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.




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


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


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


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.”


“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

$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

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.


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)
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)



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.


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.

Nola.com: Coal, petroleum coke debris found in Plaquemines marsh restoration projects

black spots

Black spots in the mix of sediment and water leaving a mile-long pipeline connected to a dredge in the Mississippi River are small chunks of coal. (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) (Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
By Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on September 02, 2014 at 5:30 PM, updated September 02, 2014 at 5:34 PM
Pieces of coal and petroleum coke – some as large as fists – have been found dotting mile-long stretches of elevated marsh platform created by coastal restoration programs that are pumping sediment inland from the Mississippi River into open water near Lake Hermitage and Bayou Dupont on the west bank of Plaquemines Parish.

The coal and coke debris was spotted at both restoration sites by a reporter and photographer with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, including lumps of coal mixed with sediment flowing from the end of a pipeline at the Lake Hermitage restoration project on Aug. 28.

That same day, representatives of the 
Gulf Restoration Network also found coal and coke debris at the Lake Hermitage site during their own tour of the restoration project. The environmental group filed a complaint about the materials, which it believes is an environmental threat, with the Coast Guard’s National Response Center. The center coordinates pollution responses in federally controlled waters.
The sediment for the Lake Hermitage restoration project is mined at borrow sites along the western edge of the Mississippi’s navigation channel downstream from two terminals that load and unload coal and coke from and to barges and ocean-going vessels. Both terminals, however, are downstream from the Bayou Dupont project.

In his complaint, the Gulf Restoration Network’s Scott Eustis said that in roughly half of a 5-acre area at the Lake Hermitage, the ground was “coated in dice-sized pieces of coal and petroleum coke, at about 25% of the visible surface.” The complaint also said that, “About every meter or so, there was a golf ball sized piece or a baseball sized piece. Softball sized chunks were found.”

“This material contains heavy metals like arsenic and mercury, residual oils and (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and can make soils acidic,” Eustis said. “While not an emergency, it is entirely inappropriate, in violation of the Clean Water Act, LDEQ permits, and responsible parties are liable for clean up of all spilled material as this discharge is unpermitted.”

A spokesman for the Coast Guard said the coal and coke debris question would be under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Environmental Quality, which enforces federal Clean Water Act and state rules governing emissions from land-based industries that enter the river.

A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, which chairs a task force that oversees federal-state diversion projects, also said DEQ was the agency responsible for regulating the coal debris.

DEQ did not immediately respond to a request for information about the contaminants found in the restoration sites.
The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which participates in both the Lake Hermitage and Bayou Dupont restoration projects and is the sponsor of the Bayou Dupont long distance pipeline project, discounted the potential for environmental effects from the coal and coke, but said it needs further study.
Some coal lumps found at the Lake Hermitage project were the size of softballs.
Gulf Restoration Network

“CPRA has not observed any negative environmental effects on our projects that have been restored with Mississippi River sediment; however, this is an area that warrants further analysis,” said a statement released by the agency.  “The future of our coast is dependent on the efficient and effective use of our riverine resources, which is evident in the 25,704 acres of wetlands benefited by our work since 2008.  CPRA is committed to understanding the environmental effects of our projects.”

Lake Hermitage project will have 653 acres of new marsh platform when it is completed, with all but 104 acres paid for by the federal-state Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. The additional acreage is being paid with an advance payment by BP under the federal Oil Pollution Act’s  Natural Resource Damage Assessment program.

Bayou Dupont marsh creation project near Ironton also began as a Coastal Wetlands Act project and built 471 acres of new marsh platform. State officials plan to extend the marsh platform westward with a state-funded long distance pipeline that will eventually extend more than 25 miles across Plaquemines, Jefferson and Lafourche parishes.
One of the coal and coke transfer terminals located upriver from the site mined for the Lake Hermitage project is United Bulk Terminal-Davant, which recently entered into a consent agreement with DEQ. The agreement was part of the settlement of a January penalty notice  for illegally dumping coal and coke on the east bank Mississippi River batture at United Bulk’s storage yard less than a mile upriver from the dredging borrow area.

Company officials told state inspectors that when the river rose above the debris on the batture, it wasn’t retrieved.

The state inspected the facility in June 2013 and reviewed company records in December 2013 and concluded that the firm had failed to dispose of spilled coal and coke immediately, according to the consent agreement.

“Specifically, at the downstream end of the facility, coke and coal fall from the conveyer belts onto the batture,” says the consent agreement.

“According to the facility representative, the cleanup occurs as long as the river is low,” the consent agreement said. “When the river is high, the piles of coal and coke are submerged in water and cleanup does not occur. At the time of the inspection, the river was high. Each failure to utilize all reasonable methods to minimize any adverse impact, and clean up and dispose of all spilled product and spilled waste immediately is a violation …”
As part of the consent agreement, United Bulk has agreed to donate $16,500 to the Woodlands Conservancy, which operates the Woodlands Trail and Bird Park Sanctuary in Plaquemines. The conservancy will use the money to remove invasive species from its land and replace them with native species.

The company also has agreed to raise 3 ? acres of the batture area beneath its conveyer belts “to enhance the removal of coal/coke that may fall from the conveyer belts to the batture area in order to enhance compliance with existing permits during times of high water,” according to an Army Corps of engineers coastal use permit request filed with the consent agreement.

The firm also has agreed to improvements to its conveyer system aimed at reducing spillage that are part of an $80 million upgrade of the terminal.

“Since United Bulk Terminals Davant acquired the facility in June of 2012, we have demonstrated our commitment to minimizing the impact of our operations on the environment and have invested substantial time and money to ensure compliance with our air and water permits,” the firm said in a statement issued in response to questions about the coal and coke found last week in the restoration projects. 

The statement said the firm has invested nearly $50 million to upgrade its facility “in accordance with the latest technology and practices in terms of safety and environmental impact,” and plans to invest another $30 million. The improvements included spill pans for secondary containment under the conveyers, the statement said. The agreement with DEQ also includes modifications to the batture to prevent spillage regardless of the river stage, the company said.

The DEQ complaint was filed two months after the Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Sierra Club informed United Bulk that they planned to file a complaint in federal court against the company under provisions of the Clean Water Act that allow citizens to attempt to enforce the law.

The groups filed suit against the firm in March, even though the company had already indicated it would agree to a preliminary version of the state consent decree. The suit said that based on DEQ’s past track record, it wanted to assure that the company complied with all provisions of the federal clean water law.
That lawsuit is still pending.

On the east bank of the river, 
International Marine Terminals operates a similar coal loading facility just below Myrtle Grove, with conveyer belts that also extend out over the river.

A check of DEQ records indicates that company has reported inadvertent spills of coal into the river, including one spill of as much as 3,000 pounds in 2010. But there’s no record of any enforcement actions by DEQ for such spills. 


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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: Advocates press for restoration beyond the shoreline

Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, August 25, 2014

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened, as its name suggests, in
the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. But even though the bluewater
ecosystem bore the brunt of the damage, projects to restore habitat and
species there have not done well in the competition for funding so far.

To be sure, only a fraction of the restoration dollars related to the
spill that experts anticipate will eventually be available have been
put up for grabs so far, and the bluewater is likely to be a major
recipient of funding under the Oil Pollution Act to restore damage
directly related to the spill.

Still, hundreds of millions of dollars stemming from the gusher has
already been awarded, but just one project dealing with the deepwater
environment has received funding, according to Libby Fetherston, an
Ocean Conservancy staffer who strategizes about restoration funding.

“There’s a lot we’re working with in the terrestrial environment and
estuaries along the shoreline of the five affected Gulf Coast states,
but there’s not a lot of discussion about what happens once you get
beyond the shore,” Fetherston said. “The Gulf of Mexico is a whole
entity, and looking only at the coastline where you can put your hands
in the dirt and physically restore things is really only looking at
half of the puzzle.”

Fetherston’s group released a slick booklet Friday to explain what
restoration could look like in the bluewater and why it matters.

For instance, bluefin tuna, which have been shown to be sensitive to
the hydrocarbons found in crude oil, are often accidentally caught by
commercial fishermen aiming to snag yellowfin tuna or swordfish
(Greenwire, March 24).

Ocean Conservancy estimates that 423 bluefin are thrown back dead each
year after being snagged from pelagic long-line fishery boats in the
Gulf. All those fish could be saved, the group argues, if those lines
were switched out for new, experimental gear.

Another idea hunting for funding: mapping habitat on the Gulf’s

“Knowing about the different habitats, how productive they are, what is
living on them, is really an important first step toward understanding
how to do restoration,” Fetherston said. “Maybe we can’t go down and
clean the corals around the Macondo wellhead, but maybe we can protect
similar corals from damage, from drilling, but we don’t know where
those are.”

Ocean Conservancy’s booklet was issued one day after the federal-state
panel charged with overseeing Clean Water Act fines being delivered to
the Gulf put out its first call for project proposals (E&ENews PM, Aug.

Part of the challenge for restoration advocates is determining which
funding stream to propose which projects for in order to get the most
bang for the buck and avoid duplication. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem
Restoration Council, made up of Gulf State and federal government
officials, is responsible for managing the 30 percent of Clean Water
Act civil fines sent back to the Gulf for comprehensive restoration.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, meanwhile, is charged with
granting $2.5 billion in criminal fines related to the spill for
restoration, with slightly different goals and processes. And then
there’s the yet-to-be-determined funding to restore direct damage under
the Oil Pollution Act.

