Friday, June 11, 2010

What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

Calhouns Can(n)ons for June 11, 2010

When I first heard about the Gulf oil spill I was concerned, then alarmed. But after a while, the media started bombarding us with stories about all the Lessons We Have Learned since the blowout started. So I figured I’d better pay close attention in case I needed to learn something new and important.

We were told the only real fail-safe way to shut this well-head down was to drill a second relief well, which will take months. But then, we already learned that lesson some 30 years ago when the Xxtoc exploratory well blew and spewed about 420,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf until it could be capped months later. After that disaster a few countries (but, clearly, not America) learned the lesson and required all offshore deep wells to have a relief well drilled simultaneously with the main well. That way if something goes wrong at the head, relief is just a valve-turn away. But America decided years ago that that lesson wasn’t important and could be ignored.

Then we were told that we shouldn’t worry, that the President had his “boot on the neck of BP” and would make sure they paid for everything and made all the communities damaged by this spill “whole again.” Of course, we were given that lesson way back 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska and spilled 10.9 million gallons of crude all over the place.

Claiming that they would make Alaskan waters “whole,” Exxon’s lawyers really just fought that case in court for years and years while sympathetic judges kept cutting the awards down to slivers and by the time the real lesson was on display – privatize all profits, get Congress to “cap” liabilities and then stick as many of those liabilities as possible onto the taxpayer, and count on dragged-out litigation to whittle judgments and fines down to pennies on the dollar – Americans had forgotten the original incident and it’s final outcome. So, that lesson was an old one and had already been dismissed.

Pretty soon, as the present spill continued to roll on unabated, we were told that one key lesson we were learning here was that BP had a long slipshod record of repeated disasters, from the Alaska pipeline leaks to explosions in refineries, all caused by what EPA special agent Scott West called “ . . . a corporate philosophy that it was cheaper to operate to failure and then deal with the problem later rather than do preventive maintenance.” This record was loaded with lessons available for learning over the years, but, once again, the American public, Congress, and government agencies headed by ex-oilmen and Presidential cronies didn’t think they were useful lessons and so BP ended up with lots of drilling contracts and is now one of the biggest suppliers to the Pentagon to fuel its various wars. No new lessons there.

As Newsweek reported, in 2006 the EPA and the Justice Department decided to briefly learn a lesson from the “two massive BP oil leaks in Alaska caused by corroded pipelines,” and when they proceeded to try to take corrective action – which is what “learning lessons” should be all about – they were told to shut their case down, take a quick, cheap plea and just continue business as usual. When Jeanne Pascal, a lawyer in the EPA’s Seattle office, pushed for BP’s debarment from government contracts, she learned a valuable lesson: “When a major economic and political giant . . . tells you it has direct access to the White House, it’s very intimidating.”

But heck, that lesson is an old one that the American people didn’t think was worth learning in the first place. They’re fine with not understanding that when government is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Oil Industry, the oil industry will simply do what they like and the American people will cover all costs and suffer all the damages. Hiding oil’s true cost so they can continue to see fake “cheap” prices at the pump is just fine with Americans.

Which means all our present media hype about “learning lessons” from this spill is just more hokum. Americans know all the lessons and have dismissed them all. This present spill will be no different. Congress will make a political dumb-show of faux gruffness, the courts will stick it to a few low-level officials, and BP will count on careful PR and -- thanks to Justice Robert’s Supreme Court -- unlimited corporate political contributions to erase everything from our collective memory in only a few months. Then it’s back to business as usual. No need for corrective rules and profit-reducing regulations; let the market take care of itself.

And for BP, that means about $17 billion in profits a year. So that’s a huge relief! Now we can stop watching news that’s filled with boring “lessons” that we have no intention of learning, pictures of dead pelicans, and interviews with whiny fishermen – boo-hoo, waah-waah -- and can once again relax and go back to watching our favorite TV show: “America: The Biggest Loser.”


Sewertoons said...

It's over - we got the LCP 1:51 p.m..

Sewertoons said...

