FSU News: Where did the missing oil go? New Study says some is sitting on the Gulf floor by Jeff Chanton, Tingting Zhao,et.al.

 

http://news.fsu.edu/More-FSU-News/Where-did-the-missing-oil-go-New-study-says-some-is-sitting-on-the-Gulf-floor

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2015

by Kathleen Haughney  01/29/2015 2:34 pm

Jeff Chanton USF Prof

Jeff Chanton, professor of oceanography at Florida State.  Jeff Chanton, professor of oceanography at Florida State.  After 200 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the government and BP cleanup crews mysteriously had trouble locating all of it.  Now, a new study led by Florida State University Professor of Oceanography Jeff Chanton finds that some 6 million to 10 million gallons are buried in the sediment on the Gulf floor, about 62 miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta.

“This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come,” Chanton said. “Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It’s a conduit for contamination into the food web.”  The article, published in the latest edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology, details how oil caused particles in the Gulf to clump together and sink to the ocean floor.  The researchers used carbon 14, a radioactive isotope as an inverse tracer to determine where oil might have settled on the floor. Oil does not have carbon 14, so sediment that contained oil would immediately stand out.

Chanton then collaborated with Tingting Zhao, associate professor of geography at Florida State, to use geographic information system mapping to create a map of the oiled sediment distribution on the sea floor.  Chanton said in the short term, the oil sinking to the sea floor might have seemed like a good thing because the water was clarified, and the oil was removed from the water. But, in the long term, it’s a problem, he said.  Less oxygen exists on the sea floor relative to the water column, so the oiled particles are more likely to become hypoxic, meaning they experience less oxygen. Once that happens, it becomes much more difficult for bacteria to attack the oil and cause it to decompose, Chanton said.

Chanton’s research is supported by the Florida State University-headquartered Deep-C Consortium as well as the Ecogig consortium, centered at the University of Mississippi. The work was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute created to allocate the money made available to support scientific research by BP.  His previous research examined how methane-derived carbon from the oil spill entered the food web.  In addition to Chanton and Zhao, the other authors are Samantha Bosman of Florida State, Brad E. Rosenheim and David Hollander from University of South Florida and Samantha Joye from University of Georgia. Charlotte Brunner, Kevin Yeager and Arne Diercks of University of Southern Mississippi also contributed.

Gulf Seafood Institute: Gulf Restoration Plan Announced by NOAA

by / Newsroom Ink October 9, 2014

Coast

A Gulf restoration plan has been announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees. Photo: NOAA

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

Map

Phase III Early Restoration Project Locations Map: NOAA

A formal Record of Decision to implement a Gulf restoration plan has been announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which occurred off the shores of Louisiana in 2010.

The goal of the 44 projects, totaling an estimated $627 million, is to restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds along the Florida to Louisiana coastline. The announcement marks the largest number of Gulf restoration projects slated since the spill with the aim to address a range of injuries to natural resources and the loss of recreational use.

“Preserving, protecting, and restoring natural resources is an integral part of our efforts to foster resilience in communities nationwide, including those affected by the Deep Water Horizon oil spill,” said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “These projects reflect an earnest commitment to the Gulf and will enhance the region’s economic, social, and ecological resilience in the future.”

Habitat the Key

Corky5l

According to Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) Mississippi board member Corky Perret, “Habitat is the key, it’s first what you do to an animal’s habitat then what you do to the animals.” Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

According to Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) Mississippi board member Corky Perret, “Habitat is the key, it’s first what you do to an animal’s habitat then what you do to the animals. These restoration projects should create and/or restore habitat vital to our fish and wildlife resources. The Mississippi project is desperately needed, as are any projects stabilizing the barrier islands.”

NOAA, which is directly involved in the implementation of only four of the proposed projects, is supporting an overall Early Restoration plan that includes both ecological and human use projects as outlined in the Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

“Early restoration provides an opportunity to implement restoration projects agreed upon by the trustees and BP prior to the completion of the full natural resource damage assessment and restoration plan,” said Bob Gill, a GSI board member from Florida. “The government has found BP, and other responsible parties, obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of the natural resource injury and lost use caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including the cost of assessing such injury and planning for restoration.”

Twilley

“The investments to rehabilitate the critical coastal habitats of Louisiana begins the long road to a more sustainable delta,” said Louisiana Sea Grant director Robert Twilley (left) touring the Louisiana marshes. Photo: Sea Grant

According to the agency, its largest project will be in Louisiana to fund and execute restoration of beach, dune, and back-barrier marsh habitat on Chenier Ronquille, a barrier island off the state’s coast. The project is one of four barrier islands projects proposed for restoration as part of a $318 million Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration Project to be implemented by NOAA, the U.S. Department of Interior and Louisiana.

“The investments to rehabilitate the critical coastal habitats of Louisiana begins the long road to a more sustainable delta,” said Louisiana Sea Grant director Robert Twilley.

Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and NOAA will also partner to undertake three “living shorelines” projects. These projects involve a blend of restoration technologies used to stabilize shorelines and restore fish and wildlife habitat. The three projects are:

  • Alabama: The $5 million Swift Tract Living Shoreline Project to construct approximately 1.6 miles of breakwaters covered with oyster shell to reduce shoreline erosion, protect salt marsh habitat, and restore ecosystem diversity and productivity in Mobile Bay.
  • Florida: NOAA will partner with the State of Florida on the $11 million Florida Pensacola Bay Living Shoreline Project to restore shoreline at two sites along the Pensacola waterfront. Both proposed sites feature breakwaters that will provide four acres of reef habitat and protect the 18.8 acres of salt marsh habitat.
  • Mississippi: NOAA will partner with the State of Mississippi to improve nearly six miles of shoreline as part of the proposed Hancock County Marsh Living Shoreline Project. The goal of this $50 million project is to reduce shoreline erosion by dampening wave energy and encouraging reestablishment of habitat in the region.

Focus on Wave Attenuation

“I am a little disappointed the NOAA projects focus primarily on wave attenuation,” said Alabama GSI board member Chris Nelson. “Gulf seafood production and processing industries have suffered, and continue to suffer, grievous injury due to the lack of seafood for harvest and distribution to our domestic market.”

Chris Nelson, vice president of  Bon Secour Fisheries who represents Alabama on the board, tries to work a problem to the smallest denominator.   Photo:  Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“I am a little disappointed the NOAA projects focus primarily on wave attenuation,” said Alabama GSI board member Chris Nelson. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Nelson believes the living shorelines are indirect improvements to seafood production capacity through a largely theoretical enhancement to habitat. “What is unknown is what extent the habitat created through living shorelines is in any way comparable to more natural applications like cultch material on bottom for the purpose of growing oysters,” he said.

GSI understands the need for funding the current projects, however the organization feels future funding needs to address such projects as offshore restoration and the creation of fisheries habitat desperately needed by both recreational and commercial fishermen.

The new projects are to be funded through the $1 billion provided to the trustees by BP, as part of the 2011 Framework Agreement on early restoration. Ten early restoration projects already are in various stages of implementation as part of the first two phases of early restoration.

“It’s exciting to see such a comprehensive Gulf coast restoration plan funded with this amount of money move forward,” said GSI Texas board member Jim Gossen. “Let’s hope our decision makers, scientists and brightest minds have carefully studied the situation, and do what’s best to assure these precious resources are around for future generations. This may be our only chance to fix the mistakes of the past.”

 

Special thanks to Gulf Seafood Institute

E&E: $627M in Restoration Projects Receive Final Approval & Al.com: Oil spill recovery projects: Lots of ideas, but all will not get funded

E&E
 
$627M in restoration projects receive final approval
Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, October 3, 2014

Hundreds of millions of dollars will soon be flowing to the Gulf
Coast after the largest tranche of restoration projects related to
the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill today received its final go-ahead.

Federal and state officials charged with studying the effects of the
spill and developing plans for recovery projects today issued their
record of decision for 44 projects totaling $627 million.

The projects are spread across the Gulf of Mexico and range from
creating barrier islands off the Louisiana coast to building a
causeway and beachfront promenade in Mississippi. They are part of
the unprecedented agreement with BP PLC under which the company
provided a $1 billion down payment on what it will owe through the
Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process for destruction to
natural resources and lost human access to beaches and fisheries.

“The Trustees have done a comprehensive job of identifying projects
to help the Gulf Coast recover from the devastating Deepwater Horizon
spill and have given careful consideration to the many insightful
public comments received through the process,” Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell said in a statement.

Her department will see some of the money for work on two national
seashore projects and a barrier island.

Environmental groups have largely been pleased to have new
restoration projects moving forward after having seen only a handful
of projects approved in the first two phases of awards. Groups have
raised concerns, though, that the projects have been too focused on
compensating for lost human use rather than environmental
restoration.

Much of that criticism for the latest batch has been directed at an
$85.5 million effort to build an Alabama hotel and convention center
and related enhancements to a state park.

“The proposed Alabama Lodge and Conference Center, a private endeavor
exhausting public funds, is a serious misuse of restoration dollars
that could provide much needed resources to our damaged ecosystem,”
the environmental group Gulf Restoration Network said in a statement
in June. “Our coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy Gulf,
and these precious restoration dollars cannot be spent on short-
sighted projects that will not revitalize our Coast.”

The trustees responded directly to groups’ criticisms of the project
in their decision today, arguing that all concerns over it have long
since been resolved.

Of the money approved for projects today, roughly 63 percent — $397
million — is for ecological projects and $230 million goes to
recreational use projects.

________
Al.com

Oil spill recovery projects: Lots of ideas, but all will not get funded
An aerial photo taken Monday April 16, 2012 shows the coast of Pensacola Beach, Fla., during a media helicopter flight organized by the BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. One project currently being proposed by the organization’s Florida Trustees involves dune restoration along Pensacola Beach. The plan calls for about 394,000 native plants to be planted along a 4.2 mile stretch of beach dunes at a cost of about $586,000. (AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Devon Ravine)
Print
By Michael Finch II | mfinch@al.com
 
on October 03, 2014 at 2:23 PM, updated October 03, 2014 at 2:35 PM
 

MOBILE, Alabama — The line for oil spill money grows longer. Projects submitted by local governments, environmental groups and those with an inclination to pursue a restoration cause now totals 58 — up from 47 about one month ago.  

They range from a hundred thousand dollar study of beach nourishment on Dauphin Island to a multimillion dollar road project that would allow freshwater and saltwater to intermingle freely in Mobile Bay.

The combined cost of all the submitted projects — now about $430 million — underscores a more important fact: Not all will receive funding. And there’s still more submissions to come.
 
Still administrators of the RESTORE Act, legislation passed to siphon Clean Water fines back to Gulf Coast states, are urging more people to detail their ideas in an online portal where the list is slowly mounting.
 
The numerous efforts to repair damage done by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be hard to track, involving a myriad number of federal and state agencies. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is at the helm of all the state’s recovery efforts.

At a meeting this week, Patti Powell, the department’s state lands director, said the worst thing would be if there weren’t enough ideas, noting that the onus will be on the agency to guide any project that’s selected.  

“Our department is going to be responsible, no matter who the sub grant may go to, we’re going to be responsible for ensuring compliance with all the federal grant laws and state laws. This is one reason why we call it a suggestion,” Powell said.

“Somebody may have a great idea, but we may not have confidence that that entity can track and hold and handle the federal funds in compliance. That’s why we don’t say on the front end ‘you enter it you get it.’ “

Who decides?
Until two months ago, states were waiting for the federal government to release the rules to that will govern how the money can be spent.

The decision-making process has not been created yet, but it will be a shifty challenge for the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council, as money flows in incrementally to the state.
 
As of June 2014, there was a total $220 million set aside for the states to control; Alabama received an equal $44 million share of that.

It is solely up to the council of local and state leaders, mayors from Bayou La Batre, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Dauphin Island, Mobile and Fairhope; one county commissioner from Mobile and Baldwin counties each; the director of the Alabama State Port Authority and the governor to decide how to spend this money.

“When more money comes it may be a totally different process, because you’re not dealing with that much money in this first round they may decide not to spend any of it,” said Eliska Morgan, executive director for the Alabama council.

“We don’t know what we we’re going to get in the end, so why should we spend any of this money? They have to make that decision. It’s a possibility; there are lots of possibilities.”

Awaiting fines
There’s still more money to come. Last month, Halliburton agreed to a $1.1 billion settlement for its involvement in the oil spill.

A federal judge in New Orleans recently ruled that BP should be held grossly negligent in its operation of the rig that exploded, pushing maximum penalties up to $18 billion. The British oil giant recently appealed the decision.   

Anadarko Petroleum may be on the hook as well. The Texas-based firm has been fighting in court to avoid paying fines, claiming it only held a stake in the Macondo well, not the rig, 
according to news reports.

The next phase of the trial that will determine how much in penalties both companies must pay is scheduled to start in January 2015.   

What to do first?
The unsettled nature of future payments also gives way to the question of what should they give money to first? Should they ration it out toward several small projects like the $250,000 study in Dauphin Island; or should it be doled out on a mega-plan with a broader reach like the $42 million bridge-raising project on the Mobile causeway put forth by the Mobile Baykeeper?

The answer is just a guess for now. Morgan said the council will meet again before the year ends — by then their intentions may be clearer.    

The public will be encouraged to send comments to the council, expressing their opinions for-and-against any submitted projects, and about the rules used to select them. But there will not be a formal public meeting.  
 

Morgan said “once their evaluation process is determined — after public comment — then the (council) will really start to review projects.

Truthout: Better Oversight and Less Drilling Needed to Protect the Gulf (video)

 

TRANSCRIPT:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Who can forget the images of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010? The event killed 11 workers and resulted in millions of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, becoming the biggest offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that BP was grossly negligent, and the company could be liable for up to $18 billion in additional fines. BP says they will be appealing the ruling, and they issued this statement on their website:

“BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial.”

And they also said:

“BP will seek to show that its conduct merits a penalty that is less than the applicable maximum after application of the statutory factors.”

With us to help us understand what this ruling all means and what it really means for the communities most directly affected by the oil spill disaster down there in the Gulf is our guest, Steve Murchie. Steve joins us from New Orleans, where he is the campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, a nonprofit organization that they say empowers people to protect and restore the natural resources and communities of the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks for joining us, Steve.

STEVE MURCHIE, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, GULF RESTORATION NETWORK: Thanks for having me.

DESVARIEUX: So, Steve, what’s your reaction to the verdict? And what has the Gulf, the community there down in the Gulf–are they seeing this really as a victory?

MURCHIE: Judge Barbier’s ruling that BP was grossly negligent and behaved recklessly is vindication for all the people who’ve been living through the consequences of the disaster last four and a half years.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. But this ruling has been to sort of four years in the making, Steve. And kind of give us a sense of a condensed version of what’s been going on concerning BP and their level of accountability to the people down there in the Gulf? Haven’t they already paid out something like $42 billion?

MURCHIE: BP has paid a substantial amount of money already and is lined up to pay substantially more. You know, we have to recognize that this is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and that BP is primarily responsible. So they’ve already pleaded guilty to criminal conduct. They paid $4 billion in fines for that. There’s a process underway through the Oil Pollution Act for them to pay additional compensation to people and the public who have been damaged by their actions. That’s everything from a bed-and-breakfast or a hotel that lost tourists, to companies that weren’t able to go out and catch fish, to state and local governments who lost tax revenue because they had to close their beaches and their fisheries. And so all of those entities, all of those people deserve to be compensated because of BP’s actions.

What Judge Barbier ruled on yesterday was the civil penalties under the Clean Water Act. And this is above and beyond compensation for the damage. It’s above and beyond criminal penalties. These are the civil penalties that for a corporation are really where the accountability comes in the American justice system. And so Judge Barbier, after sifting through the facts very carefully, came forth with a 153 page decision that proved that, to his satisfaction–and that’s the opinion that counts–that BP was grossly negligent, which allows for the largest possible fine under the Clean Water Act.

DESVARIEUX: Well, let’s go back. Why do you think this disaster was even able to happen? What role do regulations play in all this? Do you feel like there was enough of that to begin with?

MURCHIE: I think a lot of people would like to think of BP as some rogue oil company that was out of control. And that appears to be the case, according to the judge. But we have to remember that the regulators responsible for oversight of the offshore activities and the oil and gas industry in general in the Gulf were very lax, terrible practices happening with the federal agencies being way too cozy with the industry. And for observers like Gulf restoration network, we felt like the BP disaster was likely to happen at one point or another, and we and many other people had been pushing for reforms of the industry. And, unfortunately, it took a disaster to even get a bipartisan commission to come together to come up with recommendations. And while BP is being held accountable for their actions, many of the recommendations of that commission have yet to be implemented.

DESVARIEUX: So we’re talking essentially, just so I’m understand you correctly, Steve, is that there hasn’t been really any significant change in legislation to protect communities and the environment after such a disaster happened?

MURCHIE: There have been some reforms. The Obama administration made some changes to the federal agency that has provided some greater scrutiny, and that’s been helpful. I think the main thing that Congress has actually done, which is potentially going to have great benefit to the Gulf, is passing the Restore Act. And what that does is it dedicates those civil penalties under the Clean Water Act to come back to the Gulf states to be used for restoration. And that process is underway right now, to make sure that those billions of dollars that BP is going to pay will be put to use to bring back the Gulf.

DESVARIEUX: What other regulations would you like to see being implemented?

MURCHIE: That’s a very broad question. You know, there was a bipartisan commission that included people from the industry [Steve later sent us a note to say that “there were not any oil industry representatives directly on the commission, though they were part of the process for the commission’s findings”], senior government officials, a lot of other people, a lot of other stakeholders, to really sift through what the case was, and came up with a whole host of things. One of the things is to have a citizens advisory board that would provide more direct oversight of the industry and transparency in what their activities are. But there are a number of other recommendations.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. So, Steve, I was asking you this off-camera, because the Gulf is sort of the heart of the South, some could argue. And typically there is a close attachment with it being more of a conservative part of the country, and that goes with being a supporter of the energy industry, like companies like BP, Exxon, things of that nature. So since this disaster, have you seen a shift at all in people’s attitudes towards these big industry oil companies? And is there a shift to maybe even consider more green economy down there in the Gulf?

MURCHIE: Well, I think before the energy industry, as in most parts of the country, people made their living off of the natural resources, off the lands. We still have very healthy fisheries in some parts of the Gulf. And that and the natural resources that lead to a pretty vigorous tourism industry are really major underpinnings of the economy down here. And so, investing in restoring the Gulf is a much more sustainable form of economic development than the extractive industries like the oil and gas industry. However, they’re not going away anytime soon. A big portion of the global petrochemical industry is here in Texas, in Louisiana, and there are a lot of resources that can be extracted with much less environmental impact than what we’re currently seeing.

DESVARIEUX: And can you just speak to some specifics? What would you recommend?

MURCHIE: Well, for one thing, coast of Louisiana before the BP disaster was in serious trouble. The Mississippi River Delta ecologically is really important to the health of the entire Gulf of Mexico. It’s an extremely reproductive, extremely productive system. Lots and lots of marine life spend huge parts of their life cycle in the Mississippi River Delta. And it had been seriously degraded through oil and gas activities, as well as channelization of the Gulf of Mexico, channelization of the Mississippi River, and subsidence, as well as sea-level rise from climate change. And so, restoring the Mississippi River Delta is pretty central to restoring the whole health of Gulf. Oil and gas broadly, not just BP, has a huge amount of responsibility for that. It’s estimated that conservatively they’re responsible for about 400 square miles of coastal land loss here in Louisiana. And the state regulators (’cause this is mostly in state waters on state lands) are not adequately enforcing the law to get these companies to fill their canals back in, close down the wells when they’re no longer producing, and clean up those sites.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Steve. Lastly, what would you say to people who might say that we need oil and gas to run our economy and for jobs, and spills and disasters are going to be inevitable and sort of a necessary evil? What would you say to that?

MURCHIE: I think most people who look at our energy systems don’t think we’re going to be getting entirely away from fossil fuels any time soon. Clearly we needed to accelerate that. The consequences of climate change are too significant, especially for coastal communities, and especially here in Louisiana. We need to deal with that and deal with it faster than we currently are. But the energy sector, conventional fossil fuel production is going to be a part of the economy going forward. But it’s not really a trade-off of one versus the other. We have to figure out a way we can do both of those things sustainably.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Steve Murchie, joining us from the Big Easy.

Thank you so much for being with us.

MURCHIE: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Bellona.org.: Crushing oyster harvest in Gulf devastating fishermen as science tries to determine if oil or water is to blame

http://bellona.org/news/fossil-fuels/oil/2014-08-crushing-oyster-harvest-gulf-devastating-fishermen-science-tries-determine-oil-water-blame

Fossil fuels, Oil

DELACROIX, Louisiana – Stanley Encalade, 54, an out-of-work oysterman doing odd jobs on boats along highway 300 running through what’s formerly some of the world’s most fertile oyster territory in this state’s St. Bernard Parish, isn’t buying BP’s insistence that fresh water is to blame for the Gulf’s precipitous drop in oyster hauls over the last four years.

Published on by
docked oyster and shrimp boats

DELACROIX, Louisiana – Stanley Encalade, 54, an out-of-work oysterman doing odd jobs on boats along highway 300 running through what’s formerly some of the world’s most fertile oyster territory in this state’s St. Bernard Parish, isn’t buying BP’s insistence that fresh water is to blame for the Gulf’s precipitous drop in oyster hauls over the last four years.

“It’s b*llshit, plain b*llshit,” he says while taking a break from working on a dry docked crab vessel. “That’s what they selling this week, I ain’t buyin like I ain’t been buyin for the last four years – it’s the oil that wrecked my life, the oil. Not water – the oil.”

Encalade’s generations-honed Cajun tongue pronounces “oil” as “earl,” and he takes pride in his heritage among a long line of Cajun fishermen in the Parish.

stanley.jpg

Stanley Encalade, an out of work oyster fisherman in Delacroix, Louisiana. (Photo: Charles Digges/Bellona)

“I know what I seen in my oyster beds over in Black Bay and it wasn’t no fresh water,” he said, referencing a brackish inlet about 10 kilometers southeast of Delacroix. “It was orange mixed with sticky tar and it’s killed everything and nothing’s taken since. It’s the oil.”

Encalade is no young, green reed to these waters. He owns two oyster boats, the Lady Pamela, and Miss Tallis, which are anchored in Plaquemines Parish, about 20 kilometers northeast of the sunbaked highway in Delacroix, and he has fished oyster for 40 years.

But he’s been out of oyster fishing this season and parts of previous, unable to break even on the lean pickings.

“I used to haul up 70 to 80 sacks a day on my own,” he said. But this year, whose season began in October, he’s hauled up a mere 11. “I can’t do it anymore – it’s too depressing.”

A sack, according to oystermen, weighs anywhere from 80 to 130 pounds, though local fisheries say that, at best, sacks are a sort of estimate to indicate 100 pounds, and the estimates can be imprecise.

Encalade, a two-meter-tall father of eight children ranging in age from 19 to 36, now takes odd jobs to pay the bills. He fixes other peoples’ boats, which sit as fallow as his. A high point in his itinerant employment was a turn on Treme, the hit HBO series on post-Katrina New Orleans, as an extra. ”But I ain’t much cut out for acting – I kinda tell it too straight,” he said, smiling and scratching a pustule on his face he said he had since he helped work oil rescue – like every other area fisherman – after the blowout.

stanly boat fix

A docked oyster boat Encalade is fixing for another owner in hopes of better seasons to come. (Photo: Charles Digges/Bellona)

“BP sure threw us a curve ball, killed everything in the ocean, and now even the people’s dying. We get’s to watch.”

BP speaks in its own defense

The oil giant responsible for the Deepwater Horizon blowout on April 20, 2010 – which amounted to 4.9 million barrel, 87 day oil geyser and the 1.85 million gallon’s worth toxic Corexit oil dispersant rained upon it – has recently cited Louisiana State scientific data and declared its innocence in the destruction of the Gulf’s second biggest cash crop, whose harvests can be wiped out by fresh water as easily as they can by crude and the oil dispersant Corexit. Oysters need salt water to survive.

An April 12 statement from BP, issued in response to an Associated Press article, and pointed its finger squarely at “Louisiana’s diversion in 2010 of fresh water from the Mississippi River into oyster habitat,” as well as flooding in in 2011. The diversion was ordered as a last ditch effort to clear oil and dispersant out of Louisiana’s ever-dwindling wetlands and marshes – though scientists say it was ill advised.

The evidence, furnished to BP by the state, the statement asserted, “debunked” the idea “that oyster populations in Louisiana were adversely affected by oil or dispersants from the Deepwater Horizon accident […]”

Meanwhile, the lion’s share of seafood safety testing is done at sea by nonprofits like the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) in affiliation with the University of Texas and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Center.

How bad is the downturn?

It’s clear from Bellona’s interviews with scientists, fishermen, seafood distributors, and Gulf state Marine resource officials that BP’s stoic rebuttal that the abysmal oyster harvest is not related to its disaster must be taken with the grains of salt the company is insisting were washed out of the oyster beds.

By this year, the oyster harvest Gulf-wide is hovering around one quarter to one third of what it was prior to the BP spill, Chris Nelson, owner of Bon Secour Fisheries, Inc – which buys oysters from all five Gulf states – told Bellona in a telephone interview.

“There’s just nothing out there,” he said. “We’ve had barren spells before, especially in the 80s and 90s but they’re always cyclical – this is like there’s something chronic out there in the water that’s just preventing things in areas that were once abundant from taking.”

oystershells

Oyster shells with which the state government and private fishermen are hoping to create new oyster beds, or ‘spats’ to improve future harvests. (Photo: Charles Digges/Bellona)

He said that fresh water inundations tend only to impact oyster harvests for a season, sometimes less, and that fresh water alone couldn’t account for the ongoing downward spiral “which is probably the longest we’ve ever seen.”

What the dreadful harvests mean in numbers are that Louisiana’s public reefs produced about 3 million to 7 million pounds of oyster meat a year prior to BP’s catastrophe, according to figures reported by AP.

Nelson said production in 2010 dropped by some 2 percent, but by the 2011 and 2012 seasons, “it was clear things were really going off a cliff.”

Oyster production in 2012 saw a free-fall to 563,100 pounds (255,417 kilograms). Then in 2013, the figures climbed to 954,950, Nelson said that was a decent bounce, but still was only a third of pre-2010 production rates.

Where the plunging harvest is more visible is in the dollars and cents, said Nelson. Prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, prices were holding steady at about $25 a sack. After the fabled nightmare storm hit, followed shortly by the smaller Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, sack prices rose to about $30.

After the spill, however, the short supply and variability in sack size and quality, Nelson said he is having to persuade his customers to pay from $45 t0 $60 per sack.

“That is a rough sell and a huge increase, but we just don’t have the harvest volume to go any lower,” he said.

emptynet

The rope metallic droop of an empty oyster net on a dry docker fishing boat in Hopedale, Louisiana. (Photo: Charles Digges/Bellona)

Gulf academics tread carefully

In the local academic community, the oil vs. water debate is one in which scientists can be heard taking out scales to very carefully weigh their words.

In brief, results that would contradict the findings of BP – which still holds the status of a monarchy in the local imagination, comprised of both of happy courtesans and vassals as well as rebellious rabble at the gate – stands to lose a shirt full more of money in the currently stalled $7.8 billion damage suit, whose case papers are yellowing in a New Orleans Federal Courtroom.

Most people on the Gulf Coast with an degrees behind their name are not anxious to find themselves on the wrong end of a potential legal meat-grinder.

Most fertile oyster beds nearly destroyed

The Louisiana corner of the Gulf of Mexico has in the past accounted for about half of the Gulf’s oyster harvest and a third of overall US production because of the usually rich larvae-bearing currents, Dr. Thomas Soniat, an oyster biologist with the University of New Orleans, told Bellona.

Oyster larvae, whose lifecycle is about two weeks, are swept by currents that round the southern tip of the Gulf’s Chandeleur Islands and nestle along Louisiana’s east coast substrates, or oyster beds, within its rich wetlands.

Within the first days of the spill, the Chandeleur Islands, some 15 kilometers north of BP’s runaway Macondo well, were some of the most oil and dispersant soaked areas in the Gulf.

Whether any oyster larvae could have been contaminated in this stew of oil and dispersant as they rode the currents through Chandeleur Sound before settling in beds in eastern Louisiana is something Dr Soniat told Bellona still remains unknown.

oil and marsh

LSU’s Dr. Eugene Turner says the BP oil spill reduced the total area of Louisiana’s wetlands by three times between 2010 and 2013. (Photo: Matthew Preusch/Gulf Restoration Network)

Dr Eugene Turner, a wetlands specialist at Louisiana State University’s School of the Coast and Environment, said substrates usually consist of oyster shell beds.

But encroachment upon Louisiana’s wetlands – which reduced in area by three times over the first three years after the spill, according to his research – have necessitated building limestone, brick and even cement substrates for the larvae to take root, or “set” as fishermen call it. Some set, some don’t, and the why is a source of fierce debate.

Birds pointed to hydrocarbons in oyster territory

While Dr Tuner has often been cast in local media reports as a proponent of the BP fresh-water-only theory, his research has been far more nuanced, taking into account all variables, and he told Bellona outright that: “No one here is saying there was zero impact from the oil.”

Because the wetlands and barrier islands like the Chandeleurs were critical stopovers for migratory birds, Dr Turner told Bellona that studies LSU conducted on migratory loons, who feed near oyster beds, “showed signatures” of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – or PAHs, signs of oil – in oyster habitats. Dr Turner concluded that these PAH signatures were most likely due to the loons’ food sources.

This, said DR. Turner, plus an uncharacteristic lack of insect life in wetlands and oyster habitats noticed two years after the spill, led to deeper investigations of what lay beneath the wetlands and the oyster beds.

“The evaporation of some very volatile stuff, PAHs that had slipped in under the oil booms, was noticed,” he said. “The oyster harvests occur quite deep, and it’s very volatile down there.”

The research also revealed in the areas studies that PAH levels were several times what Dr Turner said were normal background levels, and that “it will take decades or more to get back to those levels.”

The normal background PAH levels are set by the usual organic interaction occurring from crude releases making it to short that are routinely released by any of the 40,000 oil platforms, operating or not, in the Gulf.

booms

Oil booms didn’t prevent oil and Corexit from oozing into wetlands and oyster habitat, say fishermen. (Photo: Matthew Preusch/Gulf Restoration Network)

Yet, Dr Turner also said LSU studies showed that organisms similar to oysters were grown in high PAH level habitats where able to thrive as if the PAHs weren’t there at all, presenting something of a conundrum, but one that he said needs further study.

The fresh water theory also holds some water

There also is evidence to suggest that the fresh water inundations are not off-base. The 2010 Mississippi River diversion referred to in the BP statement was, said Dr Turner “a move that those who knew better would not have undertaken,” because of the ravages the fresh water visited on Louisiana’s oyster harvesting areas.

Later, in 2012, the Bonnet Carre Spillway was built in New Orleans to alleviate the 2011 flooding referenced by the April 12 BP statement.

Melissa Scallan of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources told Bellona the spillway decimated her state’s oyster haul for 2012, reducing to a mere 65 sacks against the previous year’s 43,772. When measured against Mississippi’s take of 385,949 sacks in the 2009 season, though, Mississippi’s 2011 take was a pittance.

Scallan was thus on the fence when considering point blank whether the BP spill or the inundations did more damage to Mississippi’s harvest.

“Obviously the oil played a big role, but the water is important to,” she said a little hesitantly. “I guess we will not know for a long time.”

Blocked state environmental information?

In conversation with Bellona, Nelson was surprised by the LSU research cited by Dr Turner. Very little of it has been made public.

Nelson also noted that the oyster blight is not general throughout the Gulf. Some areas that have produced in the past are still producing, where other areas that could have been counted on for consistently abundant harvests are “dead zones.”

These dead zones, he said, correspond to areas that were hit by BP oil and dispersant, and said that an ongoing PAH presence in oyster habitats, especially in the Gulf’s previously most productive area, could account for the rock bottom harvest rates for the last four years.

But Nelson said that “those who would know aren’t telling me whether it’s fresh water inundation, or BP oil and dispersant or even something else.”

The ones who presumably know, said Nelson, are officials at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which has been conducting a so-called Nation Resource Disaster Assessment (NRDA) on the public reef oyster fishing areas since days after the Deepwater Horizon blew, and thus has wide discretion over what it reveals and keeps close to the vest.

undercover

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries officials are unable to comment on the condition of many oyster habitats that fall under a National Resources Disaster Assessment (NRDA) ,restricting public knowledge about the environment. (Photo: Jonathan Henderson/Gulf Restoration Network)Nelson, fishermen and local activist groups complain that the long running study should have revealed at least some tangible results by now, and say the agency is purposely stymieing the flow of information on the local environment.

Nelson routinely tries to get small clues out of them and says “it’s like there’s some sort of gag order in place over there.”

“We don’t know if they’ve found something horrible that will kill oysters in the Gulf forever or if it’s a problem that will resolve relatively soon,” he said. “But the point is we don’t know and they won’t say.”

After repeated calls and emails from Bellona over a three-day period, Wildlife and Fisheries responded with an emailed  statement reading that, “Impacts to Louisiana’s natural resources as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill continue to be investigated as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process set forth under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. We do not yet know the full extent of the damages to the resources (including the impacts to oysters.)”

The statement added that the agency has “documented significant reductions in reproductive success of oysters on our public seed grounds,” and acknowledged that, “[w]hile investigations into the direct cause of low spat [oyster bed] production continues through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, the low oyster spat [production] coincides with the timing and location of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”The agency implied that it wasn’t under any instructions not to release information, writing that the NRDA trustees “continue to actively investigate impacts to oysters as a result of the spill and they have and will continue to release study plans developed over the course of the spill.” The statement provided a link to the various study plans Wildlife and Fisheries has under consideration for each of the impacts it is studying under the NRDA. Nelson nevertheless ironically noted that prior to what seems to be one of   Wildlife and Fisheries first pubic statements, the agency’s personnel had been deflecting reporters’ inquiries to him, “as if I know something they don’t.”

Fishermen see oil not water

Fifty-eight-year-old oyster and shrimp fisherman George Barisch, who is also president of the United Commercial Fishermans’ Association, gave some credence to the fresh water notion – though not much. He’s been oyster fishing since he was nine-years-old, on a three generation leased 35-acre plot, and he’s no stranger to fresh water inundations.

“Mother nature’s a bitch – she’ll give, take away, and give again,” he said. “There’s always the fresh water cycle, but the beds always come back.”

But, for his beds, this hasn’t happened since 2010.

He told Bellona that his legacy oyster bed in the Louisiana Marsh’s Caraco Bay was destroyed by oil and Corexit, despite promises by BP not to dump it’s toxic dispersant in Chandeleur Sound between the Chandeleur Islands and Louisiana’s east coast.

“Another lie,” he said of the Corexit dumps.

“In my case, BP took away and mother nature can’t pay their debt – what killed my oysters was oil and Corexit, not fresh water.”

barisch testing

George Barisch testing the safety of oysters near Shell Beach in Yscloskey, Louisiana. (Film still courtesy of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network)

Since then, he’s down a whopping 93 percent in his oyster take since before the spill. Where routinely he would book some 4,000 to 6,000 sacks per season with Nelson’s Bon Secour prior to 2010, he said he hasn’t raised even 600 marketable sacks in the four years since the spill. The rest of his beds are contaminated by oil and dispersant.

“What ever else is left in my beds is covered with such unspeakable nastiness that I can’t possibly bring sell it on the market,” he said. “God forbid somebody gets sick and dies and it gets traced to my product.”

Sacks are typically labeled in detail, with dates of the catch, or “land,” the vessel and the captain.

But this is far from his worries: “My main issue is that none of my leased plots have any babies coming up – I;m broke.”

The nightmare will not go away

Encalade is involved in ongoing litigation with BP, but like most, is not hopeful for any settlement. He passed on earlier offers of $30,000, $40,000 and then $50,000.

“Those are nothing but an insult,” he said. “For a life’s work that I can’t do no more? For work I’ve been doing since before I could read? It’s a g*ddamned insult.”

He and his 27-year-old son are currently represented in the $7.8 billion class action damage suit in New Orleans he said, but that’s not paying any bills.

“Sometimes at night, I fall asleep feeling like I’m in the cabin of my boat,” he confides. “The radio will squawk and I’ll talk back, tell ‘em I’m doing good with 60 or 70 sacks for my trip.”

It’s one of those dreams that goes one, he says, staring off into the heat shimmer rising from the asphalt and gravel and making the far off willows look like they’re submerged in water.

“It’s a dream I’m sure I’ll wake up from and find out the whole nightmare of everything that’s happened since the BP spill is just all that – a nightmare.” his

He lifts his cap from his head and wipes away sweat while staring at his work boots, contemplating that fantasy. “Then I wake up, and find out it’s no nightmare,” he says.

“It’s right here.”

This is the fourth in a series of article Bellona is producing on the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Charles Digges

charles@bellona.no

Pensacola News Journal: BP’s cleanup promise broken; oil visible on beache

The costs and energies of supervising the cleanup of a mess that we did not make should not rest entirely on our shoulders.

1032 CONNECTTWEET 3 LINKEDIN 2 COMMENTEMAILMORE

A promise was broken.

Maybe it’s all BP’s fault. Maybe the Coast Guard shares the blame. Maybe we’re all suckers for not getting it in writing. But we thought we had a deal.

The deal was that the Coast Guard-led and BP-funded oil spill cleanup would not leave our beaches until there was no more visible oil. But the Coast Guard declared the mission accomplished in 2013. And as we all know too well by now — the oil is still visible.

Pensacola News-Journal reporter Kim Blair spoke with Escambia County’s director of community and environment, Keith Wilkins, an official who has been on the front lines battling the oil spill since the day in 2010 when it began gushing wildly into the Gulf of Mexico. Wilkins summed up the broken promise like this: “At the very beginning of the oil spill, we were all talking about end points for monitoring and cleaning so we’d know when we were done with the whole thing … At the onset of the oil spill, we had an agreement with BP and the Coast Guard that the end point would be no observable oil on the beaches. We still have not reached that point.”

And that’s the bottom line. We have not reached the point of no visible oil. We still see tarballs. We still see tar mats. And under the gaze of a microscope, we can still see traces of the toxic dispersant chemicals that were futilely pumped into the Gulf.