The lack of a settlement in the government’s case against BP PLC poses
some major challenges for restoration advocates. The fact that the case
is ongoing means not only that the total amount of money available for
restoration under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act remains
unknown, but also that scientific information about the spill’s impacts
is kept under wraps.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “has been
impressively mum,” Fetherston said. “So it’s tricky for me to say we
know this was damaged and this is how you should replace it.”

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

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

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


E&E: Interior to update decades-old bonding regs

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, August 18, 2014

The Interior Department late last week announced plans to update 20-
year-old regulations that ensure taxpayers are not left on the hook for
the cost of tearing down abandoned offshore oil and gas facilities.

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said its existing bonding
regulations for oil and gas development have not kept pace with new
facilities designed to drill in deeper waters and the growing cost to
decommission them.

The agency is giving the public until Oct. 20 to comment on best
practices for mitigating financial risks and whether current bonding
requirements are adequate.

“We would like to work with industry and others to determine how to
improve our regulatory regime to better align with the realities of
aging offshore infrastructure, hazard risks and increasing costs of
decommissioning,” BOEM acting Director Walter Cruickshank said in a

BOEM said the costs of decommissioning offshore rigs have “dramatically
increased” since the last bonding regulations were developed nearly a
quarter-century ago.

At that time, the biggest financial risk the government faced in
selling oil and gas leases was nonpayment of rents and royalties,
noncompliance with laws and regulations, and potential problems due to
bankruptcy, BOEM said.

Currently, operators must pay a base bond of $50,000 per lease prior to
development. Bonds rise to $200,000 per lease for exploration and
$500,000 for production. Operators also can post bonds for an area of
leases, which start at $1 million for exploration and $3 million for

While BOEM may require additional financial assurances for
decommissioning, the agency exercises this authority about 10 percent
of the time.

Reducing financial risks is complicated by the 40- to 50-year life span
of many offshore drilling projects, BOEM said. New and unexpected
technological or financial challenges may necessitate new financial
assurances as projects evolve, it said.

“BOEM is specifically interested in comments regarding the financial
risks and liabilities associated with aging offshore infrastructure,
deepwater decommissioning, subsea decommissioning, pipeline
abandonment, Arctic operations, and new technologies designed to
address deepwater development or exploration and/or development of
energy or mineral resources in locations with unusually adverse
conditions,” the agency said in a Federal Register notice today.

The new rulemaking will not address the costs and damages associated
with oil spill financial responsibility, which are covered elsewhere in
BOEM’s regulations.

As of the beginning of this year, Interior’s Bureau of Safety and
Environmental Enforcement counted 1,583 abandoned wells and 374 idle
platforms waiting for decommissioning, a major drop from the 3,233
abandoned wells and 617 unused structures BOEM found in need of removal
in late 2010 (EnergyWire, March 12).

Federal regulations require offshore energy companies to remove all
material used for oil and gas extraction in the Gulf as soon as their
activities are completed at lease sites.

Interior last summer announced a new policy that will make it easier
for oil and gas companies to allow obsolete rigs in the Gulf of Mexico
to be used as habitat for fish. It drew support from operators that
stand to save on the cost of decommissioning the hulking steel
structures as well as recreational fishing groups that argue the rigs
provide important hiding and hunting grounds for fish in the Gulf,
whose muddy bottom is generally inhospitable to reefs (Greenwire, June
27, 2013).

But some environmentalists and scientists argue companies have abused
Interior’s “rigs to reefs” program to avoid the cost of
decommissioning, threatening to turn the Gulf into an oil and gas

“junkyard” (Greenwire, July 31).

DECOM WORLD: Group launches campaign to scrap Rigs to Reefs programs in Gulf of Mexico

By Rod Sweet on Aug 6, 2014

Operators hoping to cut decommissioning costs by reefing rigs in the Gulf of Mexico may have a fight on their hands now that a campaign has been launched by a diverse group including shrimp fishermen and conservationists to have the Rigs to Reefs program scrapped.

Twenty-three individuals, among them university professors and people representing conservation groups, fishermen and tribal organizations, are signatories to a 23 July letter to US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking her department to require operators to remove rigs instead of converting them to reefs.

They were joined on 30 July by Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, who told New Orleans’ Times-Picayune newspaper that the oil industry should return the Gulf sea floor to “trawlable bottoms”.

The campaign coincides with the publication last month of a new book entitled “Bring Back the Gulf”. Its authors, Richard Charter, senior fellow of the Ocean Foundation, and DeeVon Quirolo, a marine conservation consultant based in Florida, argue that there is no scientific consensus that reefed platforms and jackets contribute to maintaining fish stocks “or otherwise achieve overarching fisheries management goals”.

“Instead,” they write, “these artificial underwater structures aggregate fish, thereby contributing to over-fishing. It also is apparent that they fail to equal or rival natural coral reefs in biological diversity.”

The campaign will put pressure on BSEE, which last July expanded the scope for reefing rigs by removing the requirement for a five-mile buffer zone between designated reefing areas in the Gulf and by easing certain other restrictions on reefing rigs in place.

Around 450 platforms in the Gulf have been converted to reefs through state reefing programs since 1985. More than 300 of these are in Louisiana waters. Some environmental groups have contended that artificial reefs just attract more fish without promoting balanced habitats, thereby doing more harm than good.

The 23 July letter, signed also by authors Charter and Quirolo, urges Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to effect “strong and consistent implementation of the Department of Interior’s Idle Iron policy requiring full decommissioning of spent oil and gas structures at the end of their useful economic life.”

The letter adds: “The permanent seabed placement of obsolete oil and gas extraction infrastructure invites more ecosystem damage rather than restoring it as originally envisioned.”

The Louisiana Shrimp Association’s Clint Guidry also called for the complete removal of platforms, saying it would “help all users who have to navigate the Gulf”. Shrimpers have opposed artificial reefs because they can tangle their nets.

Signing the 23 July letter to Sally Jewell were:

  • Richard Charter, Senior Fellow, The Ocean Foundation, Washington DC
  • DeeVon Quirolo, Marine Conservation Consultant, Brooksville, Florida
  • Athan Manuel, Director, Lands Protection Program Sierra Club, Washington DC
  • Robert W. Hastings, Chair, Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club
  • Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director, Gulf Restoration Network, New Orleans
  • Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director, Center for Biological Diversity, San Francisco
  • John Hocevar, Oceans Campaign Director, Greenpeace USA
  • Gary Appleson, Policy Coordinator, Sea Turtle Conservancy, Gainesville, Florida
  • Meredith Dowling, Gulf Program Director, Southwings Gulf Office
  • George Barisich, President, United Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Louisiana
  • John W. Day, Jr., Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences and Coastal Ecology Institute, School of the Coast & Environment Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
  • Len Bahr, Ph.D. LaCoastPost.com Homer Hitt Alumni Center, New Orleans
  • John McManus, Professor, Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, University of Miami
  • Stephen Bradberry, Executive Director, Alliance Institute, New Orleans
  • Michael Tritico, President, RESTORE Trust, Louisiana
  • Robert G. Bea, Professor Emeritus, Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, University of California Berkeley
  • Luiz Rodrigues, Executive Director, Environmental Coalition of Miami Beach
  • Colette Pichon Battle, Director/Attorney, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Slidell, Louisiana
  • Dede Shelton, Executive Director, Hands Across the Sand, Meridian, Idaho
  • Michael Stocker, Director, Ocean Conservation Research, Lagunitas, California
  • Kathi Koontz, Ocean Consultant, Berkeley, CA
  • Delice Calcote, Executive Director, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, Anchorage

The letter to Sally Jewell and the book, “Bring Back the Gulf”, can be downloaded here.

– See more at: http://social.decomworld.com/regulation-and-policy/group-launches-campaign-scrap-rigs-reefs-programs-gulf-mexico

CSMonitor.com: Oil spill damage to Gulf was deeper, wider than thought, say scientists , Oil spill: Scientists have discovered four coral communities deep in the ocean that show signs of damage from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

