Inside Story America

The ‘mess’ that oil made

We discuss the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico cleanup and how the US government remains divided over Keystone XL.

Kidney damage, liver damage, and memory loss are just some of the health effects being reported by many who worked on the BP oil spill cleanup. 

BP essentially mounted a cover-up, they made that oil spill disappear, at least from the world's television screen.

by Mark Hertsgaard, independent journalist

Time and again, those working to clean up the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill were assured that Corexit, the chemical they were using to disperse the oil, was as safe as “dishwasher soap”.

In a statement issued by BP, the oil company said: “Use of dispersants during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was co-ordinated with and approved by federal agencies including the US Coast Guard and EPA.

“Based on extensive monitoring conducted by BP and the federal agencies, BP is not aware of any data showing worker or public exposures to dispersants that would pose a health or safety concern.”

According to a new report released by the Government Accountability Project, nearly half of workers reported that their employers told them Corexit did not pose a health risk.

And nearly all those interviewed, reported receiving minimal or no protective equipment despite warnings clearly spelled out in the manual provided by Corexit’s manufacturer.

Now three years on, many cleanup workers are reporting serious health problems including seizures, temporary paralysis and memory loss.

So, was the chemical used to disperse the oil more destructive than the oil itself?

To discuss this on Inside Story Americas with presenter Shihab Rattansi, are guests: Marylee Orr, an executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, which worked closely with the Government Accountability Project on their report; Daniel Becnel, an attorney representing plaintiffs against the manufacturer of Corexit; and Mark Hertsgaard, an independent journalist.

We also spoke to one former cleanup worker, Malcom Coco, who is taking part in a lawsuit against BP.

A divided administration

Next we discuss President Barack Obama’s divided administration as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objects to the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL pipeline project – which seeks to bring tar sands oil from Canada to the southern US state of Texas. 


The Keystone XL pipeline is a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.

by Jason Kowalski, policy director of

The EPA lists detailed concerns regarding greenhouse gas emissions and pipeline safety – concluding that the state department’s environmental impact assessment was ‘insufficient.’

The EPA review has identified significant environmental impacts that must be avoided in order to provide adequate protection for the environment.

Corrective measures may require substantial changes to the preferred alternative or consideration of some other project alternative including the no action alternative or a new alternative. EPA intends to work with the lead agency to reduce these impacts.

To discuss this on Inside Story Americas is Jason Kowalski, the policy director of, one of the key environmental groups fighting against the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.