For residents who take pride in leaving only footprints on our unique and beautiful shoreline, the disgusting stain of man-made folly is far from fading. And now, it’s clear that the heavy obligation to monitor the lingering results of BP’s mess has been shoved onto all of us.

BP initially paid Florida $50 million for oil monitoring and cleanup. Blair reported that the money dried up in June. The continued work is now financed by state taxpayers and it is unclear whether reimbursement will come from BP.

DEP workers Joey Whibbs and David Perkinson, the last two-man team left scouting for lingering oil from the 2010 spill, still find oil every day, five days a week. It was Perkinson who discovered the tar mat earlier this year on Fort Pickens beach. But even when they find it, time is of the essence. Rapidly changing surf and beach conditions require quick action before the oil is covered or washed elsewhere. And when the Coast Guard has not been immediately prepared to respond when alerted to discovery of oil, with the cleanup clock ticking, the exhausting work has fallen on the DEP’s two sentinels.

It is a Sisyphean task for just two men, the search for oil like a never ending push of a boulder down the beach. It should not be this way.

— Pensacola News Journal

E&E: Council issues long-awaited call for restoration projects

 
Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 21, 2014
The federal-state panel tasked with spending fines linked to the 2010
Gulf of Mexico oil spill put out a call this afternoon for ecosystem
restoration projects — a critical step in what has been a
frustratingly slow process for many involved.

The guidelines released today by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration
Council will be used to select projects for a “Funded Priorities List”
that will be eligible for money from the first tranche of civil fines
related to the spill — roughly $150 million from Transocean Deepwater
Inc. The total amount of money available to the council remains up in
the air as the federal government’s case against BP PLC over Clean
Water Act liability remains ongoing.

The initial selection round will focus on projects targeting habitat
and water quality improvements. It will also emphasize projects that
are aimed at addressing significant ecosystem issues, that are
sustainable over time, that are likely to succeed and that will benefit
the human community, the council said in its guidelines.

“We are excited to announce the start of the project selection process
and look forward to receiving excellent proposals from our Council
members in the coming months,” Justin Ehrenwerth, the council’s
executive director, said in a statement. “The Council adopted a merit-
based process to evaluate and select projects which will put the
Council members in a strong position to move forward with project
implementation.”

The RESTORE Act, passed by Congress more than two years ago, sends 80
percent of civil fines related to the 2010 spill back to the five Gulf
states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. That
money is divided into three main pots, one of which, holding 30 percent
of the total funds, is to be managed by the council for Gulfwide
ecosystem restoration.

The initial comprehensive plan approved by the council last year was
supposed to include the Funded Priorities List and a 10-year spending
plan, but the council said it was hamstrung without a long-stalled
regulation from the Treasury Department laying out how the spill money
could be spent.

Treasury last week broke the logjam, approving an interim rule (E&ENews
PM, Aug. 13).

The submission guidelines released today add detail to a fact sheet on
submission released by the council ahead of a Senate hearing last month
(E&E Daily, July 30). Language from the fact sheet that had raised
eyebrows from environmentalists about projects benefiting human
communities at the point of implementation does not appear in the new
guidelines.

Project submissions must also include a list of all applicable
environmental compliance requirements such as permits, an issue that
restoration advocates are keeping a close eye on.

“Getting the project selection process right is so important to
comprehensive Gulf restoration. If we do it correctly, we can create
jobs, conserve fish and wildlife habitat, and save the way of life
we’re privileged to enjoy on the coast,” Bob Bendick, director of the
Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico program, said in a statement.
“While this is just the beginning of the process, we hope the
procedures announced today will enable the implementation of projects
that allow the Gulf to remain the special place it is and something
we’ll be proud to hand down to our children.”

Only council members — representatives of the five states and the
federal agencies — can submit a project to be considered by the

council.

Pensacola News Journal: A 1,000-pound BP tar mat found on Fort Pickens beach

 

Nearly four years to the day when BP oil began soiling our beaches, a 1,000-pound tar mat is being cleaned up on Fort Pickens beach.
 
PNJ 2 p.m. CDT June 22, 2014


A U.S. Coast Guard pollution investigation team is leading another day of cleanup of a tar mat discovered Friday on the beach at Fort Pickens.

So far, the team has removed about 960 pounds of the mat, which is about 8 to 10 feet off the shoreline in the Gulf of Mexico, just east of Langdon Beach, Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy said

Mats are made of weathered oil, sand, water and shells.

Monday marks the fourth anniversary of when the oil from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster finally arrived on waves slicking our beaches. Tar balls and a frothy brownish-orange petroleum product called mousse, however, arrived earlier that month.

The mat was discovered on Friday by a Florida Department of Environmental Protection monitor who surveys area beaches routinely looking for lingering BP oil.

“The weather plays such a big factor in this,” said Murphy. “Friday we got the cleanup crew out there and could see it (tar mat) visibly and attacked it. Then the thunderstorms came in, and they had to stop.”

By the time the crew returned Saturday, the mat was reburied under 6 inches of sand, and it took the crew a while to relocate it using GPS coordinates taken Friday, she said.
With the mat located in the surf zone, it’s harder to clean up.

“It’s always a battle with Mother Nature,” Murphy said.

The team returned today and plans to return Monday and for as many days as it takes to excavate the entire mat with shovels, although Murphy said it appears by the smaller amount excavated today they may be getting close to collecting all of it.

But the team will survey about 100 yards east and west of the mat to make sure none is still buried in the sand.

This mat is located about half a mile east of where a mat containing 1,400 pounds of weathered oil was cleaned up in March.

Cleanup is being conducted by a joint effort between BP, the Coast Guard, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and National Park Service. It will take about a week for test results to confirm whether the oil is from the Macondo well.

More than 200 million gallons of crude oil spewed into Gulf in 2010 for a total of 87 days before the Macondo well head could capped, making it the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.
Ironically, the discovery of the near-shore mat comes at a time when the National Park Service has stepped up efforts to search out suspected tar mats farther offshore.

Mats are believed to be submerged in the Gulf of Mexico waters off the seashore’s Fort Pickens and Johnson beach areas.

Since April, a specialized team of underwater archaeologists has been scanning the waters looking for areas that might have trapped oil when it began washing up on our beaches four years ago on Monday.

Friday’s discovery along the shoreline is not related to the dive team’s hunt for oil, although the Coast Guard is testing several samples the team discovered to see if it is oil and, if so, whether it’s from the Macondo well, she said.

Murphy urges the public to report any tar mat, tar ball or anything they suspected BP oil to the National Response Center hotline.
 
 

Report tar balls
Report tar ball, tar mats or anything that looks like oil pollution to the National Response Center hotline 800-424-8802.
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Environmental Science & Technology: Long-Term Persistence of Dispersants following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

  Helen K. White *†, Shelby L. Lyons †, Sarah J. Harrison †, David M. Findley †, Yina Liu ‡, and Elizabeth B. Kujawinski ‡ † Department of Chemistry, Haverford College, 370 Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, Pennsylvania 19041, United States ‡ Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, United States
Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/ez500168r Publication Date (Web): June 23, 2014 Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society *E-mail: hwhite@alum.mit.edu.
Dispersants
During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill 1.84 M gallons of chemical dispersant were applied to oil released in the sub-surface and to oil slicks at the surface. We used liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) to quantify the anionic surfactant DOSS (dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate) in samples collected from environments known to contain oil persisting from the DWH oil spill. DOSS was found to persist in variable quantities in deep-sea coral communities (6-9000 ng/g) 6 months after the spill, and on Gulf of Mexico beaches (1-260 ng/g) 26-45 months after the spill.
These results indicate that the applied dispersant, which was thought to undergo rapid degradation in the water column, remains associated with oil in the environment and can persist for ~4 years.

WLTV News: Oyster harvesters alarmed at finding fewer oysters

video at:
http://www.wwltv.com/news/Oyster-Harvesters-Alarmed-At-Finding-Fewer-Oysters-260320441.html

wwltv.com
Posted on May 22, 2014 at 6:21 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

As his son hauls in an oyster dredge from the floor of Barataria Bay, lifelong oyster harvester Mitch Jurisich, normally an optimistic man, is worried that the size of the catch is shrinking.

“I’m concerned, very concerned,” Jurisich said. “Last year was about the last year of harvesting pre-BP oysters, now we’re looking post-BP, and now looks not good.”
His son Nathan, the fourth generation oysterman, said they are harvesting far fewer oysters.

“Last year at this time I was bringing in 200-250 sacks a day, now we’re 100-150, sometimes less,” said Nathan.

There could be multiple causes, but they’re finding many dead oysters, especially baby oysters.
“There’s nothing live on this shell,” pointed out Mitch Jurisich. “There should be, but this is dead, this is a shell. It’s very upsetting because that’s the future.”

Restaurant owners are taking notice.

“They’re obviously scarce, because the price has gone up,” said Scot Craig of Katie’s Restaurant. “We’ve had to go up a little bit on prices as a result.”

“The cost of the oysters are actually as much as double,” said P&J Oysters Owner Al Sunseri.

At P&J Oysters, the supply is so low the cooler is nearly empty.

“How much is supply down? I would say it is about halfway,” said Sunseri.

They’re getting ready for the Oyster Festival, May 31 and June 1. It’s the fifth festival. Ironically, the first one was in 2010. But this year they say they’ll have plenty of oysters.

“Probably go through about 80,000 oysters, but truly an event that everyone should enjoy, the food the music in that one spot,” said Sal Sunseri, P&J Oysters Owner and Oyster Fest Founder. “It’s got to be the best brunch in the world.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Digital Journal: Methane levels from Deepwater Horizon ‘remain high’

http://www.digitaljournal.com/science/methane-levels-from-deepwater-horizon-remain-high/article/383984

BY TIM SANDLE May 19,2014 IN SCIENCE

Microbial activities in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that gas-rich deepwater plumes following the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout overwhelmed methane-oxidizing bacterial species, leading to high concentrations of methane lasting for a very long time.

Deepwater Horizon was an ultra-deepwater, semi-submersible offshore oil drilling rig. In 2010 the oil rig failed and it was responsible for the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. At approximately 9:45 p.m. CDT, on 20 April 2010, high-pressure methane gas from the well expanded into the drilling riser and rose into the drilling rig, where it ignited and exploded, engulfing the platform. From this, the total discharge has since been estimated at 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gallons).
Although microorganisms played a useful role in helping to clean up the oil disaster, new evidence suggests that levels of methane remained very high after the incident because marine microbes in the Gulf of Mexico were less able to oxidize the large stores of methane released.

While gas-rich deepwater plumes were the most visual but short-lived feature of the spill’s aftermath, researchers noted that the overall concentrations of methane remained high. Scientists speculate that this was because the marine microbes that consume the compound were ‘overloaded’. The data gathered highlights the risks to the ecosystem from human-made disasters.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Geoscience, in a paper titled “The rise and fall of methanotrophy following a deepwater oil-well blowout.”
Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/science/methane-levels-from-deepwater-horizon-remain-high/article/383984#ixzz321Uq0I7a

Special thanks to Richard Charter

National Wildlife Federation: Lost at Sea: Study Estimates Around 800,000 Birds Killed During BP Oil Spill & NYT: Still Counting Gulf Spill’s Dead Birds

http://blog.nwf.org/2014/05/study-estimates-around-800000-birds-killed-during-bp-oil-spill/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+WildlifePromise+%28Wildlife+Promise%29

from Wildlife Promise
0 5/8/2014 // By Daniel Hubbell

Louisiana-gov-office_oiled-pelican_crop-300x230
An oiled pelican, photo by the Louisiana Governor’s Office

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the New York Times is reporting on a new study that calculates 600,000-800,000 sea birds were directly killed by oil. The researcher team includes Dr. Jeffrey Short, a veteran of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who has studied the Exxon Valdez oil spill extensively. That spill is thought to have killed around 300,000 sea birds.

________________________

New York Times

SCIENCE
Still Counting Gulf Spill’s Dead Birds
By MARK SCHROPEMAY 5, 2014

Flock of gulls
A flock of gulls rose as an oil spill response boat passed by at the mouth of Barataria Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.
Credit: Mark Schrope

After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew out in the Gulf of Mexico some 50 miles from the nearest land, responders were left to cope with a search area of nearly 40,000 square miles, as well as wind and currents that kept evidence of damage away from the more easily searchable coastline.

Patrollers recovered fewer than 3,000 dead birds. But some had suspected that many more were unaccounted for.

Now a team of scientists has tried to quantify the extent of damage inflicted on the gulf’s bird population from the oil spill caused by the explosion. Based on models using publicly available data, the studies estimated that about 800,000 birds died in coastal and offshore waters.

“Part of the reason they discovered so few carcasses is because the oceanographic currents for the most part moved them away,” said Jeffrey Short, a marine chemist and a co-author of the studies.

The findings are bound to be disputed. The science of calculating the number of birds affected in such a catastrophe remains imprecise, and studies by BP and the federal government are not yet publicly available for comparison.

The studies also illustrate the difficulty of calculating a death toll in geographically difficult circumstances – and of establishing a figure that is widely accepted, particularly amid legal battles.

Dr. Short and two colleagues conducted the studies for two law firms representing clients with environmental impact claims against BP stemming from the explosion of the rig on April 20, 2010.

Dr. Short spent most of his 31-year career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studying the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and mired in resulting lawsuits. Chris Haney, another of the authors, is the chief scientist for Defenders of Wildlife, which has been involved in lawsuits against BP.

In a statement, Jason Ryan, a spokesman for BP America, questioned the objectivity of the researchers. He also questioned their methodology, arguing that some of the authors’ assumptions are not supported by data collected for the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a collaborative effort by the responsible parties and the federal government that is required after major oil spills.

While the damage assessment studies are not complete, “analysis of field observations conducted to date indicate that population and nesting impacts from the spill on birds were limited,” said Mr. Ryan, adding that BP intended to publish bird and other data online at gulfsciencedata.bp.com.

While the ratio of deaths to carcasses varies from spill to spill, it is typically estimated at 10 to 1 or lower. But Dr. Short’s research, to be published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, makes the case for a significantly higher ratio for the gulf spill.

Steve Hampton, a resource economist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who models bird deaths for West Coast oil spills, found the estimate high. (Most Gulf Coast bird specialists cannot comment on independent research because they are involved in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment.) Dr. Hampton argued that the team needed additional data not yet publicly available, like more specific information about where carcasses were spotted, to establish a reliable kill count.

“That’s really off the charts of what we’ve ever seen,” he said of the estimated deaths. “It just begs a lot of questions.”

But some researchers say circumstances in the gulf can make carcass recoveries particularly low – among them prevailing winds and currents, as well as the disappearance of bodies before they reached shore because of factors like controlled surface oil fires, tiger sharks and decay rates in sweltering heat. And the search area encompassed more than 4,000 miles of coastline.

Jordan Karubian, a bird ecologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, said he found the estimates reasonable. “Given the degree of uncertainty we’re dealing with inherently in the process, my sense is that these researchers were careful to be conservative.”

The new studies were based on two established modeling techniques to overcome the challenges. A primary study estimated bird deaths in coastal waters within 25 miles of shore, which was assumed to be the farthest a carcass could drift before disappearing. Using public data on the number of dead birds found during and after the spill, they calculated the likelihood of finding a given bird by factoring in daily winds and currents, carcass drift speeds and carcass disappearance rates on shorelines from decay and scavenging, among other parameters.

The team considered only carcasses of coastal species that spend time over or in the water, such as gannets and pelicans, and that were visibly oiled.

The carcass count then dropped to 2,004 from the initial 3,000. By comparison, a recent California spill 1,000 times smaller than Deepwater Horizon yielded 1,500 carcasses.
The team’s second coastal model used data on the locations of oil slicks on each day during the spill and several days afterward. They also studied data on the numbers and habits of birds typically found offshore. The model calculated the likelihood that a bird would land in oil, an event likely to kill it by interrupting feeding patterns or causing other complications. Multiplying that probability by the estimated birds present yielded the second death estimate.

The researchers found both results to be similar despite the uncertainties and the divergent methods. The first model estimated about 600,000 deaths, with an uncertainty range of 320,000 to 1.2 million birds. The second model estimated 800,000 deaths with an uncertainty range of 160,000 to 1.9 million.

For a companion paper to be published soon, the authors used another model to estimate likely bird deaths farther than 25 miles offshore, where sooty terns and band-rumped storm petrels, among other species rarely seen from land, could be found. They estimate there were 120,000 deaths, with the uncertainty range at 25,000 to 400,000.

By comparison, the still-contested estimate in the much smaller Exxon Valdez spill was about 300,000, with an uncertainty range of 100,000 to 690,000.

Beyond counting the dead, researchers say a major challenge will be determining what, if any, long-term effects the losses will have on the area’s ecology.

Melanie Driscoll, an ornithologist with the Audubon Society in Baton Rouge, La., said the work has “tremendous value” for restoration planning. But, she said, “this is a really big number, and it’s still too small.” That’s because, by design, the study didn’t consider categories such as marsh birds, among other limitations.

Dr. Short’s team tested its results by comparing them with an independent source of bird data, an annual Audubon Society citizen science event called the Christmas Bird Count.

The researchers had teased out of their aggregate numbers the impact on some species.

They estimated that 40 percent of northern gulf laughing gulls had died, for instance.
Christmas Bird Count data also showed a roughly 40 percent drop in laughing gull sightings.

Dr. Hampton, who was skeptical of the estimates, found this result at least potentially significant. “I thought that was interesting, and there may be something to it,” he said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Al.com: Gulf Coast fisherman on BP oil spill: ‘The oysters are not recovering’

video at:
http://blog.al.com/wire/2014/04/gulf_coast_fisherman_on_bp_oil.html

By Casey Toner | ctoner@al.com
on April 23, 2014 at 4:59 PM

The 2010 BP oil spill is still wrecking havoc on some Gulf Coast fisherman, The Huffington Post reports.

Byron Encalade, a fisherman, said his business was at a “100 percent loss,” according to the report.

“Right now we’re solely relying on BP to keep it’s word, something they haven’t been doing,” Encalade said. “The oysters are not recovering.”

BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded on April 20, 2010, causing more than 200 millions of gallons to spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

A BP spokesman refuted Encalade’s statement, saying the oil did not affect oyster populations following the spill, according to the report.

Four years after the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010 and killed 11 people as it drilled BP’s Macondo 252 in more than 5,000 of water off the Louisiana coast, there are still questions surrounding its long-term impacts on people, businesses, fish, wildlife and habitats. These pictures from the Associated Press, Press-Register and Mississippi Press staffers and even a couple from the general public represent a timeline of sorts of the days and months from the day the rig exploded through the winter cleanup after the well was officially declared dead on Sept. 19, 2010.

_____________

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/20/bp-oil-spill-still-taking-a-toll_n_5182552.html

Huffington Post

Four Years Later, BP Oil Spill Still Taking A Toll On Gulf Fisherman: ‘We Haven’t Started To Recover’
The Huffington Post | by Nick Visser

Posted: 04/20/2014 1:23 pm EDT Updated: 04/21/2014 10:59 am EDT

The BP oil spill, often called the worst man-made environmental disaster of our time, first began four years ago today. On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, causing more than 200 million gallons of oil to spew into the Gulf of Mexico. 11 workers on the rig died, and the resulting cleanup has already cost BP more than $26 billion.

But for many fisherman along the Gulf, despite all the time and money spent to try and heal the region, lasting effects are still taking their toll. The Gulf Coast’s oyster populations, home to about two-thirds of American supply, have been in decline since the spill.

Byron Encalade, a fisherman along the Gulf Coast, joined HuffPost Live’s Josh Zepps to discuss the ongoing impacts of the spill.

“You have to start to recovery, we haven’t started to recover.” he said. “We’re 4 years out now, and we haven’t saw the first sign, and most of the businesses, I know my business is at a 100 percent loss. Right now we’re solely relying on BP to keep it’s word, something they haven’t been doing. The oysters are not recovering.”

However, BP has said oyster populations were not impacted by the spill, providing this comment to HuffPost Live:
“Multiple sources of data indicate that oil and dispersant compounds did not affect oyster populations in 2010 after the spill occured. A Louisiana report from 2010 after the spill states that ‘no direct oiling of sampled reefs was noted during annual sampling of public oyster seed grounds in Louisiana. Field notes from 2010, 2011 and 2012 NRD sampling to not document a single visibly oiled oyster bed.'”

But Encalade said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Well, I’m going to say this, and God knows that I’m tired of being politically correct: BP’s lying.” he said. “I was out there on that boat … that’s one of the biggest lies ever told.”

Take a look at the oysterman’s story above, and watch the clips below to hear more about the ongoing recovery throughout gulf communities, four years and billions of dollars later.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Al.com: Oil and gas regulators look to industry to police itself, four years after Deepwater Horizon

great slideshow at:
http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2014/04/oil_and_gas_regulators_look_to.html#incart_river_default

Mobile, Alabama

By Michael Finch II | mfinch@al.com
on April 23, 2014 at 6:40 AM, updated April 23, 2014 at 6:49 AM

MOBILE, Alabama — Alabama’s beaches are back in business, finding favor with tourists once again. There is, however, still more work to be done. Stakeholders agree offshore drilling continues to be risky endeavors thousands of miles beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
It took the blowout of the Macondo well, a ruinous gusher that leaked for 87 days, to shed a light on the caustic trade-off for powering cars, televisions and central air conditioners.

Some fear subsea energy exploration, an unforgiving endeavor, still carries on despite a deficit of safety reforms four years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. And regulators of the country’s offshore oil and gas industry are looking into an unlikely way to monitor shortcomings on rigs: allow the companies to report incidents themselves.
The “near-miss” reporting system partially administered by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement would have companies voluntarily submit confidential reports that will be aggregated into a snapshot of the industry’s soundness.

Brian Salerno, the agency’s director, said last month that the reporting system “has the potential to help prevent catastrophic incidents that endanger lives and the environment. However the tool is only as good as the information provided.”

The idea mimics a common practice in the aviation industry, allowing a third party, in this case the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, to collect the information. They’re making their pitch to industry this week at meetings in Los Angeles and Houston.
But the well-meaning program is far from what a skeptical public had hoped for.

In the months after Deepwater Horizon, sweeping reform seemed inevitable. The events, which at one point carried so much urgency, have become deflated around action in courtrooms.

When more than 200 million gallons of oil was set free into the Gulf, it exposed more than a few issues. In response, a presidential commission prescribed a number of recommendations to bolster drilling safety.

“If you want to know how far we’ve come since Horizon, use that as your baseline,” said Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation. “You look at the check list on the executive summary and not much has changed.”

In deference to the report, the Minerals Management Service was split into two agencies — one for safety and another for development — to eliminate conflicting interests. Today the agencies still confront workforce development challenges, seeking to pull from the same pool of candidates as the moneyed oil industry.

Some of the same technology that failed in 2010, such as the blowout preventer, is still in use today.

“The need to be precautionary is second to none–other than the nuclear industry,” Charter said. “Levels of redundancy have worked in the nuclear industry and in space, but for some reason it has not translated to the oil and gas industry.”

Having been allowed to bid on new leases last month, BP’s operations are crucial to testing the new self-reporting system.

A settlement reached in March with the Environmental Protection Agency requires the British oil giant to take part in the bureau’s “near-miss” program.

The Center for Offshore Safety, an industry-backed organization that was formed after the spill, has led with a similar program of its own.

Charlie Williams, former chief scientist for well engineering at Shell worldwide, runs the outfit based in Houston. They count some of the biggest companies doing business in the Gulf among the members who participate.

“The purpose of all this is all aimed at what can we learn, and determine what some of the best practices are,” Williams said. “The ultimate challenge is having a robust safety culture where everybody is individually responsible.”

They’ve only received the first wave of data in November, he said, and has not been able to use the information yet.

As the country moves toward a so-called “all of the above” energy policy, safety concerns associated with offshore drilling will only persist as the government moves to expand exploration into the Arctic, and possibly the Atlantic coast.

The energy rush has occurred, all while most of the long term effects of the oil spill remain unknown, said Sierra Weaver, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in North Carolina.

“We are extremely concerned about the prospect of drilling off the coast of the Southeast (United States),” Weaver said. “These things tend to be out of sight, out of mind.”

The chances of a government program succeeding, Charter said, depend on motivation.

“The motivation for protecting your corporate image from the visible effects is stronger for airlines than for deepwater drillers,” he said. But when you’re miles out into the Gulf “accidents are generally not visible.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Public Citizen.org: Four Years After BP’s Deepwater Horizon Dumped 200 Million Gallons of Oil Into Gulf, 50-Plus Citizen Groups Call on EPA to Extend Oil Giant’s Suspension From Government Contracts

Public Citizen.org
April 18, 2014

Contacts:
Allison Fisher 202-454-5176 afisher@citizen.org
Jacolyn Lopez 727-490-9190 jlopez@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the approach of the fourth anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf, more than 50 conservation and public interest groups – the majority representing Gulf and Lake Michigan communities – today called on (PDF) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its premature decision to reinstate BP as a federal contractor for oil exploration, drilling and production.

Though the long-term impacts of the spill on the Gulf are still largely unknown, the EPA last month lifted its suspension of BP entities from federal contracts, deeming the corporation once again fit to do business with the government.

In a letter to be delivered today to the EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., the organizations said that allowing BP to resume business with the U.S. government is irresponsible and undermines federal laws intended to protect the public from reckless corporate contractors. The letter is available (PDF).

“Four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, there is no evidence that the corporate culture that led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history has changed,” said Allison Fisher, outreach director for Public Citizen’s Energy Program.” To the contrary, BP’s most recent oil spill in Lake Michigan suggests that threats of debarment alone do nothing to deter the negligent practices of corporations like BP.”

The groups delivered the signatures of about 60,000 people from across the country calling for the agency to use its authority to disqualify BP and its subsidiaries from federal contracts for the duration of the corporation’s five-year probationary period. The groups say the action is necessary to protect the public interest, environment and workers from the corporation responsible for the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which began on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and triggered the worst oil spill in American history.

“BP devastated the Gulf and then lied to Congress about it,” said Zack Malitz, campaign manager at CREDO. “There’s no reason to trust this criminal corporation to do anything but negligently endanger public health and the environment.”

Letting a chronic offender like BP off the hook weakens the effectiveness of government debarment and suspensions and sends a clear message to contractors that no matter how egregious their actions, the U.S. government will continue to do business with them, the groups said. Incidents at BP’s facilities have resulted in the deaths of 26 people in the past 12 years, and the largest oil spills on both Alaska’s North Slope and in the Gulf of Mexico. Late last month, more than 1,600 gallons of crude oil leaked into Lake Michigan from BP’s Whiting refinery in Northwest Indiana.

“The days where BP’s actions go unpunished and its falsehoods go unchallenged are numbered. The American people are not willing to give BP another mulligan,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “BP repeatedly struggles with the truth; just this week, on the fourth anniversary of the catastrophic spill, BP claimed that active cleanup had come to a close despite reports from the Coast Guard that the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is not over by a long shot.”
© 2014 Public Citizen * 1600 20th Street, NW / Washington, D.C. 20009 *

Special thanks to Maryann Lucking of Coralations

AP: The Gulf of Mexico oil spill at a glance

http://www.wwl.com/The-Gulf-of-Mexico-oil-spill-at-a-glance/18840949

WWL AM 870 FM 105.3

Posted: Friday, 18 April 2014 3:13PM

April 20 marks the fourth anniversary of an explosion on the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 workers about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico and set off the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster.

WHAT HAPPENED

The Deepwater Horizon well was drilling the night of April 20 when it was rocked by an explosion and began burning. The rig sank less than two days later and crude oil gushed into the Gulf from the blown-out Macondo well. The well’s location about a mile below the Gulf surface and the pressure of oil and natural gas erupting from it severely hampered efforts to cap the well. In July 2010, a cap was successfully placed over the well after an estimated 200 million gallons of oil escaped, though that amount is one of many points that remain in dispute. The collapsed rig remains on the Gulf bottom. The spill led to a moratorium for a time on deep-water drilling in the Gulf and assurances from federal officials that offshore oil drilling regulation and monitoring would be tightened in an effort to prevent future disasters like the BP spill. Drilling has since resumed.

CLAIMS, SETTLEMENTS, DISPUTES

Two phases of a trial in U.S. District Court have been held in New Orleans and a third is schooled to begin in January, dealing with matters of fault, questions of negligence, how much oil ultimately was spewed into the Gulf – all of which will determine how much the oil giant will have to pay in penalties under the federal Clean Water Act.

Meanwhile, BP estimates that, since May 2010, it has paid out roughly $11 billion so far in claims to individuals and businesses over economic losses and damages, plus nearly $1.5 billion to government. In 2012, the company and a committee representing numerous plaintiffs agreed to a settlement resolving most economic and property damage claims. However, a court-appointed administrator’s interpretation of that settlement remains in dispute. The company initially estimated the settlement would result in it paying $7.8 billion in claims. Later, as it started to challenge the business payouts, the company said it no longer could give a reliable estimate for how much the deal will cost.
CRIMINAL CASES

In 2012, BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government and to plead guilty to felony counts related to the deaths of the 11 workers and lying to Congress. The figure includes nearly $1.3 billion in criminal fines – the largest such penalty ever – along with payments to several government entities. Two BP well site leaders are charged with manslaughter, and a former executive is charged with lying to authorities.

In 2013, the Justice Department reached a $1.4 billion settlement with rig owner Transocean Ltd., requiring the Switzerland-based company to pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act.

Also in December 2013, former BP engineer Kurt Mix was convicted in federal court of obstruction of justice after prosecutors said he deleted text messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor to stymie a grand jury’s investigation of the spill. He has motions pending before the trial judge to have the jury’s verdict thrown out.

HEALTH ISSUES
BP and plaintiffs agreed in 2012 to a settlement providing oil spill cleanup workers and residents in specified areas close to the coast with payments for medical claims related to the spill. BP does not have an estimate of how much it will likely pay out. Lawyers have estimated as many as 200,000 people may benefit.

ENVIRONMENT

Oil from the busted well spread north after the blowout, eventually soiling marshes, beaches and barrier islands from Louisiana to Florida and forcing rich seafood grounds to be closed. Rescue and cleaning centers were set up for animals affected by the spill. Researchers continue to monitor marshlands, marine life and oyster beds lingering effects from the oil.

(image from Louisiana GOHSEP)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Undercurrent News: Coast Guard, BP, issue dueling news releases on state of Gulf oil spill recovery

http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/04/17/coast-guard-bp-issue-dueling-news-releases-on-state-of-gulf-oil-spill-recovery/

Seafood Business News from Beneath the Surface

April 17, 2014, 4:03 pm

BP said that the “active cleanup” of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill had been brought “to a close” as of Tuesday night, but the Coast Guard begs to differ, stating in response on Tuesday that the spill response isn’t over yet.

“Not by a long shot,” the Coast Guard said.

Dueling news releases came out just before the fourth anniversary of the April 20, 2010, blowout on BP’s Macondo well, reports the Washington Post.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caught fire and sank, 11 workers were killed and more than 4 million barrels of crude spilled into the gulf.

BP, which has vowed to “make things right,” said it issued its press release because the Coast Guard ended “patrols and operations” along the final three miles of Louisiana shoreline, capping a four-year effort that BP said cost more than $14 billion.

From now on, the Coast Guard and BP will not be scouring the coast for oil, but rather responding to specific reports of oil washing ashore.

BP said it wanted to note the “milestone” and said nearly 4,400 miles had been surveyed, with teams detecting oiling on 1,104 miles and doing at least some cleanup on 778 miles.
But Coast Guard Capt. Thomas Sparks, the federal on-scene coordinator of the Deepwater Horizon response, sought to stress that the switch to what he called a “middle response” process “does not end cleanup operations.”

“Our response posture has evolved to target re-oiling events on coastline segments that were previously cleaned,” said Sparks. “But let me be absolutely clear: This response is not over – not by a long shot.”

BP has been trying to bring the oil spill episode to a close and circumscribe costs that so far have reached $27 billion. Litigation over economic damages and federal fines under the Clean Water Act continues in New Orleans. The company has set aside roughly $42 billion for total costs.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

CBS Evening News: Four years after devastating BP oil spill, scientists search for life in the Gulf

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/four-years-after-devastating-bp-oil-spill-scientists-search-for-life-in-the-gulf/

CBS Evening News

By CHIP REID CBS NEWS April 17, 2014, 7:11 PM

It happened four years ago Sunday.

A well drilled by the BP oil company blew out, killing 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and unleashing a gusher into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days.

Now for the first time since 2010, scientists got a close look at the seabed not far from the capped well.

Fifty miles off the coast of Louisiana we climbed aboard the research vessel Atlantis.
This is where we found Mandy Joye, a University of Georgia oceanographer and the leader of this expedition. She’s been studying the Gulf of Mexico for 20 years.

“People who have never seen the bottom of the ocean can’t appreciate how just phenomenal it is,” Joye said.

Joye and her team of 22 scientists are spending this month diving to the Gulf floor in a Navy research submarine named Alvin. They want to know how the bottom is doing four years after the oil spill.

The answer is a mile down, a two-hour descent into darkness.
“We are on the bottom at 1,607 meters,” Joye can be heard saying.

Alvin landed just two miles from the well that spewed 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

This is the first time Joye – or any human – has been down here since 2010.

What kind of marine life did she find down there four years ago?

“Four years ago there was nothing,” she said. “I saw one crab in an eight-hour dive. It was gut-wrenching to go down there and see just nothing on the sea floor. ”

And now?

“It’s very different,” Joye said. “Now, we saw eels and skates and a vampire squid, which I’d never seen before.

What does it mean to find a vampire squid in an area that had been dead?

“It means there’s a lot of food,” she said.

That was the good news.

But there was potential bad news in sediment samples collected from the sea floor. The mud contains an oily layer from the spill, and Joye worries the residue could adversely affect marine life in the longer term.

“This material that’s on the sea floor, there’s a lot of it,” she said. “It’s widespread. And it’s just sort of sitting there. And nothing’s happening to it.”

What does it mean to see that life is at least beginning to come back after the devastating oil spill?

“I was prepared to see little recovery and I was so relieved,” Joye said.
But there’s still a long way to go, she said.

“Because, again, this is one spot,” she said. “And you can’t apply what you see at one spot to the entire system.”

Joye and her team plan to keep a close watch on the Gulf with four or five research cruises a year. She said it could be a decade before the full impact of the oil spill is known.

_________________________Special thanks to Richard Charter

The New York Times OpEd: The Deepwater Horizon Threat By S. ELIZABETH BIRNBAUM and JACQUELINE SAVITZ

NYTimes Op-Ed 4.17.14
APRIL 16, 2014
image002 5529.jpg 2
Credit Doug Chayka

FOUR years ago this Sunday, BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, destroying the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers and setting off an uncontrolled oil gusher lasting 87 days. By the time the flow was stopped, an estimated 200 million gallons of oil had entered the ocean.

The harm to gulf wildlife has been long-lasting if not fully understood. One recent study found that dolphins in the gulf region were suffering from problems consistent with exposure to oil: lung damage and low levels of adrenal hormones, which are important for responding to stress. Another study found that bluefin and yellowfin tuna sustained heart damage, which suggests likely harm to other fish as well. Another legacy has been the oiling of marshes along the coast, which has exacerbated coastline erosion by killing grasses that help keep the shoreline intact.

One of us, Liz Birnbaum, had for nine months been head of the government agency that regulated the offshore drilling industry when the spill began. We were both horrified to discover that the best efforts of industry and government engineers could not stop the spill for months.

We would never have imagined so little action would be taken to prevent something like this from happening again. But, four years later, the Obama administration still has not taken key steps recommended by its experts and experts it commissioned to increase drilling safety. As a result, we are on a course to repeat our mistakes. Making matters worse, the administration proposes to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic and allow seismic activities harmful to ocean life in the search for new oil reserves.

Following the spill, the administration promised that it would do what was necessary to make drilling as safe as possible. A presidential commission recommended numerous measures to increase drilling safety. The Coast Guard, the Department of the Interior and the National Academy of Engineering subsequently identified more problems that contributed to the spill. Though some recommendations have been acted upon, including restructuring the regulatory agency that oversees drilling and increasing training and certification for government drilling rig inspectors, threats remain.

One huge concern centers on the blowout preventers, which seal wells in blowouts and are the last line of defense for events like the one at Deepwater Horizon. It’s unfathomable that the administration has failed to act on the findings of the December 2011 report of the National Academy of Engineering, which gave us some very bad news about Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer.

Its massive cutting blades were supposed to slice through the drill pipe to stop the flow of gushing oil. But it turned out that these huge pieces of equipment were not adequately engineered to stop emergency blowouts in deep water.

The academy’s report was detailed and damning. Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer “was neither designed nor tested for the dynamic conditions that most likely existed at the time that attempts were made to recapture well control,” the report said. More troubling, the shortcomings of Deepwater’s equipment “may be present” at other deepwater drilling operations, the report said.

Administration officials promised an immediate response to the N.A.E. report, including regulations to set new standards for blowout preventers by the end of 2012. Today, 16 months after that deadline and four years after the blowout, we still have not seen even proposed rules. Deepwater drilling continues in the gulf. New leases are being offered by the government and sold to energy companies each year. Yet the N.A.E. report warned that a blowout in deep water may not be controllable with current technology.

The risk of another blowout is real. Offshore wells have lost control several times in the past year. In July the Timbalier 220 well spewed natural gas for two days in the gulf, setting a drilling rig on fire, before it could be stopped. Its operators were fortunate that the blowout took place in just 154 feet of water, where the pressure is lower and underwater access is easier, and that the spill was mostly natural gas. But the same lack of control could easily lead to another oil blowout in deep water.

This continuing threat to the oceans is compounded by the administration’s recent proposal to allow the use of seismic air guns to search for oil along the Atlantic coast. Scientists use these blasts to map the subsurface of the seafloor. But they harm a wide range of species, and the Interior Department’s own analysis indicates that they may kill large numbers of dolphins and whales. Rather than waiting for pending scientific guidelines that would determine whether this acoustic testing could be done safely, the administration has rushed to allow the oil industry to move forward.

We have seen this pattern before. The expansion of drilling into deeper water and farther from shore was not coupled with advances in spill prevention and response. The same is true as we push into new territory in the Atlantic. As we commemorate one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history, we hope our leaders can rethink the expansion of offshore drilling, put real safety measures in place in the gulf and chart a course for safer and cleaner solutions to end the need for this risky business in the first place.

