Oil Spills: Good for Everyone, Really!

CREDIT: AP Photo/Bill Haber

CREDIT: AP Photo/Bill Haber.

No one is going to be surprised by the duplicity of oil companies, or their constant attempt at spin. This time, though, they’ve not only taken the cake, they’ve tried to walk off with the whole party, too. Their new line is that oil spills are really good, for everyone. They stimulate the economy, they make jobs, and they help wildlife, oh my yes!

For the past few weeks, the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) has been holding hearings on the matter of a proposed oil-by-rail terminal that could be built in Vancouver, Washington. If approved, it would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country, handling some 360,000 barrels of crude oil, shipped by train, every single day. It would also greatly increase the number of oil trains that pass through Washington, adding a total of 155 trains, per week, to the state’s railroads.


But according to witnesses that testified before the EFSEC on behalf of Vancouver Energy — the joint venture between Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. and the entity behind the Tesoro-Savage terminal proposal — oil spills might not actually be that bad for the environment.

“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement identifies many economic impacts arising from an accident associated with Project operations, but fails to recognize economic activity that would be generated by spill response,” Todd Schatzki, vice president of Analysis Group — a consulting group that released an economic report on the terminal commissioned by Tesoro Savage — wrote in pre-filed testimony. “When a spill occurs, new economic activity occurs to clean-up contaminated areas, remediate affected properties, and supply equipment for cleanup activities. Anecdotal evidence from recent spills suggests that such activity can be potentially large.”

Schatzki’s pre-filed testimony also includes references to both the Santa Barbara and BP oil spills’ role as job creating events. He notes that the Santa Barbara oil spill created some 700 temporary jobs to help with cleanup, while the BP spill created short term jobs for 25,000 workers. Schatzki does not mention that BP has paid individuals and businesses more than $10 billion to make up for economic losses caused by the spill. Nor does he mention that California’s Economic Forecast Director predicted that the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill would cost the county 155 jobs and $74 million in economic activity.

For the Columbia River region, the impacts of an oil spill could be equally economically devastating — a report from the Washington Attorney General’s office found that an oil spill could cost more than $170 million in environmental damages.


In testimony given on July 7, another Tesoro-Savage-associated witness, Gregory Challenger, argued that oil spills could actually have benefits for fish and wildlife. Challenger, who worked with Vancouver Energy to analyze potential impacts and responses in the event of a worst-case discharge at the facility and along the rail line, told the committee that when oil spills cause the closure of certain fisheries or hunting seasons, it’s the animals that benefit.

“An oil spill is not a good thing. A fishery closure is a good thing. If you don’t kill half a million fish and they all swim upstream and spawn, that’s more fish than were estimated affected as adults,” Challenger said during his testimony. “The responsible party is not going to get credit for that, by the way.”

To prove his point, Challenger cited National Marine Fisheries Service data that showed that 2011, the year after the BP oil spill, had been a record year for seafood catch in the Gulf of Mexico. And while that’s true, Shiva Polefka, policy analyst for the Center for American Progress’s Ocean Policy program, cautioned against trying to make sweeping statements for how all ecosystems would respond to an oil spill. Following the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, researchers discovered that crude oil had soaked into the rocky beaches near the spill site, emitting toxic compounds for years that had long-term adverse impacts on salmon and herring populations.

“Does cutting fishing effort benefit fish? Absolutely,” Polefka said. “Enough to mitigate the horrible effects of large oil spills in every case? Absolutely not.”

During his testimony, Challenger also brought up the Athos 1 oil spill, which sent 264,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River in 2004. The spill, Challenger said, took place during duck hunting season, and forced an early closure for recreational hunting in the area.

“There were an estimate of 3,000 birds affected by the oil, and 13,000 birds not shot by hunters not shot by hunters, because of the closed season,” he said. “We don’t get any credit for that, but it’s hard to deny that it’s good for birds to not be shot.”