By Elizabeth Palermo, Live Science Staff Writer August 4, 2014
Four years after a BP oil rig exploded and flooded the Gulf of Mexico with an estimated 170 million gallons of oil, scientists have discovered further evidence of coral communities affected by this environmental disaster.
Scientists at Pennsylvania State University, in State College, Pa., found coral communities that show signs of damage from 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill more than 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the disaster site. The new findings suggest that the oil spill’s footprint is both deeper and wider than was previously thought.
“This study very clearly shows that multiple coral communities, up to 22 kilometers [13.7 miles] from the spill site and at depths over 1,800 meters [5,905 feet], were impacted by the spill,” Charles Fischer, a professor of biology at Penn State and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
To locate additional coral communities that may have been affected by the spill, Fischer and his team used 3D seismic data from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. They identified 488 potential coral habitats within a 25-mile (40 km) radius of the spill site, and from that list selected 29 sites that may have been impacted by the 2010 disaster. [Images of Coral Damaged by Deepwater Horizon Spill]
Using a specially designed digital camera, called a tow system, as well as a robotic submarine, the researchers captured underwater images of the ocean floor. Where coral sites were found, the team used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to collect high-resolution images of the corals.
The researchers then compared images of new coral communities with previously collected data of a coral community affected by the 2010 spill. These older coral images served as a model “fingerprint” for gauging the impact of the spill on newly discovered coral.
“With the camera on board the ROV we were able to collect beautiful, high-resolution images of the corals,” Fischer said. “When we compared these images with our examples of known oil damage, all the signs were present providing clear evidence in two of the newly discovered coral communities of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill.”
Unlike other organisms whose remains sink to the ocean floor and quickly disappear, corals form a mineralized skeleton that can last for years after the organisms die, according to the researchers.
“One of the keys to coral’s usefulness as an indicator species is that the coral skeleton retains evidence of the damage long after the oil that caused the damage is gone,” Fischer said.
In their search for coral communities affected by the 2010 oil spill, the researchers also found two coral sites entangled with commercial fishing lines. This discovery serves as a reminder that, in addition to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, marine species in the Gulf of Mexico continue to be harmed by a wide range of human activities, the researchers said.
The study was published online July 28 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Follow Elizabeth Palermo on Twitter @techEpalermo
Facebook or Google+. Follow Live Science@livescience
. We’re also on Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.
Special thanks to Richard Charter



Multitude of oil spills require extraordinary remediation measures
There have been several significant developments over the past few decades in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) which now require special and immediate attention.  The multitude of oil spills – both large and small – require extraordinary remediation measures, as well as the application of safe and proven technologies which will not make the existing hydrocarbon pollution worse. There are other major sources of water pollution in the GOM which have also became apparent, particularly since the eye-opening 2010 BP oil spill.

The Gulf of Mexico is Dying: A Special Report On The BP Gulf Oil Spill
The BP Gulf Oil Spill drew the world’s attention to the GOM for a variety of reasons. The sheer volume of oil spilt was unprecedented, as were its profound and lasting effects on a large geographic area.  Because it occurred in such a large body of water, many population centers were adversely impacted as they continue to be up to this very day.
 However, it was the incompetent and negligent oil spill response from BP that received the justified scrutiny of the entire world.

Some have since advanced the notion that global oil spill response has been forever changed for the better, because of how profoundly BP mismanaged the spill for all to see. In this regard, they speak of a literal sea change regarding the methodologies and modalities, process and procedure, science and technology that are now accepted by many of the nations of the world.

The entire world watched in horror as millions of gallons of the dispersant Corexit were used to ‘disappear’ the gushing oil in the Macondo Prospect throughout 2010 and beyond.  Disappearing the oil actually meant sinking it, after micronizing it, so that both BP and  the US Federal Government could be ‘applauded’ for a successful response.  However, the known health risks/dangers and environmental damage caused by Corexit became so well publicized that it has now been banned in those countries which have learned from the BP fiasco.  The following article provides more details in this regard.

Dispersant Use Like Corexit Sees Precipitous Decline Worldwide
The single revelation about the ramped up toxicity of Corexit-treated oil served to awaken many stakeholders about the safety of dispersant use in our coastal waters. More importantly, this issue also triggered a variety of concerns about the overall condition of the Gulf of Mexico.  Residents along the GOM coast, business owners, annual vacationers, property owners and the like began to research and discover the true state of the Gulf.
It was through a confluence of many disparate circumstances during the gushing, “ginormous”  oil volcano which brought to light the following critical observations about the overall status of the Gulf of Mexico. These various perceptions and insights, when considered in the aggregate and within a much larger context, have allowed to surface an assessment of the GOM which can no longer be denied or ignored.

What are the major factors contributing to the unrelenting degradation of the Gulf of Mexico?
We need to look no further than the mouth of mighty Mississippi River to assess some of the most obvious causes of the relentless destruction of the GOM. If one just considers what the Mississippi River dumps into the GOM on a daily basis, it is easier to grasp the enormity of the problems confronting every stakeholder. The most obvious types of pollution entering the GOM are conveyed in vast amounts from various sources throughout the American heartland. Countless kinds of harmful contaminants and toxic chemicals find their way into the Gulf via the Mississippi which comes from many different sources.

This mighty river and it’s many tributaries carry a tremendous chemical burden in the form of industrial waste, as well as rain runoff laden with every chemical imaginable from suburbia and cityscapes alike.  Agribusiness has seen to it that enormous amounts of chemical fertilizers and soil fortifiers, pesticides and insecticides, mosquitocides and larvicides, fungicides and herbicides, weedkillers and defoliants, bovine growth hormone and animal antibiotics end up in the Mississippi. Likewise, a whole assortment of pharmaceutical drugs, over-the-counter medications, nutraceutical products, as well as all the chemical compounds utilized in the typical American household eventually find their way into the sewers of the nation’s midsection.

When you add the untold volumes of leaked oil and gas into the mix in the undersea Mississippi Canyon by way of manmade oil spills, natural leaks and seeps, drilling mud and other highly toxic chemicals used by the Oil & Gas Industry, methane burps, undersea mud volcanoes, and the increasing vaporization of methane hydrates, an alarming picture starts to take shape.

Oil & Gas Industry Produces Humongous Amounts Of Pollution In The GOM 
Just as each human body possesses its own very unique environmental profile, so, too, does the Gulf of Mexico.  From the preceding description of what the Gulf of Mexico is routinely exposed to, it is now incontestable that, as a body of water, the GOM cannot avoid being extremely polluted and only getting worse by the year.  In addition to what the Mississippi incessantly dumps into the GOM, Oil & Gas Industry operations are responsible for enormous amounts of pollution.

If the BP Gulf Oil Spill taught us nothing else, it is that oil and gas drilling operations conducted in the GOM 24/7 produce an extraordinary number of predicaments in which severe pollution is produced, and then dispersed to the four corners of the Gulf.  Not only is the actual process of drilling a very dirty one, the subsequent transport, refinement and utilization of the oil and gas creates myriad opportunities for pollutants, toxins, contaminants, poisons and chemicals to further pollute the GOM.
Environmental and Health Impacts of the BP Gulf Oil Spill

However, this is just one component of the ever-worsening condition of the GOM.  The incessant utilization of drilling mud (also known as drilling fluids) has greatly contributed to the current state of degradation of the entire Gulf Of Mexico.  The traditional drilling locations off the coast of Louisiana and Texas are by far the most polluted and perhaps irremediable.  However, even the coastlines of Florida are vulnerable to the migration of hydrocarbon affluent and drilling fluids.

The components of drilling mud are much less about mud, and more about other highly corrosive and toxic chemicals which are necessary to do a very difficult job.  During any drilling operation in the GOM where copious amounts of drilling mud are utilized, there is effectively no way of containing it or disposing it once it is released.  Hence, the GOM seafloor and sub-seafloor geological formations have been exposed to constant injections of drilling mud since use first began decades ago.

The following link entitled “Drilling fluids and health risk management” contains a 9 page list of components found in drilling fluids in Appendix 8 under the title:
“Detailed health hazard information on drilling fluid components”
A close reading of this material reveals an extraordinary number of highly toxic pollutants which can eventually find there way into the water columns, the wetlands, the estuaries, and onto the beaches, etc.

Decades of  High Intensity Oil Drilling Operations Have Created A Toxic GOM Environment
The sheer number of oil wells drilled throughout the GOM since the early 1930s is quite staggering.  Each of those wells is either active or inactive.  With each well that is drilled, there are opportunities for hydrocarbon effluent to escape into the GOM.  After wells are capped there are also many situations that can, and do, develop whereby a bad well can allow for a steady leak of hydrocarbon effluent into the GOM.

The BP Gulf Oil Spill demonstrated how a blown well can present a predicament that simply cannot be fixed (See preceding diagram).  Depending on just how large an oil reserve has been drilled into, hydrocarbon effluent can leak into the Gulf of Mexico into perpetuity.  There is also the ever-present risk associated with all capped wells leaking.  These are also subjected to undersea earthquakes and other seismic activity, undersea volcanoes and mud volcanoes, as well as hydrothermal vents and other fissures which can open up anywhere at any time.

The preceding discussion provides only a glimpse into some of the various co-factors which are responsible for contributing considerable amounts of pollution to the total toxic load borne by the Gulf of Mexico every day Š of every week Š of every year Š over many decades.  Because of the inordinate political pressures operating at the federal level to make the USA completely energy independent, the push to “drill, drill and drill more” has only increased.

U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil – NYTimes.com
Event the Atlantic Seaboard is being opened to oil and gas exploration so powerful is the Oil & Gas Industry lobby in DC.
Obama opens Eastern Seaboard to oil exploration – US News

What’s it all mean?
It means many things to those who live, work and play along the GOM coastline.  Because of the speed of deterioration of the environmental profile of the Gulf, fishing in the waters, swimming in the bayous, sunning on the beaches is no longer what it used to be.  The proliferation of pollution via so many vectors of dissemination has increased the concentration of dangerous chemicals and other toxins so much that the GOM must be looked at through different lens, henceforth.

The State Of The Bioterrain Always Dictates The Most Likely Outcomes
In virtually every article that has been published in the mainstream media over the past decade about the many deaths and serious illnesses that have been directly linked to the GOM, there is often a qualification about the individual who died or who became seriously ill or diseased. Deliberate reference is made to the strength (or lack thereof) of the immune systems of those who passed or took ill.  This leaves the reader with the false impression that only those with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to pathogenic micro-organisms like Vibrio vulnificus.