_____________

S. Elizabeth Birnbaum is a consultant at SEB Strategies, and was director of the Minerals Management Service at the time of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Jacqueline Savitz is vice president for U.S. Oceans at Oceana, an international conservation group.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on April 17, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: The Deepwater Horizon Threat.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com: Study finds high rates of depression, anxiety among Gulf oil spill cleanup workers

http://www.nola.com/health/index.ssf/2014/04/study_finds_high_rates_of_depr.html

By Jennifer Larino, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

on April 11, 2014 at 4:23 PM, updated April 11, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Researchers studying the health of nearly 33,000 people who did clean up work during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill say it’s still too early to tell what impact exposure to oil and dispersants will have on their bodies in the long-term. But early results show widespread symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers hope a second phase of more intensive health tests conducted over the next year will help paint a more detailed picture of the spill’s health impact.

Scientists with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on Friday (April 11) provided an update on the study, known as the Gulf Long-Term Follow-up Study, or GuLF STUDY, in a conference call with reporters. Researchers have enrolled close to 33,000 who were hired or volunteered for cleanup work since the study began in 2010. About 24 percent are Louisiana residents. In addition to more than 12,000 telephone interviews, researchers have completed in-home health screenings with 11,000 participants, collecting blood and home dust samples and doing basic blood pressure and diabetes screenings.

Dale Sandler, a principal investigator with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences epidemiology group and leader of the research effort, said early data show symptoms of depression are prevalent among cleanup workers. The study group reported symptoms at a rate 30 percent higher than other people in areas affected by the oil spill.

Sandler said the findings are “not a surprise” given the stressful and dirty work most cleanup workers were involved in. Most were residents of communities impacted by the spill, which prior research show are prone to higher rates of depression and anxiety, she said. Still she said there is no definitive link between the spill and mental and physical health problems. Sandler said her team is still gathering key data, including how much oil and dispersants each participant was exposed to. “It will be many years before we can know if the oil spill had an impact on the risk of developing chronic disease such as lung disease or cancer,” Sandler said.

BP, the owner of ill-fated Macondo well that was the source of the spill, responded to the early findings by underscoring its role in ensuring the health of and safety of cleanup responders. BP said in statement it collected 3,000 air monitoring samples evaluating dispersant and oil compound exposure in addition to providing training and protective equipment for each worker. “BP worked closely with OSHA, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and other U.S. government agencies to take extraordinary measures to safeguard the health and safety of responders,” BP said.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences research team is now partnering with the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans and the University of South Alabama in Mobile to complete a second phase of the study, which includes in-depth research exams with some 4,000 participants within a 60-mile radius of each testing center. The research exams will include a battery of tests measuring proper lung and neurological function and heart health. In addition to blood and urine samples, researchers will use saliva samples to test for stress hormones. Participants will receive $150 for their time and additional funds for travel.

Sandler added participants who are found to have chronic diseases such as diabetes will be eligible to receive health care at the network of clinics being funded by the multibillion-dollar Deepwater Horizon Medical Benefits settlement. Sandler said a key hurdle moving forward is ensuring participants remain engaged in the study, which could last decades. “The issue of keeping people in Š is a very big challenge,” she said.

Sandler said being able to plug into cancer registries and scour other long-term data is key to getting a full picture of the health impact of the oil spill. She added long-term data prevents results from being skewed by economic or social factors – someone playing up their medical problems in order to get a bigger pay out from the settlement, for example.

She said her team is getting creative to make sure those who enrolled in the study keep in touch with researchers, in some cases going door-to-door to maintain contact with participants.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Legal Examiner: BP & The Real State of the Gulf – Pollution Report for Friday, April 11, 2014

http://neworleans.legalexaminer.com/toxic-substances/bp-the-real-state-of-the-gulf-pollution-report-for-friday-april-11-2014/

New Orleans, Louisiana

Posted by Tom Young
April 13, 2014 8:30 AM

Pensacola Beach was searched by Florida Department of Environmental Protection specialist Joey Whibbs on Friday, April 11, 2014. Whibbs collected 110 BP Deepwater Horizon tar balls weighing nearly three pounds. Photos courtesy FDEP.

The following is a summary of the 4/11/14 daily beach oiling report issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). I will endeavour to publish this summary each day the FDEP issues such a report. While the media and public believe that the effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Blowout and Oil Spill have been largely eradicated, this data suggests otherwise.

It is important to note that these reports of daily oil discoveries come at a time when BP is attempting to renege on its oft-stated “Commitment to the Gulf.” The company is repudiating the Contract it made with area businesses and individuals that compensates them for economic and environmental losses associated with BP’s spill.
Now BP claims that it is the victim. You be the judge, and if you are outraged, sign our petition to hold BP accountable, nearly four years after the company’s disaster.

My Summary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Oiling Report
Friday, April 11, 2014

On Friday, FDEP environmental specialist Joey Whibbs conducted a post-response monitoring survey on Escambia County, Florida beaches, with a focus in the Pensacola Beach area.

Numerous Surface Residue Balls (SRBs or “tar balls”) were found throughout the area.

These hardened balls are often filled with deadly, flesh-eating bacteria. Do not handle without protective gloves.

Friday’s findings indicate that oil from BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill is still quite prevalent. A total of 110 tar balls were collected during the survey, amounting to nearly three pounds of Deepwater Horizon oil product removed from these sections of beach – by one person.

Since the end of BP’s official cleanup efforts in June 2013, over 40,000 tar balls and 1,984 pounds of Deepwater Horizon oil have been documented and removed from Florida’s beaches alone (not including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Texas). On an average survey day, the FDEP team covers no more than 1,000 yards of beach, less than 1% of Florida’s shoreline that was impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Therefore, these numbers represent a very limited snapshot of residual oiling on Northwest Florida’s beaches.

For instance, this is an example of the ground covered in an average survey:

From this data, it appears BP has left town well before the job was done. So much for the company’s “Commitment to the Gulf.”
See below for images of some of Friday’s collected oil.

FloridaBPOilSpill4=11=14

Portion of BP oil observed Friday, April 11, 2014 on Escambia County, Florida beaches. These hardened balls are often filled with deadly, flesh-eating bacteria. Do not handle without protective gloves.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams ‘This Is Not Over’: Gulf Life Still Reeling From Toxic BP Spill

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/04/09-6
Published on Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Report on four year anniversary of worst oil disaster in US history details fourteen ailing species
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

See powerpoint slide show at: http://www.slideshare.net/NationalWildlife/deepwater-horizonfouryearslater-nationalwildlifefederation?utm_source=slideshow02&utm_medium=ssemail&utm_campaign=share_slideshow

sea turtle
Photo: Jacqueline Orsulak / National Wildlife Federation

Nearly four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe, plants, animals, and fish in the Gulf of Mexico are still reeling from the toxic spill, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Wildlife Federation.

The report, which arrives just ahead of the disaster’s anniversary, examined 14 species of wildlife in the Gulf and found ongoing impacts of the disaster that could last for decades.

“Four years later, wildlife in the Gulf are still feeling the impacts of the spill,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation. “Bottlenose dolphins in oiled areas are still sick and dying and the evidence is stronger than ever that these deaths are connected to the Deepwater Horizon. The science is telling us that this is not over.”

According to the findings, in 2013 dolphins were dying at three times normal rates, with many suffering from “unusual lung damage” and immune system problems.

In addition to the ongoing plight of dolphins in Gulf waters, the researchers found that every year for the past three years roughly five hundred dead sea turtles are found near the spill, “a dramatic increase over normal rates.” These sea turtles only recently recovered from near extinction—a recovery that has now been drastically threatened by the spill.

“The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has long been the poster child for the possibilities of restoration in the Gulf,” said Pamela Plotkin, associate research professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University and director of Texas Sea Grant. “Once close to extinction, it has rebounded dramatically over the past thirty years. But four years ago, the numbers of Kemp’s ridley appear to have flat-lined. We need to monitor this species carefully, as the next few years will be critical.”

According to the report, sperm whales in the area are showing higher levels of “DNA-damaging metals” than others in other parts of the world—”metals that were present in oil from BP’s well.”

In addition, deep sea coral colonies, which “provide a foundation for a diverse assortment of marine life,” within seven miles from the site of the spill, were still “heavily impacted.”

Other findings, as stated by the group, include:

Oyster reproduction remained low over large areas of the northern Gulf at least through the fall of 2012.
A chemical in oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill has been shown to cause irregular heartbeats in bluefin and yellowfin tuna that can lead to heart attacks, or even death.
Loons that winter on the Louisiana coast have increasing concentrations of toxic oil compounds in their blood.

“Despite what BP would have you believe, the impacts of the disaster are ongoing,” said Sara Gonzalez-Rothi, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior policy specialist for Gulf and coastal restoration. “Last year, nearly five million pounds of oiled material from the disaster were removed from Louisiana’s coast. And that’s just what we’ve seen. An unknown amount of oil remains deep in the Gulf.”

The Gulf oil disaster—which is the worst in U.S. history—”will likely unfold for years or even decades,” NWF writes. “It is essential that careful monitoring of the Gulf ecosystem continue and that mitigation of damages and restoration of degraded and weakened ecosystems begin as soon as possible.”

Despite the ongoing travesty the Environmental Protection Agency announced last month that it removed its ban on BP contracts in the U.S. and new drilling leases, including in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shortly after, the oil giant won bids to start new drilling operations in two dozen separate locations, a total pricetag of $54 million.

National Geographic: Gulf Oil Spill “Not Over”: Dolphins, Turtles Dying in Record Numbers

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140408-gulf-oil-spill-animals-anniversary-science-deepwater-horizon-science/?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=20131016_rw_membership_r1p_us_dr_w#finished

Report warns that 14 species are still struggling from the 2010 disaster.

A dead sea turtle lies in oil in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay in 2010.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Christine Dell’Amore
National Geographic
PUBLISHED APRIL 8, 2014

Four years after the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, several species of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico are still struggling to recover, according to a new report released today.

In particular, bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are dying in record numbers, and the evidence is stronger than ever that their demise is connected to the spill, according to Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, which issued the report.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and spewing more than 200 million gallons (750 million liters) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, various government agencies and nonprofits, including the National Wildlife Federation, have been studying the region’s wildlife to track the impacts of the oil.
The report, a compilation of published science since the spill, reveals that “the Gulf oil spill is far from over,” Inkley said.

“The oil is not gone: There is oil on the bottom of the Gulf, oil is washing up on the beaches, and oil is still on the marshes,” he said.

“I am not surprised by this. In Prince William Sound, 25 years after the wreck of Exxon Valdez, there are still some species that have not fully recovered.” (Related: “Oil From the Exxon Valdez Spill Lingers on Alaska Beaches.”)

However, BP, which operated the now-defunct oil well, claims that the report “is a piece of political advocacy-not science.

“For example, the report misrepresents the U.S. government’s investigation into dolphin deaths; as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s own Web site states, that inquiry is ongoing,” BP said in a statement provided to National Geographic.

“The report also conveniently overlooks information available from other independent scientific reports showing that the Gulf is undergoing a strong recovery. Just this week, a study published by Auburn University researchers found no evidence that the spill impacted young red snapper populations on reefs off the Alabama coast.”

Hit Hard
The report examined 14 species that live in the Gulf. Those include:
-More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. If you stretched the corpses lengthwise, that’s 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of dead dolphins, Inkley said. Scientists know that is more than in previous years because they’ve been recording deaths and strandings in the Gulf for a decade.

Ongoing research also shows that dolphins swimming in oiled areas are underweight, anemic, and showing signs of liver and lung diseases. (Related: “U.S. Dolphin Deaths Rise to 300; Cause Still a Mystery.”)

A top predator like the dolphin falling ill is a sign that species further down the food chain are also having trouble, Inkley said.

“When you have sick dolphins, it tells you there’s a problem here and it needs to be investigated.”

-There are five species of sea turtle that live in the Gulf, and all of them are listed as threatened or endangered by the Endangered Species Act. About 500 dead sea turtles have been found in the spill region every year since 2011-“a dramatic increase over normal rates,” according to the NWF. What’s unknown is how many turtles died at sea and were never recovered by scientists.

-An oil chemical from the spill has been shown to cause irregular heartbeats in the embryos of bluefin and yellowfin tuna. That’s a critical stage of development for the fish, so there’s a lot of concern that the damage could cause heart attacks or deaths, Inkley said. (Related: “Odd Animal Deaths, Deformities Linked to Gulf Oil Spill?”)

-Loons, birds that winter on the Louisiana coast, are carrying increasing concentrations of toxic oil compounds in their blood.

-Sperm whales that swam near the BP well have higher levels of DNA-damaging metals in their bodies than in the past. The metals in their bodies, such as chromium and nickel, are the same ones that were present in the well.

Long Way to Go
Overall, “we have a long way to go in understanding the full impact,” Inkley said.
To that end, NWF and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will continue monitoring wildlife in the oiled region-the latter is required to do so by the Oil Pollution Act.

Restoring the oiled ecosystems is a goal, Inkley said, but he added oil is tough to remove, especially in marshes and in the deep ocean. That’s why NWF is emphasizing prevention-in particular, adopting alternative energy resources that are not carbon-based and won’t cause oil spills.

“I’m still haunted by the ‘walking dead’ brown pelicans covered head to toe in the oil,” added Inkley.

“We must not let this happen again.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: BP Spill at Tar Sands Refinery Has ‘Crapped Up Lake Michigan’

https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/26-4

Published on Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Company with tarnished past doubling tar sands processing near major water source
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
another BP spill
BP oil spill into Lake Michigan (Screengrab: NBC Chicago)

Oil giant BP has caused yet another oil spill in a crucial water way this week, following an increase in tar sands refining at its Indiana plant on the shores of Lake Michigan.

BP notified the federal government’s National Response Center around 5 p.m. Monday that its Whiting Refinery was leaking oil into the lake, which is the source of drinking water for 7 million people in nearby Chicago, due to a malfunction in the refinery’s cooling water system.

The spill comes less than a year after BP started processing Canadian tar sands at the refinery. Tar sands oil, many environmental groups have warned, is the “the dirtiest fuel on Earth” and is “more corrosive, more toxic, and more difficult to clean up than conventional crude.”

Enumerating a long list of historical problems at the Whiting Refinery, Henry Henderson at the Natural Resources Defense Council notes Wednesday, “The week of the Exxon Valdez disaster anniversary and a week after the Council of Canadians released a report highlighting the threat that tar sands oil imposes on the Great Lakes, BP did what it always does: crapped up Lake Michigan.”

He continues:

While the scope of yesterday’s spill is clearly a tiny fraction of the Kalamazoo disaster, it’s still not clear what kind and how much oil made its way into Lake Michigan from the refinery. A day later, we still don’t know […]

It is that lack of transparency that drives environmentalists and government decisionmakers alike crazy. The public needs to know what has made its way into their drinking water sources and whether it is being adequately cleaned. Sure, state and federal regulators need to do better: press calls to state and federal EPA were routed directly to BP to answer.

“The malfunction occurred at the refinery’s largest crude distillation unit, the centerpiece of a nearly $4 billion overhaul that allowed BP to process more heavy Canadian oil from the tar sands region of Alberta,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “The unit … performs one of the first steps in the refining of crude oil into gasoline and other fuels.”

It was still uncertain Wednesday as to exactly how much of the oil spilled. BP said it had managed to stop the discharge by Tuesday and cleanup efforts continued throughout the day on Wednesday.

The EPA stated:

Under EPA oversight, BP has deployed more than 2,000 feet of boom to contain the oil. In addition, the company has used vacuum trucks to remove about 5,200 gallons of an oil/water mixture from the spill location. BP crews also are combing a nearby company-owned beach for oil globs and conducting air monitoring to ensure the safety of the public. The U.S. Coast Guard has flown over the area and has not observed any visible sheen beyond the boomed area.

Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a joint statement that they are “extremely concerned” about future spills. BP recently said they are doubling its processing of heavy crude oil at the refinery.

“We plan to hold BP accountable for this spill and will ask for a thorough report about the cause of this spill, the impact of the Whiting Refinery’s production increase on Lake Michigan, and what steps are being taken to prevent any future spill,” they stated.

A recent report by the Council of Canadians, warns that the Great Lakes are at risk of becoming a “liquid pipeline” for the dirtiest forms of oil and gas available, citing ongoing plans to transport “extreme energy” sources such as tar sands under and across the Great Lakes.

“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and only just beginning to understand the grave impacts these extreme energy projects are going to have on the Great Lakes,” said national chairperson of the Council Maude Barlow. “We often see these projects approved piecemeal but we have to step back and think about how all these projects are going to affect the Lakes.”

This week’s spill comes four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the largest in U.S. history, which continues to plague the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite BP’s history, the EPA recently removed a ban on BP drilling contracts and new leases in the U.S., an offer BP was quick to capitalize on.

spill2

Crews clean up an oil spill along Lake Michigan in Whiting, Ind. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2014)

______________________

Phys.Org: Researcher finds methane from oil spill has entered food web

http://phys.org/news/2014-03-methane-oil-food-web.html

Mar 13, 2014

When millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, so did large volumes of methane, or natural gas.

Now, researchers from Florida State University and Florida A&M University have confirmed that methane-derived carbon has entered the Gulf’s food web through tiny organic particles floating in the Gulf.

“All this methane was released into the Gulf and then in a few months, it disappeared,” said Jeffrey Chanton, professor of chemical oceanography at Florida State. “What happened to it? It got absorbed by bacteria and that bacteria got incorporated into the food web.”

Chanton’s study, published in the premier issue of a new journal, Environment Science & Technology Letters, reports that 28 percent to 43 percent of the carbon found in the tiny floating particles which are ubiquitous in the Gulf is related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and derived from the uptake of spill-methane by bacteria.

Chanton and colleagues Jennifer Cherrier, an associate professor of environmental science at FAMU, and Thomas Guilderson, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, used carbon isotopes to match carbon from methane with carbon in plankton and floating particles.

The presence of methane is not cause for alarm though, Chanton said. Overall, it has a benign impact on the food that makes it from the sea to people’s dinner tables.

But, it is of importance for oceanographers and other ecologists studying the area.

The population of methane-eating bacteria bloomed when the oil and gas spill occurred, and the bacteria were very efficient in converting the gas into biomass. That energy efficient process is significant because it also provides for a symbiotic relationship between the bacteria and certain deep-sea creatures, particularly mussels, which are often found around cold seeps.

A cold seep is an area of the ocean floor where methane, hydrogen sulfide and hydrocarbon fluid often form a pool.

Chanton’s research is supported by Ecogig, a 20-member research advisory board created to allocate the money made available by the BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.
It is also supported by the Deep-C Consortium, a group of 10 universities and research institutions, including Florida State, working on Gulf of Mexico research to discover the impact of the oil spill.

The consortium has undertaken a number of projects as part of a $20 million, three-year grant to investigate the impact of the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately, said Chanton, this is the first time that large-scale research has been done in the region. There is insufficient scientific baseline data on the ecology of the Gulf up to this point.

Because of this lack of baseline data, it may be difficult to get a total picture of the changes that have occurred as a result of the oil spill.

“We don’t know what the damage was because we don’t have a baseline knowledge,” he said.

____________________

Explore further: Gulf of Mexico has greater-than-believed ability to self-cleanse oil spills
More information: “Fossil Carbon in Particulate Organic Matter in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon Event.” J. Cherrier, J. Sarkodee-Adoo, T. P. Guilderson, and J. P. Chanton. Environmental Science & Technology Letters 2014 1 (1), 108-112, DOI: 10.1021/ez400149c
Journal reference: Environmental Science & Technology Letters
Provided by Florida State University

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New York Times ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/business/energy-environment/epa-to-lift-suspension-of-oil-leases-for-bp.html?hpw&rref=business&_r=0

By CLIFFORD KRAUSSMARCH 13, 2014

HOUSTON – Four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, BP is being welcomed back to seek new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

An agreement on Thursday with the Environmental Protection Agency lifts a 2012 ban that was imposed after the agency concluded that BP had not fully corrected problems that led to the well blowout in 2010 that killed 11 rig workers, spilled millions of gallons of oil and contaminated hundreds of miles of beaches.

BP had sued to have the suspension lifted, and now the agreement will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new business for the company. But even more important, oil analysts said, it signifies an important step in the company’s recovery from the accident, which has been costly to its finances and reputation.

“After a lengthy negotiation, BP is pleased to have reached this resolution, which we believe to be fair and reasonable,” said John Mingé, chairman and president of BP America. “Today’s agreement will allow America’s largest energy investor to compete again for federal contracts and leases.”

That prospect elicited sharp criticism from environmental groups. “It’s kind of outrageous to allow BP to expand their drilling presence here in the gulf,” said Raleigh Hoke, a spokesman for the Gulf Restoration Network, based in New Orleans.

Under the agreement, BP will be allowed to bid for new leases as early as next Wednesday, but only as long as the company passes muster on ethics, corporate governance and safety procedures outlined by the agency. There will be risk assessments, a code of conduct for officers, guidance for employees and “zero tolerance” for retaliation against employees or contractors who raise safety concerns.

An independent auditor approved by the E.P.A. will conduct an annual review and report on BP’s compliance with the new standards. The agency said in a statement that it would also have the authority to take corrective action “in the event the agreement is breached.”
“This is a fair agreement that requires BP to improve its practices in order to meet the terms we’ve outlined together,” said Craig E. Hooks, the E.P.A.’s assistant administrator of administration and resources.

Fadel Gheit, an oil company analyst at Oppenheimer & Company, said it was “a moral victory for BP.” He added: “It will be the best news BP has gotten since the accident. BP has to get back into the hunt in order for them to score.”

Critics of the agreement noted that nearly four years after the spill, the cleanup has not been completed. Oil still washes up in places, particularly during storms, as happened in October with Tropical Storm Karen.

“They still haven’t really made it right when it comes to the gulf,” Mr. Hoke said.
Public Citizen, a consumer activist group, also expressed outrage, saying in a statement that the settlement “lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment.”

The accident continues to mire the company in lawsuits and court hearings. BP settled criminal charges with the Justice Department two years ago for $4.5 billion in penalties, but the oil company faces billions of dollars more in costs from a federal civil trial in New Orleans to determine how much it will be required to pay in Clean Water Act fines.

The company is also arguing that a separate settlement it made with businesses and individuals who suffered losses because of the accident has been misinterpreted. But a federal appeals court ruled this month that the company would have to abide by its agreement and pay some businesses for economic damages without their having to prove the damages were caused directly by the spill.

BP initially estimated that the costs of the settlement would run to $7.8 billion, but it now says the cost could rise well above that.

BP, which employs 2,300 people in the Gulf of Mexico, continues to explore on leases in the gulf from before the 2010 accident. At the end of 2013, the company had 10 drilling rigs in the deep waters of the gulf, and it reported a significant new discovery 300 miles southwest of New Orleans. BP said last year that it intended to invest at least $4 billion on average in the gulf each year for the next decade.

Oil production in the gulf remains below records set in 2009, and the industry continues to recover from a yearlong drilling moratorium that the federal government set after the spill. But several large oil companies, including Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell, are flocking back to the gulf. There were only about a dozen rigs working in the gulf three months after the disaster, and that increased to more than 60 by the end of last year.

When the E.P.A. issued the original ban, it cited BP for “lack of business integrity” because of its role in the accident and said the suspension would remain until the company could provide sufficient evidence that it met federal business standards.

The ban prohibited BP from selling fuel to the Pentagon and prevented the company from expanding its oil and gas production to new leases in the gulf, a major center of its worldwide operations. The company’s older leases make BP one of the most important oil and gas producers in the United States.

BP’s suit, filed last year in federal court in Texas, said that the ban was unjustified and that the agency had neglected to consider safety improvements the company had made.

David M. Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, said it was not unusual for corporate monitors to be appointed any time a corporation was convicted of criminal activity, especially in environmental cases. “What is unusual is BP was suspended from government contracting for such a long time,” he added.

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat in a tough race for re-election, hailed the settlement, although she added that E.P.A. should never have enacted the ban in the first place.

“The good news is that BP will now be able to participate in next week’s lease sale that will bring much-needed revenue to Louisiana and other oil-producing states along the Gulf Coast, as well as boost business for the region’s small and independent service and supply companies,” she said in a statement.

Campbell Robertson contributed reporting from New Orleans.

A version of this article appears in print on March 14, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil . Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Bradenton.com–Bradenton Herald Editorial: Florida still in grip of 2010 BP oil spill

http://www.bradenton.com/2014/03/11/5039425/florida-still-in-grip-of-2010.html

BY BRADENTON HERALD EDITORIAL
March 11, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

DWH
The offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon burns in the Gulf of Mexico April 21, 2010. A huge oil slick remained offshore and largely stationary two weeks later, which helped cleanup efforts. JON T. FRITZ/MCT JON T. FRITZ – MCT

A confluence of developments over the past week show once again that Florida remains in the grip of the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Including Manatee County.

With the state of Florida joining a multistate lawsuit against British oil company BP, a new study showing sick fish as far south as Sanibel, and a giant tar mat washing ashore off Pensacola Beach, we’re reminded that this catastrophe has not disappeared.

And Floridians should also know that the specter of offshore drilling along the Atlantic Ocean has returned. The Obama administration has opened the door to seismic surveys for oil and gas ranges from Delaware to Cape Coral.

But a new study by the University of South Florida found that dissolved oil from the millions of gallons that spewed from BP’s Macondo well sickened fish and diminished their immune systems past Manatee County further south.

The USF study, published last week in the scientific journal Deep-Sea Research, connects the diseased fish to the hydrocarbons similar to the BP oil. The company disputes those claims.

The USF study also concluded that those hydrocarbons likely entered Tampa Bay as well as polluting the waters all the way down to Sanibel. That makes Manatee County a prime pollution place, too.

Florida’s entry into the multistate federal litigation involving the Deepwater Horizon spill is a welcome sign toward environmental restoration. This lawsuit is separate case, filed last year, from the state’s against BP over economic losses.

The BP oil spill has not simply washed away, dissipated by ocean currents and such. Not when measured by a 1,250-pound tar mat that found its way onto the beach at Pensacola Beach just last week.

About 9-foot-wide and 9-foot-long, as the Tampa Bay Times reported, this gooey slick, too, serves as a reminder that the oil’s impact will be felt for years and years.

Oil wetlands
An oil sheen is seen as oil oozes from the marsh platform along the shoreline of Bay Jimmy, which was heavily impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in Plaquemines Parish, La., Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. The methods that BP employed during its 86-day struggle to stop oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico will be the focus of a trial resuming Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 in New Orleans, in the high-stakes litigation spawned by the worst offshore spill in the United States. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) GERALD HERBERT — AP

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2014/03/11/5039425/florida-still-in-grip-of-2010.html#storylink=cpy

This is good reason for the U.S. Interior Department to reject opening up part of the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration after 2017. Why harm sea creatures with underwater explosions during tests, likely injuring whales and dolphins?

Haven’t we learned the lesson from the BP oil spill? We’re still finding out about the ramifications from ocean drilling in our diet and environment, so let’s not revisit that nightmare.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2014/03/11/5039425/florida-still-in-grip-of-2010.html#storylink=cpy

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Broomberg.com: BP Is Biggest Loser Among U.S. Government Contractors

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-10/bp-is-biggest-loser-among-u-s-government-contractors.html

By Jonathan D. Salant and Kathleen Miller – Mar 10, 2014

BP Plc (BP/), once the Pentagon’s top fuel supplier, is now the biggest loser among U.S. government vendors. A combination of no big contracts awarded and promised military work withdrawn left BP with a net loss of $654 million in federal contracts in the year that ended Sept. 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compared with $2.51 billion in awards in fiscal 2012.

“I have never heard of a contractor falling in anything remotely like the distance from plus $2 billion to minus $600 million,” said Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law professor and former member of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting. “The government has come down on BP because it needs to see that BP does not merely talk the talk of behaving responsibly but actually walks the walk.”

The London-based company was temporarily barred from new federal contracts and other work after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. While BP has sued to get the suspension lifted, the U.S. has said it wants to continue the ban, which also affects oil and gas leases coveted by the supplier. The suspension cost BP the ability to win new federal work that might be worth billions of dollars. The Defense Department, by far the government’s biggest buyer of petroleum products, also withdrew obligations, or promised funding, of more than $400 million last year after one of its offices didn’t buy a minimum amount of fuel required under the contracts.

No Extensions
Government agencies that don’t make such minimum purchases usually extend contracts rather than cancel them, said Rob Burton, a partner at the law firm Venable LLP and deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under President George W. Bush. “They feel it’s a high risk to terminate and find alternative sources,” Burton said in an interview.
Instead, the Defense Logistics Agency, part of the Pentagon, chose to let the agreements expire.

“Suspended contractors cannot have the duration of their contracts extended without a compelling reason to do so,” Mimi Schirmacher, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mail. Three of the defense agency’s contracts, originally valued at a total of $2.15 billion, were awarded between May and September 2012 before BP’s temporary ban in November 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The three contracts weren’t extended “as a result of the suspension, which we are challenging in court,” Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

BP Sues
The company in August sued the Environmental Protection Agency in federal court in Houston to try to get the suspension lifted. “We believe that the EPA’s disqualification and suspension decisions should be invalidated because they are arbitrary and capricious,” Morrell said.

The government in January asked the court to continue the ban, saying BP hasn’t yet demonstrated it would act responsibly.
The EPA imposed the suspension after determining that the company hadn’t fully corrected problems that led to the fatal explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. “Given this history, it was wholly reasonable” for the agency to “conclude that BP’s latest round of plans and promises is insufficient to demonstrate that BP is a responsible federal contractor,” the Justice Department said in the court filing. With BP temporarily blacklisted, the government is turning to other companies.

Largest Sellers
In fiscal 2011, BP was the largest seller of fuel to the military, with $1.37 billion in prime, or direct, contracts. A year later, it ranked just below No. 1 Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), based in the Hague, Netherlands — which had $2.86 billion.
Closely held Refinery Associates of Texas, based in New Braunfels, Texas, was the No. 1 supplier last year, with $1.34 billion. It was followed by Miami-based World Fuel Services Corp. (INT), with $1.19 billion, and National Fuel Inc., based in Kabul, Afghanistan, with $912.7 million.

The federal data measure contract obligations, or funding that is set aside for later spending. The data is published by the U.S. government and compiled by Bloomberg. BP, in the meantime, received just $31 million in contracts from federal agencies, while $685 million in planned orders disappeared, most of it from the withdrawn military work. The company’s reversal of fortune is unusual, said Brian Friel, a Bloomberg Industries analyst. Its fall in the rankings shows “the extraordinary circumstance of the Gulf oil spill that led to BP’s fall from grace with the U.S. government,” he said.

Natural Gas
Among federal agencies, the U.S. Justice Department had the most contract obligations with BP in fiscal 2013 — $341,225 for natural gas at the Bureau of Prisons. Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, didn’t return e-mails seeking comment.
Suspended companies are allowed to continue to sell to the government under existing contracts or when no alternatives exist.
The suspension may cost BP opportunities to expand its foothold in the Gulf of Mexico. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Interior Department, has scheduled an auction March 19 for more than 40 million acres for oil and gas exploration.
BP is the second-biggest oil producer in the Gulf with 63.6 million barrels in 2013, second only to Shell, according to Interior Department figures. Chevron Corp. (CVX) is No. 3. “It’s been a core strength for them,” Brian Youngberg, an energy analyst with Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis, said in a telephone interview. “They’re anxious to get back into the Gulf.”

More Oil
BP produced more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter from its 10 rigs in the Gulf, Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said on Feb. 4 during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call. It expects to eventually produce more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day in the area, he told investors.

In an investor call last year, Dudley called the Gulf drilling “central to the portfolio for decades to come.”
The suspension won’t prevent BP from bidding March 19, only from winning, Jessica Kershaw, an Interior spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.If the company is the high bidder and the suspension is lifted during an evaluation period after the auction, BP will win the leases. If the suspension remains in place, it won’t.

BP pleaded guilty in January 2013 to 11 counts of felony seaman’s manslaughter, two pollution violations and one count of lying to Congress in connection with the offshore spill, the worst in U.S. history. It agreed to pay $4.25 billion in related criminal and civil penalties and faces additional fines, in addition to thousands of claims by individuals and companies.

Analyst Youngberg said the U.S. may want the ban in place until all the lawsuits are settled. “EPA may be saying as long as there’s litigation, they won’t lift the suspension,” he said. “Is that an incentive for BP to settle? Possibly.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net; Kathleen Miller in Washington at kmiller01@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephanie Stoughton at sstoughton@bloomberg.net Stephanie Stoughton, Mark McQuillan

Special thanks to Richard Charter

WLOX: Florida files suit against BP related to 2010 Gulf oil spill

http://www.wlox.com/

Posted: Mar 06, 2014 12:01 PM EST Updated: Mar 06, 2014 12:01 PM EST

PANAMA CITY, FL (AP) – Florida has joined a multi-state lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, seeking to hold British oil company BP accountable for damage to the state’s natural resources.

The complaint was filed Wednesday in Panama City federal court by the state’s secretary of environmental protection and the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

It’s separate from a lawsuit Florida’s attorney general filed against BP last year over economic losses related to the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

Along with BP, the new complaint lists minority partner Anadarko and rig owner Transocean as defendants responsible for harm the spill caused to Florida’s ecosystems and wildlife.

BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said the company is reviewing Florida’s lawsuit and continues to evaluate potential spill-related environmental damage.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Times-Picayune: BP begins oil production at major Gulf of Mexico deepwater hub

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2014/02/bp_begins_oil_production_at_ma.html

big rig
BP’s Na Kika offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico in November 2013. The company said it started new oil production at the platform on Feb. 19, 2014. (BP p.l.c.)

By Jennifer Larino, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on February 25, 2014 at 4:31 PM, updated February 25, 2014 at 4:32 PM

BP has started production at a key offshore oil and gas hub, its third major deepwater drilling project to begin flowing oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico this year, the company said this week.

The project falls in line with the oil giant’s broader strategy to ramp up high-margin oil and gas production at four of its platforms in the region.

The recent activity centers on BP’s Na Kika field and production platform located about 140 miles southeast of New Orleans, in which BP owns a 50 percent interest. Royal Dutch Shell owns the remaining stake.

This is the third and latest phase of development at the Na Kika field, which started producing oil in 2003. The Na Kika platform sits in more than 6,000 feet of water.

BP has grown its operations there in recent months, drilling two new wells and building a system of subsea pipe and other equipment needed to tie the new wells back to the Na Kika platform.

BP brought the first oil well under the latest development phase into production on Feb. 19. A second well is expected to start up in the second quarter.

The company is also installing new equipment to boost production at an existing well at the site.

The investment could boost Na Kika’s daily production from up to 130,000 barrels of oil equivalent to up to 170,000 barrels.

The Na Kika project is among a number of projects expected to come online in the Gulf in coming years, potentially pushing the area to record high oil production by 2016.
BP has started up two other major deepwater projects so far this year, its Chirag oil project in the Caspian Sea and the Mars B project also in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell, which operates Mars B, started production at the field’s Olympus platform, a move that is expected to boost production by 100,000 barrels per day, according to a report by FuelFix this month. BP owns a 28.5 percent working interest in the project.

BP plans to invest about $4 billion annually in the Gulf over the next decade, with much of the spending centering on four of the platforms it operates in the area – Thunder Horse, Na Kika, Atlantis and Mad Dog.

New leasing could also factor into the company’s spending plans.

BP America Inc. CEO John Minge, in a speech to the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association in New Orleans on Feb. 19, said that the company was nearing an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice that would again allow the company to bid on federal contracts, according to The Associated Press.

The suspension was put in place in November 2012 after BP pleaded guilty to criminal counts tied to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 men and unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

It’s still unclear whether the parties will reach an agreement prior to federal lease sales in the central and eastern Gulf planned for March 19 in New Orleans.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Miami Herald: Way cleared for medical claims in 2010 BP spill

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/13/3933403/way-cleared-for-medical-claims.html#storylink=cpy
Miami Herald > Business > Business Breaking News
Posted on Thursday, 02.13.14

By KEVIN McGILL
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court has cleared the way for thousands of workers to be compensated for medical treatment for exposure to crude oil or chemical dispersants during the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ action Tuesday involves a settlement approved by a federal judge in January 2013 between BP, workers and some coastal residents from specified beachfront and wetlands areas who said they were injured or sickened during the spill cleanup.

Objections by some members of the settlement class were withdrawn over the past year, resulting in the formal dismissal of appeals. The medical settlement is separate from a larger economic damages settlement, which remains the subject of an appeal.

Among provisions in the medical settlement are programs providing cash payments for physical conditions associated with exposure to oil, such as respiratory problems, skin rashes and neurological issues; comprehensive medical evaluations once every three years for 21 years; and procedures under which covered workers or residents who develop spill-related illnesses in the future could file suit for compensatory damages.

Members of the affected class have a year from Wednesday’s effective date to file claims. Neither side estimated the potential monetary value of the settlement. It was unclear how many people might be eligible but the plaintiffs have estimated the number could reach 200,000.

BP said the medical settlement also provides $105 million for groups working to increase the availability of health care in 17 affected Gulf Coast counties and Louisiana parishes.

Company spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a news release the settlement resolves a substantial majority of medical claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident.

“It’s been a long four years, but now hundreds of thousands of people will finally get the medical care and compensation they need,” attorneys Stephen Herman and James Roy, who represent plaintiffs in the oil spill litigation, said in a joint statement.

The April 20, 2010, blowout of BP’s Macondo well killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

EcoWatch: Scientist Takes a Closer Look at the Deep-Sea Impacts of BP Gulf Oil Spill

http://ecowatch.com/2014/02/12/deep-sea-impacts-bp-gulf-oil-spill/

Ocean Conservancy | February 12, 2014 8:33 am

By Alexis Baldera

Most images related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster are of oil floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico or washing up on its shores, but what has happened in the deep-sea environment? Dr. Paul Montagna of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi explores that question. In a recent publication in PLOS ONE, he estimated the size of the deep-sea “footprint” left behind by the BP Deepwater Horizon Macondo well blowout. He has documented severe impacts to bottom-dwelling animals over a nine-square-mile area (equivalent to 4,356 football fields) and moderate impacts within another 57 square miles, an area twice the size of Manhattan.

Ocean Conservancy: What do your findings tell us about impacts from the BP oil disaster?

Dr. Montagna: We discovered that oil did reach the bottom, and it did have a very large impact on the organisms that live on the bottom. We could identify a footprint of the oil spill. We saw increased hydrocarbons, increased metals associated with petroleum activity, and reduced diversity and abundance of some key indicator organisms.
OC: What were the specific impacts to organisms?