I forgot to add -- now the lawsuits which will delay and add cost to the project will begin.

M said...

I just read the breaking news on the terrible Tribune. My heart stopped for a minute. F. This is it. This is a sad day for Los Osos. So many ways this could have been done better. So many alternatives that could have been implemented long ago to ease what now will be done. And all put on the back of the Prohibition Zone owners. My Mother and Father-in-law are in their 80's and if I were to imagine them in the same position many residents of this are in, they would be devastated. Living somewhere for nearly you're entire adult life and then being faced with this situation. The most expensive sewer system possible. Disgusting. So many alternative things could be done and achieve better results.
Frankly, I find Richard's repeated statements of figure out how to pony up or get out about as insensitive as you can get. That's what i'll say in print. I'm thinking alot worse thoughts about it. Especially since he is not part of the "we" he keeps mentioning.
Sincerely, M

Richard LeGros said...


I am very sympathic to the costs about to be borne by the PZ property owner (including you). In fact, I have already donated money to the Low Income Assistance Trust Fund to help folks pay to stay. I intend to donate more.

How about you, M....are you going to help your neighbors?

Sewertoons said...

M, what would your out-of-pocket costs been if Step was chosen? Are you OK giving up a chunk of your property to the County?

M said...

The property I would would have to give up is pretty much useless anyway. It's not like you can have a structure on it. I don't think it is the nightmare you paint. Remember all the plants will grow back.
Since someone has apparently offered to give a guaranteed price for cheaper than what is proposed, I certainly need to give it some consideration.
Richard, since your gains seem to come easily for you, after all, you were in a bankruptcy case recently and now you live up in Cabrillo Estates I encourage you to give until it hurts. For myself, my help to my neighbor goes without fanfare.
Sincerely, M

Mike said...

...bottom line... Los Osos is going to have gravity sewer pipes in our streets...!!!!

Next up, what property will the WWTF land on and how much will that property cost...??? Don't we still own a couple parcels in Los Osos that already are paid for and have been zoned for a WWTF...????

Sewertoons said...

You are not allowed trees or shrubs - things with appreciable roots over septic tanks. Walkways, fences, are only part of the items that would need replacing. For many it would be electrical costs as well - I know that we have no empty slots in our electrical box, and a sub-panel is pretty expensive. Any "do-it-yourself" wiring would be discovered and replaced. Remember - these are out-of-pocket costs, not a few dollars more tacked onto the project cost. Would having a septic tank that needs pumping and inspections every 5 years add to a home's value? Would it really make the project cheaper?

I noticed on Ripley's proposal on the addendum on the CCC report that his $50 million less was for rehabbing existing septic tanks. What happened to his statement that 95% of the tanks needed replacing in 2001 or whenever it was? -- And what about the fact that many tanks are undersized and need replacing (should there be an emergency so you don't have back-up into the house)?

Alon Perlman said...

Word verification humm un
Shame really, Very good writing by Ann and the corporate Oil machine.
Toons, the reversal from 95% is interesting. didn't read it but I posted to Steve Paige 's blog several months ago some of the parameters needed to lower that value.
5 year pumping would not had been necessary. Inspection, yes.

STEP was not selected by the County. That was not the project before the Coastal Commission

M said...

A story I just read on this has the total cost @ 181.6 million. 166 million funded by federal funds and other sources for the sewer and 15.6 million funded by property owners for individual hookups. Funded almost sounds like "payed for by". No. Divided by 4500 that is $36,888. Didn't we agree to $25,000 on the assesment vote? 15.6 million divided by 4500 is $3,466. So much for being able to afford any landscape or restoration for my hookup. What if I need a pump? What if after all this Sewertoons if I need a pump? I might as well have step/steg.
The peculiar thing and one of the sad footnotes of this saga is that Lisa and Julie are pretty much blamed for the entire Los Osos sewer saga. Meanwhile, Pandora and her husband still receive praising Letters to the Editor commenting on their value to the community. Unbelievable.
Alon, this blog site is nothing more than a place to leave your comments. There are no rules as to staying on topic. It is not a site where one can leave a substantive statement of any value. It has, and obviously will always go un-heeded anyway. One can propose a cost effective and overall performer to achieve what we need and it will fall on deaf ears as the decision was made long ago. There is no way the one's that have screwed this up from day one are going to own up, so we are going to have to pay dearly for that. So far all i've got from you are ramblings too confusing to understand, or trying to be a moderator in where we should be going with our comments. There is enough regulation in my life such that I don't need another layer with you.
I have have stated in the past enough times what my solution would have been. I can do nothing more than that.
Sincerely, M

Sewertoons said...