While it’s true that a fisherman who is immuno-compromised is more susceptible to serious infection should he enter the waters with open wounds, it is also true that any individual with open wounds or sores can be easily infected by Vibrio.  Because the concentrations of various chemicals and contaminants in various regions of the GOM is at an all time high, the human body is only so equipped to efficiently process them.  Therefore, the bioterrain of any person will be affected, no matter how strong their constitution is.  Or, how clean their bioterrain is.  Or, how efficiently their immune system is functioning.

What is being proposed here is that the more resonance that occurs between the human body and the GOM body of water during swimming, fishing, snorkeling, and boating activities, the greater the likelihood of adverse health consequences.  For those oyster fisherman, who also eat raw oysters, the risks increase exponentially.  Especially those whose bioterrains have been degraded through an unhealthy lifestyle, there will be more and more serious medical repercussions from imprudent and/or ill-advised activity in the GOM.

Mississippi fisherman loses arm to Vibrio flesh-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico

Soaring Vibrio Vulnificus Infections Reveal The Degree Of Resonance Between The GOM Body Of Water And The Human Body
The spate of articles over the past few years regarding the flesh-eating bacteria incidents coming out of the GOM clearly indicate an evolving predicament which no one in government – federal, state, or local – or from industry, want to address in any meaningful way.  When people are regularly getting sick – VERY SICK – to the point of dying from Vibrio vulnificus infections, it does not reflect well on the various branches of government which are responsible for ensuring public safety and addressing serious public health concerns.

Flesh-eating Vibrio bacteria at seasonal peak in South Mississippi waters
Likewise, the many businesses and industries which rely on the GOM are no longer inclined to trumpet serious health alerts, such as the rising incidence of Vibrio infections. Simply put, it’s bad for business.  Whether you’re a fisherman or boat manufacturer,  hotel owner or tour boat operator, a sick Gulf of Mexico does not look good on the front pages of the newspapers.  This is especially true in the middle of the intractable recession that the Southeast economy has been stuck in since 2008.

The same is true for the homeowners and commercial property developers, particularly the wealthy, whose mansions dot the coastline from the Florida Keys to the southeastern coastline of Texas.  They simply don’t want to hear that there are tar balls washing up on their secluded beaches, especially when those tar balls contain high numbers of Vibrio vulnificus.  Or, that red tide is showing up off their coasts.  Schools of dead fish, or dead dolphins, or dead whales washing up on their sandy shores are also an extremely undesirable image.  Especially when property values can plummet were the true condition of the waters to be publicized.

Not Only Pathogenic Bacteria Like Vibrio, Red Tide Also Proliferates In Polluted GOM
Vibrio is only one of numerous pathogenic micro-organisms which will proliferate in such a conducive environment as the GOM.  There are many others, such as Alexandrium fundyense (the algae that causes Red tide), which also seek out an imbalanced aquatic environment in which to thrive.  Over time there is expected to be a steady rise in the incidence of these and other water borne pathogens and ailments which originate in a degraded GOM.

Red tide has been visiting the Gulf Coast for many years now, except that the outbreaks have become increasingly more severe and affecting larger areas.  Emergency room visits have seen a marked increase during full blown Red tide blooms.  So have schools of fish and manatees and other marine life seen a considerable uptick in their mass killings by Red tide.  The released toxins during a Red tide event are especially deadly to many kinds of fish.

Red Tide blamed for large fish kill in northeast Gulf of Mexico
Florida sees record 803 manatee deaths; red tide blamed
Here’s what the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has to say about Red tide, also known as harmful algal blooms, or HABs.

The Gulf of Mexico has a bioterrain, too!  
What NOAA will not tell you about Red tide is that there are circumstances beyond certain environmental conditions which encourage this highly toxic algaeto bloom.  Just like the human bioterrain, when the intestinal flora becomes imbalanced, the opportunistic candida albicans fungus will colonize within the GI tract and overtake the eugenic bacteria required for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.  If allowed to persist without proper intervention, systemic candidiasis can result, which can ultimately give rise to a pre-cancerous condition in the various target organs and tissues weakened by the pathogenic, mutated candida.

Likewise, when the GOM’s normal balance of both eugenic and pathogenic micro-organisms is thrown off, a similar set of circumstances can result.  Dangerous invasions of flesh-eating bacteria, toxic algae blooms and other health-compromising, microscopic inhabitants will likewise proliferate.  The more polluted the waters, the higher the frequency of their appearance, especially closer to shore because of the warmer waters which prevail there; where it’s shallow, the sun reflects off the sea bottom and warms the waters.

Of course, this is exactly where much of the swimming, water sports, fishing and other GOM activities take place.  The bayous and lagoons, bays and estuaries, wetlands and swamps often function as traps for much of the pollution which is systematically produced within and/or dumped into the GOM.  Because the normal circulation of these areas can be significantly limited at times (such as when the Loop Current stalls), they create an opportunity for the many toxic chemicals, hydrocarbon contaminants, industrial pollutants, and poisonous dispersants to both aggregate and densify.  In so doing, they eventually create an hospitable environment for pathogenic micro-organisms to propagate and flourish.

Nothing demonstrates this concept better than the existence of multiple dead zones throughout the GOM.  The following map delineates only those dead zone areas south of the Mississippi River, which have been the site of intensive oil and gas drilling since the early 1930s.  Were the entire Gulf of Mexico to be similarly mapped out, the resulting dead zones would be shown to be growing in both numbers and size, particularly over the past many years that deep sea oil drilling has been intensifying.
Dead zone pollutant grows despite decades of work

Dead Zones in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana coastline

Radioactive Component Of Hydrocarbon Effluent and Refinement Process
The following excerpt provides a cursory explanation of the radioactive components associated with both the oil and gas extraction process in deep wells, as well as the oil and gas refinement process.  This is the real untold story of the Hydrocarbon Fuel Paradigm, and why it is so fatally flawed.  If the community of nations properly responded to this weighty matter alone, they would have begun the process of systematically transitioning the world away from the Hydrocarbon Fuel Paradigm.

If the reader pays attention to nothing else in this essay, be advised that pervasive ionizing radiation disseminated by oil and gas extraction operations worldwide is the most critical issue that must be addressed.  The very sustainability of life on Planet Earth depends upon it, especially the deeper the oil wells are drilled in desperation of finding the next motherlode of hydrocarbon reserves.  As follows:
“The deeper the geological source of the hydrocarbons, the more radioactive isotopes present in the oil and gas.

That hydrocarbons pulled from the bowels of the earth have a scientifically verified radioactive component(s) is the dirty little secret of the Oil & Gas Industry. So secret in fact that, if it were to get out, this single scientific fact would seal the fate of the entire industry. It also undergirds the correct understanding that oil and gas are both abiotic in nature and abiogenic in origin – facts which cast a refreshing light on the notion of Peak Oil.
Yes, we have reached Peak Oil, but not because of the untenable Fossil Fuel Theory which has been known to be false by the Oil and Gas Industry since its inception. It has been asserted that the Macondo Prospect sits on a reservoir of abiotic oil the size of Mount Everest, one of the two largest batholiths with proven oil and gas mega-reserves in the GOM. However, that doesn’t make it economically feasible or technologically prudent to extract; nor is it smart to engage in such utter folly, as the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon dramatically demonstrated.

Mantle-generated hydrocarbons come from very young geological formations deep in the earth, and are the product of extremely powerful geo-thermal forces. The presence of radioactive isotopes such as uranium, thorium, radium show up in much greater concentrations the deeper the well bore is drilled into the earth’s crust, and are ubiquitous throughout the mantle. Therefore, the hydrocarbon constituents, which are actually found in the interstitial spaces, porous rock formations and quaternary sediments and are scattered everywhere because of their liquid and gaseous states, exist within and around this highly radioactive environment.

How radioactive is the hydrocarbon effluent upsurging from the wells in the GOM that are drilled at 12, 15, 18, 20, 25 or 30,000 feet through the crust and into the mantle? Here’s a link to the American Petroleum Institute website that will partially answer this question:

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in North American Oilfields
Here’s another link to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website page entitled Radiation Protection that shows just how serious this matter has become from an environmental health standpoint.

Oil and Gas Production Wastes (Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials identified by the EPA)

Whenever there is a higher concentration of methane gas in the mix of oil/gas that comes out of any given well, it means that:
“The more methane that is present reflects the amount of Uranium and Thorium in the oil reserve. The deeper the oil, the younger the radiological decay is that produces helium.”

“Helium is a naturally occurring gas formed in oil reserves. So common that helium detectors have been used to discover oil reserves. Helium is an inert gas known to be a by-product from the radiological decay of uranium and thorium. Uranium and Thorium are known to be in great quantities at greater depths. Yes, radioactive elements occur naturally and can be found and detected in smaller amounts in shallow oil reserves. Oil reserves that do not produce large amounts of methane also lack uranium and thorium. The presence of methane is proportional to the presence of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements.”