Dr. M.: The primary one that I focused on is about a 30 percent reduction in diversity in an area about nine square miles around the blowout site. What that means is that the organisms that were sensitive just disappeared.

OC: Do the impacts to the deep sea have impacts to the rest of the Gulf ecosystem?

Dr. M.: Yes, the things that live on the bottom are very important for different reasons. They serve as food for higher trophic (food chain) levels, particularly for fish and other organisms that come and feed on the bottom sediments. Additionally, the deep sea is characterized as a depositional environment. In other words, material is constantly falling on the deep sea. The deep sea is very important in recycling organic matter and generating new nutrients. Deep-sea organisms also play a role in carbon sequestration. In that regard, they are important for helping maintain the climate and productivity of the ocean in general.

OC: How do your findings relate to other deep-sea impacts studies, for example those showing dead or dying coral near the Deepwater Horizon site?

Dr. M.: The key is that both the coral studies and the sediment invertebrate studies that independent researchers have done both show that bottom-dwelling organisms were impacted by the spill.

OC: What does recovery mean for this deep-sea environment?

Dr. M.: One interesting thing about the deep sea is that it is uniformly cold. The entire deep sea is about the same temperature as a refrigerator, it is about 4 to 5 degrees Celsius [39 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit]. You know we put things in a refrigerator so they don’t degrade. Through my own past studies and other work, we know that metabolic rates in this environment are ridiculously slow, so I would imagine that any oil that wound up on the bottom is going to be around for quite a while. It is entirely possible for it to take a very, very long time for recovery to occur via natural degradation. Another way the deep-sea environment could recover would be through deposition: in other words, the oil just gets naturally buried. That is something we definitely want to be able to look at in the future.

OC: Are you still collecting samples?

Dr. M.: We collected samples in June of 2011, and we’re working on those right now. They will tell us a little about change through time. We’re considering going back out in the summer of 2014.

OC: Is there uniform coldness below a certain depth?

Dr. M.: The depth doesn’t matter; it relates to the density. Seawater is most dense at about four degrees Celsius, so that is why that water sinks. And once it gets to the deepest parts of the ocean, it kind of just sits there.

OC: How should we define the deep sea for this blog?

Dr. M.: Two ways: In the Gulf of Mexico, it is below about 200 to 300 meters, or say, beyond the edge of the continental shelf. It might be best to include both descriptors because the shelf break occurs at different distances from shore and different depths in different places.

OC: What can we do to restore, or compensate for injury in, the deep-sea benthic environment?

Dr. M.: This has to be one of the most challenging things about the situation. We have never had an accident of this scale and scope in the deep sea before, and the deep sea is difficult to work in because it is largely inaccessible. There is a real concern about what we can and should do for restoration. Under the state and federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment laws and regulations and restoration planning process, we are required to restore natural resources. I’m not sure that the types and amounts of restoration have been determined yet. I think there are several possibilities.

One option would be primary restoration of resources in place. Another option is compensatory restoration in other places; in other words, do something somewhere else to try and mitigate impacts. The third alternative may be some habitat creation or restoration projects; it may be possible to create some artificial habitats offshore. Since deposition will occur over time, it could be a matter of waiting. However, how long this will take I don’t know.

OC: Do we also need additional research to help develop strategies and policies that can effectively promote and maintain the productivity and health of the Gulf ecosystems you study? What is highest on your list of research that still needs to be done? And how critical is this scientific work to the future of the Gulf and the communities that depend on it for their livelihoods.

Dr. M.: Although deep-sea studies have been going on for many decades, we still don’t know some fundamental facts. Because it is so expensive to do deep-sea research, we haven’t sampled the same locations at different times, so we know little about how communities change over seasons, years or decades. Biodiversity of the deep-sea is large, yet we have identified very few of the species that are new to science. So, classical systematic studies are critical to improve our understanding of diversity.

There are still some unanswered questions in the shallow regions. Coastal restoration projects are an experimental manipulation of the environment, yet we seldom collect sufficient data after a project to learn from our experiences, so I think we should require extensive follow-up studies to improve our abilities to restore the coast. I also have a concern about known biodiversity and productivity hot spots, such as areas where there are bottom features such as pinnacles and reefs.

The Gulf is “America’s Sea” with many, many users. There will always be competing interests, so we need a fuller understanding of the Gulf’s bounty and how to manage its resources to benefit future generations.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffingtonpost.com: BP Deepwater Horizon and human health

Date: February 5, 2014 7:24:22 PM PST

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claudia-s-miller-md-ms/gulf-war-syndrome-comes-t_b_4698433.html?utm_hp_ref=green

Claudia S. Miller, M.D., M.S.
Professor, environmental and occupational medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Gulf War Syndrome Comes to the Gulf of Mexico?

A large cadre of marine scientists assembled this week in Mobile, Ala. to discuss the environmental fallout from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that occurred nearly four years ago off the Gulf Coast. Sadly, the impact on human health took a backseat at these meetings to fisheries, socio-economic effects, coastal ecosystems and the circulation of petrochemicals in the sea.

These are critical topics, to be sure, but the health of residents on and near the coast deserve as much attention. Unknown numbers may have been sickened by exposures to chemicals from the spill, including the highly toxic dispersant, Corexit. Those exposures can lead to subsequent intolerances to other substances, including common chemicals, through a newly described disease mechanism called TILT, or Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance.

Sadly, researchers and doctors remain unaware of this new mechanism for disease caused by chemical exposures. We’re like the doctors at the turn of the century who, lacking knowledge of the germ theory, had no idea what was causing rampant fevers and deaths during the Civil War.

There are individuals who were affected by the spill now being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. These are common effects of chemical exposures in susceptible persons, and can also be caused by stressful events.

Of course, at this late date, those exposed in the Gulf area no longer have increased levels of chemicals in their tissues. The petrochemicals and dispersants they were exposed to have left their bodies and are no longer measurable. This is not DDT which deposits in our fat stores and remains there for decades. These are synthetic organic chemicals that in susceptible persons cause TILT. They enter the body, do their damage, and leave within days. Subsequently, everyday exposures trigger symptoms in those affected.

It’s true that large sums of money are being spent to study the health impact on people–including fishermen, cleanup workers, volunteers and others–who were exposed to the spill. But researchers who are looking into the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill are not asking some key questions.

In addition to fish and ecosystems, scientists at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Conference should have focused more on the toxic impact on people. They might have started by looking at its close cousin, Gulf War Syndrome, also involving petrochemical exposures.

Thousands of Gulf War veterans have been sick and undiagnosed for more than a decade as doctors search for answers. No one can convincingly explain their diverse, multi-system symptoms, which include pain, fatigue, mood changes and cognitive impairment–symptoms also reported by many of those exposed during the Gulf Coast spill.

But what can be done? There is now a free online self-evaluation that Gulf War veterans and Gulf of Mexico residents alike can access to help identify what’s making them sick and determine what subsequent chemical, food and drug intolerances may have developed long after combat and the oil spill ended. People who are concerned that they may have chemical intolerances can go online, answer a questionnaire called The Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) and share the results with their doctors. Internationally, the QEESI is the most widely used screening instrument for chemical intolerance and TILT among physicians and health practitioners.

Only certain individuals are prone to TILT. Many experience long-lasting and diverse symptoms, including memory and concentration problems, fatigue, headaches, weakness and mood changes such as irritability and depression. They often report gastrointestinal, respiratory and skin problems, and some develop depression, addiction or violent behavior.

With the Gulf War veterans, whether they were exposed to pesticides, smoke from the oil fires or pyridostigmine bromide pills, the result was the same–a breakdown in their natural tolerance. Long after these substances have left their bodies, the aftermath of these exposures–the new-onset intolerances–perpetuate their symptoms.

The QEESI measures sensitivities through a self-evaluation based on four scales: Symptom Severity, Chemical Intolerances, Other Intolerances, and Life Impact.” Each scale contains 10 items, scored from 0 = “not a problem” to 10 = “severe or disabling problem.” Another 10-item tool called the “Masking Index” gauges ongoing exposures and overlapping symptoms that hide responses, blocking one’s awareness of their intolerances, and the intensity of their responses to exposures.

It’s important to help people on the Gulf sort out and “unmask” the causes or triggers of their symptoms. TILT will be overlooked without the use of appropriate tools, such as the QEESI. Also needed are environmental medical units, or EMUs–environmentally controlled inpatient hospital units designed to isolate patients from exposures, including foods, that trigger their symptoms. Congress once endorsed EMU research for the Gulf War veterans but never funded it.

It’s encouraging that some doctors along the Gulf Coast are treating people for problems that they blame on the spill. Dr. Michael Robichaux, from Raceland, LA, told The Huffington Post in 2012 that he treated 50 people for a range of health problems that he believes were caused by exposure to chemicals from the spill. “The illnesses are very real, and the people who are ill are apparently people who have sensitivities to these substances that not all of us are sensitive to,” he explained.

Millions of dollars from the BP Claims Fund are being spent to expand access to healthcare in underserved communities, assisting with behavioral and mental health needs, training community health care workers on “peer listening and community input” and improving “environmental health expertise, capacity and literacy.”

And yet, not one dime has been allocated to study how toxic exposures resulting from this disaster may have rendered thousands of individuals chemically intolerant and suffering from the same disabling multi-system symptoms that continue to afflict Gulf War veterans.

Nothing will change until medical science acknowledges that we are dealing with an entirely new disease paradigm. Today we recognize that germs cause infections and that protein antigens cause allergies and immune system disorders. Now we need to understand the full range of illnesses caused by chemical exposures.

> To take the free online QEESI test, please visit www.qeesi.org

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Inside EPA: Superfund Report — As EPA Eyes Oil Spill Rule Rewrite, Citizens Coalition Steps Up Pressure

http://insideepa.com/Inside-EPA-General/Inside-EPA-Public-Content/as-epa-eyes-oil-spill-rule-rewrite-citizens-coalition-steps-up-pressure/menu-id-565.html

YES I support the effort to review the use of dispersants, especially Corexit, and encourage placing limits on the amount of dispersants that can be applied. Some deep water benthic communities in the Gulf are still blanketed in this chemical, preventing growth of the most basic forms of life in the food chain. DV

Posted: January 17, 2014
EPA is preparing revisions governing the authorization of oil spill response agents, but citizen activists say even more changes are necessary to address how spill response agents interact with tar sands and other non-conventional fuels during spills, although they say pursuit of a broader overhaul will be an “uphill battle.”

The changes EPA is eyeing include revisions to the the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan’s (NCP) oil spill agent product listings, known as Subpart J, in response to a 2012 petition, as well as possible clarification of where and in what amount dispersants can be used as the result of ongoing mediation with environmentalists in pending litigation.

But prompted by recent spills of non-conventional fuels, a citizens activist coalition plans to soon ask the agency to take additional steps to address the efficacy and toxicity of spill response agents when applied to non-conventional fuels such as tar sands and oil-fracking fluid mixtures during inland spills, and not just in their use to treat heavy crude oil spills off the coasts, a toxicologist with the coalition says. The coalition also plans to ask EPA to create a public health mandate when considering responses to fuel spills.

The Citizens’ Coalition to Ban Toxic Dispersants, which has collected more than 3,000 signatures from citizen activists and regional environmental groups, filed the original petition to EPA in 2012, and the group expects to expand and update its petition soon.

The move could step up pressure on the agency at a time when environmentalists and others are closely watching for EPA’s proposal to change Subpart J, with activists hoping for significant changes in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon/BP 2010 oil spill disaster that released 210 million gallons of oil. Following the spill, BP used at least 1.8 million gallons of dispersants in the Gulf to break up the oil spill on the water’s surface. But environmentalists and some lawmakers heavily criticized the use of the petroleum-based dispersant Corexit. The action prompted lawsuits by Gulf Coast residents, workers and companies who claimed adverse health effects from their exposure to the dispersants.
“EPA has been dead in the water” on new policy for many years, one environmentalist says, attributing the lack of action to various causes: the Bush administration’s general policy positions, EPA’s traditional status-quo stance and the absence of any major oil spill accidents after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, up until the 2010 BP spill. But the source says there is now a window to make improvements.

“Everyone knows” that a “green” dispersant is needed, the source says. The question is: will that door, “which has been locked so long at EPA,” open? the source says.

EPA late last year gave notice in the Unified Agenda that it would propose revisions to Subpart J in February, although at press time it was unclear if EPA would be able to reach that deadline. An EPA spokeswoman says the changes are currently under senior EPA review. The rule may then have to go to the White House Office of Management & Budget for review before the proposal can be published in the Federal Register.
The revisions have been long-anticipated — with initial work started in 2001. One non-governmental organization (NGO) source notes the agency has failed to meet previous deadlines it has set, and the agency last fall said the revisions were not among its imminent priorities.

Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA is required to develop a schedule identifying dispersants, and other spill mitigating devices and substances that may be used under the NCP and which waters and at what quantities they may be used, according to the Unified Agenda notice. The agency in the Unified Agenda says it is “considering revising Subpart J of the NCP to address the efficacy, toxicity, and environmental monitoring of dispersants, other chemical and biological agents, and other spill mitigating substances, as well as public, State, local, and Federal officials[‘] concerns on their authorization and use.”

The schedule is significant because, according to the coalition source, industry can use only those items listed on the NCP product schedule for spill response, although citizen activists note the Coast Guard effectively has a waiver that allows it to use any product, even if not listed on the product schedule. The CWA requires EPA to develop the NCP schedule of products that “may be used” to mitigate spills, also requiring EPA to identify the waters and quantities of dispersants and other chemicals that can be used safely, but EPA in a 2007 fact sheet notes that the product schedule “does NOT mean that EPA approves, recommends, licenses, certifies, or authorizes the use of the [Product Name] on an oil discharge. The listing means only that data have been submitted to EPA as required by Subpart J of the [NCP].”

EPA has been under continuing pressure from citizen activists and environmentalists to tighten its review of dispersants and response agents and is in mediation with environmentalists over litigation on the matter. While the case, which sought to force EPA to collect data on the appropriate locations for using dispersants and quantities that can be used in oil spills, was dismissed on procedural grounds last year by a lower court, environmentalists have appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), et al. v. EPA, environmentalists charge EPA was violating the NCP by failing to publish a schedule identifying spill control agents eligible for spill response, identifying the waters they may be used in, and identifying the quantities that may be used.

EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has also previously called for the agency to better assess risks posed by dispersants and better track those that are used (Superfund Report, Sept. 5, 2011).

The revisions already under review at EPA are expected to respond to the 2012 petition from the citizens coalition, which asked the agency to amend the NCP product schedule by creating a “delisting” process for removing products from the list that are failing to perform as expected, pose unacceptable health risks to workers, the public and environment or were discontinued by the manufacturer but are still stockpiled for disaster response; and act to immediately delist certain products. While EPA currently has the authority to remove a product from the list, it lacks an active delisting process, the NGO source says.

In addition, the petition asked EPA to require the use of mechanical containment and recovery as the primary response to oil spills, strengthen efficacy testing protocols, and update toxicity criteria and testing of products on the list.

“The emerging science from the BP Gulf oil disaster demonstrates the gross inadequacy of current regulations,” the coalition’s petition says. “Emerging science is confirming that products [that] were used in the BP disaster response, especially unprecedented amounts of dispersants, created more harm to humans and the environment than the oil release alone–yet these same dispersant products are stockpiled for future oil spill response. The EPA has both the authority and the duty to ensure a greater level of preparedness.”

The agency in a summary of its planned rule revisions says it is considering amendments to effectiveness and toxicity testing protocols used for response agents, as well as setting new effectiveness and toxicity thresholds for listing certain products on the schedule.
EPA in a Jan. 3, 2013, letter responding to the petition also notes the agency is considering modifying the procedures for authorizing dispersants’ use in response to oil spills,.

“The revisions being considered are intended to increase the overall scientific soundness of the data and the availability of information on dispersants and other chemical and spill mitigating substances used to respond to oil discharges, including on the efficacy, toxicity, long-term environmental impacts and on other concerns raised during the Deepwater Horizon spill and as a result of recent research,” it says.

The coalition plans to expand its petition to call on EPA to conduct efficacy and toxicity testing of all products on the schedule when applied to non-conventional fuels, prompted by recent tar sand spills and railcar explosive accidents carrying crude oil mixed with fracking fluids and what the coalition toxicologist says have been inadequate responses. Fracking fluids, for instance, are being used to aid in extracting light crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, which creates the potential for volatile explosions, the coalition source says. Federal Department of Transportation regulators earlier this month issued a safety alert warning that a string of railcar derailments and resulting fires carrying crude oil from the Bakken region indicate that the type of crude oil being shipped may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil.

While the OIG has suggested EPA update the NCP based on lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill, it does not mention how non-conventional fuel spills such as the 2010 inland Enbridge tar sands oil spill in Michigan should prompt changes to the NCP, the source contends. The Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill released more than 1 million gallons of tar sands, with oil eventually flowing into the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup costs are estimated at $725 million. The source says the spill has resulted in the most costly per gallon spill response ever, and is still ongoing.

While the NCP currently only addresses conventional oil, EPA should broaden it to also cover tar sand spills, the source says, noting that the legal mechanism for including non-conventional fuels exists in the CWA’s language on dispersants and other spill response agents, contained in section 311(d).

In addition, the citizens coalition plans to ask EPA to create a public health mandate in its NCP revisions, to make public health a consideration in spill response and to include a feedback loop to determine whether there is a link between illnesses in the aftermath of spills and dispersants, according to the source.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the oil and natural gas industry, declined to answer specific questions about the upcoming regulatory revisions, the coalition’s petition, or whether the regulation should be broadened to include non-conventional fuels. An API spokesman, however, issued a statement, stressing the importance of safety and saying, “Dispersants are one of many tools used to protect people and the environment in the event of a spill, and they have proven to be safe and effective when used appropriately.”

In addition, the spokesman says: “America’s refineries are designed to process heavy crudes like those from Venezuela and Canadian oil sands, and dispersants, when used properly, are designed to address these and lighter crudes.” — Suzanne Yohannan

Originally published in the January 20, 2014 issue of Superfund Report.
2458802
Inside EPA Public Content, Vol. 28, No. 2

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com Times-Picayune: Volunteers use airborne patrols, satellite photos to spot oil spills along Louisiana coast

http://thelensnola.org/2014/01/22/volunteers-use-airborne-patrols-satellite-photos-to-spot-oil-spills-along-louisiana-coast/

The Lens

By Bob Marshall, Staff writer 8 HOURS AGO

Jonathan Henderson was shouting to be heard over the engine noise in the small plane as it circled above an oil rig just off the Louisiana coast. A ribbon of colored water extended from the rig for about 100 yards, and Henderson had asked the pilot for a closer look.

“Right there, that’s sheen,” Henderson yelled. “In fact, rainbow sheen tells us it’s oil, and it’s probably coming from that platform.”

He snapped a few pictures and jotted on a notepad.

“When we get back, I’ll make a report,” says Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group based in New Orleans.

In the last three years, after 200 surveys by air, boat and foot, Henderson has made hundreds of oil pollution reports as part of the Gulf Monitoring Consortium. In what has developed into an almost 24/7 effort, members use private boats, planes and even satellite imagery to spot and evaluate insults to Louisiana’s coastal environment – all at no cost to taxpayers.

“They’re operating pretty much on the honor system out there. The Coast Guard has limited resources. If the amount is small, they are less likely to go out and take a look.”
-David Manthos, SkyTruth

Their effort would be noteworthy solely for its altruistic nature. But what may be more remarkable is that they are the only ones doing this work.

No state or federal agency has cops regularly walking this beat. Instead, state and federal governments, which collect billions in royalties from the permit holders each year, rely on companies to turn themselves in for violating environmental law or the terms of their permits.

“We don’t have people whose job it is to go out looking for spills; we rely on people to report things,” said Gregory Langley, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which says its mission is to protect public health, safety and welfare “while considering sound policies regarding employment and economic development.

The state Department of Natural Resources has 12 inspectors who check wells along the coast for compliance with regulations, a spokesman said. Though those checks are conducted without notice, the industry is so large that the department’s goal is to inspect each one every three years.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS VARY

The federal Clean Water Act literally requires anyone who drops anything into the water that creates a sheen of any size, or falls as a solid to the bottom, to report it to the National Response Center, which is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“That’s our gold standard because that’s what the law says,” said Michael Anderson of the Coast Guard’s Gulf Coast Incident Management Team, which is based in New Orleans.

If oil spills onto land, however, state law applies. Louisiana says permit holders only have to make a report if the amount spilled reaches a “reportable quantity,” designated as one barrel, or 42 gallons.
“Basically they get to pollute for free to a certain level,” said Andy Zellinger, an analyst for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a member of the monitoring group.

When the National Response Center receives a report, it notifies the proper state and federal agencies.
Typically, state agencies relay the information to a local first responder, which could be the State Police or sheriffs’ offices, which conduct on-site inspections. But if the polluter thinks there’s a risk to human health or a serious threat to the environment, the company must immediately notify the Coast Guard or the state agency as well.

SPILLS ROUTINE, UNDER-REPORTING COMMON

Records show there’s a lot to report each year in coastal Louisiana.

The Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office estimates that about 330,000 barrels, 20 percent of all the oil spilled in the nation each year, leaks from Louisiana facilities. The agency says that amount comes from 1,500 reports each year – but that’s far lower than Coast Guard records show.

Anderson said his office responded to 23,371 reports in Louisiana over the last five years. Even taking out the 5,781 from 2010, the year of the Deepwater Horizon spill, that averages about 4,400 per year.

Most of that pollution takes place in the coastal zone – the interior wetlands and open Gulf – which is where most of the 290,000 oil and gas wells permitted over the years are located, according to a database at the state Department of Natural Resources.

The concentration of the industry in Louisiana means more spills are likely to happen here, but Henderson said that until the Deepwater Horizon disaster, even environmental groups were not fully aware of how routine spills are.

“Many times if we don’t make a report, the company won’t – and I can say that because there are many times when they make a report after we do.”
-Jonathan Henderson, Gulf Restoration Network

It was during the months after the spill, as Henderson made almost daily flights to survey where oil was headed, that he realized there was a less dramatic but more widespread and persistent problem.

“I’d be going over the marsh to check on what was happening in the open Gulf and I’d look down and see sheen in places where we knew BP’s oil hadn’t reached – or at least hadn’t reached yet,” Henderson said. “That’s when I thought, ‘Hey, who’s keeping an eye on this?’

“And the answer to that, of course, is ‘No one.’ So we had to do something about that.”
Henderson began to make regular flights over the coast, becoming expert at recording the types of data that help the Coast Guard respond.

Meanwhile, other environmental groups were homing in on the same issue, including the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper and SouthWings, a group of private pilots who donate their time and aircraft for environmental monitoring.

Those groups often got help from SkyTruth, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that uses satellite photographs to analyze National Response Center reports and find unreported trouble spots nationwide.

Those environmental groups formed the Gulf Monitoring Consortium in 2011 to share information and plan events.

250,000
Gallons spilled in one year, according to companies
1.5-2.5 million
SkyTruth’s estimate
When a member of the consortium makes a report to the National Response Center, SkyTruth often quickly finds the location on a satellite image. Using a calculation accepted by oil spill experts, its analysis typically indicates that a spill is 10 times larger than the company’s report, said David Manthos of SkyTruth.

According to a consortium report, the companies that filed 2,093 spill reports from October 2010 through September 2011 estimated the total pollution at about 250,000 gallons. The SkyTruth evaluation put the figure between 1.5 and 2.2 million gallons.

“We have problems with non-reporting, but also with under-reporting,” Manthos said. “They’re operating pretty much on the honor system out there. The Coast Guard has limited resources. If the amount is small, they are less likely to go out and take a look.

“That’s where we try to focus our efforts.”

MAPS SHOW TROUBLE SPOTS

The consortium’s efforts have led to several regularly-updated websites that chart the widespread nature and frequency of oil spills in Louisiana’s coastal zone and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s iWitness Pollution Map and SkyTruth’s national Alerts Map show a series of red dots spreading across the Louisiana coast like a rash.

By clicking on the dots visitors see the NRC record, including the polluter’s original estimate of the spill and SkyTruth’s evaluation.

“Everything is right there,” said the Bucket Brigade’s Zellinger. “You don’t have to wade through the NRC site; these interactive maps take you right to the history of that report in your area, including what we believe is the real size of that release.”

The consortium has been especially effective in locating trouble spots during the tropical storm season. Henderson and Gulf Monitoring Consortium colleagues were in the air and on the water as soon as conditions were safe after Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

Their report, “Gulf Coast Coal and Petrochemical Industries Still Not Storm Ready,” catalogued the 341,044 gallons of oil, chemicals and untreated wastewater that were reported to have been leaked into wetlands. The group said the actual amount spilled likely was much greater because only 20 percent of the 139 reports included size estimates.

“HOW MANY SPILLS ARE WE MISSING?”

No one knows the efficacy of the monitoring alliance better than Henderson, who estimates he has taken more than 75 monitoring flights since attention turned from the Deepwater Horizon to the rest of the Gulf and the coastal wetlands in 2011.

Now 38, Henderson still makes each flight with the enthusiasm of a rookie because he believes the work is making a difference.

“Many times if we don’t make a report, the company won’t – and I can say that because there are many times when they make a report after we do,” he said.

“Sure, there’s a logistical problem for the companies. We’re talking about thousands of facilities spread out over tens of thousands of square miles. Most of those don’t have personnel on them, and most of them are not serviced on a daily basis. So sometimes, I just beat them to the spill.”

He continued, “But then you have to ask, ‘How many spills are we missing? How much oil has been leaking into the wetlands that nobody knows about because they don’t find it until days after it’s begun?'”

And while proud of the job he and his peers are doing, he resents that nonprofits must “beg for money to do a job that government should be doing.”

Henderson pointed to a similar independent monitoring program that has been in place in Alaska since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. That program is funded by a fee on the users of the Alyeska Pipeline.

The independent monitoring is done by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, established by the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

“Those councils were established only for Alaska. The Gulf was left out,” Henderson said. “I think it’s time for Congress to take a look at what we’re finding here – at the size of the industry and the risk to this valuable ecosystem – and do the same thing here.”

In the meantime he said, he’ll keep flying and looking.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Metropolis: Why We’re Suing the Oil Companies. A former member of the flood protection authority in New Orleans explains why legal action is being taken against the petroleum industry operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

http://www.metropolismag.com/January-2014/Why-Were-Suing-the-Oil-Companies/index.php?cparticle=1&siarticle=0#artanc

John M. Barry

leaking oil
A leaking oil facility in the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Production facilities like this, along with the barge traffic that they create, have helped degrade the wetlands of southern Louisiana. These protective wetlands are disappearing at a rate of about a football field-size area every 50 minutes.
Courtesy Gulf Restoration Project

Architecture fits human society into a place. In most instances, that “place” is at least relatively stable, although both it and the society that makes a home there may have to adjust to each other. In and around New Orleans, however, humans chose to develop a society and make homes in one of the most impermanent and environmentally dynamic places in the world. That society has not only failed to adjust to its environment, but has exacer-bated the place’s natural dynamism.

In essence, New Orleans is not much more than a mud castle surrounded by a roil of water, but only in the wake of Hurricane Katrina did people living there begin to recognize that reality. And only this past July did any public entity take a concrete step to address the problems that humans themselves created. That’s when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPAE)-the levee board responsible for protecting metropolitan New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi River-filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Marathon, and 92 other oil, gas, and pipeline companies. What’s at stake in this lawsuit is the future of much of coastal Louisiana, including its port traffic (18 percent of all commercial shipping in the United States passes through Louisiana) and energy infrastructure (roughly 20 percent of the nation’s oil refining capacity).

Until mid-October, I was vice president of the SLFPAE and one of the architects of the lawsuit, an action that is the culmination of geologic history, engineering, and law-and which has opened up great seismic faults that are shifting politics in Louisiana.

No serious person, including those in the fossil fuel industry, disputes that oil and gas operations have caused substantial land loss.

First, the geology: The Gulf of Mexico once reached north to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. As the sea level fell, the Mississippi River system built land from there to the present mouth of the river by depositing sediment into what had been water. In total, the river built approximately 40,000 square miles of land in seven states, including all of coastal Louisiana. There are no rocky cliffs on Louisiana’s coast; the entire shoreline is basically sediment held together by plant life. In Louisiana, the most densely populated areas are inland from the Gulf itself inland from the mix of water and earth that is called marsh. In the New Orleans metropolitan area, people live within a levee system as well.

Second, the engineering: Multiple human triumphs-at least they seemed so when accomplished-have been destroying this coast for decades. Approximately 1,900 square miles of land have melted back into the ocean, and land loss is continuing at the rate of about one football field-size portion every 50 minutes. Causes of the land loss include the construc-tion of the levee system, which prevents river sediment from replenishing the land it made by flooding; the decline of sediment in the river-the river now carries less than half its historic sediment load and just six dams built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the upper Missouri River retain about half of all that missing sediment; various engineering works built to benefit the shipping industry, including the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which runs from Texas to Florida; and jetties that extend two and a half miles out into the Gulf and escort half the sediment remaining in the river into deep water where it is of no use replenishing the land.

There is also one other major factor in land loss: the operations of the oil and gas industry. The industry has dredged about 10,000 miles of canals and pipelines through coastal Louisiana, every inch of which has allowed salt water intrusion, changed salinity, interfered with natural hydrology, and killed plant life-thus leading to the erosion of land.

No serious person, including those in the fossil fuel industry, disputes that oil and gas operations have caused substantial land loss. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study in which industry scientists participated concluded that energy industry activities accounted for 36 percent of all the state’s land loss. Evidence is growing that oil and gas companies have extracted so large a volume of material that the land has actually sunk; the impact of Big Oil’s role in subsidence may not be entirely reflected in the USGS study.

Now, finally, the law: The SLFPAE filed suit because of this land loss. Its argument is simple-and essentially irrefutable. Even the suit’s opponents don’t dispute the reasoning. There is a slogan down here: “The levees protect the people, and the land protects the levees.” The lost land once served as a buffer, which protected metro New Orleans from hurricanes by cutting down storm surges; without that protection, more devastating storm surges pound against the levee system. The increased-and increasing-storm surges require the levee board to spend more money to protect lives and property. No one disputes this either.

The board’s case is further strengthened by two facts: Most industry operations were conducted under permits, and those permits required the companies to minimize the damage they caused and restore the land when they were done. Beginning in 1985, Louisiana law imposed virtually identical requirements. (No one in Louisiana ever bothered to enforce any of this language; however, the oil and gas companies did honor both the permits and the law in the breach.) In addition, Louisiana jurisprudence is based on civil law, as opposed to the common law tradition of the other 49 states. In civil law there is a doctrine called “servitude of drain,” which prohibits one party from altering the natural flow of water on another party’s property. To the extent they increased storm surge, oil and gas operations did just that.

The board is suing to get the industry to restore the land it destroyed or, in places where this is impossible-where what was once land is now open water and no sediment is available for restoration-to compensate it so it can augment the flood-protection system. That will likely cost billions of dollars.

More importantly, the SLFPAE’s area has suffered less damage from the oil and gas industry than has any other part of the Louisiana coast. If other entities farther south follow the board’s lead, the industry’s liability rises to several tens of billions.

Thus we get into politics. Not surprisingly, the lawsuit-and the very question of “place”-is shaking Louisiana politics. People used to say, “The flag of Texaco flies over the Louisiana capitol.” We’re in the process of seeing whether that’s still true. Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Governor Bobby Jindal- at the time, he happened to be at an event in Aspen with such donors (and defendants) as the Koch brothers demanded it be withdrawn.

If it wasn’t, he threatened, he would gut the board and seek legislation to kill the lawsuit when the state legislature meets in March of 2014.

The board refused to withdraw the suit, and he has tried to gut it. But the SLFPAE was created after Hurricane Katrina by reformers who insulated it from political pressure by making sure that, unlike nearly all other boards in the state, its commissioners do not serve at the governor’s pleasure. Jindal has nevertheless been able to replace three members, including me, because our terms expired, and the three new appointees passed a “litmus test” of opposition to the suit. But a 6-3 majority of the board still supports it. That majority has resisted tremendous pressure to cave in, and I am confident it will continue to resist that pressure. Now what happens to the lawsuit will be determined as much by state legislators as by the courts.

Initially, no elected official spoke up for the lawsuit. Many condemned it. It looked like we had no chance of surviving the legislature. But the logic of our arguments, and the illogic of the governor’s, seems to be eroding his position even faster than the sea is eating away at the coast.

Our lawsuit is designed to provide funding for the Master Plan, not to interfere with it.

Garret Graves, Jindal’s point man on the issue, has warned that the suit will cost jobs, end cooperation with the industry, and interfere with the state’s Master Plan to restore the coast-a plan with a $50 billion price tag for a bare-bones effort and $100 billion to do it right. But everyone knows the oil industry will operate in Louisiana as long as there’s oil in Louisiana, and the Master Plan has one great weakness: there is no funding for it. Our lawsuit is designed to provide funding for the Master Plan, not to interfere with it. True, the industry is cooperating in many areas and, true, that cooperation is worth millions of dollars a year. But with liability in the tens of billions, that amounts to letting the industry off for less than one-tenth of a penny on the dollar. Even in Louisiana, that’s a sweet deal.

Meanwhile, not only do the state’s arguments against the suit make no sense, Graves himself has been making our case for us. First, he conceded by telling local newspaper the Advocate, “I’m the first one to admit there’s liability there. The scars are on the land.” Then, a couple months later, he said, “Businesses should be operating in compliance with existing regulations.” Exactly what our lawsuit demands. Remind me, Mr. Graves, why the state opposes the suit?

Soon after we filed our lawsuit, James Carville told me that we had permanently changed the political conversation in the state. As I write this today, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes filed their own lawsuits against oil companies. Both parishes are heavily Republican, and Jefferson has the second largest popu lation in the state with the best-organized delegation in the legislature. I expect more parishes to file lawsuits in the future. This place may have a chance to survive after all.

John M. Barry is the author of Rising Tide and the former vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPAE).

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New Orleans.legal examiners.com: 42 lbs of Deepwater Horizon oil product removed from Florida beaches

http://neworleans.legalexaminer.com/toxic-substances/bp-oil-spill-beach-report-december-31-2013/

The Legal Examiner

BP Oil Spill Beach Report: December 31, 2013
Posted by Tom Young
January 2, 2014 5:40 PM

The following is a summary of a daily beach oiling report issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). We will endevour to publish this summary each day the FDEP issues such a report. While the media and public believe that the effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Blowout and Oil Spill have been largely eradicated, this data suggests otherwise.

It is important to note that these reports of daily oil discoveries come at a time when BP is attempting to renege on its oft-stated “Commitment to the Gulf.” The company is repudiating the Contract it made with area businesses and individuals that compensates them for economic losses associated with BP’s spill.

Now BP claims that it is the victim. You be the judge.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Oiling Report December 31, 2013

Today FDEP personnel conducted post-response monitoring surveys along parts of Escambia County, Florida beaches.

Numerous Surface Residue Balls (SRBs) were found throughout the area. A significant amount was collected during the first 20 meters surveyed, and it was immediately clear that there were too many SRBs to fully mitigate. The team continued into other parts of the beach and found similar levels of oiling. As such, the team met with United States Coast Guard personnel in the field later that morning. The USCG decided to deploy an oil spill response team to clean the area.

As a result of today’s activities, 42 lbs of Deepwater Horizon oil product was removed from the beach. See below for an image of some of the collected oil.
unnamed

Special thanks to Richard Charter

NPR: For BP Cleanup, 2013 Meant 4.6 Million Pounds Of Gulf Coast Oil

http://www.npr.org/

by DEBBIE ELLIOTT
December 21, 2013 5:14 AM

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They’re numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in. On a breezy December morning, a work crew is scouring the surf line on Grand Isle, La., scooping up tiny tar balls and collecting them in a basket. Foreman LeRoy Irving keeps track of what the 14-person team has collected as in a half day. “If I had to guess, maybe 10 pounds,” he says.

These patrol and maintenance teams as they’re called are out four days a week, combing Grand Isle and nearby beaches on this stretch of south Louisiana that continue to be a trouble spot for oiling, now approaching four years since the BP oil spill.

Gulf Coast Cleanup In Numbers
4.6 million pounds – oily material collected from Gulf Coast shoreline in 2013
106,465 tons – total oily material collected from Gulf Coast shoreline since Deepwater Horizon exploded in 2010
55 miles – shoreline in active cleanup response in Dec. 2013
4,377 – miles of shore surveyed since 2010
40,096 – holes and pits dug and sampled to look for buried oil in 2013
47,000 – total personnel working on cleanup at the peak of the response
420 – terabytes of electronic data generated (including: 10 billion pages of textual records, 12 million maps and charts, 25 million still photos and graphs, 300,000 reels of motion picture film, 400,000 video and sound recordings)
$14 billion – amount BP says it has spent on cleanup and response activities*
70 million – personnel hours BP says it has put in on cleanup and response*
Source: U.S. Coast Guard Gulf Coast Incident Management Team
*Source: BP

This year, crews have collected 4.6 million pounds of oily material from the Gulf Coast shoreline. Coastal residents are asking how long they’ll be living with the effects of BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “A lot of people don’t realize that the Deepwater Horizon response is still going on,” says Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Anderson with the Gulf Coast Incident Management Team. “It’s been a marathon, not a sprint.”

Oil In The Breaches
The active cleanup is now down to 55 miles here in south Louisiana – out of more than 4,300 in the immediate aftermath of the spill. Tar balls still wash ashore on beaches in Alabama and Mississippi but now only get cleaned up when a report is called in to the National Response Center. Anderson says the active cleanup is now focused on harder-to-find oil. Tropical storms have buried it under layers of sand and sediment, both on beaches and in marshes. On Fourchon Beach, just west of Grand Isle, a fleet of trucks and front-end loaders work removing heavy oily muck that was recently uncovered here. Anderson says crews were surprised to find giant tar mats buried deep in breaches after Tropical Storm Karen in October. “The breach is actually an area that’s been worn away by the water so you have an open channel or trench between the ocean and the marshes behind,” Anderson says. More than 1.5 million pounds of oily material have been recovered in the breaches.

BP officials declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a statement, the company says it’s confident that contractors have “located substantially all the material that is feasible to recover in Louisiana.” To date, BP has spent more than $14 billion on response and cleanup activities.