It was brought up that to inspect, you might need to pump. I wanted to mention the ongoing costs of STEP too. Many have NEVER pumped and the shock of what it costs these days needs to be noted.

STEP not being, or not going to be, before the County was the threat basis for a class action suit that we heard yesterday. We also know Al's suit was dropped because it wasn't "ripe." I think we just heard the finished, sun-kissed fruit fall off the tree. Let's see what that translates into tomorrow.

M, the 12" trench needed for the hook-up is not an 8' deep mini-van sized hole. I truly hope that you do not need a grinder pump, but the hole for that will be less than for a Step tank. And you won't need to pump.

Alon Perlman said...

I simply stated that is a shame that the Oil Topic will not be addressed here. I then went into the topic of the string. The topic de-Jur. The CCC.

Incidentally the comment about STEP was directed more at toons.
Some of her very specific technical comments about STEP were correct and some weren’t, but I didn’t want to be tempted to correct them, because the subject is MOOT.
In your own words you knew "this was decided long ago". I happened to have spent a lot of time advocating for STEP and other alternatives, and rambling or otherwise, probably made a bigger difference in having those possibilities considered than you have.

So thank you for your support.

I happen to also be Pre-educated, and educated about the process, so I saw the writing on the wall (STEP died 2/3rds through the P.C. Process)
So, I focused on those aspects of the current Project that I thought could be improved. And improved without necessarily delaying it.
No, A blog is not a problem solving forum. You are right in that. If you have a problem with understanding what I write you could simply ask for a clarification. You might actually learn something. And my writing style here is not directed at a regulatory authority.

I may have tuned you out as there are many repeaters, but I would like to hear what your "solution would have been". Not to criticize but simply because I don't remember it.

As for your math, the County already stated that those charges beyond 25K will appear on your monthly bill.

You may want to ask how much more, if a 218 fails to pass. which it will.

I also happen to know that Lisa Isn’t Julie and Julie isn’t Lisa. On any Issue anywhere there is the temptation to “Take Sides” and adopt the consensus view of that position. One can go far by repeating and rephrasing. Ultimately that just creates a filter that does not allow reevaluation or new information to come in (Vacume).

“But heck, that lesson is an old one that the (people of Los Osos) didn’t think was worth learning in the first place. They’re fine with not understanding that when _________ is a wholly owned subsidiary of the __________, the __________ will simply do what they like and the (people of Los Osos) will cover all costs and suffer all the damages. Hiding _________’s true cost so they can continue to see fake “cheap” prices at the __________ is just fine with (people of Los Osos).

Which means all our present media hype about “learning lessons” from this (SEWER) is just more hokum. (people of Los Osos) know all the lessons and have dismissed them all. This present (SEWER) will be no different. “

You could try substituting the obvious connections but there is plenty of blame to go around. Remember that there are many, many more players. The Pandora and Co VS Lisa Julie is a fitering oversimplification. Al and Gail killed STEP by being Al and Gail.
and that too is oversimplified.

Americans still want unrealistically cheap oil.

Oh hi tunes, still "Steppin it"
Don't worry about Al. He will still find a way to Hose, Pump and grind into the pocketbooks of fearfull Los Ossans.

Not2010Yet said...