“The energy coming from uranium and thorium decay is thought to be the most significant energy source inside the earth,” Tolich said. “So this is the driving engine for things such as tectonic plate movements, volcanoes and earthquake. We are looking for neutrinos, particularly electron antineutrinos Š coming from uranium and thorium decay inside the earth. The uranium and thorium is distributed all through the earth in the mantle.” (Per “URGENT: Radioactive Oil From BP Blowout”)

Uranium, thorium neutrino research could determine Earth’s age, energy production
From our many discussions with those knowledgeable at the OSATF (Oil Spill Academic Task Force) in Tallahassee, FL, it became evident early on in the spill that the percentage of methane of the total hydrocarbon composition was quite high. Some observed that it appeared to very slowly decrease, yet remained high right up until the capping of the gusher. Hence, we know that this oil spill in the GOM has a very definite radioactive component which must be addressed.”[1]

Oil rig fires like the Macondo explosion can disseminate airborne radioactive particles depending on the source of the hydrocarbons.

The basic story is that the Gulf of Mexico is slowly dying.  How and why it is dying is not a narrative the EPA, CDC, US Coast Guard or NIH is ever likely to publish.  Taken to the next level of understanding, it becomes quite obvious that the predominant environmental profile of the geographic location in which we live will always be reflected by our own individual bioterrain (environmental profile).  If an individual lives near Fukushima for any length of time, then radiation will show up in their body.  If they work and play downwind from a biomass incinerator, those airborne contaminants will in time accumulate in his or her body.

Likewise, the GOM has its own environmental profile which affects all who live near it, work in or on it, as well as eat the catch from its waters.  Even those who live at a distance can be affected by the GOM’s chemical profile to the extent that the regional hydrological cycle brings moisture and chemicals (remember Acid Rain) from the GOM over their homes and businesses.  The massive spraying of Corexit throughout the Gulf has only exacerbated this situation to the extent that such dispersants are still permitted to ‘disappear’ both new and old oil spills.

Although the first responsibility of government is to safeguard and protect the citizenry, this rarely happens in contemporary society.  Because of the overwhelming power and influence that Corporate America now exerts at very level of government, corporate profits and income lines almost always trump human health concerns and environmental protection[2].  Similarly, the shareholders’ interests, even when in a distant land, often take precedence over the welfare of the local communities which are deeply affected by environmentally-destructive corporate behavior.

In closing, it is indisputable that the Gulf of Mexico will continue to absorb a toxic burden well beyond its capacity to effectively process.  As the dead zones enlarge and start to merge with each other, perhaps the people who depend on this great body of water will reach a breaking point.  Only when there is a sufficient level of collective intolerance will the forces, and resources, become available to start taking back our Gulf.  Then, we might return to a time when the GOM looked like this:

Submitted by:
Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Cyber-Conference
International Citizens’ Initiative
July 27, 2014

Author’s Note:
Of all the major co-factors contributing to the slow motion demise of the Gulf of Mexico, none is so easily removed from this progressively worsening scenario as the wanton and indiscriminate spraying of the dangerous dispersant Corexit.  The continuing use of this noxious chemical has only made a bad situation much worse.  In addition to sinking the oil that it is designed to disperse, Corexit converts the oil into a much more toxic form.
The oil dispersal process also micronizes the Corext-laden byproduct so that it is impossible to see and very difficult detect, making it resistant to the traditional methods of gathering the oil for other types of disposal.  This “out of sight, out of mind” approach is an essential part of the BP Advertising Campaign[3] that appears on virtually every website on the internet, which is even remotely connected to the Gulf oil spill or the GOM.  In this regard BP’s actual response to their 2010 oil spill has been all form and very little substance, except the oily kind.

As a glaring testimony to this hapless reality, both BP and the EPA have been repeatedly made aware of a non-toxic, environmentally safe, cost-effective bioremediation agent known as OSEII.  This hydrocarbon remediation agent has been proven effective on a broad range of oil spills throughout the world and is fast replacing the dispersant class of treatments.  Nations near and far have been outlawing the application of dispersants since the BP Gulf Oil Spill and now eagerly replacing it with bioremediation agents such asOSEII.

That the EPA, NOAA, US Coast Guard, and the Department of Interior would permit the reflexive use of such a harmful dispersant like Corexit when far superior alternatives exist – which have been NCP-listed –  defies common sense.  It also violates the EPA’s charter, most basic regulations and stated policies.  Clearly, it is well past the time that EPA administrators ought to be held personally responsible for breaking the laws which govern the environmental protection of US territorial waters.
Lastly, the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Cyber-Conference would ask each and every reader to watch the following video. This very impressive presentation provides an actual demonstration of OSEII being used to clean up some shoreline oil. The broad dissemination of such an effective use of a bioremediation agent, being successfully utilized by nations around the globe, might just compel the US Federal Government to reconsider their misguided and environmentally unsound oil spill response plan.
[youtube_sc url= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2TuTfQNEDY&w=560&h=315%5D
Attachments area
Preview YouTube video OSEII

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Times-Picayune: Gulf of Mexico rigs-to-reefs program contested in letter to Interior Secretary and new e-book

image001 6337.gif 2
Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on July 30, 2014 at 2:49 PM, updated July 30, 2014 at 2:52 PM
As the federal government this summer considers revised rules on the decommissioning of Gulf of Mexico oil rigs, many environmental groups are pushing for a reexamination of the rigs-to-reefs program.
The program, extremely popular among most Louisiana anglers because the artificial reefs attract fish, allows some oil and gas companies to convert their decommissioned rigs to reefs instead of requiring the companies to remove them.
But on Wednesday, Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, joined calls for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to require the removal of rigs instead of converting them into such reefs.
There is debate about whether the artificial reefs promote aquatic life or simply attract fish, concentrating them for easy fishing access. And some environmental groups contend that their artificial habitats create more harm than good.
There are about 450 platforms in the Gulf that have been converted to permanent artificial reefs through the program that started in 1985. By far the majority of those reefs – more than 300 – are in Louisiana waters.
While the federal Idle Iron policy requires oil and gas companies “to dismantle and responsibly dispose of infrastructure after they plug non-producing wells,” the rigs-to-reefs programs allows some the decommissioned rigs to remain on the site as artificial marine habitats.
Guidry joined the authors of the recently released free e-book Bring Back the Gulf, which also advocates for requiring the removal of oil rigs.
Shrimpers often are against the artificial reefs, largely because the reefs can tangle their nets.
Guidry on Wednesday argued that the oil industry should “return Gulf bottoms to trawlable bottoms” and that that would “help everyone, not just shrimp fishermen, as it will help all users who have to navigate the Gulf.”
Last Wednesday (July 23), about 25 individuals, mainly representing environmental groups, signed a letter sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging “strong and consistent implementation of the Department of Interior’s Idle Iron policy requiring full decommissioning of spent oil and gas structures at the end of their useful economic life.”
“Industry has expanded their requests for Interior Department waivers to Idle Iron protocols – instead seeking permanent seabed disposal of disused oil and gas infrastructure throughout Gulf of Mexico waters under the misnomer of Rigs-to-Reefs projects,” the 7-page letter later continued. “The permanent seabed placement of obsolete oil and gas extraction infrastructure invites more ecosystem damage rather than restoring it as originally envisioned.”
The letter in part stated that the rigs’ deteriorating metal can harm “sensitive Gulf habitats.” It also states that, by attracting fish, the artificial reefs can cause overfishing of certain species and can expand habitat for invasive species.
Richard Charter, a senior fellow at The Ocean Foundation who co-authored the book Bring Back the Gulf that was released last week, said during a teleconference on Wednesday that oil and gas companies have an “obligation to return a reef bed to its natural state.”
Charter said “thousands of rigs due for decommissioning in the coming years” as some of the oldest deep-water wells reach the end of their lives. His his co-author, DeeVon Quirolo, added that the Gulf has reached “critical threshold of such artificial structures.”
In May, Jewell’s Chief of Staff Tommy Beaudreau said the agency this summer would be reviewing the regulations governing the decommissioning and related liability issues of old offshore oil infrastructure, according to Charter and Quirolo.
The Interior Department did not immediately return NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune questions on Wednesday about the status of that review, although Charter and Quirolo said that Interior is expected to hold public hearings on the matters as it move forward.
To see Charter and Quirolo free e-book, click here. There are iPad and Kindle versions available on their website, http://bringbackthegulf.org.
Below, view and download the letter sent last week to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell:
Click here to download this file (PDF)
© 2014 NOLA.com. All rights reserved.

Bring Back the Gulf, the book by DeeVon Quirolo and Richard Charter

July 30, 2014

Bring Back the Gulf

New Book Slams Policies that Allow Oil Industry to Dump Old Rigs at Taxpayer Expense

Now available as an E-book & PDF


Bring Back the Gulf is a timely analysis of the scientific, environmental, legal, social and political aspects of the U.S. Interior Department’s “Rigs-to-Reefs” program and is now available as an e-Book and PDF at www.bringbackthegulf.org, the story of how Big Oil decided to fool the American taxpayer, and why their complicated scheme is not in the public interest.

