Yellowstone River Oil Spill- Redeux

Well, you may have noticed that I have not said anything about the Yellowstone River Oil Spill since our original entry. Yet, in truth, we have been busily working on the project in-house.  The experience has not been all-together positive; quite the contrary. This entry deals with how the public loses because of bureaucracy; bureaucracy of the corporate breed, not the  governmental red tape I’d expected.

After the oil spill, we contacted Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MT DEQ) for information, they put us in contact with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, who deferred us to ExxonMoble’s contact, who put us in touch with a consultant. We discussed my qualifications and my previous work and he reckoned they could use me and my team for the aquatic insect assessments to describe the impact and the recovery of the Yellowstone ecosystem. He sent me an email about once a week to say, they were still trying to bring us on board. After several weeks, he said I better get an OSHA hazardous materials certification and that there was no way around the requirement if I want to work on the Yellowstone River. Several hundred dollars and 3 working-days later (per trainee), we completed the certification.  I informed the contact that we had completed OSHA training as required and didn’t hear back from him for over a week. He said, sorry, “Sorry don’t think its going to work out.” I wrote him a scathing letter; which he apparently passes along to ARCADIS (Exxon’s Primary firm for everything), the next thing I know, I received an 158-page listing of ExxonMoble’s contracting requirements and several 6-9 page contract specifics and insurance requirements.   Again, these were corporate regulations, not governmental regulations.  I had my insurance agent looking into the extra coverages required and it was apparent that it was going to be very costly to bring our $2-million insurance coverage up to the “required” $9-million; just to collect insects by the riverside.

We were working on finalizing their insurance needs when I recieved the following note (today).

It looks like the clock has run out. We have had to mobilize a small field effort to obtain representative macroinvertebrate samples from the spill area. We needed to get out there before fall influenced the life stages we are sampling. Apologies to you if I was in any way misleading regarding your potential role, but we simply did not comprehend the bureaucratic log jams we ran into. Best of luck in the future.”

Ok. So, I am a little embarrassed by my trusting nature and the way I let the corporate dudes string me along.  And, I have always been critical of critics, even when I am the critic.  It is easy to criticize a process or organization, but unless you offer a viable alternative, it amounts to nothing but whining.  My way of dealing with this is to turn it in to something positive.

I reckon that, in preparation for this project it has cost me time, materials, and training fees, totaling nearly $7,300. Interesting that for just another 3o hours of my staff’s time, vehicle costs, and motel lodging, we can collect the samples in a scientifically relevant way.  Therefore, I am proud to announce that we are initiating the Yellowstone Biological Assessment Project, independently, as a community service. There will be laboratory time as well, but hey, that’s what winter nights are for, right…. (?)

If we do not ante up, and get this done right, there will be lots of paper pushed, but the world will be no closer to understanding the impacts of Exxon’s Oil spill on the Yellowstone River ecosystem. Our survey will not be able to cover everything, but it will provide more information than either the state, or Exxon will gather.

We will be sampling this week.   I’ll keep you posted. Full-speed ahead!

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