‘They Killed The Fish And They Put Oil On The Beach’
But environmentalists say the fact that 4.6 million pounds was collected this year – more than three years after the disaster – is telling. “You put that much oil into an ecosystem, and you’re going to be living with the consequences of it for a long, long time,” says David Muth with the National Wildlife Federation in New Orleans.

On Elmer’s Island, a state-owned spit of land on the Gulf, Muth spots a host of shorebirds: pelicans, cormorants, terns, even the endangered piping plover. “We’re watching birds all along this beach throughout the marches, throughout the bays, in the open gulf, that are actively feeding, and the question is how much of that residual oil, oil byproduct, are they picking up?” Muth asks.

Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network documents the ongoing impacts of the BP oil spill. On Elmer’s Island, he’s armed with a specimen jar and blue latex gloves – and picking through tar balls in the tide line. “You can look in this line, you can see they’re everywhere. So there’s literally thousands and thousands and thousands of them,” he says. He filled his jar in about three minutes with tar balls ranging from the size of a dime to a silver dollar. “You crack them open and you can see they’re kind of brownish and sandy on the outside, but open, they’re black in the middle. You can smell it right away once you crack it open, the fumes start coming out of them,” Henderson says. Henderson also does regular flyovers of the Gulf’s oil production platforms, looking for evidence of leaks that might not make the headlines that BP did. “Any time could turn into something bigger. Clearly one of the dangers of deepwater drilling like this is once you have a blowout the damage is really going to be done and it’s going to stick with you for a long time,” he says.

That’s been a hard lesson for Dean Blanchard, a shrimp processor on Grand Isle. “Basically they turned us into a ghost town,” Blanchard says. “The thing to do down here was to fish and to lay on the beach. They killed the fish and they put oil on the beach.” There’s no reason for people to come now, he says, unless they work on an oil cleanup crew.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

NOLA.com: More massive tar mats from BP oil spill discovered on Louisiana beaches

Beach-Cleanup-4-1170×583 1.jp 2
http://thelensnola.org/2013/12/18/more-massive-tar-mats-from-bp-oil-spill-discovered-on-louisiana-beaches/

The Lens – In-depth news and investigations for New Orleans
Environment

By Bob Marshall, Staff writer December 18, 2013 10:51am

Bob Marshall / The Lens

Beach-Cleanup-4-1170x583 1.jp 2
Heavy equipment digs into Fourchon Beach searching for more of the massive oil mats left by the BP blowout in 2010.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster was just a month old and BP’s crude oil was still gushing from the Gulf floor when state officials began to grasp the true scope of the insult to Louisiana’s coast: Beaches, estuaries and wetlands would be under assault for decades.

“I’ve been told by the ocean experts this stuff could hang out there on the bottom of the Gulf for more than 100 years. And as long as it’s out there, it can come ashore,” said Robert Barham, Secretary of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, in 2010. “We might not see big black waves, but we may be seeing a smaller, but serious problem, for years and years to come.”

The accuracy of that prediction is visible once again on the Lafourche Parish beach between Elmer’s Island and Port Fourchon, where a line of mud haulers waits to collect BP oil being unearthed by giant excavators digging just yards from the Gulf waves.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in the past few weeks this one spot has yielded 1.5 million pounds of “oily material” – a designation that includes oil products as well as associated shell, sand and water.

And that’s in addition to 1.79 million pounds already collected from Fourchon, by far the largest share of the 8.9 million pounds recovered from all Louisiana beaches in the past two years.

The heavy ongoing cleanup is emblematic of the problems spill experts say Louisiana can expect due to the rapid erosion of its coastline, especially along the beaches between Grand Isle and Port Fourchon. The rapid shoreline retreat in this area has resulted in a silt-filled backwash in the nearshore shallows. Patches of Deepwater Horizon oil that reached this zone became embedded with sand, shells and mud particles in the water column, creating malleable tar balls, patties and mats, depending on their size.

These are more than mere eyesores. The weathered oil contains toxic hydrocarbon components than can remain a threat to fish, wildlife and human health for 50 years. So even small tar balls must be cleaned up.

Gunk not quickly collected by cleanup crews soon became covered with sand and submerged by the advancing Gulf. They disappeared from view – but only temporarily. Weather events that bring rough waves and high tides often uncover the pieces, sometimes picking them up and spreading them spread across the beach and into adjacent marshes.

That happened again in October, during Tropical Storm Karen, which limped across the southeast Louisiana coast as a tropical depression. The Coast Guard assessment team that searched the Fourchon Beach area hadn’t expected to find much. That made the recent discovery of a large mat surprising, public information officer Michael Anderson said.

“That was a big mat – we collected 53,000 pounds from that one site,” he said. The size of the mat triggered another search.

During the spill the parish and state had used booms and other material to block four channels leading from the beach to the interior marsh in an effort to keep the oil from coating vegetation. It was a prudent decision; the beach area became one of the most heavily oiled in the entire Gulf. “During the spill we collected a lot of oil that was building up against those structures,” Anderson said. But as time went on, storms and shoreline changes buried the structures. When the post-Karen mat was discovered in one of those channels, the search was on for the remaining three. It paid off. One site, which is still under excavation, has yielded 780,000 pounds; another 53,000 pounds were found at the third site; the third contained 320 pounds, and the fourth was clean.

BP spokesman Jason Ryan said in an email that the only place where a “sizable deposit” of oily material was found after Tropical Storm Karen was at Fourchon Beach, “where the area’s deep channel and breach structure, combined with previous storms, created an environment where sediment collected in a way that was unlike any other area in Louisiana.”

He continued, “This is not new material that washed ashore; it was buried under 6 to 9 feet of sand deposited by tropical storms in 2010 and 2011. The oiled material is 85-90% sand, shells, silt, and water, and 10-15% heavily-weathered residual oil. However, in these breach areas it is difficult to separate this oiled material from the surrounding clean sand, which is reflected in the volume of material recovered.”

Discovery of those buried deposits proved the wisdom of what’s called the Louisiana Augering and Sequential Recovery Program, which involves boring holes through the beach layers about every 30 feet. Anderson said about 5,800 holes were bored over 5.8 miles of Fourchon Beach – 14,366 across Louisiana beaches in total.

The need for such thorough investigation was obvious after tar mats laid bare by storm action showed that BP’s oil is so prevalent in some areas that the Coast Guard resorted to doing complete beach restorations. So far the program has led to removal of 4.7 million pounds of oily muck. Most of it was sand, but sand so laden with oil that removal was the only option.

“In some sections we’ve had to dig down to the clay and peat layer that supports the beach – about three to four feet deep – and just remove the sand and replace it with new, clean sand,” Anderson said. “That was the only way to really get the job done.”

But as Barham, the Wildlife and Fisheries chief, knew two years ago, the work in fact is far from complete.

“We do have new tar balls coming ashore on these new beaches,” Anderson said. “This Fourchon area is really the most problematic place in the entire area of operation – the entire Gulf from Florida to Texas. “We know after each storm we’ll probably be finding something.

And in Louisiana, coastal storms aren’t going to stop anytime soon.
This story was modified after publication to include a comment from BP and to remove the reference to how much the shoreline has retreated because The Lens has received conflicting information about the extent of the loss.

ABOUT BOB MARSHALL

Bob Marshall covers environmental issues for The Lens, with a special focus on coastal restoration and wetlands. While at The Times-Picayune, his work chronicling the people, stories and issues of Louisiana’s wetlands was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes and other awards. In 2012 Marshall was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Loyola University School of Communications Den of Distinction. He can be reached at (504) 232-5013

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Gulf Restoration Network: Bird’s Eye View: More Pollution Incidents to Report with New Photos

photos at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/healthygulf/sets/72157638638305963/show/with/11354064155/

story at:
https://healthygulf.org/201312132180/blog/general/birds-eye-view-more-pollution-incidents-to-report-with-new-photos

Blog – General
Friday, 13 December 2013 12:43

As I wrap up things before heading off for a much needed holiday vacation, I wanted to be sure to share with you some photos of GRN’s most recent Gulf monitoring trips. As you look at the photos, please be sure to read the included descriptions for important details. After you have finished reading this blog and viewing the photos, if like me you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and motivated to do something, please take a minute to take action. There are many ways that you can help and I have included some options for you at the end of this blog. But first, below is a brief summary of our most recent watchdogging trips.

On November 26th a buddy of mine, Edwin Miles, and I drove down to Grand Isle to look for ongoing BP impacts. We went to Grand Isle State Park and it didn’t take very long to find hundreds of tar balls presumed to be ongoing impacts from the BP disaster. I filed a report with the National Response Center (NRC) and the next morning received a call from the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s office. I was informed that based on my report, which included GPS coordinates, that a clean-up crew was on the way to remove the oil. Please click below to view a slideshow of the photos then click “Show Info” to read the descriptions.
On December 11th, I accompanied Debbie Elliot, a national reporter with National Public Radio (NPR), to Elmer’s Island. Debbie is doing a news report about ongoing BP clean-up operations. In addition to me, Debbie conducted several interviews with other individuals for a story that is scheduled to air nationally on Sunday, December 22nd during NPR’s Weekend Edition. Check your local NPR affiliates for listings, and be sure to check their website to listen online and view photos. On this trip to Elmer’s Island, thousands of tar balls could be found on the shoreline. It took me less than three minutes to fill an entire sample jar. It was disgusting. Also on Elmer’s Island that day there was a staging area for a BP oil excavation operation currently underway on a private beach adjacent to Elmer’s. An estimated 200,000 pounds of oily material has been removed so far from this location in the last couple of weeks. The oil is buried deep in the sand on the beach. While I was not allowed to go and document the excavation operation, as you will see if you keep reading I had something else up my sleeve!

On December 12th, I conducted an overflight as part of GRN’s ongoing watchdogging of pollution in the Gulf. A very special thank you is in order for GRN member Lamar Billups for sponsoring this flight. With me on this flight was Bob Marshall, who covers environmental issues for The Lens. While at The Times-Picayune, Bob’s work chronicling Louisiana’s wetlands was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes and other awards. Bob is working on a report about the ongoing efforts by GRN to document and report new leaks and spills and our involvement with the Gulf Monitoring Consortium. Be on the lookout for Bob’s written report which will appear in The Lens as well as his radio report which will air sometime in the next couple of weeks on NPR affiliate WWNO. On this flyover, we transected coastal wetlands, bays, offshore, and along the Mississippi River looking for pollution incidents. While it was a gorgeous day on the Louisiana coast, it was windy, which makes it tricky to spot oil sheens, especially smaller ones. Take a look at the photos and read the descriptions to see what we found. Based on our findings, I filed two reports with the National Response Center: one for coal and petroleum coke in the Mississippi River, and one for the ongoing Taylor Energy leak 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana. I did spot several other locations such as a platform in Barataria Bay that may have been leaking but the wind and waves made it too difficult to know for sure. As such, no NRC reports were filed for those. As for that ‘something up my sleeve’ regarding the BP oil excavation operation on Grand Isle of which I was not permitted to access, I flew over that location and have included photos in the slideshow.

Finally as promised, here are some ways to take action if you don’t like what you see in the photos:

1. BP has spent millions of dollars on glossy ads saying everything is ok in the Gulf. Help us counter BP’s lies with real, documented truth. Share this report with your friends and family and share on social media such as Facebook. Also, be sure to “Like” GRN’s Facebook page so you can receive daily updates from the Gulf.

2. As the trial for the BP disaster continues, it’s more important than ever that the Justice Department holds BP accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Take action by clicking here to send a letter to the Justice Department. We’ve made it easy for you so all you have to do is enter in your information and click send.

3. GRN is committed to ongoing monitoring and reporting of pollution in the Gulf. However, the monitoring trips are very expensive, especially for a small environmental nonprofit. Make a donation and become a member by clicking here. Your tax deductible contribution gives us the tools and the resources to do this work.

4. Report any leaks, spills, and tar balls you encounter in the Gulf region to the National Response Center.

Happy Holidays!
Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for Gulf Restoration Network.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

NOAA: NOAA asks for public comment on proposed Deepwater Horizon oil spill early restoration plan and projects

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/20131206_nos_dwh_phase_3_projects_announcement.html
Trustees include 44 projects in $627 million, multi-agency draft plan to restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses, oysters, and lost recreation

December 6, 2013

Barrier island restoration work conducted earlier by NOAA Fisheries and partners through the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.
Noaa1
Chaland Headland Louisiana barrier island restoration work conducted in 2006 by NOAA Fisheries and partners through the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. is similar to the Chenier Ronquille restoration work project proposed in the Phase III plan.
Credit:NOAA

NOAA and its federal and state trustee partners today urged the public to provide comments on a draft plan to restore the Gulf after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The plan outlines and describes 44 proposed restoration projects, totaling approximately $627 million.

The plan was released by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nine federal and state agencies that act on behalf of the public to restore resources directly or indirectly harmed by oil released into the environment following the spill.

The projects included in the plan, The Draft Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Draft Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement,would restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses, oysters, and lost recreation. Under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, the Trustees have proposed projects that seek to address both natural resource and recreational losses caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill contributed to the loss of valuable natural resources all along the Gulf Coast,” said Dr. Mark Schaefer, assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management and NOAA deputy administrator. “NOAA is committed to working in collaboration with partners in the public and private sectors to restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico. We want to engage the public in defining the path forward.”

These projects will be funded through the $1 billion provided to the trustees by BP, as part of the 2011 Framework Agreement on early restoration.

NOAA would take a leading role in executing four of the 44 proposed projects. Under the draft plan, NOAA would partner with Louisiana and the Department of the Interior to fund and execute restoration of beach, dune and back-barrier marsh habitat on Chenier Ronquille, a barrier island off the coast of Louisiana. Chenier Ronquille is one of four barrier islands proposed for restoration as part of the Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration Project. The total cost to restore the barrier islands as identified in this plan is expected to be $318 million.
NOAA 2

Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and NOAA would partner to undertake three living shorelines projects. Living shorelines involve a blend of restoration technologies used to stabilize shorelines, provide fish and wildlife habitat, and provide recreational opportunities. The three projects are:

Alabama: NOAA would partner with the state to implement the proposed $5 million Swift Tract project. This project would construct approximately 1.6 miles of breakwaters covered with oyster shell to reduce shoreline erosion, protect salt marsh habitat, and restore ecosystem diversity and productivity in Mobile Bay. Restoration experts expect that over time, the breakwaters would develop into reefs, providing added reproductive and foraging habitat and shelter from predators.

Florida: The project, with NOAA partnering, would restore shoreline at two linked sites in Pensacola. Project GreenShores Site II is located immediately west of Muscogee Wharf in downtown Pensacola. Restoration at PGS Site II has been planned in conjunction with the adjoining Sanders Beach site. Both proposed projects would feature breakwaters that protect the coastline and create and restore approximately 18.8 acres of salt marsh habitat and four acres of reefs. Together, the Pensacola projects would cost approximately $11 million.

Mississippi: NOAA would work with the state to improve nearly six miles of shoreline as part of the proposed Hancock County Marsh Living Shoreline project. The goal of the project is to reduce shoreline erosion by dampening wave energy and encouraging reestablishment of habitat in the region. The estimated cost is $50 million.

Release of the draft plan opens a 60-day public comment period that runs through Feb. 4, 2014. During the comment period, the trustees will hold 10 public meetings across the Gulf states. All meetings will begin with an open house during which trustee representatives will be available to discuss project details. The open house will be followed by a formal presentation and opportunity for public comment. Meeting times, dates and locations are listed on www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.

Ten early restoration projects already are in various stages of implementation as part of the first two phases of early restoration. Updates on these projects are available in an interactive atlas.

Early restoration provides an opportunity to implement restoration projects agreed upon by the trustees and BP prior to the completion of the full natural resource damage assessment and restoration plan. BP and other responsible parties are obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of the natural resource injury caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including the cost of assessing such injury and planning for restoration.

For more than 20 years, NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program has worked cooperatively with federal and state agencies, tribes, industry, and communities to respond to oil spills, ship groundings, and toxic releases. During that period NOAA has protected natural resources at more than 500 waste sites and 160 oil spills, securing more than $2.3 billion from responsible parties.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Government Accountability Project: Corexit: Deadly Dispersant in Oil Spill Cleanup

http://www.whistleblower.org/program-areas/public-health/corexit

On April 19, 2013, GAP released Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups? The report details the devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem stemming from BP and the federal government’s widespread use of the dispersant Corexit, in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

GAP teamed up with the nonprofit Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) to launch this effort in August 2011 after repeatedly hearing from Gulf residents and cleanup workers that official statements from representatives of BP and the federal government were false and misleading in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Over the next 20 months, GAP collected data and evidence from over two dozen employee and citizen whistleblowers who experienced the cleanup’s effects firsthand, and GAP studied data from extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Taken together, the documents and the witnesses’ testimony belie repeated corporate and government rhetoric that Corexit is not dangerous. Worse than this, evidence suggests that the cleanup effort has been more destructive to human health and the environment than the spill itself.

Conclusions from the report strongly suggest that the dispersant Corexit was widely applied in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared. In reality, the oil/Corexit mixture became less visible, yet much more toxic than the oil alone. Nonetheless, indications are that both BP and the government were pleased with what Corexit accomplished.

The report is available here:
Part One, Corexit_Report_Part1_041913
Part Two, part2
Part Three _part3
You can download an Executive Summary of the report here.Executive_Summary_Corexit
Additional report exhibits are on file with GAP.

To produce the report, GAP investigators interviewed 25 whistleblowers who provided firsthand accounts of Corexit’s impact. While many chose to remain anonymous – including government officials – 16 whistleblowers provided full affidavits about their experiences, made publicly available in the report (excerpts from these affidavits can be found below).

Witnesses interviewed include cleanup workers, professionals (doctors, industry leaders), divers contracted by the federal government, and Gulf residents. The interviewees represent different geographic areas and are diverse in terms of age and gender. LEAN was instrumental in supporting this investigation. Further, one of GAP’s key whistleblowers, Dr. Wilma Subra, is a technical advisor for LEAN/Louisiana Mississippi Riverkeeper.

GAP has also teamed up with TakePart to tell the EPA: Ban Corexit! Sign our petition today!

Read the joint letter that LEAN, GAP and Gulf partners sent to the federal government, calling on various agencies to address the health crisis in the Gulf.

Read the in-depth Newsweek/The Daily Beast story on GAP’s report here.
Read the TakePart coverage here.
Read the New Orleans Times-Picayune coverage here.
Read the Mother Jones coverage here.
Watch the Al Jazeera coverage here.
Select Report Findings

Existing Health Problems

Eventually coined “BP Syndrome” or “Gulf Coast Syndrome,” all GAP witnesses experienced spill-related health problems. Some of these effects include: blood in urine; heart palpitations; kidney damage; liver damage; migraines; multiple chemical sensitivity; neurological damage resulting in memory loss; rapid weight loss; respiratory system and nervous system damage; seizures; skin irritation, burning and lesions; and temporary paralysis.
Interviewees are also extremely concerned about recognized long-term health effects from chemical exposure (from those specific chemicals found in Corexit/oil mixtures), which may not have manifested yet. These include reproductive damage (such as genetic mutations), endocrine disruption, and cancer.
Blood test results from a majority of GAP interviewees showed alarmingly high levels of chemical exposure – to Corexit and oil – that correlated with experienced health effects. These chemicals include known carcinogens.

The Failure to Protect Cleanup Workers

Contrary to warnings in BP’s own internal manual, BP and the government misrepresented known risks by asserting that Corexit was low in toxicity.
Despite the fact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed a highly-lauded safety training program for cleanup workers, the workers interviewed reported that they either did not receive any training or did not receive the federally required training.
Federally required worker resource manuals detailing Corexit health hazards (according to a confidential whistleblower) were not delivered or were removed from BP worksites early in the cleanup, as health problems began.
A FOIA request found that government agency regulations prohibited diving during the spill due to health risks. Yet, divers contracted by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and interviewed by GAP dove after assurances that it was safe and additional protective equipment was unnecessary.
BP and the federal government, through their own medical monitoring programs, each publicly denied that any significant chemical exposure to humans was occurring. Of the workers GAP interviewed, 87% reported contact with Corexit while on the job and blood test results revealed high levels of chemical exposure.
BP and the federal government believed that allowing workers to wear respirators would not create a positive public image. The federal government permitted BP’s retaliation against workers who insisted on wearing this protection. Nearly half of the cleanup workers interviewed by GAP reported that they were threatened with termination when they tried to wear respirators or additional safety equipment on the job. Many received early termination notices after raising safety concerns on the job.
All workers interviewed reported that they were provided minimal or no personal protective equipment on the job.

Ecological Problems & Food Safety Issues

A majority of GAP witnesses reported that they found evidence of oil or oil debris after BP and the Coast Guard announced that cleanup operations were complete.
BP and the federal government reported that Corexit was last used in July 2010. A majority of GAP witnesses cited indications that Corexit was used after that time.
The oil-Corexit mixture coated the Gulf seafloor and permeated the Gulf’s rich ecological web. GAP witnesses have revealed underwater footage of an oil-covered barren seafloor, documenting widespread damage to coral reefs.
The FDA grossly misrepresented the results of its analysis of Gulf seafood safety. Of GAP’s witnesses, a majority expressed concern over the quality of government seafood testing, and reported seeing new seafood deformities firsthand. A majority of fishermen reported that their catch has decreased significantly since the spill.

Inadequate Compensation

BP’s Gulf Coast Claims Fund (GCCF) denied all health claims during its 18 months of existence. Although a significant precedent, the subsequent medical class action suit excluded countless sick individuals, bypassed the worst health effects resulting from exposure to dispersant and oil, offered grossly inadequate maximum awards compared to medical costs, and did not include medical treatment.

Recommendations

The BP spill was the worst environmental disaster in American history, but the government’s consent to BP’s use of Corexit has caused long-term human and ecological tragedies that may be worse than the original spill. As deepwater drilling expands off U.S. coasts, it is inevitable that other incidents will occur. Renewed reliance on Corexit is planned for future oil spills, and BP has declared it will continue to use the deadly dispersant as long as the government permits doing so.

GAP’s report illustrates that both BP and the government must take corrective action to mitigate ongoing suffering and to prevent the future use of this toxic substance. The report makes recommendations for:

A federal ban on the use of Corexit, which is already banned in the United Kingdom (BP’s home country) and Sweden.
Congressional hearings on the link between the current public health crisis in the Gulf and Corexit exposure.
The immediate reform of EPA dispersant policy, specifically requiring the agency to determine whether such products are safe for humans and the environment prior to granting approval under the National Contingency Plan (NCP).
The establishment of effective medical treatment programs ­– by medical experts specializing in chemical exposure – for Gulf residents and workers.
The federal government’s funding of third-party, independent assessments of both the spill’s health impact on Gulf residents and workers, and such treatment programs when established.

Early, preliminary finding of this GAP investigation was reported in April 2012 by a cover story in The Nation magazine. On April 19, 2013, on the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, noted journalist Mark Hertsgaard published many of the full report’s findings in Newsweek/The Daily Beast.
Select Excerpts from Whistleblower Affidavits & Report Statements

As an environmental scientist, I look at the way the government and BP are handling, describing and discussing the spill … [T]he government did not account for the increased toxicity of the combined oil and Corexit.
– Scott Porter, Diver, Marine Biologist

[W]hen a BP representative came up on the speedboat and asked if we need anything, I again explained my concerns about breathing in the Corexit and asked him for a respirator … He explained ‘If you wear a respirator, it is bringing attention to yourself because no one else is wearing respirators, and you can get fired for that.’
– Jorey Danos, Cleanup Worker

What brought all of these individuals into the same pool was the fact that their symptoms were almost identical, and were different from anything that I had ever observed in my 40 plus years as a physician … However, until people are educated about the symptoms associated with exposure to toxic waste from the spill, we cannot assume they will make the connection. I continue to witness this disconnect and these symptoms on a daily basis.
– Dr. Michael Robichaux, Physician

When [the national director of The Children’s Health Fund] went to Boothville Elementary in Plaquemines Parish and they opened the medical closet, it was full of nebulizers … Where’s the red flag? What is causing that many breathing problems with that number of kids? That is abnormal. At Boothville Elementary we have sick kids all over the place who are suffering from upper respiratory infections, severe asthma, skin infections, blisters in between their fingers and arms and on their legs and their feet. Some kids have blisters all around their mouths and their noses. These kids were perfectly fine before the spill and the spraying of Corexit began.
– Kindra Arnesen, Louisiana Resident

The MSDS [federally required chemical labeling and safety information] for Corexit list several of the health problems I am now having, and they still used … it throughout the Gulf … When I lived on the barge, for 24-hours a day I was exposed. I would be outside too, breathing in what they were burning, without a respirator or a Tyvek suit. I had an apron, a hairnet, a spatula and some rubber gloves, and they told me to go in the midst of this dangerous chemical environment. Yet they were willing to tell me that the dispersant mixed in with the oil I was cleaning was as safe as touching Dawn dishwashing soap? Then a year later I have health problems that I have never had before working on the barge…
– Jamie Griffin, Cook & Cleaner on Bunkhouse for Cleanup Workers

They hired people from all over who didn’t know about the conditions and real safety hazards, but you did what you had to do; you had to take the job and deal with it because you didn’t have money to go home … There was a safety culture of, ‘hush hush, it didn’t happen.’
– Anonymous Cleanup Worker

EPA and BP knew of the health impacts associated with [Corexit and oil] … The issue was responding to an oil spill of this magnitude, with unprecedented quantities of Corexit, including novel subsurface application. Gulf coastal communities, and individuals who consume gulf seafood or recreate in the gulf, are the guinea pigs left to deal with the consequences and will be feeling the full effect in years to come.
– Dr. Wilma Subra, Chemist, MacArthur Genius Award Recipient

As part of an impromptu meeting to provide feedback from the shrimping industry to EPA and NOAA, I met with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in Venice on June 1, 2010. By that point, already 800,000 to 900,000 gallons of Corexit 9527A had been sprayed. I was sitting across the table from Ms. Jackson and I asked her, ‘Why is it that when you have all of this going on and three air monitors from Venice, Louisiana, EPA’s reports are not showing any high levels of chemicals?’ Ms. Jackson responded, ‘Well the levels were a little high, but we didn’t want to create a public panic.’
– Clint Guidry, President, Louisiana Shrimp Association

It’s been really hard to get an accurate diagnosis or treatment, because none of the local doctors will even admit there is a problem … There’s one friend of mine who happens to be a doctor, and he’s very well aware of what’s going on but is afraid to take a hard stand on it.
– Shirley Tillman, Mississippi Resident, Cleanup Worker

Most of our members right now who are sick are in litigation … They aren’t going to sufficiently pay our medical bills to demonstrate that they were responsible for the actions they took, just as they didn’t give us respirators to demonstrate that our working environment was unsafe.
– A.C. Cooper, Vice President, Louisiana Shrimp Association

Every time I check, there is still oil on the beaches and in the estuary systems and in the wetlands and the marshes. People go to the beaches and swim in the gulf, and report to me that they still come up stained with a brownish tan color that they believe is oil.
– Dr. Wilma Subra, Chemist, MacArthur Genius Award Recipient

Huffington Post & NRDC: Holidays on the Oil Spill Front Lines

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rocky-kistner/holidays-on-the-oil-spill_b_4336850.html

video at:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rocky-kistner/holidays-on-the-oil-spill_b_4336850.html?utm_hp_ref=green

Huffington Post

Rocky Kistner
Media associate, NRDC

Posted: 11/25/2013 12:10 pm

This will be J.J. Creppel’s last Thanksgiving at his home in Plaquemines Parish, a sliver of marshy land that juts out from the southeast corner of Louisiana and hugs the Mississippi River as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. But J.J. says after 60 years, he’s finally leaving the Cajun fishing community he loves so dearly. For many like him, life has changed since the BP oil disaster errupted more than three years ago. “The oil spill finished off the shrimp,” he says in a whisper.

Although domestic shrimp prices are up this year, giving a much-needed boost to fishermen down on their luck since the blowout, catches remain depressed in the areas like the Barataria Bay region, a productive fishing ground hard hit by BP oil. Lower catches combined with damages from storms and rising seas makes it harder to make a living fishing in the bayou these days. “I used to make nets for the people,” J.J. says. “But not too many people are buying nets anymore.”

While BP continues to spend millions on slick TV commercials touting the good times in the Gulf, communities in Plaquemines are still feeling the effects of the country’s worst oil spill in history. This year, cleanup crews collected more than 3 million pounds of oily material and tar balls from Louisiana coasts and marshlands, three times what it collected last year. Fishermen worry that in places like Barataria Bay, where fishing is still off limits in some areas due to oil contamination, the impacts will continue to ripple through the ecosystem. They are especially worried about future generations of shrimp, crab and oysters that could be hurt by the massive oil and chemical dispersant mix that poured into the Gulf after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded three years ago.

“We’re only three years out since the spill and everybody knows the oil is still out there,” says Clint Guidry of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, which represents shrimpers across the state. “The issue is what’s happening in the most affected areas. If you look at a map where most of the oil went, we’re still having problems.”

Fishermen also continue to report that some shrimp have what appears to be oil contaminated cavities and tumors they link to the oil spill. Barataria Bay shrimper Randy Varney says his shrimp catch has declined 50% in some areas this year. He says he occasionally finds shrimp with tumors and a black oil-like substance that he’s never seen before the spill.

But that’s not all that bothers him. Since he spends much of the hot summer of 2010 working on oil cleanup boats during the BP blowout, Randy says he continued to have health problems he never had experienced before, including chronic respiratory problems, rashes, dizziness, memory loss and sore eyes that plague him to this day. Randy says he was not allowed to wear a respiratory while he was handling toxic oily boom during the cleanup, and he blames the chemical cocktail of Corexit dispersant and BP crude for his ongoing health problems. “I don’t know what it is, but I never feel good, it’s like I constantly have a cold, my eyes bother me and I always have a sore throatŠ.doctors don’t what it is but I feel like I’ve been poisoned.”

Shrimp with tumors and a black substance caught in Barataria Bay in October.

That’s an ongoing refrain of some fishermen who found themselves at ground zero of the BP disaster, health problems that were chronicled in this detailed investigation released this year by the Government Accountability Project. Most of the media has moved on and ignored the plight of the fishing community in the Gulf. But reporters like Dahr Jamail of Al Jazeera continue to track problems in the fisheries and among residents in the Gulf. Here’s what he reported last month:

“It’s disturbing what we’re seeing,” Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.” Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now. “We’re seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can’t find any production out there yet. There is no life out there.”

Oiled beaches of Grand Isle, LA, October 2013. Photo: Gulf Restoration Network.

It will be years before the massive amount of science now underway in the Gulf becomes public, but already there is evidence that the oil disaster will have a lasting impact on the ocean environment for decades to come. Many fishermen still don’t know what the future holds for their livelihoods, a threat that looms over their holiday season for the third year in a row.

But communities in the Gulf aren’t the only residents battling oil spills that have changed their communities and their lives this Thanksgiving. In Mayflower, AR, many residents have complained of health problems they link to a massive tar sands leak from a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline last March. The blowout spewed over 200,000 gallons of sticky black Canadian tar sands crude through the small town into a marsh in nearby Lake Conway, one of the prized fishing locations in the state.

After Exxon ripped up much of the vegetation in the area this summer, much of the oil still remains embedded in the marsh. Residents say every time it rains, tar sands residue washes toward the culvert that drains into the main body of Lake Conway.

Oil in cove of Lake Conway in October. Photo: Genieve Long

Genieve Long, who lives near the oil-soaked cove, has suffered repeated health problems she blames on the oil (check out this recent documentary on the Mayflower oil spill from Inside Climate News). She continues to worry about the health of her family of four kids. Exxon and state authorities insist they are not in danger while the environmental testing continues. But that is little consolation to people like the Long family, and Genieve says she’s not sure where her family will celebrate their Thanksgiving meal.

“I don’t really want to invite people to my house and expose them, knowing what’s really going on here,” Genieve says. “We’re not the only family around here this spill has taken a huge toll on. It’s just heart-breaking to seeŠ. I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams have thought this is the way things would be around the holidays.”

For those who want to help families suffering this holiday season from toxic oil spills in their backyards, join the Front Line Holiday campaign on Facebook, organized by Gulf coast community and environmental advocate Cherri Foytlin. The campaign plans to deliver gifts and assistance to needy children and families across the country where their air, water and environment has been hit hard by impacts of the fossil fuel industry and other climate-related disasters.

Watch this video of J.J. produced by NRDC in 2010 in collaboration with StoryCorps and BridgetheGulf as part of its Stories from the Gulf project.

nets
J. J. Creppel repairing shrimp nets. Photo: Lisa Whiteman/NRDC

Follow Rocky Kistner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rockyatnrd

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Chron.com: Study: Tar balls found in Gulf teeming with ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria

http://www.chron.com/

By Carol Christian | November 12, 2013 | Updated: November 12, 2013 4:31pm

Half-dollar size tar balls found washed ashore, Monday, May 20, 2013, at Bermuda Beach. Small, thick, wet oil masses were also visible in the seaweed over a roughly 2.5-mile span. (AP Photo/The Galveston County Daily News, Chris Paschenko)

The number of people contracting the warm-water bacteria that can cause illnesses ranging from tummy upsets to potentially fatal skin lesions has increased in recent years, according to federal data. Records kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the number of cases of Vibriosis nearly doubled between 2008 and 2012 – rising from 588 to 1,111. Vibriosis includes “Vibrio vulnificus,” the bacteria commonly dubbed “flesh-eating.” It’s rare but tends to be underreported, the CDC says on its website.

The CDC data on vibriosis includes all vibrio species except cholera, so it’s unclear how much of the increase in the past five years is due to infection by the flesh-eating bacteria that can cause death. One researcher who studies Vibrio vulnificus found it highly concentrated in tar balls that appeared along the Gulf Coast after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Covadonga Arias, a professor of microbial genomics at Auburn University in Alabama, found that Vibrio vulnificus was 10 times higher in tar balls than in sand and up to 10 times higher than in seawater.

Her research, conducted with colleagues Zhen Tao and Stephen Bullard, was published Nov. 23, 2011, in EcoHealth. It marked the first analysis of bacteria found on the large amounts of “weathered oil” (such as tar balls) from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill that ended up on the shoreline, the researchers said. For the study, samples of sand, seawater and tar balls were collected from July through October, 2010, from a beach in Alabama and two beaches in Mississippi. The authors said their findings have epidemological relevance since many people have stepped on tar balls or picked them up on the beach.

However, in a June 2012 letter to BP, Dr. Thomas Miller, the deputy director for medical affairs at the Alabama Department of Public Health stated, “There is no epidemiological evidence to indicate increased rates of Vv (Vibriosis vulnificus) infections. Analysis of current and previous years’ Vv case numbers indicates there is no increase in the number of cases for years 2010 – 2012.”

BP spokesman Jason Ryan said in an emailed statement: “The Auburn study does not support a conclusion that tar balls may represent a new or important route of human exposure for Vibrio infection, or that the detection of Vibrio in tar balls would impact the overall public health risk, since there are other far more common sources of Vibrio, such as seawater and oysters.
“This is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the Gulf of Mexico. Neither the Alabama Department of Health nor the Centers for Disease Control have reported any significant increase in cases in the last three years and no individual case of vibrio infection has been linked to tar ball exposure.”

While there is no proof that tar balls can infect humans, Arias said it’s a concern because the bacteria concentration is so high in the samples her team studied. “At a concentration as high as 1 million Vibrio vulnificus cells/g (per gram) of tar ball, I think the potential risk is there,” she said by email. Concentrations in oysters and seawater are typically much lower, she said. To prove that tar balls can infect humans will require more study, which takes a lot of money, she said.

Alabama13.com: Flesh Eating Bacteria Tied to BP Oil Spill Tar Balls

http://www.alabamas13.com/

Posted: Nov 07, 2013 12:02 PM EST Updated: Nov 07, 2013 2:25 PM EST
By Peter Albrecht – bio | email

The Alabama Gulf Coast attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and since the 2010 BP Oil Spill, tens of thousands of tar balls.

A couple hundred miles away at Auburn University, Dr. Cova Arias, a professor of aquatic microbiology, conducts research on the often-deadly and sometimes flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio Vulnificus. Arias’ research at Auburn, and through the school’s lab at Dauphin Island, has focused on Vibrio’s impact on the oyster industry which was brought to a standstill three years ago by the BP Oil Spill. In 2010, out of curiosity, Arias set out to discover if Vibrio were present in the post-spill tar balls washing up on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. She was highly surprised by what she found.

“What was clear to us was that the tar balls contain a lot of Vibrio Vulnificus,” said Arias. Arias can show an observer Vibrio in the lab as it appears as a ring on the top of the solution in a test tube. Vibrio is not something, though, that a person can see in the water, sand, or tar balls. But, Arias’ research shows it there, especially in the tar balls, in big numbers. According to Dr. Arias’ studies, there were ten times more vibrio vulnificus bacteria in tar balls than in the surrounding sand, and 100 times more than in the surrounding water. “In general, (the tar balls) are like a magnet for bacteria,” said Arias. Arias’ theory is that Vibrio feeds on the microbes that are breaking down the tar.

She and researchers looked at tar balls that washed in to the same areas they had previously studied so they could therefore make valid comparisons to before the oil spill. “What we also found was in water, the numbers were about ten times higher than the numbers that have reported before from that area,” said Arias. So the water alone had ten times as much Vibrio as before the oil spill, and the tar balls themselves had 100-times more Vibrio than the water.

Dr. John Vande Waa , an infectious disease specialist at the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile says a person can get Vibrio two ways, by eating infected seafood, usually raw oysters, or by being in infected waters, either salt water or brackish. In this form, Vibrio is a fast-acting flesh-eating bacteria.

“The destruction in arms and legs, the flesh eating component, it’s two parts ,” said Vande Waa. “One is that the organism itself can destroy the tissues. The other is sepsis. The bacteria is in their bloodstream, it affects all the organs. Within my own experience of cases, the mortality has been approaching 40-50 percent.”

When entering through the skin, Vibrio is contracted thru some sort of cut or abrasion. The young or old, or someone with a compromised immune system, is more likely to get Vibrio. Dr. Vande Waa says exposure to Vibrio should be taken seriously by everyone in marine environments, due to the random, but deadly, nature of bacteria. “It can be very little exposure,” he said. “Just the wrong place at the wrong time.” It’s not a way anyone would want to die.