Well, well, well, another hurtle passed in our nightmare. I'm hoping I can come back to blog for just a moment without being threatened with legal or criminal action nor being viciously berated.
I am, of course, pleased that my tired old phrase of "conventional treatment and collection" appears to have passed again, albeit far away from the sensible location, but I had to give that hope up long ago as to Tri-W. I have other wishes, but it's time to relax and build OR I mean let sensible County heads BUILD a sewer. Kudos to the CCC for ignoring extremist staff they have, extremist but passionate testimony they received, and Advance Kudos to those who filed many past lawsuits whom I just KNOW and TRUST will have the social kindness, maturity and honor to NOT REFILE against this project, and let this thing get going. We can't know if the plant's new neighbors will act in the legal venue, but for goodness' sake, I sure hope us usual resident combatants over this issue will let things go forward without dragging it out again. Julie, et al, if you're listening, I beg this of you on earnestly bended knee.

Sewertoons said...

Not2010Yet, thank you for your rational words. Please also throw out a specific begging to Steve P. - as he threatened the project yesterday with a class action lawsuit. You can find the names who signed on his petition on the CCC's agenda item's addendum. If anyone knows these people, please ask them nicely to consider the rest of us and drop this idea which is doomed to fail anyway.

M said...

Sad to hear of Bruce Buells passing at 60. My condolences to those close to him.
Sincerely, M

Churadogs said...

Toonces sez:"M, the 12" trench needed for the hook-up is not an 8' deep mini-van sized hole. I truly hope that you do not need a grinder pump, but the hole for that will be less than for a Step tank. And you won't need to pump."

Not sure you mean this? i.e. won't need to pump. To decommission the tank after trenching in the new pipe, you have to pump, backfill with gravel, crush the lid and re-cover, all part of the $3,ooo plus or minus estimated to "hook up." Or maybe spend a little more and configure the tank to take rain run off or something, providing that's allowed and or permitted & etc.

Toonces also sez:"was the threat basis for a class action suit that we heard yesterday. We also know Al's suit was dropped because it wasn't "ripe."

The problem with lawsuits not being "ripe" is they often become ripe when it's too late to actually fix a mess or result in creating another mess. So, we'll have to see what turns up in this case. I'm sure there's lots of shoes waiting to drop once the County accepts the project and the assessment bills go out.

Alon sez:"You could try substituting the obvious connections but there is plenty of blame to go around. Remember that there are many, many more players. The Pandora and Co VS Lisa Julie is a fitering oversimplification. Al and Gail killed STEP by being Al and Gail.
and that too is oversimplified."

Very clever and apt to take my oil comments and plug in Los Osos and The Sewer. Alas, all too true. As for "blame," actually, the real problem goes back to early 1980s and the wish of the community/county to get free federal $$ to build a sewer so the town could high-density build out. Fastest way to do that is to make a "finding" as in, eeek, eeek, we're all gonna die from nitrate pollution that we THINK is coming from septics. Let's not do any actual water basin/management studies or plans, let's just draw an arbitrary line on a map (and move it without explanation right before we make it official) and then go get all that nice free federal money (ignoring accurate water studies showing safe yield. Hell, at that time I remember officials apologizing because they didn't even have accurate USGS maps to guestimate at and no decent water studies and no denitrification studies because they'd never been done before (duh?) -- it really was flying by the seat of ones pants.)

Once that "finding" was locked in, Ronald Reagan came along and the federal funding disappeared and the community was stuck with that scientifically indefensible prohibition zone and NO money and no way to back out of this aribitrary line on a map to reconsider other ways to solve the problem or re-look at it as a basin-load WATER problem & etc. It was just all traditional big pipe, treat and dump thinking until, enter Pandora & Co and the rest, as they say is sad history. Ron will no doubt spell out all the interesting wrinkles in his book.

As for Steve P's legal issue. It's an interesting one, that's for sure. But don't know if it's "ripe" yet.

M said...

Richard. If I am going to need a pump for gravity collection would I have already been notified of that had Tri-W continued?
Sincerely, M

Richard LeGros said...



Sewertoons said...

Ann, what I meant by "pump" was once there is no septic tank in use, you no longer need to pump a septic on someone else's schedule. We all know we pump now when we are forced (the 45) or the leach field or tank goes out and stuff daylights or backs up into the house or the house is sold.