Current policy allows the oil industry to send its trash to the ocean bottom and call it a reef. Taxpayers are footing the bill for this giveaway that is compromising our Gulf of Mexico’s public natural resources. Rigs-to-Reefs is a clever name for a waiver that sidesteps a requirement that each offshore oil lease includes full decommissioning of spent oil and gas structures to restore the seabed to its previous natural state. Authors DeeVon Quirolo and Richard Charter assert that each oil lease should be enforced to, put simply, force oil companies to properly clean up after themselves when they’re done with a rig.

“When an oil company signs an offshore oil lease contract, that includes an obligation to return the seabed to its natural state once the rig has reached the end of its economic life,” said co-author Richard Charter, senior fellow with The Ocean Foundation. “Americans have every right to expect that the company will keep its promise. With thousands of rigs due for decommissioning in the next few years, we can either decide to help restore the Gulf of Mexico to its former vitality, or allow it to become a junkyard of epic proportions.”

“Dumping spent drilling rigs into the Gulf of Mexico has unanticipated long term negative consequences on marine resources and fails to support fishery management goals,” added co-author DeeVon Quirolo. “If anything, discarded rigs simply cause fish to aggregate so that they are over-harvested, and help invasive species to spread.”

“Shrimp fishermen need trawlable bottom in the Gulf to run their nets,” said Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. “Further giveaways of ocean bottom are not in line with long-standing agreements we have made with the oil industry and State and Federal Government.”

From the beginning, agreements between oil companies and the public have been based on clear assurances that abandoned offshore drilling rigs would be removed and the seafloor restored. At the end of 2013, 2,608 Gulf rigs were due for decommissioning, and thousands more are due for decommissioning over the next few years.

In a letter to Secretary Sally Jewel, leading Gulf of Mexico stakeholders call on the Interior Department to halt issuing waivers that enable spent rigs to remain on the ocean bottom and instead require the seabed to be restored to its original condition as required under the Idle Iron policy. Additional recommendations include:

  • A broad representation of the full range of public interests needs to be more inclusively involved in the relevant federal and state decision-making processes regarding spent oil and gas structures
  • Monitoring of state “Rigs-to-Reefs” programs to ensure ecological integrity
  • Independent scientific research that is not unduly influenced by the oil and gas industry, especially for deep-sea processes that are vulnerable to impacts accompanying the growth of deepwater drilling
  • Enforcement of existing environmental laws that can help ensure a healthy Gulf of Mexico
  • Support effective management of all fisheries for long-term, ecosystem-based resilience and sustainability
  • Creation of deepwater preserves to protect biologic diversity and provide research opportunities through a Gulf-wide monitoring effort, especially in the northern Gulf, where oil production remains concentrated.

Today, some rigs are granted waivers to become permanent fixtures on the ocean floor, towed to state-established so-called “reefing sites.” Full responsibility for future maintenance and liability is then shifted to the state, in exchange for a one-time payoff from the rig owner equal to half of the savings over the cost of full decommissioning. This obviously saves the oil industry millions of dollars, but is counter to supporting larger Gulf of Mexico restoration or fisheries management goals.

Past seafloor discards have led to creation of the largest underwater artificial habitat in the world in Gulf waters at present. Ocean disposal in this manner is heavily promoted by the oil industry as an environmentally friendly option when in fact the reverse is actually true. Studies show that the rigs fail to equal or rival natural coral reefs in biologic diversity and instead attract fouling organisms, including bivalves, sponges, barnacles, hydroids and algae as well as non-native invasive species.

There is new urgency to prevent navigational hazards posed to vessel traffic when these massive structures become lost or damaged during major storms and hurricanes. The Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s Chief of Staff Tommy Beaudreau recently announced that the agency will review policies regarding decommissioning and related liability issues beginning this summer.

#  #   #

Pensacola News Journal: BP oil spill dispersants still in environment

video at:
Despite claims by BP and government agencies, dispersants have not evaporated
Marine biologist Heather Reed describes the arrival of oil on our local coastlines.
By Kimberly Blair kblair@pnj.com 6:34 p.m. CDT July 26, 2014
(Photo: Tony Giberson/tgiberson@pnj.com )
A common ingredient in human laxatives and in the controversial dispersants that was used to break down oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill is still being found in tar balls four years later along Gulf Coast beaches including Perdido Key.

This finding in a new study contradicts the message that the chemical dispersant quickly evaporated from the environment, which BP and EPA officials were telling a public who grew outraged over the widespread use of the chemicals in the Gulf of Mexico in the weeks following the April 20, 2010, oil spill disaster.

More than 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersant was used on oil slicks and injected subsurface to prevent oil from fouling beaches and marshes.

Scientists at Haverford College and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, whose research paper was published in Environment Science & Technology Letters, say it’s important for other scientists studying the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster to know dispersant is still present.

The study, according to a news release from Woods Hole, examined samples from deep sea corals and surrounding sediments collected in December 2010 along with oil-soaked sand patties found along Gulf Coast beaches from July 2010 to the present.

See also: Tar mat cleanup continues
Photo gallery: Fort Pickens tar mat larger than first thought
See also: West Florida High students volunteer for Project GOO

The dispersant chemical DOSS persisted in variable quantities in deep-coral communities six months after the spill and 26 to 45 months on beaches, Helen White, an assistant professor of chemistry with Haverford College in Pennsylvania, pointed out.

“These results indicated that the dispersant, which was thought to undergo rapid degradation in the water column, remains associated with oil in the environment and can persist for around four years,” she said.

The scientists expected to find dispersants degrading more slowly in the cold, dark depths of the deep sea.

“The interesting thing is that the sand patties we’re finding on beaches four years after the spill have DOSS in them. That was somewhat unexpected,” co-author Elizabeth Kujawinski of Woods Hole in Massachusetts said.

The tar patties and tar balls are often referred to as weathered because they’ve been exposed to the weather, wave action, temperature changes and air, which were believed to provide more opportunities for the dispersant to dissipate.

“The amounts we detected are quite small, but we’re finding this compound in locations where we expected the dispersants to disappear, either by dissolving in the water or by being degraded by bacteria,” Kujawinski said.

One question the study did not answer is what kind of danger the presence of the chemical in question – DOSS or dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate – has on marine and human life that frequent the areas in which it’s found.

“It’s hard to say because we don’t know how toxic it may be,” White said.

She hopes in the future to collaborate with other scientists to find out.

For now, researchers hope their revelation will be helpful to other scientists studying the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and prove valuable in the decision-making process to use dispersants in the future.

“The purpose of the paper was really to let researchers and policy makers know these components are still in the sand patties but they are at levels where we don’t know the health affects,” Kujawinski said. “We don’t know if sand laced with this molecule is harmful.”

Trace levels
Prior to the study, which was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, dispersant had only been analyzed in aqueous samples, the researchers said.

White and her team at Haverford developed a method to isolate the DOSS from the solid sand patties.

They sent the isolated compounds to Kujawinski’s Woods Hole lab. Researchers there used sophisticated instruments to quantify the DOSS samples collected from environments known to contain oil persisting from the oil spill.

The concentration of DOSS still present is very low compared to the original concentration of 2 percent to 10 percent dispersant to oil, White said.

“In sand patties, we’re seeing 0.001 percent dispersant to oil ratio,” she said. “It’s very low but it’s present, and we don’t know what that means and if it’s harmful.”

BP rebuffs report
Jason Ryan, BP America Inc. spokesman in Houston, maintains the concentrations of the dispersant compounds are so low – so small they are not detectable with standard laboratory equipment – they do not pose a risk to human health or aquatic life.

“In 2010, government agencies tested thousands of water and sediment samples for dispersant compounds in order to examine the potential persistence of dispersants in the environment,” he said. “None of the samples tested exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s dispersant benchmarks.”

Moreover, he said, the study has no data suggesting the traces identified came from the dispersants used in responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Ryan says the compound measured by the researchers is common in the Gulf’s environment and can be found in many consumer products.

“Prior studies have noted that it is difficult to directly link DOSS traces in the environment to dispersants, given that these compounds can come from several sources,” he said
White said researchers did make certain they were detecting the dispersant chemical and not one from another product by comparing it to other samples in the same environment, which were found to not contain DOSS.

No cause for alarm
Richard Snyder, director of the University of West Florida Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, said he is not surprised by the scientists’ finding, but he cautioned beachgoers not to become alarmed and to continue to avoid tar mats and tar balls.

“Yes, it has impacts, but it’s not super toxic,” he said of DOSS. “The fear of the chemical is greater than reality. It’s a valuable chemical in treating oil spills.”

But he’s concerned about the impacts the dispersant mixed oil dispersed through the Gulf water column had on the ecosystem.

“The dispersant has toxicity (think about putting dish soap in a fish tank),” he said. “Oil has toxicity. Use of dispersant on oil slicks increases toxicity because it increases exposure – disperses the oil as microscopic droplets throughout the water. This effect was devastating to the plankton in the offshore area where dispersant was applied to the oil slicks. That material is very different than the tar mats still buried in the sand.”

Troubling sign
Sava Varazo, director of Emerald Coastkeepers, is not ruling out the fact that the lingering dispersant could be inflicting harm on human and marine life.

“I compare this to what happened in the (1989 Exxon) Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound,” he said. “Four years later, the herring population was decimated because of these same issues. We have four years behind us. We have a lots of studies saying lots of things. We’re starting to see the long-range impacts.”