“I hope and pray to God I never have to see something like that again in my life,” said David Cox. His stepfather Wayne Anderson of Irvington was killed by Vibrio in September. Anderson was a life-long fisherman. It was something in the water where he spent his life that took his life. Cox says it started as a small bump on Anderson’s leg. “It spread very quickly,” said Cox. “The pain was unbearable. You could just see the redness getting darker, the blisters getting bigger.” Anderson was dead in less than 48 hours. “He wasn’t one to complain about pain and to see him there begging for someone to do something, it was very helpless,” said Cox. “Honestly, it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.”

There have been almost two dozen cases of Vibrio in Alabama over the last five years, according the Alabama Department of Public health. Florida recorded 160 Vibrio cases from 2007-20012, with 54 of them being fatal. There have been more than 30 cases in Florida this year. An Escambia County man died in October. A 43-year-old Milton woman, Tracy Lynn Ray, died on November 1st. Relatives tell News-5 she was a frequent beach goer.

Arias recommends that people at the beach not touch the tar balls with their bare skin. “You may have micro-abrasions so you don’t even know you have a cut,” said Arias. “So, I would stay away from the tar balls.” But the results of Arias’ research have not been widely reported. As Tropical Storm Karen last month washed in a new batch of tar balls at Orange Beach, sunbathers and beach walkers were oblivious to the dangers. “No, not really, it doesn’t seem to be a concern,” said Mike Hadley of St. Louis Mo. “I don’t think that a tar ball that has sand and shells on it is going to impact my health or me enjoying the beach at all,” said another beach goer.

The bacteria-filled tar balls are an object of beach goer curiosity.”I was just looking for shells in the sand and came across it,” said Tara Hadley of St. Louis. “Just looking, I picked it up thinking it was a shell.” Martha Ellison of Prattville, walking the beach with her teenage daughter, admits to handling tar balls on a routine basis. “Yeah. I’ve gotten them all over our fingers, stepped on them, gotten them on our feet.”

So far, there has been no documented case of someone getting the flesh-eating disease from tar balls. Still, Arias urges caution.
“We don’t know if you can get infected with Vibrio Vulnificus by touching a tar ball, but the possibility is there,” she said.
BP stresses that there has been no human case of Vibrio attributed to contact with tar balls. A BP statement sent to News Five read: “The Arias study does not support a conclusion that tar balls may represent a new or important route of human exposure for Vibrio infection, or that the detection of Vibrio in tar balls would impact the overall public health risk, since there are other far more common sources of Vibrio, such as seawater and oysters.”

BP says it asked the Alabama Department of Public Health in 2012, if its beach clean-up workers were at risk. Dr. Thomas Miller, ADPH Deputy Director for Medical Affairs, replied in a letter that there was no evidence of increased cases of Vibrio since the oil spill. Miller indicated, however, that could have been a result of fewer tourists being at the beach.
Arias says the only other significant study of Vibrio and tar balls was conducted following a spill off the coast of Nigeria and showed similar results. Arias has not done any follow-up work since 2010, citing a lack of funds, but says she would like to do further research.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Gnomes National News Service: Burn Victim Sues Houston-based Black Elk Energy over Injuries from Oil Platform Explosion

http://news.gnom.es/pr/burn-victim-sues-houston-based-black-elk-energy-over-injuries-from-oil-platform-explosion

HOUSTON, Oct. 30, 2013 /NEWS.GNOM.ES/ – A worker who suffered disfiguring burns in a deadly explosion last year on an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico is suing Houston-based Black Elk Energy LLC, the Wood Group USA Inc. and others based on claims that their negligence led to his horrific injuries.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Renato Dominguez by attorneys Jason Itkin, Cory Itkin and Noah Wexler of Houston-based Arnold & Itkin LLP and Reda Hicks at Diamond McCarthy LLP in Galveston County Court at Law. Mr. Dominguez claims the companies in charge of the platform failed to properly train and supervise workers; didn’t provide adequate safety equipment or medical treatment; didn’t inspect the platform; and violated federal labor laws and other regulations.

Mr. Dominguez, who was working as a pipefitter at the production site, is one of several Filipino workers injured in the Nov. 16, 2012, explosion that left three men dead. After treatment in a hospital in Baton Rouge, La., he has been recovering in Galliano, La.

Jason Itkin, co-founder of Arnold & Itkin, says his client is an unfortunate example of yet another worker who suffered unnecessary injuries because safety protocols weren’t followed properly.

“Renato is seeking justice from the companies whose negligence forever changed his life,” the attorney says. “The horror of this accident could have been prevented had the platform operators followed standard safety and workplace regulations.”

Mr. Dominguez, 53, suffered extensive burns on his face and most of his body during the explosion. Despite multiple surgical procedures to apply skin grafts, he remains permanently disfigured and continues to be in pain every day.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Other defendants include various units of Black Elk and Louisiana-based companies Compass Engineering & Consultants LLC, Shamrock Management LLC and Enviro-Tech Systems LLC.

The lawsuit is Renato Dominguez v. Black Elk Energy, LLC, et al., No. CV-70916.

For more information about the lawsuit, please contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.
SOURCE Arnold & Itkin LLP

Justice News Flash.com: BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Still Searching for Answers & UGA researchers help continue Gulf oil spill research, community

http://www.justicenewsflash.com/
BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Still Searching for Answers
2013-10-17 19:11:08 (GMT) (JusticeNewsFlash.com – Health & Law, Press Release)
10/14/2013 // BP Oil Spill Claim Website (Press Release) // Greg Vigna // (press release)

Court hearings continue over the financial responsibility of oil giant BP for damages caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. In a recent news report it was stated that the attorneys for the company and the federal government remain at odds over methods used to estimate how big the massive spill was. Estimates from both sides show that over three million barrels were leaked into the Gulf during the nearly three months it took to stop it.

The outcome of the recent court matter could lead to BP having to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in fines under the Clean Water Act. This is in addition to other sums set aside for the compensation of those who were injured or sustained property damage as a result of the spill.

Those who worked as response workers for cleanup efforts following the oil spill are also now being considered in the group of those with potential damage claims against BP. Although many injured cleanup workers are still waiting for answers regarding their eligibility to pursue damages, a proposed settlement is being discussed by attorneys and others to compensate injured response workers for medical expenses. A number have experienced respiratory, skin, and other health conditions due to crude oil contaminant exposure and toxic chemical exposure to dispersants sprayed during cleanup efforts.

Injured BP oil spill response workers can contact the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk for information regarding the status of the proposed settlement, and what their available medical and legal options may be. The help desk is now open for those who would like to request a free case review.

http://www.redandblack.com/

UGA researchers help continue Gulf oil spill research, community
By Jeanette Kazmierczak @sciencekaz | Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 1:00 pm

When millions of barrels of oil spilled out of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, researchers and coastal communities braced themselves for a long haul recovery. University of Georgia researchers at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah are conducting continuing research on the potential effects of oil on the life cycles of economically important blue crabs and shrimp.

Richard Lee, a professor emeritus at Skidaway, and his team studied the effects of emulsified oil, and initial results show exposure reduces the production of eggs and embryos in female shrimp and alters immune-related blood cells in blue crabs.
“Emulsified oil is produced when oil is vigorously mixed with seawater to produce a water-in-oil emulsion which is much more viscous than the original crude oil,” Lee wrote in an email to The Red & Black. “The catalysts are metal compounds in the crude oil that produce the emulsion. We have found that emulsified oil remains on the sediment when washed ashore and thus because of its persistence is more toxic to marsh animals, such as crabs.”

Observations made on blue crabs were done in conjunction with Anna Walker, a professor of pathology at Mercer University in Macon. “We looked at tissues from control blue crabs and then blue crabs that had been fed emulsified oil over a period of various numbers of days,” Walker said. “And it did appear that those animals that had consumed the emulsion for seven days, they had some kind of material in their hemocytes.” Hemocytes are the invertebrate equivalent of human white blood cells. “The suggestion that we had – because this is all very preliminary – is that the hemocytes were not functioning properly. And if they can’t function properly, they can’t remove any type of infectious organism from the hemolymph therefore the blue crab would be at a greater risk for the development of an infection.”

Walker stressed these are extremely preliminary results, based on one set of observations. She also said she and Lee are trying to avoid coming across as “Chicken Little.” While the immediate consequences of the spill were dire for many animals, the long-term consequences are proving to be less horrible than was expected. She said the key point to take away was that studying both types of consequences is important for understanding the repercussions of not only this, but future oil spills.

Researchers working with Lee have also been looking at the effects of dispersed oil, which is different from emulsified oil in that dispersed oil is treated by a chemical to break it up into droplets to prevent slicks. Lee said to imagine using oil-cutting soap to clean dishes – the oil isn’t destroyed, just broken up. He wrote in his email that the idea was that in this form the oil would be more quickly degraded by marine bacteria.

“This point is still in some disagreement by scientists, particularly in the case of a large oil spill,” Lee wrote. “We have determined that these dispersed oil droplets can be taken up by plankton, the small organisms that make up much of the biomass of the ocean. This is work we did with Marion Koshland at the University of Griefswald in Germany and Gustav Paffenhoeffer at [Skidaway]. Fish and other larger organisms can consume plankton containing dispersed oil and thus this oil enters the marine food web.”

Lee wrote the overall effect of the oil spill on population numbers of crabs and shrimp is hard to determine because population will vary from year to year anyway.

Lee and his team have also collaborated with researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi to provide outreach for affected communities. Jessica Kastler, the coordinator of program development at USM’s marine education center, said much of their work was with the Vietnamese-American fishing community in Ocean Springs, Miss.

“Our goal in this project was to talk to people about the role of science because science is going to be coming up with answers about the oil spill for at least another decade,” Kastler said. “And it would be nice if people were listening for those answers when they come up and then we can keep that information available for making decisions about future things. But working within the community – there’s a real, strong interest within the Vietnamese-American community to work with scientists and to be part of the data collection and interpretation effort.”

Kastler said discussion wasn’t always easy, both because of the language barrier and the emotions tied up in the ramifications of the oil spill, but she said the Vietnamese-American community was more interested even than some of the charter boat captains because their livelihoods are so intricately tied to the water.
“They got to learn how science works, they got to practice some of the things Dr. Lee was doing in his lab,” she said. “Then they got to share some of the messages from the project – this is the role of science, this is not, this is what science can tell us and we’re going to be waiting a long time for all of the answers.”
Untitled 5102 2

Special thanks to Richard Charter

AP: BP oil spill settlement probe target lashes out at special investigator

The Associated Press By The Associated Press
October 17, 2013 at 6:33 PM, updated October 17, 2013 at 6:34 PM

One of the lawyers singled out in an investigation of alleged misconduct in the settlement program for victims of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill is questioning the chief investigator’s impartiality.

Before a judge appointed him to lead the investigation, former FBI Director Louis Freeh disclosed that he is a partner at a law firm that is working on an unrelated case with lawyers for Kirkland & Ellis, a firm that represents the London-based oil giant.
In a court filing Wednesday, lawyers for New Orleans-based attorney Jon Andry argue they need more information about the relationship to determine whether to seek Freeh’s disqualification as “special master.”

In a report last month, Freeh said he found “ample evidence” that Andry and other attorneys tried to corrupt the settlement process by using a lawyer on the staff of claims administrator Patrick Juneau to expedite a $7.9 million settlement claim by The Andry Law Firm.

Andry’s lawyers claim Freeh has withheld evidence that could clear Andry of wrongdoing and “abandoned all pretense of the neutrality required of a Special Master.” “It requires no imagination to understand the value to BP and by extension its law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, of the criticisms made by Freeh,” they wrote. Freeh is a partner and chairman of the executive committee of Pepper Hamilton LLP, a law firm that also owns his consulting company, Freeh Group International Solutions. Andry’s lawyers said Pepper Hamilton is working with Kirkland & Ellis on class-action litigation over the diabetes drug Avandia. “Jon Andry has a right to a Special Master free of conflicts and free of the appearance of conflicts,” his lawyers wrote. “Mr. Jon Andry’s lawyers’ belated and rambling motion to recuse the Special Master is without merit in law and fact,” Freeh said in a statement emailed by Freeh Group International Solutions LLC president and CEO Jim Bucknam.

Freeh said he fully disclosed the “claimed conflicts” before he was appointed. “Additionally, all of the Special Master’s fees in this case are approved by the Court, not by BP and its lawyers,” he wrote. Separately, Andry’s attorneys, led by Lewis Unglesby, asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier for an order requiring Freeh to turn over all of the material that he gathered during his investigation.

“Freeh has made mistakes. They are substantial. They have caused great damage, but these errors are fixable once all the facts come out,” they wrote. In the report he issued on Sept. 7, Freeh cleared Juneau of engaging in any “conflict of interest, or unethical or improper conduct.” But he concluded that top members of Juneau’s staff engaged in conduct that was improper, unethical and possibly criminal. Freeh said Andry and another private attorney, Glen Lerner, used Lionel Sutton, a lawyer on Juneau’s staff, to expedite their firm’s claim. In return, Sutton received more than $40,000 in fees from payments on claims he had referred to their law firm before joining Juneau’s staff, Freeh’s report says. Freeh recommended that his report be forwarded to the Justice Department so it could determine whether Andry and others broke any laws. He also urged Barbier to consider disallowing payment on the $7.9 million claim.
By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Waking Times: Setting the Record Straight About BP’s Failed Gulf of Mexico Cleanup

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/10/23/setting-record-straight-bps-failed-gulf-mexico-cleanup/

October 23, 2013 | By WakingTimes |

Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times

The second phase of hearings in the legal battle over the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico ended on October 17th. Following two weeks of testimony by the U.S. Department of Justice and BP, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier will determine what quantity of oil was spilled into the Gulf. He will also decide whether BP was simply negligent or grossly negligent.

The Justice Department claims 176 million gallons of oil were spilled; BP argues that it only spilled 103 million gallons. Under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Control Act, Judge Barbier can fine BP and its partners $1,100 per barrel should he find they were negligent in their actions leading up to the spill and in the cleanup afterwards. The fine would rise to $4,300 per barrel if he finds the companies were grossly negligent or acted with willful misconduct, as the State Department alleges.Using the State Department’s numbers, the fine could be $18 billion; if BP’s numbers are accepted, the fine could be $10.5 billion.

The outcome of the case will play a role in all subsequent litigation around the BP disaster, including the case of Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood, the largest shrimp buyer and wholesaler in the Gulf region. Blanchard’s company in Grand Isle, Louisiana is all but shut down now. Blanchard keeps a small fraction of his staff employed – more of them than he needs to keep his dwindling operation going. He doesn’t have the heart to make further cuts.

Blanchard estimates his company’s loss at over $100 million. He estimates that his business is now 15 percent of what it was before the spill. He keeps his doors open only because he can’t bring himself to close down. He recently moved part of his business to a different area where some shrimpers are still able to harvest product, but he faces an uphill battle against BP, and an uncertain future, along with many other Gulf fishermen.
Dean Blanchard talks about the use of the chemical dispersant Corexit during the BP oil spill:

This fall, BP launched a new PR campaign depicting itself as a victim of fraud. The BP ads accuse people of filing fraudulent claims, and asks upstanding citizens to turn them in. Blanchard doesn’t doubt there are fraudulent claims, but holds BP responsible for allowing that to happen.

He and others in the fishing industry offered to help BP figure out who the real fishermen were since they know their community well, but BP turned them down. Blanchard suggests that BP may have wanted to create chaos, initially giving a token payment to anyone who wore a pair of white boots into the claims offices so they could play victim later, just as they are doing now. On Facebook, activists encourage those affected by the spill to call the BP fraud hotline set up for this campaign and choke the company’s line with calls accusing BP of fraud.

BP’s other commercials claim that all fishing areas have reopened, although the waters near Grand Isle are not. Blanchard wonders why the government continues to allow the company to lie in its advertising.

BP’s “Make it Right” campaign, which asserts that things are back to normal, is a source of rage for many along the Gulf Coast. And Dean Blanchard doesn’t pull punches about it:

Some of the shrimpers who sell to Blanchard periodically monitor the areas they used to work in. They have caught deformed shrimp with no eyes and oil in their gills, and other fish with lesions.

Recently, a fisherman gave him a fish with a hole in the middle of its body that Blanchard has kept on ice to show people as an example of the abnormalities in the seafood he has seen since the spill.

fish with hole
Image Source
Fish with mysterious hole in its side caught by a fisherman and given to Blanchard.

Despite the government and company assurances that the seafood is safe, Blanchard’s insurance company dropped his product liability insurance. Blanchard wont be covered if the product he is selling turns out to be unsafe.

Besides the fiscal strain, Blanchard worries about the health of his family. He says everyone he knows on the island now has sinus and breathing problems.

Many have moved, including longtime resident Betty Doud, her daughter and grandchildren. She and Blanchard both tell me they can breathe better when they travel away from Grand Isle. Doud and her daughter are renting homes near New Orleans.

Over lunch, they rule out places to resettle that are sites for potential environmental disasters, crossing off all the states that have fracking activity, for instance. Doud recently sold off her Grand Isle home and won’t ever move back. Like Blanchard, she’d rather sue BP than accept the meager settlement it offered for her loss.

BP has been forced to take some responsibility for the health issues faced by residents and cleanup workers. In May 2012, as part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, $36 million in grant money was earmarked for behavioral and mental healthcare needs, making it possible for residents and cleanup workers to file claims in a class action suit against BP for their health issues.

Meanwhile, more tar mats containing BP oil were discovered by the Coast Guard after the recent tropical storm Karen.

The amount of oil recovered in the cleanup process in Louisiana has grown this year. Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, suggested in an interview with Reuters that the initial cleanup had clearly been insufficient since the amount of recovered oil increased this year.

Oil turning up on these beaches is no surprise to residents like Betty Doud, who witnessed activities in 2010 that suggested to her that cleanup workers were burying the oil rather than taking it away.

Dean Blanchard isn’t surprised either. He has no doubt that the reason there are no shrimp left in the area rests on the fact that Corexit was used to chemically disperse the oil, letting it sink to the sea floor where the shrimp reproduce.

The use of dispersant by BP irks Blanchard the most. He believes that if the government hadn’t allowed BP to disperse the oil, it could have been cleaned up.

“I never knew you could buy a branch of the government, but BP bought the Coast Guard,” he says. “They were complicit in letting BP do what they wanted.”

Blanchard is irked by the fact that BP was making tons of money and still cutting corners – putting the health of Gulf Coast residents and the economy at risk. And the fact that BP was allowed to do so by the government also riles him.

“Someone at the top needs to go to jail,” Blanchard says.

graveyard BP
Graveyard erected to those who died in the BP blowout.

message to BP on Main St
Message to BP on Main Street
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Truth-out.org: Gulf Ecosystem in Crisis Three Years After BP Spill

Monday, 21 October 2013 09:29
By Dahr Jamail, Aljazeer

3 yrs later
Three years after well blowout, declining seafood catches and deformities point to an environment in distress. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

New Orleans – Hundreds of kilograms of oily debris on beaches, declining seafood catches, and other troubling signs point towards an ecosystem in crisis in the wake of BP’s 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s disturbing what we’re seeing,” Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.”

Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana
Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now.

“We’re seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can’t find any production out there yet. There is no life out there.”

According to Robin, entire sectors of the Louisiana oyster harvest areas are “dead or mostly dead”. “I got 10 boats in my fleet and only two of them are operating, because I don’t have the production to run the rest. We’re nowhere near back to whole, and I can’t tell you when or if it’ll come back.”

State of Louisiana statistics confirm that overall seafood catch numbers since the spill have declined.
Over three million pounds of oiled material have been found in Louisiana this year. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld / Al Jazeera)

Everything is down’
Robin is not the only member of the Gulf’s seafood industry to report bleak news. Kathy Birren and her husband own Hernando Beach Seafood, a wholesale seafood business, in Florida.
Shrimp with tumours continue to be found along the impact zone, from Louisiana to Florida. (Photo: Dean Blanchard)

“I’ve seen a lot of change since the spill,” Birren told Al Jazeera. “Our stone crab harvest has dropped off and not come back; the numbers are way lower. Typically you’ll see some good crabbing somewhere along the west coast of Florida, but this last year we’ve had problems everywhere.”

Birren said the problems are not just with the crabs. “We’ve also had our grouper fishing down since the spill,” she added. “We’ve seen fish with tar balls in their stomachs from as far down as the Florida Keys. We had a grouper with tar balls in its stomach last month. Overall, everything is down.”

According to Birren, many fishermen in her area are giving up. “People are dropping out of the fishing business, and selling out cheap because they have to. I’m in west-central Florida, but fishermen all the way down to Key West are struggling to make it. I look at my son’s future, as he’s just getting into the business, and we’re worried.”

Dean Blanchard, owner of a seafood business in Grand Isle, Louisiana, is also deeply troubled by what he is seeing. “We have big tar mats coming up on Elmers Island, Fouchon, Grand Isle, and Grand Terre,” Blanchard told Al Jazeera. “Every time we have bad weather we get fresh tar balls and mats.”

Blanchard said his business generates only about 15 percent of what it did before the spill. “It looks like it’s getting worse,” he said. “I told my wife when she goes to the mall she can only spend 15 percent what she used to spend.”

Blanchard has also seen shrimp brought in with deformities, and has taken photographs of shrimp with tumours (see above). Others lack eyes. He attributes the deformities to BP’s use of toxic dispersants to sink the spilled oil.

“Everybody living down here watched them spray their dispersants day in and day out. They sprayed our bays and our beaches,” he said. “We got a problem, because BP says they didn’t spray down here, but we had a priest that even saw them spraying. So either we got a lying priest, or BP is lying.”

BP and the Coast Guard have told the media they have never sprayed dispersants within 10 miles of the coast, and that dispersants have never been used in bays.
Eyeless shrimp, along with other seafood abnormalities, have become common in many areas along the Gulf Coast. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld / Al Jazeera)

A decades-long recovery
On a more sombre note, Dr Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer and a marine biologist, believes it will likely take the Gulf decades to recover from the BP disaster.

“The impacts of the Ixtoc 1 blowout in the Bay of Campeche in 1979 are still being felt,” said Cake, referring to a large oil spill near the Mexican coast, “and there are bays there where the oysters have still not returned. My prediction is we will be dealing with the impacts of this spill for several decades to come and it will outlive me.”

According to Cake, blue crab and shrimp catches have fallen in Mississippi and Alabama since the spill, and he also expressed worries about ongoing dolphin die-offs. But his primary concern is the slow recovery of the region’s oyster population.

“Mississippi recently opened their season, and their oyster fisherman are restricted to 12 sacks of oysters a day. But they can’t even reach six,” Cake said. “Thirty sacks would be a normal day for oysters – that was the previous limit – but that is restricted now because the stocks just aren’t there.”

Cake’s conclusion is grim. “Here in the estuarine areas, where we have the oysters, I think it’ll be a decade or two before we see any recovery.”

BP previously provided Al Jazeera with a statement on this topic, a portion of which read: “Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.”

BP claims that fish lesions are naturally common, and that before the spill there was documented evidence of lesions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by parasites and other agents.

More oil found
The second phase of the ongoing federal trial against BP investigates whether the company’s actions to halt the flow of oil during the blowout were adequate, and aims to determine how much oil was released.

“BP is mounting an aggressive legal and public relations campaign to shield itself from liability and minimise the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf, as well as the ongoing impacts from the disaster,” said Jonathan Henderson, an organiser for the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group.

Even Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal agrees. Jindal recently said, “Three and a half years later, BP is spending more money – I want you to hear this – they are spending more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted.”

As far away from the blowout site as Florida, researchers continue to find oil in both Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay.

In Louisiana, according to the LA Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), more than 200 miles of shoreline have “some degree of oiling”, including 14 miles that are moderately or heavily oiled. From March through August of this year, over three million pounds of oiled material have been collected in Louisiana, more than double the amount over the same time period last year.

In addition, the CPRA reports that “investigations into the chemical composition of MC252 [BP’s Macondo well] oil samples demonstrate that submerged oil is NOT substantially weathered or depleted of most PAH’s [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons],” and “disputesŠfindings relied on by the USCG [US Coast Guard] that Deepwater Horizon oil is non-toxic”.

The agency also expresses concerns that “submerged oil may continue to pose long term risk to nearshore ecosystems”.

“New impacts to the Gulf’s ecosystem and creatures also continue to emerge,” Henderson told Al Jazeera. “This year alone, the National Marine Fisheries Service has recorded 212 dolphins and other marine mammal standings in the northern Gulf. A new scientific study conducted by NOAA, BP and university researchers also shows significant negative impacts on tiny organisms that live on the sea floor in a 57 square mile area around the Deepwater Horizon well site.”

Numerous other impacts have been documented since the disaster began, including genetic disruptions for Gulf killifish, harm to deepwater corals,, and the die-off of tiny foraminifera that are an important part of the Gulf’s food chain.

Ongoing studies continue to reveal toxins from BP’s spill in water, soil, and seafood samples.

Meanwhile, fishermen in BP’s impact zone wonder if things will ever return to normal. “Our future is very, very dim, and there are no sponge crabs out there, which is the future,” Robin concluded. “I’ve never seen this in my lifespan. I’m not seeing a future, because everything out there is dead.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com–Times-Picayune: Tar mat discovered at Fourchon Beach after Tropical Storm Karen

oil mat

Grand Isle, La. – A Deepwater Horizon Response Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Team delineates the edges a surface residual ball colony, Oct. 8, 2013. The 12 foot by 3 foot SRB colony was uncovered by the increased tides of Tropical Storm Karen and located during a Deepwater Horizon Post-Storm Rapid Assessment Survey. (Coast Guard/Michael Anderson)

By Katherine Sayre, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on October 16, 2013 at 5:52 PM, updated October 16, 2013 at 9:33 PM

The Coast Guard says it has recovered 4,100 pounds of a tar mat discovered under the sand at Fourchon Beach. The oily material was found by crews inspecting Louisiana’s coast after Tropical Storm Karen.

The oily mixture is assumed to be left over from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill three years ago, said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Anderson, spokesman for the Gulf Coast Incident Management Team. Karen’s storm surge, although weak, was enough to cause some erosion and expose the area.

The tar mat consists of a mixture of 80 percent to 90 percent sand, shell and water and 10 percent to 20 percent oil, Anderson said.

High tides temporarily stopped the cleanup work at the site today, but the effort will continue this week, Anderson said. The exact size of the tar mat hasn’t been determined.
“We’re expecting a significant amount of product,” Anderson said.

He said the Coast Guard does not expect it to be as large as the massive tar mat discovered around Isle Grand Terre in June.

The cleanup effort will include removing the tar mat and sending out snorkeling swimmers to search the waters nearby, he said.

Tar balls have been collected in other areas of Louisiana’s coast after Karen moved through the Gulf of Mexico and dissipated earlier this month.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Hill: Shutdown delays BP lawsuit over federal contracts freeze & New York Daily News: Former Halliburton manager pleads guilty to destroying evidence of BP’s massive oil spill

http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/328287-shutdown-delays-bp-lawsuit-over-federal-contracts-freeze

The Hill: Shutdown delays BP lawsuit over federal contracts freeze
By Ben Geman – 10/14/13 07:08 AM ET

A federal court has extended the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) looming deadline to respond to BP’s lawsuit challenging the freeze on winning new federal contracts that the agency imposed over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The EPA had faced an Oct. 15 deadline to respond to the lawsuit but asked for a stay last week, citing the lapse in funding for the Justice Department during the government shutdown.

On Friday, Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted the EPA’s motion. She extended all deadlines in the case “commensurate with the duration of the lapse in appropriations” that began Oct. 1. BP, a major fuel supplier to the U.S. military, sued the EPA in August to end its ongoing suspension from winning new federal procurement contracts.

The EPA imposed the suspension in late 2012, shortly after BP’s $4.5 billion plea agreement to resolve criminal and securities claims, citing the oil giant’s “lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct” in the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
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http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ex-halliburton-manager-pleads-guilty-destroying-evidence-oil-spill-article-1.1486189

Former Halliburton manager pleads guilty to destroying evidence of BP’s massive oil spill

Anthony Badalamenti, the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine after prosecutors charged he instructed two employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out Macondo well.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2013, 12:24 PM

NEW ORLEANS – A former Halliburton manager pleaded guilty Tuesday to destroying evidence in the aftermath of the deadly rig explosion that spawned BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Anthony Badalamenti, 62, of Katy, Texas, faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine after his guilty plea in U.S. District Court to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence. His sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey is set for Jan. 21.

Badalamenti was the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., BP’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Prosecutors said he instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out Macondo well.

Last month, a federal judge accepted a separate plea agreement calling for Halliburton to pay a $200,000 fine for a misdemeanor stemming from Badalamenti’s conduct. Halliburton also agreed to be on probation for three years and to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but that payment was not a condition of the deal.

The April 20, 2010, rig explosion killed 11 workers and led to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

In May 2010, according to prosecutors, Badalamenti directed a senior program manager to run computer simulations on centralizers, which are used to keep the casing centered in the wellbore. The results indicated there was little difference between using six or 21 centralizers. The data could have supported BP’s decision to use the lower number.

Badalamenti is accused of instructing the program manager to delete the results. The program manager “felt uncomfortable” about the instruction but complied, according to prosecutors.

A different Halliburton employee also deleted data from a separate round of simulations at the direction of Badalamenti, who was acting without company authorization, prosecutors said.

Halliburton notified investigators from a Justice Department task force about the deletion of data. Efforts to recover the data weren’t successful.

Badalamenti wasn’t the first individual charged with a crime stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but he is the first to plead guilty.

BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine await a trial next year on manslaughter charges stemming from the rig workers’ deaths. They botched a key safety test and disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that were glaring signs of trouble before the well blowout, prosecutors say.

Former BP executive David Rainey is charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was spewing from the blown-out well in 2010. Former BP engineer Kurt Mix is charged with deleting text messages and voicemails about the company’s response to the spill.

Two floors down from the courtroom where Badalamenti pleaded guilty, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is presiding over a trial for spill-related civil litigation. For the trial’s second phase, Barbier is hearing dueling estimates from experts for BP and the federal government about the amount of oil that spewed into the Gulf.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ex-halliburton-manager-pleads-guilty-destroying-evidence-oil-spill-article-1.1486189#ixzz2hp0EqVK6

HoumaToday.com: Research links health, oil spill & Mississipppi River Delta.org.: Conservation Organizations demand BP Accountability for Gulf Oil Disaster & wtok.com: Oil Spill Claims Investigation

By Xerxes Wilson
Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Oil spill cleanup workers could be at risk for developing liver and blood disorders, according to new research published in the American Journal of Medicine. The study, conducted by the University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers in Houston, found that participants exposed to oil had altered blood profiles and liver enzymes, and other symptoms compared to an unexposed group.

In the months following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf, BP hired a small army of locals and others to help deploy protective measures and gather oil that has spewed from the runaway well. Since some research has linked exposure to oil to health issues, more long-term research of the issue is underway. The study estimates that more than 170,000 workers contributed to cleanup efforts.

This latest research looked specifically at the link between oil exposure and blood and liver functions in people who had participated in the cleanup, said Mark D’Andrea, lead investigator for the University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers.
The center compared 117 people who had been exposed to the oil and dispersants used in the aftermath with a control group at least 100 miles away from Louisiana’s coast. Their various blood and liver functions, plus other benchmarks, were tested.
“Oil and secondary products are easily absorbed and can produce damage,” D’Andrea said, especially with people’s bone marrow, livers and kidneys.

The research found there were no significant changes in white blood cell counts. But platelet counts, blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels were “substantially lower” in the exposed groups. The study also found other indicators of liver damage by comparing other biochemical benchmarks, D’Andrea said. “Phosphatases, amino transferases and dehydrogenases play critical roles in biological processes. These enzymes are involved in detoxification, metabolism and biosynthesis of energetic macromolecules that are important for different essential functions,” D’Andrea said. “Alterations in the levels of these enzymes result in biochemical impairment and lesions in the tissue and cellular function.”

In the months following the spill, much was made about the potential health problems the nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants such as Corexit spread in the aftermath to break down the oil. Corexit is banned in the United Kingdom because of potential risk to cleanup workers.

A series of interviews by the Government Accountability Project released earlier this year noted those involved in cleanup reported health problems such as kidney and liver damage, heart palpitations, bloody urine and memory loss. The report also took issue with the method and monitoring conducted by BP in its use of dispersants. At least some of the symptoms are shared with subjects of D’Andrea’s research. Those participants also reported headaches most frequently, followed by shortness of breath, skin rash, cough, dizzy spells, fatigue, painful joints, night sweats and chest pain.

D’Andrea said the research doesn’t specifically hinge on exposure to dispersants because some participants claimed they were heavily exposed to them and others noted they had little to no contact with the compounds. “The results of this study indicate that oil spill exposure appears to play a role in the development of hematologic and hepatic toxicity. However, additional long-term follow-up studies are required to understand the clinical significance of the oil spill exposure,” the study says.
The findings, like much of the research tied to the spill, are limited by a lack of pre-spill data for comparison, the report notes. Conclusions are also limited by the short-term snapshot nature of the project. “If they haven’t been screened they need to do some screening. Some we saw right after the screening and the others were perhaps years later. It will probably be a lifelong following. Who knows when that incident will cause an aberration in the DNA?” D’Andrea said.

A long-term study into the potential effects of oil and dispersant exposure is being conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. That organization has recruited more than 33,000 people who had some connection with the oil spill cleanup. “We actually know very little about very little exposures to oil, such as what someone who would have experience in cleanup would see,” said Dale Sandler, the study’s chief of epidemiology and principal investigator. “So it is important that we invest in this and do it right.”

Sandler said researchers are trying to create a systematic examination over about a decade to yield results that can accurately depict exposure risk and can be used to characterize risk in other oil exposure situations.
But coming up with such thorough and accurate results takes time. Participants in the study will be observed in different ways over different periods of time. Some will be part of phone interviews. Others have participated in in-home visits, and about 4,000 people will take part in a more rigorous clinical examination. Results will be released through the course of the research, Sandler said.

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http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/
Conservation Organizations Demand BP Accountability for Gulf Oil Disaster
September 27, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Media Resources
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Erin Greeson, National Audubon Society, 503.913.8978, egreeson@audubon.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Conservation Organizations Demand BP Accountability for Gulf Oil Disaster
Deepwater Horizon civil trial resumes, groups reinforce need to restore

(New Orleans, LA-Sept. 27, 2013) On Monday, Sept. 30, phase II of the Deepwater Horizon civil trial will begin to determine how much BP will be required to pay in fines for the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. Today, leading national and local conservation organizations Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation released the following statement:

“Nearly three and a half years since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 11 men and caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, the Gulf still waits for restoration. BP’s misleading advertising campaigns omit truths and facts: Gulf Coast communities, wildlife and ecosystems are still harmed and need to be restored. Tar mats continue to surface, miles of Louisiana shoreline remain oiled and the full effects of the oil spill may not be known for years to come.

“It is time for BP to accept full responsibility for the Gulf oil disaster. The natural resources of the Gulf, which sustain and bolster regional and national economies, need restoration now. We cannot wait any longer for our ruined wetlands and barrier islands to be restored.

“Restoration cannot begin in earnest until BP is brought to justice. The company has not paid a penny in Clean Water Act civil fines, which it owes for the millions of barrels of oil it spilled into the Gulf. These fines will be the primary funding for Gulf restoration projects under the RESTORE Act.

“A portion of the RESTORE Act funding, overseen by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, will be spent on large-scale ecosystem restoration projects. The Mississippi River Delta region was among the hardest hit by the oil disaster and is essential to regional and national economies, including navigation, energy and seafood. The delta is invaluable to our communities and our environment; it provides vital habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife and birds along the Mississippi and Central Flyways, world-class fresh- and saltwater fishing opportunities and a home to millions of Americans. The Mississippi River Delta is truly a national treasure and one of the most important areas in North America.

“BP must be held responsible for its actions so that Gulf Coast ecosystems and economies can recover and rebuild. It’s been nearly three and a half years. We have waited long enough.”

– See more at: http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/blog/2013/09/27/conservation-organizations-demand-bp-accountability-for-gulf-oil-disaster/#sthash.fapeli5v.dpuf

Oil Spill Claims Investigation
By: Andrea Williams – Email
Updated: Fri 5:56 PM, Sep 27, 2013

Meridian, Miss. An investigation is continuing into some settlement claims for people who were affected by the 2010 BP Oil Spill. Within the last week Meridian police have received numerous calls about solicitors collecting personal information and money from citizens to file claims. One businessman from California says he is now in Meridian to set the record straight.
The Meridian Police Department is spearheading the local investigation. In all, 11 people including a man from Neshoba County were killed in that 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Carlos Crump is a Regional Claims Manager for the company, ClaimsComp. Aside from the fatal victims, he says that many other people were affected by the spill in various ways. In turn, he says those individuals are eligible for compensation.

“They can qualify for something called a business economic loss claim, an individual economic loss claim, and a real estate property claim. Those are the only claims that we are even focusing on, but they must be gainfully employed; they must be in certain industries.”

Crump says his company is filing settlement claims. Although he contends that his agency is legitimate, he says others may not be. “If someone is asking you for money to submit a claim, run because they’re not supposed to do that. I flew from Los Angeles, California to Little Rock and drove from Little Rock to Meridian to show my face to show that there is integrity out here and we’re going to still keep pushing. We’re going to help people become aware that they can possibly qualify.”
Meanwhile, Meridian police are advising residents to use extreme caution when filing for claims.

“I would advise everyone in Meridian, to not give out personal information until you are absolutely sure that this is a legitimate claim,” says MPD Chief James Lee. “Protect your information: your name, your social security number and your date of birth. In today’s environment that’s worth money in the bank. Please Meridian, be careful!”

At this time the final day to file for settlement claims is April 22, 2014. For more information on the BP Oil Spill Settlement log onto deepwaterhorizonsettlement.com.

Find this article at: http://www.wtok.com/home/headlines/Oil-Spill-Claims-Investigation-225537022.html

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nature World News: BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers at Risk of Developing Blood and Liver Disorders

http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/4016/20130917/bp-oil-spill-cleanup-workers-risk-developing-blood-liver-disorders.htm

By James A. Foley
Sep 17, 2013 12:54 PM EDT

bp-oil-spill satellite
The oil slick as seen from space by NASA’s Terra satellite on 24 May 2010 (Photo : NASA via Wikimedia Commons )

Oil spill cleanup crews who responded to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill display “significantly altered” blood profiles, liver enzymes and somatic symptoms compared to an unexposed control group in new research published in the American Journal of Medicine, which suggests that oil spill cleanup workers are at risk of developing liver or blood related disorders.