Sandra Gore said...

Am I crazy - wasn't your post about BP and the Gulf of Mexico and the government?

Sewertoons said...

Sandra, if you lived in Los Osos or followed Ann's blog over the years (mostly sewer stuff until recently), you would know what happened here. Yes, you are correct, it was…

Churadogs said...

Sandra: Yup. I post a beautiful poem about trees and the comments are about sewers. I post a column about BP and the comments are about sewers. A certain number of Can(n)on readers are addicted to The Sewer Wars and are incapable to thinking about anything else. Some of 'em are like crazed fence-fighting dawgs, blind to anything but the fight. It's often funny, more often just sad.

M said...

In defense of myself Ann, I do have other thoughts. The sewer only comes to the front when one of the you know who's post something that just needs to be countered. You may or may not have noticed that I do not post on any other blogs or comment sections with the rare exception of Ron's. You should feel special. Other than the sewer, you are so far to the left of my way of thinking on most issues, that any dialog would be fruitless. And poetry is way beyond my capabilities. I'm just not that deep I guess.
Sincerely, M

Churadogs said...

M: Poetry way beyond your capabilities? Naw. Don't believe that for a second. Granted, attempting Elliot's "Wasteland" requires some heavy lifting to make sense of it since he's deliberately being obtuse, but Ted Kooser is totally accessible. Ditto Billy Collins. Once you understand that good prose is like fine wine while good poetry is like 100-proof brandy, distilled from that same fine wine -- a concentration, so to speak, that's designed to deliver a swift image/idea right to the brain. Ka-boom, and from there you let it slowly spread out and reverberate and savor every drop. Ahhhhhhhh. Much of poetry is, in an odd, way pre-verbal -- it allows you to juxtapose images and conjur up amazing confluences that enrich the original idea in unique ways. You can do it, M.

Alon Perlman said...

Wowsers, I had been thinking of responding M, and here it is…
Pretty much as I thunk it… laid down by our gracious host.
I’d like to thank Ann. “my Muse”. I did try some poetry as an afterthought and in the form (but not the style) of Slam- poetry. I’ve never gotten as good again, as in my first attempt. But what the heck, we don’t have to quit our day Jobs.
You have revealed yourself to be sensitive-“M’ the mention of Bruce Buell shows that.
And you do have plenty good communication skills. So why not try it. Bill M. and Bev have had Poetry readings and story telling parties. Got to see a side of Chris A.’s dry humor there. What’s the down-side?
At worst some of your friends will laugh at you?
Or heck, pick up a canvas and start throwing paint at it, unless you already do that.
And on that line- We can’t change much of what is going on in the world and in Los Osos, but the one thing we can control, is how we choose to think of our neighbors.

Not that much in the sentiment of the above, but what popped out most recent;

The Bonfire of the Vanities that is Los Osos.
The flames burn so bright.
They make the shadows dance,
but they shed no light.

Alon Perlman said...

Darn I had to go there. That things about a milyonty pages long.

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag— / It’s so elegant / So Intelligent. T.S.

O O O Oh you Liberal arts majors with your dusky obtuse tomes
I pity thee that willful denial to enter grandly through halls of science
Now liberty free to stare chase chiral galactose majesty
Or ponder on the amazing dipolar moment of water.


Alon Perlman said...

Babitche’s Cabbages

On the first step a crate
Room for one cabbage
If you fill it or not
One marks the spot

Second step again,
double value my friend
To be or not to be
by this Mark the Twain

Third step a charm
To trip or not to trip
quadruple the damages
when you pay for it.

Fourth is for freight
and the power of eight
We now have a byte
But no need to fight

Register it in at first
Well, it’s down to a bit
Four bits to a byte
So stop here we might.

Four crates in all
All empty as one
All zeroes are heroes
As all canaries are binaries

Place a cabbage on top
And an eight have you got
Remove it three down
And the one you have found

Add three more cabbages
Fifteen is your count
And who said that “computers can’t write poetry”?