He pointed to one recent study that indicated the oil spill has caused heart problems in Gulf tuna populations, which is causing them to swim more slowly and making them more vulnerable to predators.

He wonders whether dispersant is playing a role in this, too.

“The chemical has the ability to affect muscles and digestive and reproductive systems,” he said. “In samples on the tuna, their reproduction systems were affected,” he said.
He also wonders how much of the dispersant is being passed along the food chain and onto our plates. These are all questions he hopes further studies will reveal now that it’s known dispersants are still hanging around.

“BP scientists and government officials put a lot of faith in dispersants, and the residual effects are here to stay,” he said.

Adding to our chemical world
Keith Wilkins, Escambia’s director of community and environment, said researchers’ findings should serve as a cautionary tale about widespread use of all chemicals, even though he believes dispersants should play a limited role in oil spill response.

“People think things go away and they don’t,” he said. “All the chemicals we use every day and all of the pharmaceuticals we use don’t disappear. They dilute but don’t go away. We start adapting to those things, and pharmaceuticals go through our treatment plants and end up in our surface water.”

If there is anything we can learn from this study it is to be more conservative in the use of chemicals, he said.

If there is an upside to the oil spill, it has sparked an avalanche of money – much of it from BP fine dollars – to conduct unprecedented research of the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem.
Wilkins said he’s hopeful the dispersant study will lead to more research to reveal how toxic these trace levels of dispersant are to humans, marine life and the ecosystem.
“Using our environment as a giant experiment, we’re going to be learning so much, and some of what we learn might be good,” he said. “And some might be bad.”
203.8 million pounds of oily material collected in four states.

(For the first year, the total includes not only the mixture of residual oil and materials such as sand and shells, but also other solid material such as protective clothing and debris. Since May 2011, only the mixture of residual oil and sand, shells and water and other material was included.)

29 million pounds

55.3 million pounds

28.3 million pounds

91.2 million pounds
Sources: BP; U.S. Coast Guard and other sources.

BP oil spill disaster by the numbers

April 20, 2010: And explosion ripped through the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig as the rig’s crew completed drilling the exploratory Macondo well deep under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 crew members, injuring others and destroying the rig.
87 days: Oil gushed from the well, spewing 4.9 million barrels of crude into the Gulf until it was capped on Sept. 19.

April 22: With approval from the U.S. Coast Guard, responders first sprayed dispersants on the surface oil slick in the Gulf.

1.8 million gallons: Amount of dispesants, primarily Corexit 9500, BP applied to both the water’s surface and injected directly on the wellhead.

3 miles: BP claims no dispersants were used within 3 nautical miles of the shoreline.
98 percent: Pecentage of all use of aerial dispersant application that occurred more than 10 nautical miles offshore.

July 19, 2010: No dispersants were used for the response after this date, with the exception of 5 gallons applied on Sept. 4, 2010, within the moon-pool of a recovery vessel that brought the capping stack to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

4,739: Total miles of shoreline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida surveyed for oil.

203.8 million pounds: Amount of oily material collected in the four states. (For the first year, the total includes not only the mixture of residual oil and materials such as sand and shells, but also other solid material such as protective clothing and debris. Since May 2011, only the mixture of residual oil and sand, shells and water and other material was included.) Totals by state: Mississippi: Total-29 million pounds; Alabama: Total- 55.3 million pounds;-Florida: Total-28.3 million pounds; Louisiana: Total-91.2 million pounds.

1,783: Amount of weathered BP oil being removed by hand from the surf zone at the Gulkf Islands National Seashore’s Fort Pickens area.

Sources: BP; U.S. Coast Guard and other sources.

Hear what marine biologist Heather Reed of Pensacola has to say about the dispersant study online at www.pnj.com.
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Local 10.com: Panhandle cleaning up weathered oil from BP spill

Over 1,700 pounds of weathered oil from 2010 BP spill being cleaned up off Florida Panhandle

Published On: Jul 26 2014 05:59:20 PM EDT
PENSACOLA, Fla. -Florida Panhandle officials are cleaning up over 1,700 pounds of weathered oil from the 2010 BP oil spill.

The large submerged mat of oil mixed with sand, shells and water just off the Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Fort Pickens beach is being removed by a cleanup crew digging it up by hand.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy tells the Pensacola News Journal that frequent thunderstorms and lightning have hampered the cleanup efforts.

The mat discovered a month ago is estimated to be roughly 32 feet long and 9 feet wide.


Special thanks to Richard Charter

Reuters: Research shows Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused lesions in fish -scientists


By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla., July 9 Wed Jul 9, 2014 4:53pm EDT
ORLANDO, Fla., July 9 (Reuters) – Oil that matches the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been found in the bodies of sickened fish, according to a team of Florida scientists who studied the oil’s chemical composition.

“We matched up the oil in the livers and flesh with Deepwater Horizon like a fingerprint,” lead researcher Steven Murawski, a professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in Tampa, told Reuters.

He said the findings debunk arguments that fish abnormalities could have been caused by other factors including oil in coastal runoff and oil from naturally occurring seeps in the Gulf.

BP, whose oil rig caused the spill, rejected the research, stating in an emailed response that it was “not possible to accurately identify the source of oil based on chemical traces found in fish livers or tissue.”

BP’s statement added, “vertebrates such as fish very quickly metabolize and eliminate oil compounds. Once metabolized, the sources of those compounds are no longer discernable after a period of a few days.”

Murawski disagreed with BP’s response, saying the fish in the study had been exposed recently enough that it was possible to identify the chemical signatures of oil in their bodies.

The research team included scientists from USF, the Florida Institute of Oceanography and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The work was published in the current edition of the online journal of Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Thousands of claims for damages against BP continue to be processed since the oil and gas producer’s Gulf rig exploded, killing 11 oil workers and spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days after the April 2010 blast.

Fishermen in the northern Gulf near the blown-out well say they began noticing a spike in abnormal-looking fish, including many with unusual skin lesions, in the winter of 2010-2011.

Murawski said his team compared the chemical signatures of oil found in fish livers and flesh to the unique signature of the Louisiana sweet crude from the Deepwater well and signatures of other oil sources.

“The closest match was directly to Deepwater Horizon and had a very poor match to these other sources. So what we’ve done is eliminated some of these other potential sources,” he said.

Murawski said the team also ruled out pathogens and other oceanographic conditions. By 2012, the frequency of fish lesions declined 53 percent, he said.

(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by David Adams and Eric Beech)

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.
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.

WEAR-TV: Oil Spill Removal Organization working to remove tar mat near Ft. Pickens


Updated: Friday, June 20 2014, 04:13 PM CDT
The United States Coast Guard’s Oil Spill Response Organization is working to remove a tar mat in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Ft. Pickens. Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown says the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported the tar mat Friday morning. Its estimated size is 20 feet by 4 feet. It is located about 10 feet off the coast, past the swash. ORSO began removing it around 12:30pm. The crew was able to remove about 450 pounds of the tar mat before suspending work because of a thunderstorm in the area.
 Special thanks to Richard Charter

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



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


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

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

Still Counting Gulf Spill’s Dead Birds

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

Fuel Fix: Offshore regulators to keep eye on bad actors

Fuel Fix


Posted on May 8, 2014 at 6:29 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

HOUSTON – Maritime and drilling regulators vowed Thursday to keep a closer watch on oil companies and contractors they say are consistently cutting corners on safety offshore.

The Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy, Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, and Brian Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, delivered that message directly to oil industry representatives on the final day of the Offshore Technology Conference.

Servidio said the Coast Guard will consider launching unannounced inspections of oil and gas industry vessels after some logged more than five deficiencies during scheduled probes.

“There are significant areas of concern, and we have a ways to go with some vessels and some companies,” Servidio said.

While acknowledging some offshore supply vessels and mobile offshore drilling units have come through examinations without problems, and still others have worked to improve their performance, Servidio said some still are falling short. “There are other companies where we find the same problems over and over again,” he said.

The Coast Guard already conducts unannounced inspections of some cruise ships – and that same model could be applied to oil industry vessels with bad track records.

“We will be looking at expanding oversight on those vessels and those companies that have demonstrated significantly above average trends and deficiencies, and we will take appropriate control and enforcement actions where needed,” Servidio said. “We’re looking at the potential for instituting no-notice exams for the small population of vessels whose performance and commitment to safety may be in question.”

Salerno said the safety bureau he heads, which regulates offshore drilling, also sees evidence of spotty performance, with a few repeat offenders mingled among companies with deep commitments to the safety and environmental management systems now required to minimize process risks offshore.

“There are companies we have encountered that think they can cut corners or regard SEMS as just a plan on a shelf,” Salerno said. “In some tragic cases, lives have been lost – needlessly – for failure to follow established safety processes.”

A spate of recent accidents have highlighted the risks of offshore oil and gas development – even in shallow waters close to shore.

In its probe of a fatal Gulf of Mexico oil platform blast that killed three workers in November 2012, the safety bureau blamed Houston-based Black Elk Energy and its contractors for failing to make sure areas were cleared of explosive gas before welding.
The agency also is investigating what caused a welder to fall to his death while dismantling an Energy Resource Technology platform in the Gulf last October.

Salerno did not name names, but he said his view about bad actors offshore “was formed as a result of actual events.”

