not sure as to the voracity of all of Michael’s statements. What you have just read are the opinions of one amongst 6.5 billion people. This man who had honestly and courageously addressed all of my questions without concern for what the potential blowback of such an interview could do to his safety or future, had one last thing to add.

Michael: I did have a couple of things I wanted to let you to know. This has to do with that take over, that BP took over Amoco Oil in ’98. One thing a lot of the public aren’t aware of, or don’t have any idea… but a significant part of the NASA solar technology that was developed for our space program was bought up by Amoco Oil and Atlantic Richfield. A lot of solar technology, and a lot of the patents and everything was bought by these two corporations. These are the same two corporations that were bought up by British Petroleum who also bought up all the solar technology that Europe had developed. So here again, as we move into the future you can see that these companies are still positioning themselves to where they will be taking the greatest advantage… and that’s about all I have to say.


At the time of this interview, the new cap that was placed over the broken well in the Gulf had only just been applied. Also, the 20 billion dollar plan was only recently reported and there is debate as to whether or not it is even being distributed or if it ever will.

There is no evidence that I have found to date that links Nalco Chemicals, the creators of Corexit dispersant, to any company other than Exxon Mobile in the energy business. Take from this material what you will.


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