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The News Line: Feature Tar Sands Regions and Gulf Coast communities lobby BP AGM
Tar Sands campaign leader Clayton Thomas-Muller addressing a press conference outside the BP AGM yesterday morning
REPRESENTATIVES of devastated communities from Gulf Coast and Tar Sands regions confronted the BP Board yesterday morning at their AGM over their failure to address environmental and social damage

They held a press conference at 10.30am at the base of steps on the concourse outside the Excel Centre, London.

The AGM began at 11.30am.

Delegates representing communities along the US Gulf Coast – where the effects of BP’s 2010 oil drilling disaster continue to devastate coastal ecosystems, local livelihoods and residents’ health – attempted to gain entry to BP’s London AGM.

Last year, they were prevented from entering by security, despite having valid proxy cards and having travelled thousands of miles to question the Board in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

They will be joined by an Indigenous advocate from Canada, who will be challenging BP over its recent decision to go into the highly destructive and dangerous tar sands industry, despite having one of the worst safety records in the sector

Bryan Parras, from Houston, said: ‘Last year, I was prevented from entering the BP AGM. This year, I will be attempting to deliver an even stronger message to the Board: “You claim that the spill has been cleaned up. This isn’t true.” Oil is still impacting our communities, causing sickness, and triggering a collapse in fish stocks and local livelihoods.

‘Many face overwhelming medical bills from illnesses associated with the spill and clean-up.

‘To add insult to injury, local communities must bear the burden of proof that the 200 million gallons of oil and 2 million gallons of chemical dispersant released into the Gulf has caused lasting and detrimental effects, even though the most basic common sense would suggest exposure to raw crude oil and corexit is bad for ecosystems and people’s health. It’s important that people hear the truth.’

Derrick Evans, from Gulfport Mississippi, said: ‘The story BP is trying to sell to the media is that the causes and consequences of the spill have been effectively addressed and the company has moved on.

‘We want shareholders and the Board to know that what we are seeing on the ground is very different.

‘We are seeing oil surface in areas deemed ‘clean’ by BP, while tarballs filled with dangerous bacteria continue to wash ashore.

‘We are finding record numbers of dead dolphins and a whole host of other dead animals along the Gulf Coast.

‘Stress due to loss of livelihood and uncertainty is exacting heavy tolls upon communities, and people are sick from toxic exposure.

Despite this, BP is already developing new deepwater wells, including some in the Gulf of Mexico. If this type of risky drilling practice is allowed to continue then it’s only a matter of time before there’s another disaster.’

Clayton Thomas-Muller, from the Indigenous Environmental Network, said: ‘BP has chosen to develop extraction projects in the tar sands.

‘But not only are the tar sands highly environmentally destructive and polluting, they are an increasingly risky investment.

‘The European Union is in the process of passing legislation that will strongly discourage the import of tar sands oil, the Beaver Lake Cree and other First Nations are mounting legal challenges that could derail planned extraction projects, and pipelines necessary for the industry’s expansion are meeting overwhelming opposition.

‘It’s important BP’s shareholders understand how shaky the business case for the tar sands really is.’

Their attendance at the AGM is being co-ordinated and supported by the UK Tar Sands Network, who will also organise a protest and press conference outside the meeting.

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 organizing 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.

Bryan Parras is one of the Gulf Coast’s most dynamic activists fighting for social and environmental justice issues up and down the I-10 corridor, which spans the continental United States.

Parras is the Media/Youth Empowerment Coordinator of TEJAS (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services), an advisor for the Gulf Coast Fund, and a regular contributor to Bridge the Gulf.

Growing up in a fence line community, on the east side of Houston, near one of largest concentrated areas of petrochemical plants in the Gulf South, Parras has been deeply involved with organizing marginalized communities to confront environmental racism in the sacrifice zones of Houston and the greater Gulf Coast region.

Currently, he is working in a number of areas. He is raising awareness around the potential harms and environmental effects of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline; he is mobilizing communities against port expansions within Houston and in other port cities along the Gulf; and he is reaching out to communities that have been greatly affected by the BP oil disaster along the Gulf Coast as an outreach coordinator for the Gulf Study.

Through this work he is witnessing the stress the disaster has created for communities as they struggle to survive and fight to maintain a way of life that has lasted for generations.

Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation also known as Pukatawagan in Northern Manitoba, Canada, is an activist for Indigenous rights and environmental justice.

Clayton began his work as a community organizer, working with Aboriginal youth. Over the years Clayton says his work has taken him ‘to five continents across our Mother Earth’.

Based out of Ottawa, Canada, Clayton is involved in many initiatives to support the building of an inclusive movement for energy and climate justice.

He serves on the board of the Global Justice Ecology Project, Canadian based Raven Trust and Navajo Nation based Black Mesa Water Coalition.
 
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