When the British Petrolium (BP)-owned Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling rig exploded, the ensuing oil spill caused some 200 million gallons of crude oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 170,000 people working on oil cleanup crews used nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants like COREXIT to reign in the mess, according to a news release by Elsevier Health Services.

New research from the University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers in Houston, Texas focuses on the link between oil spill and dispersant exposure to the hematologic and hepatic functions in the subjects. Out of a group of 247 subjects tested between January 2010 and November 2012, 117 of them identified as exposed to the oil spill and dispersants by participating in cleanup efforts over a three month period. The remaining 130 people claimed to be unexposed to the oil spill or clean up effort all lived at least 100 miles away from the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Comparing blood samples from the exposed and unexposed groups, the researchers found that their white blood cell counts were essentially the same, but the exposed group had a marked decrease in platelet count. Also, blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels were substantially lower in the exposed group, while hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were increased compared to the unexposed subjects.
Furthermore, considered indicators of hepatic damage, the serum levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate amino transferase (AST), and alanine amino transferase (ALT) in the exposed subjects were also elevated, suggesting the exposed group may be at a higher risk for developing blood-related disorders, the researchers said in a statement.

“Phosphatases, amino transferases, and dehydrogenases play critical roles in biological processes. These enzymes are involved in detoxification, metabolism, and biosynthesis of energetic macromolecules that are important for different essential functions,” said lead investigator G. Kesava Reddy. “Alterations in the levels of these enzymes result in biochemical impairment and lesions in the tissue and cellular function.”

Other health complaints by the exposed subjects included somatic symptoms, with headache reported most frequently, followed by shortness of breath, skin rash, cough, dizzy spells, fatigue, painful joints, night sweats and chest pain, the researchers said.

“The health complaints reported by those involved in oil cleanup operations are consistent with the previously reported studies on major oil spills. However, the prevalence of symptoms appears to be higher in the present study compared with the earlier findings of other investigators,” added Reddy.

The greatest limiting factor in this study was the lack of pre-disaster health data on the subjects involved in the study, but the data collected points to significant health effects on oil spill cleanup workers.

“To our knowledge, no previous study has explored the effects of the oil spill specifically assessing the hematological and hepatic functions in oil spill cleanup workers,” Reddy said. “The results of this study indicate that oil spill exposure appears to play a role in the development of hematologic and hepatic toxicity. However, additional long-term follow-up studies are required to understand the clinical significance of the oil spill exposure.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Maritime Executive: NOAA Releases Millions of Chemical Analyses from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/NOAA-Releases-Millions-of-Chemical-Analyses-from-Deepwater-Horizon-Oil-Spill-2013-09-12/

September 12, 2013

Includes data on underwater hydrocarbon plume, dispersants
BY MAREX

NOAA announced the release of a comprehensive, quality-controlled dataset that gives ready access to millions of chemical analyses and other data on the massive Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The dataset, collected to support oil removal activities and assess the presence of dispersants, wraps up a three year process that began with the gathering of water samples and measurements by ships in the Gulf of Mexico during and after the oil release in 2010.

NOAA was one of the principal agencies responding to the Macondo well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, and is the official ocean data archivist for the federal government. While earlier versions of the data were made available during and shortly after the response, it took three years for NOAA employees and contractors to painstakingly catalog each piece of data into this final form.

This Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill dataset, including more than two million chemical analyses of sediment, tissue, water, and oil, as well as toxicity testing results and related documentation, is available to the public online at: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/deepwaterhorizon/specialcollections.html.

A companion dataset, including ocean temperature and salinity data, currents, preliminary chemical results and other properties collected and made available during the response can be found at: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/deepwaterhorizon/insitu.html.

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill response involved the collection of an enormous dataset. The underwater plume of hydrocarbon — a chemical compound that consists only of the elements carbon and hydrogen — was a unique feature of the spill, resulting from a combination of high-pressure discharge from the well near the seafloor and the underwater application of chemical dispersant to break up the oil.

“The size and scope of this project — the sheer number of ships and platforms collecting data, and the broad range of data types — was a real challenge. In the end, it was a great example of what can be accomplished when you bring together the expertise across NOAA, making this quality-controlled information easily available to the general public for the first time,” said Margarita Gregg, Ph. D., director of the National Oceanographic Data Center, which is part of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

The effort to detect and track the plume was given to the Deepwater Horizon Response Subsurface Monitoring Unit (SMU), led by NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, and included responders from many federal and state agencies and British Petroleum (BP). Between May and November 2010, the SMU coordinated data collection from 24 ships on 129 cruises.

The SMU data archived at NOAA’s National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) is already being used by researchers at NOAA and in academia for a range of studies, including models of oil plume movement and investigations of subsurface oxygen anomalies. In addition to NODC, other parts of the NOAA archive system such as NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center and the NOAA Central Library contain important holdings. Recently, the library’s Deepwater Horizon Centralized Repository won recognition from the Department of Justice “as one of the best successes in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) world last year.”
By law, these data will remain available through NOAA’s archive systems for at least 75 years. Additional data from the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo spill can be found at the NOAA oil spill archive website: http://www.noaa.gov/deepwaterhorizon/ and data collected in the on-going Natural Resource Damages Assessment can be found at: http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Lens Opinion, Times-Picayune: Royalty-screwed: Big Oil likes to confuse severance taxes with cleanup costs

http://thelensnola.org/2013/09/10/royalty-screwed-big-oil-wants-you-to-confuse-severance-taxes-with-cleanup-costs/

The Lens
Nola.com

OPINION By Mark Moseley, Opinion writer September 10, 2013 5:00pm

In August, Sen. Mary Landrieu argued that Louisiana deserves a greater share of oil royalty payments, maybe even rates equal to those received by mineral-rich states in the interior, such as Wyoming. With the additional proceeds from offshore production, Landrieu argues, the state can fund its urgent coastal restoration needs:

“Failure is no option. I don’t know if anybody knows where any other money is, but I don’t. If we do not get this [royalty] money, we cannot secure this coast and build the levees we need.”
In fact, Landrieu was well aware of another possible source of money. BP is about to be on the hook for a massive fines related to the 2010 oil spill, and Louisiana will use its share of those billions to jumpstart restoration projects.

Also, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East’s coastal erosion lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies had been announced in July and – importantly- Landrieu signalled tentative support when she said, “I think we should seek justice everywhere we can find it.”

In 2006, Landrieu successfully shepherded legislation that, beginning in 2017, will increase Louisiana’s royalties from our vast offshore assets. Unfortunately, a $500 million cap prevented the act from being the coast’s saving grace. Landrieu wants to rectify that by removing the cap.

State coastal czar Garret Graves identified increased royalties as a prong in the state’s strategically sequenced tripartite coastal strategy. (It’s a complicated affair.) The other two prongs include BP oil spill money (natch), and “battling with the Army Corps of Engineers over its management of the Mississippi River.” It’s apparently a delicately balanced little stratagem, and Graves is hopping mad at the flood authority lawsuit because it has disturbed the Jindal administration’s priority sequence of coastal restoration funding mechanisms.

One thing is clear, though: The Jindal administration, the oil and gas lobby, and presumably the majority of the state Legislature are not thrilled by the flood authority’s lawsuit. They would prefer that the state’s $50 billion Master Plan to restore the coast be funded through an increased share of oil and gas royalties.

The royalty issue takes on increased importance in light of BP’s recent transformation from “contrite to combative.” Perhaps alarmed by increased potential expenses related to the oil spill, the once-apologetic oil giant has gone from vowing to “make things right” to basically mounting a PR campaign to say it is being victimized by fraudulent Louisianans. Thus it seems that BP will not be paying additional fines or judgements, without first exhausting all of its legal options. And that will likely mean years of delay.

So the royalty option assumes more importance. And this suits the oil and gas companies fine. Restoring the coast with oil and gas royalties gives the illusion that oil giants are paying to fix the coast that they helped to disappear (by slicing it apart with pipelines and navigation channels).
However, they’re not paying anything more than than they used to. Increasing royalties for Louisiana come out of the federal government’s share, not Big Oil’s coffers. It’s additional money for the state, and less for the federal budget.

Flood authority vice chairman John Barry explained in his masterful Lens op-ed:
The industry wants it [the coast] fixed, but they want taxpayers to pay for the damage they did, either in taxes or flood insurance rates. If we succeed in getting a bigger share of offshore revenue, we’re getting it from the federal treasury. From taxpayers in Rhode Island and Oregon – and in Louisiana. The industry won’t be paying a penny more.

This gets to the heart of the royalty dilemma. The rhetoric surrounding the argument Landrieu makes for increased royalties for Louisiana – “we deserve our fair share” and “we need this money to fix our coast” – subtly conflates two different issues.

Royalties, or more accurately, severance taxes, are compensation for the right to extract non-renewable mineral wealth. It’s for removing mineral assets, like oil, that can only be exploited once. Royalties are not a repair cost for extraction, or compensation for environmental impact.

Everyone who touts increased royalties as the smart play toward funding the coastal reconstruction Master Plan is misleading you. They are trying to link royalties and coastal restoration in the public’s mind, as a solution to the problem.

Don’t be misled. Louisiana’s fair share of the mineral wealth is one issue. If we should get a larger percentage of revenues – the same share interior states receive – that would be wonderful.

However, oil and gas companies’ responsibility for our coastal mega-problem is a separate issue. We would deserve increased royalties even if the coast was healthy and flourishing like it was a hundred years ago. As Barry says, Big Oil should pay more to fix the coast that they helped break. If the state acquires more royalty funds and directs them to restore the coast, instead of other urgent needs, that’s still a tremendous sacrifice.

Granted, the odds are long against the lawsuit being successful. Even if it were, oil and gas companies, like BP, will probably use every legal and political device at their disposal to avoid paying judgments promptly. So, increased royalties might become one of Louisiana’s last best politically feasible solutions to fund coastal restoration.

But don’t be fooled, if that’s how it plays out. Taxpayer’s will be paying for the destruction of our coast by the world’s richest corporate sector. Big Oil had a chance to step up, and instead they let the “little people” -as a BP exec once called us- take the hit.

I call that getting royalty-screwed.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New York Times: Facing Fire Over Challenge to Louisiana’s Oil Industry

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/us/facing-fire-over-challenge-to-louisianas-oil-industry.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Oh yeah, the good ol’ boys are angry now….so what do you think “secured” that gentlemen’s agreement? DV

August 31, 2013

By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON

BATON ROUGE, La. – State Senator Gerald Long of Louisiana calls it “kind of a gentlemen’s agreement.” For the generations since Mr. Long’s third cousin Huey P. Long was the governor, this state has relied on the oil and gas industry for a considerable part of its revenues and for tens of thousands of jobs. In return, the industry has largely found the state an obliging partner and staunch political ally as it has fought off curbs on its business.

Now, however, a panel of state appointees, created after Hurricane Katrina to be largely insulated from politics, showed just how insulated it was by upending the agreement.

In July, the panel, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, composed primarily of engineers and scientists charged with managing flood control for most of New Orleans and its suburbs, filed a lawsuit against nearly 100 oil and gas companies. The suit argues that these companies unlawfully neglected to fix decades’ worth of damage they caused to the state’s wetlands, thus making flooding from hurricanes more dangerous and flood protection vastly more expensive.

The reaction was swift. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, immediately called the suit “nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers,” prompting local activists to highlight the $1 million he has received in donations from oil and gas interests. But at public meetings here and down on the bayou, the board has faced the displeasure of public officials largely alone.
At the meetings, the governor’s senior coastal adviser, Garret Graves, has strongly criticized the board as jeopardizing the broad coalition assembled to address coastal issues and needlessly complicating the state’s own efforts to find money for remediation. Other officials at public meetings have taken turns disparaging the board for seeking to penalize companies for activities decades old and, perhaps more than anything, acting without broad collaboration or political consent.

“You are not a state unto yourself,” State Senator Robert Adley said at a crowded legislative hearing, a rare occurrence in August. John M. Barry, a historian and writer who is the vice president of the flood panel, chalked the reaction up to politics, referring to an old saying that the flag of Texaco should fly atop the Louisiana Capitol.

It is true, at least, that the oil and gas industry’s connection with Louisiana runs deep. Industry executives – like Mr. Adley, who has run two different oil- and gas-related companies – sit in the Legislature, and former politicians lobby on the industry’s behalf. Several years ago, eight of the 16 judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, recused themselves because of perceived conflicts in a case involving the energy industry. But the connection goes beyond politics, into the state’s identity and culture. In 2010, many residents of south Louisiana were as outraged at the federal government for its moratorium on offshore drilling as they were at BP for its Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The industry – which has shifted away from conventional drilling to refining, fracking and petrochemical manufacturing – paid Louisiana $1.5 billion last year in royalties and taxes. Industry analyses say it accounts for, directly and indirectly, around 16 percent of the state’s work force.

While the energy industry has its complications, says Senator Long, a Republican, the arrangement on the whole has been a net positive for the state.

Other officials put it more strongly. “We’ve had a $10 million surplus every year I’ve been president of Plaquemines Parish because of oil and gas,” Billy Nungesser, who himself ran a $20 million business providing services to offshore rigs and platforms, said at one public meeting. “We can’t keep picking their pockets.”

But studies of the state’s catastrophic land loss in the past century – the disappearance of nearly 2,000 square miles of marsh serving as a crucial buffer against hurricanes – show that decades of oil and gas activity has come at a steep price. Dams and federally built levees holding back the replenishing sediment of the Mississippi River are main culprits in the land loss, but there is widespread agreement that the 10,000 miles of pipelines and canals cut into the marsh by oil companies are to blame as well. One widely cited study concludes that oil and gas activity accounts for 36 percent of the total loss.

No one anticipated a clash over these issues when civic activists and Chamber of Commerce groups urged an overhaul of New Orleans’s patronage-riddled levee boards in the months after Hurricane Katrina. These efforts, over staunch opposition, led to laws and amendments creating a regional flood protection authority with east and west branches. More critically, the laws established a less political appointment process, putting a premium on technical expertise. “It became a symbol of Louisiana willing to change its ways,” said Robert Scott, the president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, a good-government group.

Six years later, the experts in the east branch did something no one would have foreseen here. They voted unanimously to file the lawsuit against oil and gas companies. Citing regulations and permits requiring companies to restore what they had disrupted, the suit argues that the wetlands crisis is at least related to unlawful neglect.

Mr. Graves does not dispute that damage was caused by industry, but does deny that opposition to the suit is about politics. He said the state had worked for years to build a broad coalition, including environmentalists and representatives from oil companies, to finance and implement a $50 billion coastal master plan.

“There’s a bigger strategy that they’ve come in and really screwed up,” he said. Mr. Graves said the state was focused on three areas: attaining penalties and legal remedies from the BP spill, pushing legislation that would bring Louisiana a substantial share of offshore drilling royalties currently going into the federal treasury and battling with the Army Corps of Engineers over its management of the Mississippi River.

“You have to strategize, prioritize and sequence,” he said in an e-mail. Asked if the state’s strategy could conceivably involve litigation against energy companies for historical wetlands damage, Mr. Graves said that was “not our plan A, B, C, D or X.”
Mr. Barry said he fully supported holding the federal government accountable. But the cost of coastal protection is enormous and growing, he said, and he cannot see any way this lawsuit would interfere with these other efforts.

“All we’re trying to do is have a court decide whether we’re right or not, that they broke the law,” he said. “And if they broke the law, they need to fix the part of the problem that they created. It is so simple.”
For now, the suit’s chief obstacles may be political rather than legal.

The terms of four of the nine authority members are either expired or in limbo. And lawmakers are already planning to pass legislation next year to block the suit, possibly by taking away some of the authority’s powers.

“We’ll definitely do some legislation to try to decapitate this thing,” said State Senator Norby Chabert, a Republican.
State Representative Sam Jones, a Democrat, was on the same page.

“This House will probably not be punitive to the oil companies because, look, they’ve brought us thousands of jobs,” he said.
But the scope of opposition is unclear, as many politicians have remained conspicuously quiet. And in recent years, efforts by oil and gas interests to fight in the Legislature a wave of lawsuits by private landowners have met with significant resistance. Among residents along the coast, the crisis of the wetlands has complicated what were once straightforward arrangements.

“We need the gas and oil, but it’s clearly evident that there’s lasting damage in the marshes from the canals that they dug,” said Dave Cvitanovich, a lifelong oysterman. He spoke of the jobs the industry brought, but also of the broad stretches of water where there was land not that long ago.

On the lawsuit, he was still undecided. “It was a gutsy move, to say the least,” he said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Council unanimously OKs restoration plan

Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013

The federal-state panel tasked with overseeing the spending of potentially billions of dollars in fines related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill yesterday unanimously approved its initial plan for restoring the Gulf ecosystem and economy.

The plan sets overarching restoration goals for the region, broadly lays out how the council will evaluate and fund projects and describes how it will consider states’ plans for spending their share of the money. Under the RESTORE Act, passed by Congress last year, 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil fines from the spill will be sent to the Gulf through the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. The council, made up of federal and state officials, oversees 60 percent of the dollars in the fund.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who serves as chairwoman of the Restore Council, said the panel plans to begin selecting and funding projects within the next 12 months. Environmental groups, however, have pointed out that the plan approved yesterday does not lay out details on how those projects would be selected (Greenwire, Aug. 27). The panel has been considering options for improving public participation as the process moves forward, potentially by creating a structure like a citizens advisory council.

In her first public appearance with the council, Pritzker, who took the helm of Commerce in late June, was careful to note that “restoring the natural ecosystem and restoring the economy are interconnected goals,” in prepared remarks.

“If we continue to work in a collaborative spirit, I’m confident that we can implement the RESTORE Act in a way that reinvigorates economies, creates jobs and rebuilds our environment for generations to come,” she said. “In short, we can help ensure the long-term health, prosperity and resilience of the entire Gulf region.”

She also said overdue regulations from the Treasury Department that will spell out how money sent through the Restore Council can be spent are expected to be released in draft form “very soon.” The council has said it has not been able to move forward with a required list of projects approved for funding and a 10-year spending plan in part because of the lack of those regulations.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) hosted the meeting, which took place in New Orleans. He noted that his state has committed to spending the entirety of the fine money that it receives on ecosystem restoration projects.

“We must see a swift flow of RESTORE Act funds without red tape so we can continue responding to the compounding damages caused by the BP oil spill here in Louisiana and across the entire Gulf Coast,” he said.

Jindal noted that the spill made marshes more vulnerable to erosion, turning around progress that Louisiana had been making in combating land loss.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New York Times: Gulf Spill Sampling Questioned

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/science/earth/new-analysis-of-gulf-oil-spill.html?_r=1&

I’m with Rikki Ott….the seafood and water quality in the Gulf was worse than reported by official agencies and that is no surprise to anyone paying attention. DV

U.S. Coast Guard, via Reuters

BP spill
Fireboat crews battling a blaze at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off Louisiana, on April 21, 2010, a day after the rig exploded, killing 11 workers and resulting in the blowout of an exploratory well owned by BP. Ultimately, roughly 200 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the gulf.

By HENRY FOUNTAIN
Published: August 19, 2013

An analysis of water, sediment and seafood samples taken in 2010 during and after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has found higher contamination levels in some cases than previous studies by federal agencies did, casting doubt on some of the earlier sampling methods.

The lead author, Paul W. Sammarco of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, said that dispersants used to break up the oil might have affected some of the samples. He said that the greater contamination called into question the timing of decisions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reopen gulf fisheries after the spill and that “it might be time to review the techniques that are used to determine” such reopenings.

Eleven workers died and roughly 200 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the gulf after a blowout at an exploratory well owned by BP caused the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to explode on April 20, 2010. Nearly two million gallons of Corexit, a dispersant, were sprayed on the surface or injected into the oil plume near the wellhead.

In all, more than 88,000 square miles of federal waters were closed to commercial and recreational fishing. Some areas were reopened before the well was capped three months after the blowout; the last areas were reopened a year after the disaster.

Like other studies after the spill, the new analysis, published last week in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, found that components of oil were distributed along the Gulf Coast as far west as Galveston, Tex. — about 300 miles from the well site — and southeast to the Florida Keys.

But the study found higher levels of many oil-related compounds than earlier studies by NOAA scientists and others, particularly in seawater and sediment. The compounds studied included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are classified as probably carcinogenic, and volatile organic compounds, which can affect the immune and nervous systems.

“When the numbers first started coming in, I thought these looked awfully high,” Dr. Sammarco said, referring to the data he analyzed, which came from samples that he and other researchers had collected. Then he looked at the NOAA data. “Their numbers were very low,” he said, “I thought what is going on here? It didn’t make sense.”

Dr. Sammarco said that a particular sampling method used in some earlier studies might have led to lower readings. That method uses a device called a Niskin bottle, which takes a sample from a specific point in the water. Because of the widespread use of dispersants during the spill — which raised separate concerns about toxicity — the oil, broken into droplets, may have remained in patches in the water rather than dispersing uniformly.

“Sampling a patchy environment, you may not necessarily hit the patches,” he said.

The plastic that the bottles are made from also attracts oily compounds, potentially removing them from any water sample and leading to lower readings of contaminants, Dr. Sammarco said.

Riki Ott, an independent marine toxicologist who has studied effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska as well as the BP spill, said she was “totally shocked” when she read the high numbers in Dr. Sammarco’s study.

“To see NOAA doing this, that’s inexcusable,” Dr. Ott said, referring to the use of Niskin bottles. “It has been known since Exxon Valdez that this spotty sampling does not work.”

A spokesman for NOAA said the agency would not comment because it was involved in a legal review known as a Natural Resource Damage Assessment to determine how much BP must pay for restoration work. But BP, in a statement, noted that tests on seafood by NOAA and other agencies consistently found levels of contaminants 100 to 1,000 times lower than safety thresholds set by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Sammarco suggested that more continuous monitoring of oil spills should be undertaken before fisheries are reopened. “It’s a good idea to follow these things long term, to make sure the runway is clear so people are safe and the food is safe,” he said.

Julia M. Gohlke, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who conducted an independent review of seafood safety after the spill, said that while decisions to reopen fisheries are currently based on fish samples only, “it seems like it would definitely be important to keep looking at water samples as well.”

E&E: Restoration panel adds scientific oversight to plan for spending spill fines

Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013

The federal-state panel tasked with overseeing the billions of dollars
expected to flow to the Gulf Coast from civil fines related to the 2010
Deepwater Horizon oil spill yesterday released a final plan for how it
will spend the money on restoring the region’s ecosystems and
economies.

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council received more than 41,000
comments on the draft plan it released in May and incorporated a
handful of changes into the final “Initial Comprehensive Plan” released
yesterday. The council is scheduled to vote on that plan next week in
New Orleans.

Under the RESTORE Act passed by Congress last year, 80 percent of Clean
Water Act civil penalties from the oil spill will be sent back to the
Gulf through the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund. The
council — comprising officials from six federal agencies and the five
Gulf states — oversees 60 percent of those funds. Thirty percent will
go to projects selected by the council, and another 30 percent will go
to initiatives selected by the states and approved by the panel.

The “Initial Comprehensive Plan” sets overarching restoration goals for
the region, lays out how the council will evaluate and fund projects
and describes how it will consider states’ plans for spending their
share of the money.

Among the changes made in the final plan is an increased focus on
incorporating science into the council’s work. The plan states that the
council is considering “the most effective means of ensuring that the
Council’s decisions are based on the best available science.” This
could include forming a scientific advisory committee or another
vehicle that would work across Gulf restoration efforts, it says. In
the council’s response to public comments, it also raises the
possibility of hiring a chief scientist.

The plan also includes a greater emphasis on public engagement. It
states that the council “will take steps to create a public engagement
structure” and that additional announcements on this are forthcoming.

Like the draft plan released in May, the final document does not
include a 10-year plan for allocating the money or a list of priority
projects and programs, both of which were already due under the RESTORE
Act. The council said it did not include these elements because of
uncertainties related to the amount of money that will ultimately flow
to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund, the fact that the
Treasury Department has not yet issued procedures for spending the
funds, the desire to receive public comment on key elements of the plan
first and the states’ ongoing efforts to develop their own spending
plans.

The Treasury Department sent its proposed rule to the Office of
Management and Budget earlier this month, and it could be finalized
soon.

The leading coalition of environmental groups working in the Gulf Coast
released a statement on the plan last night.

“We thank the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for its efforts
toward a comprehensive plan to restore the invaluable Gulf ecosystem,”
said the group, which includes the Environmental Defense Fund, National
Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore
Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. “As the
Council takes its next crucial step of prioritizing ecosystem
restoration projects, we urge them to embrace the Louisiana Coastal
Master Plan as its guiding document for restoring the Mississippi River
Delta, which was ground zero for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.”

Currently, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund is scheduled
to receive $800 million within the next two years from Transocean
Ltd.’s Clean Water Act civil settlement. BP PLC could be facing a civil
penalty of as much as $17.6 billion under the Clean Water Act,
depending on how negligent the driller is found to have been leading up
to the spill. The second phase in the federal trial against the oil
giant is scheduled to begin next month.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com: Making industry pay its share

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20130809/LETTERS/130809591/-1/living?Title=Making-industry-pay-its-share

Published: Friday, August 9, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 9, 2013 at 10:31 p.m.

The lawsuit against major oil companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East is long overdue.

For years we have seen how offshore oil exploration and production have damaged our wetlands.

Yet no statewide politician except Gov. Dave Treen has tried to hold the industry accountable.

Our elected officials want to blame the federal government.

Certainly its construction of levees to control the Mississippi River robbed the delta of land-building sediment.

But the people of Kansas, Vermont and the other states did not cut oilfield canals through our marsh, drill oil wells in our wetlands and pump oil out of the ground until it sinks into the Gulf.

Why do Louisiana politicians ignore the oil companies and put the burden of coastal restoration on American taxpayers?

Could it be that they depend on oil-industry contributions?

I served in the Louisiana Senate for 27 years and on the Public Service Commission since 2003.

In that time, Treen has been virtually the only Louisiana politician to ask the oil companies to pay for the damage they caused.

When Treen introduced his Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy, the oil companies that helped elect him became his enemies in a matter of days.

Bobby Jindal argued against suing the tobacco companies in the 1990s when he was secretary of health and hospitals.

Fortunately the state didn’t listen, and we got $4 billion from Big Tobacco to help treat people in state hospitals with illnesses from smoking.

Jindal represents the special interests. First it was the tobacco companies, now it’s the major oil companies.

As for the claim that this lawsuit will “shut down” the oil industry, consider that Louisiana and Texas have 40 percent of U.S. refining capacity, and these plants are running wide open.

Louisiana has the Mississippi River to transport products, 50,000 miles of pipeline and some of the world’s most-productive oil and gas fields off our coast.

Can anyone seriously say the industry is leaving?

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East has drawn a line in the dirt.
Its suit against major oil companies for their role in coastal erosion challenges the politicians of Louisiana to defend our state like they would defend their own property.

If Bobby Jindal, Mary Landrieu, David Vitter or any other politician were to suffer damage to their own property like we have seen in the wetlands, would they look the other way?

Foster Campbell
Public service commissioner
Bossier City

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Bloomberg: U.S. Gulf Oil Profits Lure $16 Billion More Rigs by 2015

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-16/u-s-gulf-oil-profits-lure-16-billion-more-rigs-by-2015.html

By David Wethe – Jul 17, 2013 8:51 AM PT

oil rig
The Royal Dutch Shell Plc Olympus tension leg platform (TLP) is seen at dawn as it sets sail from Kiewit Offshore Services in Ingleside, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, July 13, 2013. Olympus, Shell’s biggest constructed tension leg platform, started the ten day, 425-mile voyage to Mars B Field in the Gulf of Mexico on July 13.

The deep-water Gulf of Mexico, shut down after BP Plc (BP/)’s record oil spill in 2010, has rebounded to become the fastest growing offshore market in the world.

The number of rigs operating in waters deeper than 1,000 feet (300 meters) in the U.S. Gulf will grow to 60 by the end of 2015, said Brian Uhlmer, an analyst at Global Hunter Securities LLC in Houston. As of last week, there were 36 rigs working in those waters, according to industry researcher IHS Petrodata.

Producers will need $16 billion worth of additional rigs to handle the expanded drilling, analysts including Uhlmer estimate. Demand is driven in part by exploration successes in the lower tertiary, a geologic layer about 20,000 feet below the sea floor containing giant crude deposits that producers are only now figuring out how to tap. Companies such as Chevron Corp (CVX). and Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC). must do more drilling to turn large discoveries into producing wells — as many as 20 wells for each find.

“The Gulf had more than its fair share of discoveries,” Chris Beckett, chief executive officer at Pacific Drilling SA (PDSA), said in an interview. “Right now, the Gulf is the fastest growing deep-water region in the world.”

The revival will add to surging crude oil supplies from the U.S. shale boom, with Gulf production climbing 23 percent to 1.55 million barrels a day by December 2014 from 1.26 million in March, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Under-appreciated Growth
While deep-water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has been increasing since 2011, the magnitude of the growth and the potential for revenue and profit for the service companies is under appreciated, Jud Bailey, an analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group in Houston, said in an interview. Offshore contractors from Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) to Pacific Drilling are benefiting from the region’s growth spurt.

Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc (HOS). and other contractors that provide supply vessels to the giant drill ships than can work in water depths of more than two miles are among companies that may reap the biggest benefit from a rebounding Gulf, James West, an analyst at Barclays Plc in New York, said in an e-mail.

Hornbeck is expected to more than double adjusted earnings to $5.56 a share, from an estimated $2.43 this year, according to the average of five analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Drilling rig contractors Rowan Co. Plc and Noble Corp (NE)., which are building some of the world’s most expensive oil rigs to operate in some of the deepest areas offshore, are also expected to at least double earnings per share in the same period.

Drilling Moratorium
The blowout at BP’s Macondo well in April 2010 killed 11 workers, injured 17 and triggered an 87-day oil spill that fouled thousands of square miles and shut much of the Gulf to fishing for months. The U.S. suspended drilling in the Gulf for five months, and even after activity restarted, obtaining permits for drilling was slow as federal regulators stiffened safety rules.

As a result, some deep-water drilling rigs migrated to other exploration frontiers such as offshore West Africa and Brazil where work continued. Now some of those rigs are returning, though most of the Gulf’s rig growth will come from newly ordered, more sophisticated deep-water vessels, Bailey said. Better financing terms from the shipyards, put in place in late 2010, are helping fuel a record number of orders for new deep-water rigs around the world, David Smith, an analyst at Johnson Rice & Co. in Houston, said in a phone interview.

Support Structure
The Gulf’s prosperity today is helped by the large offshore industry already in place along the U.S. Gulf Coast. With infrastructure such as pipelines, ports and supply vessels readily available, producers are able to move quickly from drilling discovery wells to developing the fields. Meanwhile, government permitting has picked up since mid-2011, giving contractors and their customers more confidence that their work can continue, Smith said.

Even though the rules are stricter post-Macondo, the U.S. Gulf still provides a more stable operating environment than other frontier drilling regions around the world, where foreign governments can change the rules on producers, Smith said.

The lower operating costs in the Gulf of Mexico make the region more profitable for service contractors than places such as Brazil and Africa, Global Hunter’s Uhlmer said.

A booming offshore U.S. industry comes at a welcome time for diversified oilfield servicers that have struggled with an oversupplied hydraulic fracturing market onshore in the U.S. and Canada that has increased competition and lowered prices. Servicers including Schlumberger and Baker Hughes Inc (BHI). may exceed analysts’ estimates for second-quarter revenue from the Gulf driven by “a solid bump in deep-water activity,” Bailey wrote in a June 28 note to investors.

Better Vision
Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, among the world’s three largest service providers, will report earnings July 19.

“Drilling activity looks like it’s going to start really ramping up here in the Gulf,” Brian Youngberg, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis, who rates Schlumberger shares a buy and owns none. “That’s a very strong positive for the oil services including Schlumberger.”

Improved technology such as seismic imaging, which bounces sound waves off the ocean floor to map pockets of underground oil, has enabled companies to more accurately hunt for crude under layers of salt in the earth’s crust, Beckett said. That’s helped fix one of the biggest challenges in the region from 10 years ago.

“The limitation on the ultra-deepwater in the Gulf of Mexico at the time was the ability to see under the salt,” said Beckett, who spent a decade running Schlumberger’s onshore seismic business. “Now we’re in an environment where you can drill those very expensive subsalt wells with a degree of confidence.”

Rig Orders
Most of the Gulf rig expansion is fueled by newly built rigs rolling out of the shipyards, more so than existing rigs relocating from other parts of the world, Smith said. Lower prices from the shipyards and easier financing terms have induced more construction, he said.

The global industry is in the midst of the fattest pipeline of orders for new deep-water rigs since the advent of deep-water drilling in the 1970s, according to IHS Petrodata. Vessels expected to be delivered between this year and 2019 will be more than double the 39 delivered between 2003 and 2009.

Last year’s 52 ultra-deepwater discoveries around the world, in about 7,500 feet of water or greater, made for a record year in the offshore industry, David Williams, chief executive officer at Noble, told analysts and investors in a presentation earlier this year.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the story is evolving into development over exploration, Uhlmer said.
“It’s more: ‘OK, we know what we have out here, we spent a lot of money buying the right blocks, and now we need to develop them,'” he said. “That’s going to provide you more growth than anything.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Wethe in Houston at dwethe@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffington Post: Gulf Of Mexico Oil Sheens Likely Came From Deepwater Horizon Wreckage, Study Shows

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/16/gulf-of-mexico-oil-sheens_n_3605468.html

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN 07/16/13 11:47 AM ET EDT

NEW ORLEANS – A team of researchers has concluded that pockets of oil trapped in the wreckage of the sunken Deepwater Horizon are the likely source of oil sheens that have been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the deadly 2010 explosion on the BP-leased drilling rig.

A newly published study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of California at Santa Barbara rules out BP’s sealed-off Macondo well and natural oil seeps as possible sources of the sheens.

The researchers said their conclusions are based on an analysis of 14 sheen samples collected from the surface of the water during two trips to the Gulf.

Last year, BP PLC said it capped an abandoned piece of equipment that was believed to be the source of a sheen.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Live Science: Oil Sheens Near Deepwater Horizon Spill from Sunken Rig

http://www.livescience.com/38200-deepwater-horizon-oil-sheen-source.html

Douglas Main, Staff Writer | July 16, 2013 10:29am ET

deepwater-horizon-oil-sheen
Oil sheens overlying the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon, first spotted in September 2012. The oil is coming from the wreckage of the rig, new research shows.
Credit: David Valentine, UCSB

Recurrent sheens of oil in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill have baffled researchers and led to fears that oil may once again be spewing from the seafloor well.
But a study published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology shows that there is no new leak: The oil is coming from isolated tanks and pockets within the wreckage of the sunken rig, according to a statement from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the research.

The mysterious sheens of oil were first reported in September 2012. To find out their provenance, researchers took samples of the sheens and compared them against others taken from various sources, including floating pieces of wreckage recovered shortly after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sunk on April 20, 2010.

“This appears to be a slow leak from the wreckage of the rig, not another catastrophic discharge from a deep oil reservoir,” David Valentine, a geochemist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said in the statement. “Continued oil discharge to the Gulf of Mexico from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig is not a good thing, but there is some comfort that the amount of leakage is limited to the pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the rig.”

Using a technique developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researcher Chris Reddy, the scientists found that the oil from the sheens reported last fall matched those taken from the floating wreckage. The samples both contain uniform amounts of olefins, a chemical used in drilling fluids, according to the statement. Olefins are not found in crude oil, meaning the sheens aren’t likely to originate from the Macondo well or any other natural oil seep in the Gulf, the NSF reported.

When the rig sunk, it held tanks containing hundreds of barrels filled with a mixture of drilling mud and oil. Researchers speculate that these tanks are leaking after being gradually corroded by seawater, according to the statement.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the biggest in American history, releasing about 205 million gallons (776 million liters) of oil. The area of the Gulf near the spill has been negatively affected ever since; tar balls containing dangerous bacteria have washed up on beaches in the area and there has been an unusually high death rate for dolphins.

Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.com.
– See more at: http://www.livescience.com/38200-deepwater-horizon-oil-sheen-source.html#sthash.M2hByyJZ.dpuf

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Oilspillsolutions.co.uk: 2013: The Year of the Deadly Oil Spill?

http://www.oilspillsolutions.co.uk/2013-the-year-of-the-deadly-oil-spill-care2-com-blog/

http://www.care2.com/causes/2013-year-of-the-deadly-oil-spill.html

by Beth Buczynski
July 14, 2013 5:00 am

As the age of coal and oil draws to a close, the “drill baby drill” crowd has become louder and more rambunctious than ever. No longer content to poison our oceans with offshore drilling platforms, tar sands oil has become all the rage.

For years those who see the futility of barreling head first down Hydrocarbon Lane have warned that unleashing Canada’s tar sands would be a climate death sentence. But who cares about the dumb old climate, right? Humans don’t act until it’s personal. Well, now it is.

In the past six months we’ve seen a rash of deadly oil spills, the most recent of which have resulted in multiple human fatalities. These disasters show that no matter how we attempt to extract, transport or consume it, oil is killing us. And it won’t stop until we realize the folly of our addiction.

Below are details of just a few of the major oil spills that have happened in the first half of 2013:
Minnesota
In early March a 26,000-gallon tank car (just one car in a mile-long train) transporting crude oil from Canada ruptured in Western Minnesota. The disaster leaked 30,000 gallons of crude something (the rail company refused to say whether it was tar sands oil or not, but you put the pieces together) onto the frozen ground.
Thanks to the cold conditions, the oil was as thick as molasses, making it nearly impossible to get up off the ground.