According to NOAA, seabirds are especially vulnerable to oil spills, because of the way that oil affects their usually-waterproof feathers — when those feathers become matted with oil, a seabird loses its ability to regulate its temperature. Often, it will try to preen itself to remove the oil, which only forces the oil into its internal organs, causing problems like diarrhea, kidney and liver damage, and anemia. Oil can also enter into a seabird’s lungs, leading to respiratory problems.

The full story is at Think Progress. So, there we have it. Oil spills are great! Why, they help everyone. This is such blatant bullshit, I’m rather stunned they are even trying this ploy.


  1. w00dview says

    I have heard the ridiculous excuse for economic “benefits” oil spills supposedly produce before but now apparently oil is wildlife’s best friend as well? The sheer chutzpah on these fuckers is incredible and then they act indignant because they have not got the credit for conservation that they feel they deserve? This really illustrates the lack of long term thinking in corporate culture quite beautifully. Sure fish and birds may not be decimated by guns, nets and fishing rods but the effect that the oil will have on their immediate environment could cause cumulative damage to their population in the long term. What good is it that fish have returned to their spawning grounds in record numbers if said grounds are contaminated with oil which could have god knows what effect on them and their progeny in the years to come?

  2. says


    The sheer chutzpah on these fuckers is incredible and then they act indignant because they have not got the credit for conservation that they feel they deserve?

    Yeah, I was stunned. “Oh, we’re stopping hunters! Oil is better than a bullet!” Fuck. There are times all I can do is gawp at the sheer gall of these assholes.

  3. w00dview says


    There are times all I can do is gawp at the sheer gall of these assholes.

    I know what you mean, I certainly was doing that when I read this post! Don’t know how these people sleep at night honestly.

  4. Kengi says

    Why are oil companies allowed to deliver any oil at all to a destination? All of it should be required to be spilled along every route by law. The economy would be fixed and all endangered species would be brought back to full populations.

    I can’t believe fixing the economy and the environment is so easy! Thank you big oil!

    Why can’t we get an oil spill where I live? Some locations just have all the luck…

  5. Kengi says

    Is it too late to make changes to the GOP platform? I think the education platform should now call for crude oil slip-and-slides and cigarette machines for every school.

  6. naturalcynic says

    These assholes are the descendants of tobacco apologists, so I’m not surprised at their thinking. After all, if you kill off smokers early, that won’t make as much of a problem in maintaining Social Security for non-smokers.

  7. Siobhan says

    Isn’t “because it’s good for the economy” one of the spaces on Conservative bingo?

  8. says

    Shiv @ 8:

    Isn’t “because it’s good for the economy” one of the spaces on Conservative bingo?

    I think it’s more “this will be good for packing my pockets with money, er, the economy!”

  9. Menyambal says

    When I worked for a national park, some corporation wanted to drill exploratory wells in the woods around it. They claimed that the clearings for the well rigs would be good for the forest and wildlife -- more sunlight getting in. They also claimed that the wells were just for research, and there wouldn’t have to be extraction wells.

    There would be no need to extract the oil, because they could just sue the government for blocking them, and get more money that way. And then later extract the oil.

    Fortunately, the locals remembered the last corporation that came to the woods. That one was logging off all the old growth forest, all except one patch of the best trees that they claimed to be conserving. After getting all the other trees, and all kinds of credit for their conservation efforts, and a nice place for their headquarters building, they timbered those trees onto the last logging truck, and left the stumps as a reminder not to trust a corporation.

  10. cubist says

    “So oil spills are just great for the environment, Mr. ExxonExecutive? And they even have economic benefits for the areas in which they occur? Wonderful! How soon can you spill a couple million gallons of oil in the neighborhoodyou live in? I mean, oil spills are so great, surely you’d want your neighbors to receive all those benefits, wouldn’t you?”

  11. thebookofdave says

    If closing off public lands and fisheries is inherently good, why do we need to manufacture an excuse to do it? We can have both increased wildlife populations and less environmental damage, and the taxpayer won’t be at risk for a dime of cleanup costs.

  12. rq says

    Well, this just proves that bombing a city is GREAT for the economy. Think of all the jobs rebuilding the infrastructure! Buildings! Laying pipe! Paving streets! How about making more of that bombing local? … No? Why not?

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