Quebec
Just days ago, a train moving crude oil to Irving Oil Corp.’s Saint John refinery in New Brunswick suddenly derailed right in the middle of the town of Lac-Megantic. The immediate explosion engulfed the center of the small town in a literal lake of fire that killed at least 13 people and left dozens more missing.
“This is another data point that shows how much costlier and riskier rail is compared to pipelines,” John Stephenson, a Toronto-based fund manager, told Bloomberg.com.
But before you believe himŠ

Arkansas
In April of this year, a 65-year-old ExxonMobil pipeline burst without warning, dumping Canadian tar sands oil all over the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas.
Within minutes, “the slick of noxious black crude” spewing from the pipeline “was eight feet wide, six inches deep and growing fast.”
Ultimately, 5,000-barrels were spilled from the 22 foot-long gash in the pipe, covering suburban lawns and roads in a toxic goo. Residents reported putrid smells and burning sensations in their eyes, noses and throats.
Exxon immediately went to work blocking any information about how or why the disaster occurred, public relations maneuvering that has since caused the State of Arkansas and the federal government to file a suit against the oil company.

Alberta
And just last month, heavy rain (that’s right, nothing more than rain) allegedly ruptured a pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest pipeline company. According to most reports, 750-barrels of synthetic crude oozed out of the pipeline before the company managed to shut it down.
The rupture occurred in Line 37, which serves CNOOC Ltd’s Long Lake oil sands project in northern Alberta and carries huge amounts of oil into America. Enbridge gloated in the fact that there were no human habitations or roads nearby, as if that simply wipes away the harm that hundreds of barrels of oil has on the eco-system.

These are only a few of the major oil spill disasters that have occurred this year, and we’re only seven months in. The truth is, there is no safe way to transport poison. Floods happen. Human error happens. And when these statistical certainties happen to a train or pipeline carrying thousands of barrels of toxic oil, death always happens next.
If the Keystone XL pipeline expansion is approved, however, the next time might be in your backyard.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com: Louisiana Seafood: In wake of BP spill and river diversions, oysters show strain

http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2013/07/louisiana_seafood_bp_oil_spill.html#incart_river_default

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM, updated July 14, 2013 at 1:03 AM

oysters in the  gulf

It’s difficult to talk about Louisiana seafood these days without the BP oil spill working its way into the conversation. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that television screens were filled with high-def images of fouled coastal marsh and angry fishermen forlornly staring at their idled fleet.

But some scientists and fishers say it remains impossible to gauge the 2010 spill’s precise environmental and biological toll. Asked about a 15-percent drop in the statewide oyster harvest in the two years following the spill, experts say the spill definitely continues to be a potential factor, but is only one of several.

Perhaps as damaging as the oil and the temporary closures of thousands of acres of Gulf waters in the wake of the disaster three years ago, they say, was the millions of gallons of fresh Mississippi River water that flowed into the Lake Pontchartrain Basin east of the river in 2010 and 2011. Oysters, essentially immobile and unable to withstand the torrents of fresh water, bore the brunt.

A closer look at the preliminary data from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reveal wide variation from area to area. But in terms of oyster production, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin east of the Mississippi River saw the worst of it.

Before the oil spill, Louisiana regularly led the nation in oyster production, with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin traditionally the state’s most productive harvest grounds.

From 2002-2009, the Pontchartrain Basin averaged 7.2 million pounds of oyster meat annually. But beginning in 2010, that production took a nose dive – falling to 2.6 million pounds that year, then to 2.4 million pounds in 2011 and, finally, to 1.8 million pounds in 2012.

Overall, just in 2011 and 2012, oysters in Pontchartrain Basin saw a 71-percent drop compared to the 2002-09 average.

While oyster production showed an increase in the Terrebonne Basin, east of the Mississippi River, the decline in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin was so pronounced that it pulled the overall statewide numbers down in all three years.

“It’s been really down. ŠNormally we always put 400 sacks on the trucks but the last three years or so, we have only been able to put on 150, 130, 140 sacks,” said Shawn Assavedo, an oyster harvester in Pontchartrain Basin out of eastern St. Bernard Parish. “That’s exactly what it’s been since they opened that siphon.

“That freshwater, it goes into Lake Borgne and it has killed a lot of oysters there, really a massive amount of oysters.”

Now the measly haul of oysters in Pontchartrain Basin often is dwarfed by the expanse of the 18-wheeler trucks’ beds.

Brad Robin Sr. talks about how one of the most production areas in the country for harvesting oysters is still struggling to recover.

Brad Robin Sr., a fellow St. Bernard oysterman who typically harvested out of Lake Borgne, said that his old stopping grounds have had “zero percent come back.”
“There is no life left there,” Robin said. “The east side of the river is way down and still trying to recover, trying to get some sort of normalcy out of it all.”

But the fears is that the decline east of the river could continue for an extended period: The Pontchartrain public harvesting grounds in the Breton and Chandeleur sounds provided the majority of the oyster seed that harvesters transplanted to grow oysters in private leases across the state.

“Our public reefs on the east side of the river, that was our mother seed ground,” said John Tesvich, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force. “That is basically wiped out right now.”

The freshening of the water
While the oil spill is an easy fall guy – and many scientists continue to study its impact, often in secrecy for future oil-spill litigation – scientists and some fishers also point to the Mississippi River diversions in 2010 and 2011 as major culprits for the plummeting oyster haul.

“Freshwater is the biggest killer of oysters in the world,” said Greg Voisin, an eighth-generation oysterman who helps run his family business, Motivatit Seafoods, in Terrebonne Parish.

Ken Brown, a Louisiana State University biologist, said he and his colleagues haven’t seen any major effects from the oil on adult oyster mortality rates, but when fresh water dilutes salinity levels “below 10 parts per thousand, and especially if you get below 5 parts per thousand, then oysters have problems.”

Hoping to keep the oil that was spewing from BP’s Macondo well away from Louisiana’s fragile inshore marshes and estuaries, the state in 2010 ran the Davis Pond and Caernarvon river diversions at full speed for several months to push the oily Gulf waters away. The diversions did appear to help drive out some of the oil but they also dropped salinity levels in much of that Pontchartrain Basin to levels unsustainable to oysters.

Then in 2011, when Mississippi River levels in New Orleans approached the 17-foot flood stage because of heavy rainfall in the Midwest, the Bonnet Carré Spillway west of the city was opened from early May through mid-June, further freshening the basin.
That fresh water that poured from Bonnet Carré into Lake Pontchartrain eventually pushed into the surrounding waters of Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound.

The state had anticipated the impact from the Bonnet Carré opening. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission chose to open oyster reefs within portions of the Pontchartrain Basin area before opening the spillway, allowing oyster fishers to take oysters from those grounds and move them to private leases in higher salinity areas.

Oysters thrive when the salinity is 15 parts per thousand, about half the salinity of seawater. They struggle when it falls below 10 parts per thousand and die off when it dips below 5 parts per thousand.

Parts of Pontchartrain Basin fell to less than 3 parts per thousand during periods of 2010 and 2011, according to state and federal data.

Oyster growth problems
Because fresh water diversions carry so much sediment – they often are envisioned as land builders – the diversions in 2010 and 2011 also buried or at least partially covered much of the cultch in Pontchartrain Basin, according to a Wildlife and Fisheries assessment.

Oysterman Brad Robin Jr. explains how small pieces of chopped concrete made from the slabs of flooded Hurricane Katrina homes helps oysters grow.

Cultch is the broken stones and oyster shells that form the reefs upon which oyster larvae attach and grow into adult oysters. Lose the cultch, and the oysters have nothing to latch onto.

Also, in some areas east of the river, much of the oyster shell was covered with an unidentified algae that seems to have prevented oyster seed from taking hold on the reefs.

Some oyster fishers pointed to that algae as an indicator that the oil spill had ruined their crop, but scientists say it also might have been created by the excess nutrients in the river water that poured into the basin.

While nutrients carried by freshwater play an important role in the high productivity of the Gulf systems, they also bring algae blooms, which consume oxygen and create “dead zones” with fish- and oyster-killing low oxygen levels.

Tesvich said he and others also worry about the quality of that river water and whether problems with oyster reproduction on the existing cultch could be tied to the oil.

“Was there some sort of industrial waste or agricultural runoff in that river water?” he asked. “Or is it something from BP in addition to the river water that is causing something? There are a lot of things we just don’t know about these oysters coming back.”

But it wasn’t all bleak where the oyster harvest is concerned.

State Wildlife and Fisheries Department data show that in 2011 the Barataria Basin, to the west of the river, harvested 23 percent more oysters than its pre-spill average and then, in 2012, harvested 44 percent more.

And because the price of oysters continued to rise, the Wildlife and Fisheries numbers show that Barataria oyster fishers earned about $18 million in 2012 – about 116-percent more than they had earned on average between 2002 and 2009.

In 2012, the average price statewide was about $3.70 per pound at the dock, or about 30 percent above the pre-spill average of about $2.80 per pound.

Nonetheless, Al Sunseri, who owns P & J Oyster Co. with his brother Sal, thinks the Wildlife and Fisheries numbers are wrong when it comes to the amount of oysters that have been harvested in Barataria the past few years.

“I’m not a scientist, but I just have some common sense,” Sunseri said. “There is something going on, because we are not seeing the oysters come back like they always did.”

Still, Mitch Jurisich, who harvests a large chunk of the oysters in Barataria, recently said that the last few years have been “the best crop in our family’s history.”

“Jurisich and others in the area did extremely well,” Tesvich acknowledged, but he added that other parts of the Barataria “have been having trouble because of so much fresh water.”

And then there is Terrebonne Basin, which was hopping the past few years, according to the state landings data and discussions with oystermen.

A basin that on average harvested 2.3 million pounds of oysters between 2002 and 2009, Terrebonne produced 4.4 million pounds in 2011 and 4.3 million pounds in 2012. That’s about an 85-percent increase.

Most of that increase in Terrebonne Basin actually could be tied to decreases elsewhere, as oystermen relied on that area to cover declines. For instance, the number of trips oyster fishers took in the basin grew from an average of 7,814 between 2002-2009 to 16,928 trips in 2012 – a 116-percent increase.

“Our oysters being available, it allows the areas east of the river to rest and go through whatever cycle they are going through,” Voisin said. “You have to utilize the resource here when it’s not there, and there when it’s not here, and that’s just the way that we’ve be doing things throughout history.”

Looking forward
Despite the 15-percent drop in statewide oyster production the past couple years, the state’s oyster fishing industry as a whole doesn’t appear to have fared too bad financially.

Because the price per pound has risen since the spill, the overall amount earned by oyster harvesters across the state in 2011 and 2012 actually rose by about 10 percent compared to the pre-spill average, according to the Wildlife and Fisheries’ at-the-dock price and landings data.

Also, the state’s 2012 basin-by-basin data and the statewide 2012 data from the federal Fisheries Service remain very preliminary. Often, the federal data rise by several million pounds when finalized.

The Fisheries Services is expected to release more official 2012 statewide catch numbers this fall.

The conventional wisdom is that two or three years after a major fresh water event, oysters will grow back strong. Often in history, it creates a boom crop. With less salinity, for example, there often are fewer predators that eat the oysters.

So some oyster fishers are waiting, fingers crossed, hoping that in the next few years there will be a bumper season.

Count Assavedo among them. Assavedo is among those oystermen plowing ahead in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, spending money to put down new cultch in the hope that better days are ahead.

It’s a risk he feels he has no choice but to take.

“If it is not fresh cultch material, you are not getting anything. But my new stuff out there, that I laid down, it seems to be doing good,” Assavedo said. “The oysters stuck to it and are growing. I haven’t lost any of them yet. ŠI just hope that continues.”

________________

Wayne Gordon, an employee with P&J Oyster Co., loads up a delivery truck on Oct. 28, 2010, with the first load of oyster that Pete Vujnovich harvested near Port Sulphur since the closure of area 13 back on May 20, 2010.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Penn State University: Biologist investigates lasting ecological impacts of Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, in the vicinity of the Macondo well, Charles Fisher discovered previously unseen impacts on coral communities.

http://news.psu.edu/story/281127/2013/07/10/research/biologist-investigates-lasting-ecological-impacts-deepwater-horizon

By Sara LaJeunesse
July 10, 2013

Billions of dollars.

That’s what’s at stake for BP as a result of the damage caused to ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

News of that spill — which began on April 20, 2010, with an explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 people and injured 17 — dominated the media for weeks. Millions watched with a feeling of helplessness as the rig sank and over the next 86 days over 200 million gallons of oil spewed out of the Macondo well and into the ocean.

Five months after the spill was capped, the federal government estimated the marine animal death toll at 6,104 birds, 609 sea turtles, and 100 mammals, including dolphins. But what of the deep-water corals that provide habitat and reproductive grounds for numerous species of fish, shrimp, and crabs?
According to Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State, these corals and the organisms they support are important components of a healthy deep sea and open-ocean ecosystem. That’s why both BP and the government are closely collaborating with him on his investigation of the disaster’s impact.

“It’s a new experience for me to conduct research that could have such a dramatic financial impact and also to have so many people involved in everything we do,” says Fisher. “You have to be very careful to document all the details and be very sure that you’re right with your interpretations. We’re always careful, but every little comment we make could be misinterpreted, so we’re being extra conservative with this data set.”

Calling on a World Expert
It was the middle of May, about a month after the oil spill began. With classes over, Fisher was looking forward to spending a little extra time on his farm, located 25 miles east of State College. But that was before the calls started to come in from federal agencies.

Over a period of about a week, Fisher was contacted independently by program officers from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). All had financially supported Fisher’s research in the Gulf in the past, and all were now calling on him to help assess the impact and damage of the oil spill to the deep-sea ecosystems he knows so well.

Fisher “was selected as an expert based on his extensive and unique experience working on the ecology of the cold seep and deep-sea coral communities in deep-sea, hard-bottom habitats in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Robert Ricker, southwest region branch chief of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. “He is a recognized leader in his field, and we pick leaders.”

Fisher agreed to help. After all, he already was leading another big research program that had overlapping goals — to locate, describe, and study deep-water coral communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico that could potentially be impacted by energy company activities.

Coral impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill

For nearly three decades, Fisher has been studying the physiology and the ecology of the communities of animals that inhabit cold seeps — areas of the ocean floor where methane and other hydrocarbon-rich fluid seeps out — and hydrothermal vents — underwater fissures in the Earth’s surface that emit geothermally heated water rich in reduced chemicals — in the deep sea. Marine invertebrates such as clams and tubeworms live in these dark places, surviving the lack of sunlight by forming symbiotic associations with bacteria. The bacteria use the reduced chemical compounds contained in the water as an energy source and, in turn, supply nutrition to their animal hosts.

Fisher has visited these deep places in submarines some 120 times. “When you’re down there, you feel like you’re on another planet because the landscape is like nothing you’ll see on the surface of the Earth,” he says. “You’re oftentimes in a place where nobody has been before, so you have in the back of your mind that you may see something that nobody has ever seen. Every once in a while you do.”
Among his accomplishments are the discovery of ice worms living on methane-rich ice at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and the unraveling of the complex physiological ecology of giant hydrocarbon-seep tubeworms, among the longest-lived animals on Earth. The bizarre two-meter-long tubeworms use their buried roots to suck up toxic hydrogen sulfide that lies deep in the sediments of the seafloor. They then pass the hydrogen sulfide to symbiotic bacteria living inside their bodies.

These bacteria, in turn, oxidize the sulfide and provide nutrition back to the worms. The end product is sulfuric acid, which the tubeworms pump back into the sediments, where yet other bacteria use methane to remake the sulfide and supply it back to the worms.

Whenever possible, he works with Jim Brooks, president and CEO of TDI Brooks International, a company that specializes in conducting offshore surface geochemical exploration for petroleum producers.

“Jim’s group discovered seep communities in the Gulf of Mexico in the 1980s when he was on the faculty at Texas A&M University,” says Fisher. “I’ve been involved in multiple projects with him over the years. In addition to his expertise in oil geochemistry and prospecting, his company can handle all the administration, travel, budgets, and reporting, and I get to just concentrate on the science.”

So in October 2010, with TDI Brooks International managing the expedition, Fisher and his colleagues set out for the Gulf of Mexico on board the NOAA ship, the Ronald H. Brown.

Discovering Damaged Corals
For nearly a month, the team revisited deep-sea coral sites all over the northern Gulf of Mexico that they had discovered the year before during a previous project. Each time they stopped, they used Jason II — a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) or submersible designed for scientific investigation of the deep ocean and seafloor — to sample and study corals and associated animals.

“We revisited all of the sites for which we had good baseline data,” says Fisher. “We were all quite pleased to find that there was no obvious damage to the deep-water coral communities at any of these sites.”
Although they had covered a four hundred-mile span east to west and a depth range from 1,300 feet to almost 6,500 feet, Fisher and his colleagues had observed only a couple of coral sites close by the Macondo well. So, on the last dive of the expedition they decided to check out a very promising area they had identified about seven miles southwest of the well and 45 miles from shore.

The research vessel coasted to a stop with nothing but the occasional seabird in flight to break the monotony of the view. Six hours into the ROV’s dive, Fisher was working in the ship’s laboratory, glancing up every now and then at the 36-inch screen through which video was streaming from the vehicle’s camera, now positioned 4,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. As the ROV moved across the seabed, the camera recorded scenes of mud, mud, and more mud, he remembers. Then, all of a sudden, a coral popped into view, and another and another. But something was wrong. The animals were not brightly colored as they are supposed to be.

Fisher recalls jumping up and sprinting across the deck of the ship to the control van. “Stop!” he warned. “Don’t touch anything!”

The ROV pilots were about to take a sample, but he asked them instead to zoom in with the camera. What he saw were corals covered in dark gunk and dripping snot. “When a coral is physically insulted, it reacts by exuding mucus,” he explains. “It’s a normal stress reaction. It helps to clear the surface if there’s something irritating or sticking on it.” To avoid stressing the animals further, the team decided to minimize sampling.

“Normally we would take little pieces of lots of different corals for genetic identification and population genetic studies,” Fisher says, “but we decided to back off on that and try to do our sampling around the edges, taking only samples of corals that we didn’t recognize. We also collected one of the impacted corals so we could take a closer look at the gunk and what was underneath and determine whether the coral branch was dead or alive.”

By the end of the cruise, the team had visited 14 sites, all but one of which were at distances greater than nine miles from the Macondo well. Only corals at that last site, just under seven miles southwest of the well, had clearly been impacted.

As the researchers headed home with their samples, they began to discuss future expeditions. They knew that impact to at least some corals could be readily identified visually and, since the organisms are attached to rocks and don’t swim or float away when impacted, they provide a record of past events. Their next steps would be to discover the full extent of the oil spill’s reach with regard to corals, and to determine the animals’ ultimate fate. Would they live or would they die?

Learn how Fisher’s colleague Iliana Baums is investigating the use of molecular tools to detect signs of stress in corals before they become ill.

The Impact
On five subsequent cruises over the next two years, Fisher and his team have explored for additional sites and revisited the established ones to check the corals’ statuses. They have carefully monitored about 50 of the corals that they first discovered in November 2011. Those that were not too heavily impacted seem to be recovering.

“When I say recover,” notes Fisher, “I don’t mean that tissue died and the coral got better. I mean they were covered with slime, but they never died. These corals still do not look as healthy as corals at other sites, and we may have to monitor them for several years before we will know their ultimate fate.”

The corals that were heavily impacted, on the other hand, are largely not recovering. “We are seeing absolute proof of total death of parts of them,” says Fisher. Since corals are colonial, branching animals, parts of them can die while other parts remain alive.

Specifically, at the first damaged site they witnessed — the last site of the October cruise — the researchers have discovered that 86 percent of the coral colonies show signs of damage, with 46 percent exhibiting impact to more than half the colony, and 23 percent displaying more than 90 percent damage.

At each site visited, the researchers deployed markers and set up permanent monitoring stations with a goal of returning to them again and again to monitor both natural processes and, potentially, long-term effects.

“At that depth and at those temperatures in the deep sea, life passes at a slow pace,” notes Fisher. “These are animals that often live 500 years. They live slow; they die slow. We’ll have to monitor the sites for a decade before we’ll have very much confidence we know the full extent of the impact.”

What’s Next?
The team’s second cruise, which took place in December 2010 and made use of the Alvin deep-diving submarine, included Helen White, a geochemist from Haverford College. White used state-of-the art oil fingerprinting technology and determined that the brown muck on the corals did, indeed, include oil from the Macondo well.

Fisher’s research to date has demonstrated that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed some corals. As a result, BP is going to have to pay. But how much and to whom?

“People have asked me how much a dolphin is worth, and there is no clear-cut answer,” says Timothy Zink, spokesperson for NOAA, the organization that oversees natural resource damage assessments performed by researchers like Fisher, tabulates the check for the parties responsible, and formulates and carries out a plan for restoring the ecosystem.

“The public needs to be compensated for its losses, and not just for the resource itself, but for the human use of the resource — such as recreational fishing, bird watching, and going to the beach — as well,” said Zink. “The final price that BP will pay will be based on the full cost of restoring the environment back to what it was on the day the oil spill happened.”

Unfortunately for deep-water corals, the full effects of the spill may not be felt for many years, too late for any near-term settlement to fully cover them.

“I believe everyone involved would like to settle as soon as we can,” says Fisher. “However, the full extent of damage to deep-sea ecosystems may not manifest itself until after a settlement is reached. If corals all over the deep gulf start dying, and we thought only those very close to the Macondo well would die, then we have to reassess the situation.” In that case, Zink says, the investigation could be reopened.

BP has already paid over $20 billion to cover some of the damages from the spill, and in a November 2012 settlement with the Justice Department, agreed to pay $4 billioon in criminal fines. The company has also committed hundreds of millions to research into understanding the effects of oil spills on ecosystems and preventing future disasters.

Despite the trouble the oil spill caused for deep-sea ecosystems, Fisher says he’s not against deep-water drilling for oil. “As much as I love the ocean, there are a lot of resources in the ocean, and as long as I drive a car, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to say that we shouldn’t obtain those resources for human use,” he notes. “I’m conflicted in the way I feel about it, but I don’t think this means we should stop accessing oil in the marine environment.

“I think, in general, oil companies try pretty damn hard to be responsible.” Fisher adds. “It’s in their best interest to be responsible. This has cost BP billions of dollars; they don’t want it to happen again. In a way, this oil spill has been a beneficial wake-up call in that it tells us that the unthinkable can happen. I think a result of it will be better oversight by oil companies and the federal government.”

Charles R. Fisher is professor of biology, cfisher@psu.edu.

deep corals
This photo, taken as part of a major research project led by Penn State Professor of Biology Charles Fisher, shows a reef formed by the coral species Lophelia pertusa at 450m below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico with an orange brisingid starfish in the foreground and a school of fish overhead.
Image: Image courtesy of Lophelia II 2010 Expedition, NOAA OER BOEM

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Advertiser.com: Study urges spending on coastal restoration

http://gazette.com/study-urges-spending-on-coastal-restoration/article/feed/20921
Written by Janet McConnaughey Associated Press

I think it is very strange to see EDF team up with Walmart’s foundation and downright wrong that Alabama is funding a convention center out of restoration funds that should be going to improve water quality in the Gulf. DV

July 10, 2013

NEW ORLEANS -Wildlife tourism, from hunting and fishing to bird and dolphin watching, is a $19 billion-a-year business along the Gulf of Mexico, and states spending their settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill should focus on restoring ecologically sensitive areas that keep guides, hotels and others working, a study says.

The study, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Walton Family Foundation, was released Tuesday at a replica of a historic lighthouse while the seafood restaurant next door geared up for lunch and sailboats set out on Lake Ponchartrain.

Wildlife tourism brings in 20 million visitors who pay $5.3 billion a year in federal state and local taxes, according to the study, which drew financial and tourist data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Bureau of Labor Standards and from parish and county tourism bureaus.

Wildlife watching draws 11.5 million people a year to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, according to the study. It said recreational fishing attracts 7.5 million visitors and hunting 2.7 million.

The 53 coastal counties and parishes in those states have more than 25,000 tourism-related businesses and nearly 500,000 associated jobs, it said.

The study by Datu Research LLC of Durham, N.C., was released in Louisiana because its marshes and estuaries are the nursery for 90 percent of the Gulf states’ seafood fisheries, said Jim Wyerman, spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund. The state’s 400 miles of coastline are so fringed with wetlands that they comprise 7,700 miles of shoreline.

“Unlike the other states, we don’t have the pristine beaches and hotels along the beaches,” said Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras. “So our wetlands are vitally important.”

That’s why BP money should go into restoring coastal marshes and estuaries, said Jefferson Parish President John Young.

The study includes a state-by-state list of 1,100 coastal guides and outfitters. Those companies bring in business for 11,000 restaurants, hotels and motels, it said.

An email survey of 106 guides and outfitters found that 55 percent said at least half their clients ask for restaurant recommendations; 40 percent said at least half their clients ask for hotel recommendations. Restaurants and hotels and motels also recommend guide businesses, it said.

BP PLC has provided $1 billion as a “down payment” for coastal restoration from the spill, which spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It says it has spent more than $24 billion on spill-related expenses, including cleanup costs and compensation for businesses and individuals.

A trial set to resume in September will decide how much money the federal government and Gulf Coast states should get under the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and other environmental regulations.

Projects approved this year for some of the first $1 billion in restoration money range from $320 million to increase the size of four barrier islands off Louisiana to an $85.5 million project to improve a beachfront park in Alabama and build a convention center hotel there.

“We know now, in 2013, the direct, positive linkage between environmental protection along the coast and economic opportunity -and even economic survival,” said Steve Cochran, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Mississippi River Delta Reconstruction Program.

“We have this opportunity -from a tragic source -to do a lot of things that we know we should do to protect our economy. They’re environmental things but they protect our economy.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Guardian UK: North Sea leaks ‘reality check’ for British oil industry, says Greenpeace. Environmentalists say industry’s arctic safety case undermined by figures showing 55 pollution incidents in last month

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jul/07/british-oil-industry-north-sea-leaks-greenpeace

Terry Macalister
The Guardian, Sunday 7 July 2013 13.44 EDT

north sea leaks oil industry
Facilities operated by Shell, BP and BG were all offenders, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Photograph: Royal Dutch Shell Ho/EPA

Britain’s offshore rigs and platforms have leaked oil or other chemicals into the North Sea on 55 occasions over the past month alone, challenging claims by the industry that it has a strong safety and environmental record.

Among the fields to have reported pollution discharges is Piper Alpha, the scene of the world’s worst offshore accident in terms of fatalities when it blew up, killing 167 workers, 25 years ago.

Facilities operated by Shell, BP and BG were all offenders, according to the latest petroleum operations notices (PON1s) reported to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Greenpeace said the alarming statistics should act as a reality check for an industry that was trying to persuade the world it should be allowed to drill in the pristine waters of the Arctic.

“They’re trying to convince the world that they can operate safely in one of the world’s harshest environments, yet they can’t prevent this steady trickle of oil and other polluting chemicals leaking into the relatively safe waters of the North Sea,” said Greenpeace senior climate adviser Charlie Kronick. “This will do little to increase public trust in their ability to drill in the Arctic without damaging this incredibly beautiful and fragile corner of our planet.”
But the industry itself says the leaks often contain tiny amounts of relatively harmless substances and the reporting system is an example of a good regulation.

One of the worst offenders in the latest set of DECC figures is Shell, which on 3 June reported lubricant and other chemical discharges from its Brent Bravo and Brent Charlie platforms.

A Shell spokesman said: “Asset integrity and process safety is Shell’s foremost priority at all times. No spill is acceptable and we work hard both offshore and onshore to minimise risks to maintain a safe working environment for our workforce and reduce any environmental impact on the North Sea.

“Shell is actively participating in the Step Change in Industry safety initiative, which includes a focus on hydrocarbon spill reduction. The industry has achieved an almost 50% reduction in hydrocarbons leaks during 2012, based on a baseline set in 2009.”

In 2006, Shell was fined £900,000 after pleading guilty to safety lapses on the Brent B platform following an accident in 2003, when the facility was hit by a gas leak in which two oil workers died.

BP, which is still fighting criminal charges following the Deepwater Horizon accident of 2010 in the US Gulf, is reported to have had crude leaks off the Paul B Loyd Jnr rig, which was working on the Clair field on 6 June this year. There was also a release of “another” substance from the same drilling unit two days earlier. On 25 May there was discharge on the Marnock field.

BG had a leak on the Everest North platform on 31 May while Talisman Energy discharged chemicals the day before on the Piper Bravo platform that was built in place of the Piper Alpha structure destroyed by fire in 1988.

Petroleum operations notices are all reviewed and investigated by an offshore environmental inspector as they are reports of potential breaches of DECC-enforced regulations.

Some of the discharges are allowable under North Sea rules but most on the latest PON1s monthly data whose status is marked “completed” rather than still “under review” ascribed the source to various mechanical failures.Those incidents that do show how much product was released indicate small amounts but any unintended action is unwelcome at a time when safety and the environment are major concerns of the public.

Although the PONS1 data seen by the Guardian for the month from 6 May to 6 June show 55 different numbered notices, employers dispute the figures and downplay their significance.

Mick Borwell, Oil & Gas UK’s environmental issues director, said: “The vast majority of the 103 spills this year [in PON1 reports] are very small operational chemical spills. They have no potential to cause a major accident, so do not compromise the increase in safety standards reported recently including a year on year reduction in combined fatal and major injury rates and in all types of dangerous occurrence and a 48% reduction in hydrocarbon releases over three years.”

BP and Shell declined to comment. On Monday, BP will appear in court in New Orleans to argue that the huge compensation package agreed last year following the Deepwater Horizon disaster is being abused. Lawyers for BP will claim that large numbers of “fraudulent, excessive or improper claims” are being filed to the victims’ fund, to which BP set aside around $8bn.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

PNJ.com: Vessel to study the oil spill’s effects – Sea Shepherd, Ocean Alliance partner to research whales in Gulf

http://www.pnj.com/

Jul. 4, 2013 |

Written by Kevin Robinson

Ocean Alliance Founder Roger Payne and a group of environmental activists with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are making a port of call in Pensacola on board the RV Odyssey. The conservation group and the 93-foot research vessel is operating in the Gulf of Mexico collecting data on whales and sea-life in the gulf as it relates to the BP oil spill.

seashepard
Watching the Whales: Listen to Eliza Muirhead, discuss how 12 members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance’s mission, Operation Toxic Gulf, will spend the remainder of July tracking sperm whales 100 miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Ocean Alliance have arrived in Pensacola with the 93-foot research vessel RV Odyssey. The group is making a port of call in Pensacola as part of its Operation Toxic Gulf mission in the Gulf of Mexico. / Tony Giberson/tgiberson@pnj.com

An International crew of the scientists and activists will be docking in Pensacola periodically this month while they study the effects of the BP oil spill. About 12 members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance will spend the remainder of July tracking sperm whales 100 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The sperm whale is at the top of the food chain, so all of the toxins consumed by smaller animals eventually end up accumulating inside the sperm whales,” crew member Eliza Muirhead said. The crew of the Odyssey will examine changes in sperm whale health and behavior to get a snapshot of how toxins from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and the chemical dispersant sprayed to contain it are affecting marine ecology. To help people understand their research and its ramifications, the crew allowed the public to tour the Odyssey on Wednesday. About a dozen people wandered the 93-foot craft, snapping pictures and asking questions.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a controversial environmental group featured on the popular Discovery Channel program “Whale Wars.” The group has gained notoriety for its aggressive tactics pursuing, harassing and sometimes boarding Japanese ships in the Southern Ocean conducting research by killing whales. Sea Shepherd contends the Japanese whaling operation is illegal and immoral. “My brother and nephew watch ‘Whales Wars,’ so when they told me they were coming down I decided to come along,” said Wendy Hauman. “I got to talk to the crew and the scientists. It’s cool to see what they do in person and see live some of what they do on TV.”

The team has a full laboratory on the ship to begin preliminary analysis of the data collected during the expedition. Lead researcher Robert Payne said it could be up to a year before the findings of the study are published.
Payne, the founder of Ocean Alliance, has studied whale behavior since 1967. He and colleague Scott McVay are credited for discovering that humpback whales sing songs.

Payne said that by partnering, Ocean Alliance and the Sea Shepherds are able to accomplish goals they could never have achieved alone. “The value of this study is that normally scientists work in their own little world,” Payne said. “People who take action work in a whole different world. Those two worlds are finally getting together.”
Payne said that by pairing the research-minded Ocean Alliance and the action-oriented members of the Sea Shepherds, the expedition could more fully investigate an environmental disaster that he said has been largely marginalized by special interests and the federal government.

“The mission of one side is to confuse things and our job is to clarify,” Payne said. “We’re dealing with a problem you can’t see, so it’s easy for people to pretend it doesn’t exist.” The research expedition will be documented online on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance Facebook pages.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Examiner.com: LDWF fisheries closures around Grand Terre Islands prompt BP outcry

http://www.nationalfisherman.com/news-events/top-news/1583-louisiana-fisheries-closures-prompt-bp-outcry
also at:
http://www.examiner.com/article/ldwf-fisheries-closures-around-grand-terre-islands-prompt-bp-outcry

National Fisherman

JULY 2, 2013 BY: LAURIE WIEGLER

Seafood Is Tested For Signs Of Oil Contamination

Snapper are filleted at Inland Seafood in NOLA in August of 2010. Chemical and “sniff testing” of fish began after the spill. Three years later, there are mixed views on whether Gulf seafood is safe to eat.

On the 28th, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham announced that additional areas of Grand Terre Islands were closed. In a press release, the LDWF said that, tar mats located during ongoing surveys were removed this week in the intertidal and subtidal areas of Grand Terre Islands. Some of those mats were in areas that are already closed, however some additional closures were required.

The area closed is the portion of state outside waters “seaward a distance of one-half mile from the shoreline from the southwestern shore of east Grand Terre at -89 degrees 54 minutes 04 seconds west longitude; thence eastward along the shoreline to the southeastern shore of Grand Terre at -89 degrees 51 minutes 39 seconds west longitude; thence eastward along 29 degrees 18 minutes 46 seconds north latitude to -89 degrees 51 minutes 19 seconds west longitude.

The LDWF did this following the announcement that “state health leaders” called for the ban after flesh-eating bacteria were suspected in these coastal waters, reports WBRZ. However, this was not mentioned in LDWF’s official press release on its web site.

The LDWF’s actions drew a response from BP today, who issued their own press release claiming that actions such as these hurt the image of the state, and once again reassured the public that they believe Gulf seafood is safe to eat.

Nevertheless, LDWF says:
[that] no person shall take/possess or attempt to take any species of fish for commercial purposes from waters within the closed area. The possession, sale, barter, trade or exchange of any fish or other aquatic life from the closed area during the closure is prohibited.

All commercial fishing is prohibited in the closed areas. Recreational fishing is limited to recreational rod and reel fishing which includes licensed charter boat guides.

Commercial fishing activities prohibited are: shrimping, trawling, skimming, butterflying, crabbing, flounder and garfish gigging, cast netting, oyster harvesting, gill netting, hoop netting, minnow trapping, rod and reeling, jug lining, using a bow and arrow, purse seining, set lining and spear gunning.

Prohibited recreational fishing means no crabbing, shrimping, flounder gigging, cast netting, bait seining, bow fishing, spearing, snagging and dip netting. Charter boat and recreational angling are still allowed.

According to BP, not one test [of Gulf seafood] has exceeded thresholds for human health established by the Food and Drug Administration. Gulf seafood is the most rigorously tested seafood in the country, and every test conducted – by multiple state and federal agencies – has shown the same thing: Gulf seafood is safe.

BP says that by extending fishery closures, the state may help perpetuate the myth that consumers should avoid Gulf seafood and tourists should avoid Louisiana’s waters. When no scientific basis is provided for the decision, Louisiana does a disservice to the thousands of people who work in the commercial fishing, recreational fishing, and tourism industries and who depend on those industries for their livelihoods.

The state’s decision to extend the fishery closure appears to be groundless, and that hurts the people of Louisiana and the reputation of the state.

However, readers should note that these closures of recreational and commercial fishing have been implemented based on the Secretary of the Department’s information received from biologists and other scientists.

BP is still in the midst of a contentious civil trial in New Orleans, where not only billions, but the company’s gravely tarnished image, are at stake .

Here is a map detailing this closure. Here is another area map that highlights the fishing closures in red. For a complete list of press releases that detail the history of closures and openings in the area following the spill, please click here.

Note: An earlier version of this article today did not include the link to flesh-eating bacteria. Also, the original photo caption said Gulf seafood isn’t safe to eat and it has been corrected to express there are mixed views. Also, the original caption referred to sniff test “fishing” and that has also been corrected to sniff “testing” of fish.- lw

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

PR Newswire: Health Problems Still Plaguing Many BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers

Find this article at: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/health-problems-still-plaguing-many-bp-oil-spill-cleanup-workers-213828351.html

The Life Care Solutions Group discusses the unmet needs of many BP oil spill workers who’ve faced challenges in getting help for their injuries.
< NEW ORLEANS, July 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Following the 2010 BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a number of response workers reported being stricken with ailments purportedly linked to cleanup efforts. For many workers with limited resources to find medical help, there remains a need to have concerns about resulting medical conditions addressed, even three years after the spill. The Life Care Solutions Group has developed a resource for response workers and volunteers who have questions about how to receive medical and legal help if they have been plagued with health problems linked to participation in the oil spill cleanup. Help for BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Many individuals involved in the BP oil spill cleanup were migrant workers, service industry workers, and Gulf Coast residents who volunteered in the effort, and lacked health care coverage or other means to pay for proper medical care. Thousands of workers spent months working to clean up oil, applying chemical dispersants, and completing other tasks in an attempt to restore the Gulf Coast to a safe environment for residents, businesses, tourists, and ecosystems, not knowing of the extent of exposure to toxic chemicals they were subjected to. The BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk is available for those who have been plagued with health problems including conditions of the stomach, skin, respiratory system and more. For those who still have questions about whether they are eligible to receive compensation for their injuries from funds set aside by BP for the damage caused, the help desk can also address their inquiries. A free medical review is being offered to those who visit the help desk and contact the Life Care Solutions Group today. About the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk The BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk is a resource, developed by the Life Care Solutions Group, made available to support workers who have been left with health problems attributable to Gulf Coast cleanup efforts. The Life Care Solutions Group is comprised of a network of medical and legal experts who assist individuals in need of information regarding their legal rights in a BP oil spill settlement or medical options after sustaining a serious injury. Individuals can visit the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk online today to request a free medical assessment or assistance with a BP gulf oil spill claim. For more information about the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk, please visit http://disasters.lifecare123.com. CONTACT: Lyn Giguere, Lyn@submitmypressrelease.com, +1-972-437-8952 SOURCE Life Care Solutions Group RELATED LINKS http://disasters.lifecare123.com Special thanks to Richard Charter