“Incidents occur and we investigate them,” he said. “We look at the reasons why they have occurred, and in many cases, you can point to a failure to follow pretty well-established safety principles. A lot of what we have seen in the incidents is very, very preventable, and when you read the reports, you say, ‘how can that have happened?'”

Salerno, who has spent nine months leading the safety bureau, said he wants the agency to focus its attention on the riskiest operations and the most problem-prone companies.

That risk-based approach wouldn’t mean companies with good track records would escape inspections altogether, Salerno said, but data could be used to justify spending less time on some operators with proven performance and more time on those “where there are clear problems.”

The safety bureau has asked a national laboratory to help it develop a robust risk methodology.

The agency is also looking to step up its technological know how – and keep updating its regulations – as the oil and gas industry sets its sight on reservoirs with bone-crushing pressures and 350-degree temperatures miles below the sea floor.
That’s a big challenge, Salerno admitted.

The industry “sets a very aggressive pace,” Salerno said.

“Regulations have always had a tough time keeping up with technological change; for that matter, industry standards are having a tough time keeping up as well,” Salerno said. “And that has become even more of a problem as the pace of technological innovation and change has accelerated.”

Charlie Williams, Brian Salerno and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio discuss safety during an OTC panel Thursday.
Special thanks to Richard Charter.

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

video at:

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.



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:

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

WWNO: Telltale Rainbow Sheens Show Thousands Of Spills Across The Gulf


April 19, 201411:07 AM ET

Listen to the Story
Weekend Edition Saturday

The 300,000 wells drilled in Louisiana are connected by tens of thousands of miles of pipelines that are vulnerable to leaks, like this one in a coastal marsh. Gulf Restoration Network

Jonathan Henderson of New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network is flying Louisiana’s coast looking for oil. As usual, he’s found some. Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.- Jonathan Henderson, Gulf Restoration Network. “I just noticed something out of the corner of my eye that looks like a sheen that had some form to it,” he says. “We’re going to go take a closer look and see if there’s a rainbow sheen.”

It’s a target-rich environment for Henderson, because more than 54,000 wells were planted in and off this coast – part of the 300,000 wells in the state. They’re connected by thousands of miles of pipelines, all vulnerable to leaks. And leak they do. Louisiana admits to at least 300,000 barrels spilled on its land and in its waters each year, 20 percent of the nation’s total. But those figures come from a system that depends largely on oil companies to self-report.

The problem went mostly unnoticed until the largest spill in U.S. history back on April 20, 2010, drew environmental groups to the coast looking for BP’s oil. “I started noticing, towards the end of 2010, other leaks that were unrelated to the BP disaster,” Henderson says. “I would find wellheads that were leaking or platforms that were leaking. Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.”

Under the Clean Water Act, when a company spills any amount of oil in the water, it must file a report with the National Response Center run by the Coast Guard. But when Henderson checked, he found many of those smaller spills were not making that list. So environmental groups formed the Gulf Monitoring Consortium to get a better count on spills. The partnership is a blend groups of complementary skills.

Gulf Restoration Network, for example, has personnel who can spot spills from the air and file complete reports. SouthWings, a group of volunteer pilots, helps get those spotters aloft. A third member, the West Virginia-based tech group SkyTruth, finds the spills on satellite photographs, then applies a formula used by spill experts to translate the size of the oil sheen into gallons of oil in the water.

SkyTruth spokesman David Manthos says its estimates typically are much higher than what’s been reported. “We found that the spill was usually 10 times larger than had been reported, and that was averaged out across a lot,” he says. “In some, the mismatch was much larger than that.”
The sheer size of the industry here means there’s seldom a quiet day for the consortium. In an average year, the NRC receives 10,000 reports of spills in the Gulf.

It’s a number that surprised even SouthWings Gulf Program Director Meredith Dowling, a veteran of monitoring efforts. “I can’t think of a single instance where our volunteers have flown offshore and not found spills,” Dowling says. “This was something that was really amazing to me when I first moved here … that is was a continuous, absolute failure of business-as-usual practices.”

The partners hope their work educates the public to the scope of the problem, and perhaps gets governments to end the voluntary compliance model and turn to aggressive enforcement by outside groups.

Bob Marshall reports on the environment for The Lens, a New Orleans non-profit newsroom.
Louisiana relies largely on the oil industry to self-report leaks and spills. The Gulf Monitoring Consortium was formed to improve that effort and said it often finds smaller leaks like this one, near Golden Meadow, that go unreported by the companies.

Gulf Restoration Network
The vast oil insfrastructure in Louisiana’s wetlands are vulnerable to damage during hurricanes. These facilities were leaking after Hurricane Isaac.
Gulf Restoration Network

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

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


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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

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.

Takepart.com: If This Oil Spill Isn’t Cleaned Up, Endangered Sea Turtles Will Get a Crude Awakening

By John Platt | Takepart.com April 9, 2014

A bale of critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles is swimming through the Gulf of Mexico to nesting sites in Texas, unaware of the danger it may find when it reaches its destination. The turtles are expected to land-and hopefully lay eggs-on Matagorda Island off the coast of Texas in the next two to three weeks. Thing is, Matagorda is currently a disaster site.

Crews there have been working around the clock to remove hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil that washed up on the island after a March 22 oil spill in Galveston Bay. That spill, caused when a barge carrying nearly a million gallons of oil struck another ship, released an estimated 170,000 gallons of crude into the bay and surrounding waters.

As of Tuesday, April 8, workmen on Matagorda Island had already removed 10 tons of oil-contaminated soil and debris, according to a report from Houston-based KHOU. In some places on the 24-mile beach, the oil was measured to be nearly a foot thick. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told the Victoria Advocate that more than 110 dead, oiled animals have already been found on and around the island, including 11 dolphins and 19 other sea turtle species.

Although Matagorda Island is not the primary nesting site for Kemp’s ridley turtles-that would be Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, where almost all of the turtles lay their eggs-it is still an important site for the species. Cleaning the island up is especially critical because Kemp’s ridley turtles nearly became extinct in the 1970s due to the animals being caught in shrimp trawling nets. Conservationists don’t know for sure the present-day total wild population of Kemp’s ridleys, but there are estimated 7,000 to 9,000 breeding females.

“Part of the long-term recovery program for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles involves promoting and trying to foster the establishment of other nesting sites for the species, particularly in Texas,” says David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy. “Over the years, as the nesting population has gradually begun to recover in Mexico, you’ve begun to see a number of turtles start to nest on other beaches. This gives the species a chance take root at other nesting beaches so they’re not vulnerable to having, literally, all of their eggs in one basket.”
Oil could pose a big threat to the sea turtles, either by entrapping the reptiles, poisoning them, or coating their soft underbodies and affecting their ability to swim and breed. Even if most of the oil is cleaned up in the next few weeks, additional threats could linger, Godfrey says. The sea turtles forage year-round on the coast, where their diet of shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans could carry toxins from the oil. “The toxicity bio-accumulates within species that are higher up the food chain, such as sea turtles,” he says.

Tar balls also tend to persist in floating mats of sargassum, which hatchling turtles use as safe habitats. “Researchers studying hatchlings and year-old turtles in that kind of habitat where there have been spills find lots of tar within their mouths,” Godfrey says. “They’re likely eating the stuff, maybe even far away from where the spill occurred. That’s true of all the little spills that are constantly happening all along the coast.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

KHOU: Texas News–Oil spill clean-up: Ten tons removed from Matagorda Island


by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News
Posted on April 8, 2014 at 12:11 AM
Updated Tuesday, Apr 8 at 11:26 AM

MATAGORDA ISLAND — Amid one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries in America, a place where birds almost always outnumber the few humans venturing to a remote island, workmen are now hauling away tons of beach sand contaminated by oil.

Men wearing protective suits scratch at the sand on Matagorda Island, using shovels to unearth the layer of oil lingering beneath a thin film of freshly deposited sand.

“Right,” says George Degener, a U.S. Coast Guard petty officer. “We want to remove as much contaminated debris as we can, but still leave as much clean sand in the area as we possibly can.”

More than two weeks have passed since a barge carrying oil collided with another vessel at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, triggering a spill that shut down traffic flowing into the Port of Houston and coated an unknown number of birds in oil during their migratory season. But the consequences of that accident are still evident along the Texas coastline, on distant shores like Matagorda Island.

Oil washed ashore along 24 miles of the island’s beaches, leaving black stains not only in the sand but also on debris like logs. Coast Guard spokesmen say all but about four miles have since been cleaned by workers who’ve removed more than 10 tons of contaminated soil and contaminated debris.

Most of the oil has dried out, in some places developing into patches looking like asphalt on the beach. But some of it still glistens in pools.

“As the oil settled and tide brought in layers of sand over it, it’s dried out,” Degener says. “And it’s become almost asphalt-like. As it lays in, the toxins will evaporate and the oil will actually harden. So that’s what they’re trying to remove right now.”

Unlike the heavily developed beaches in Galveston where the oil spill originated, Matagorda Island is almost entirely vacant land where birds are more common than people. As part of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, it is the winter home to the world’s largest flock of endangered whooping cranes.

This spill has washed ashore not only at a bad place, but also at a bad team. Ridley sea turtles are expected to begin crawling out of the Gulf of Mexico, crossing the beaches and laying their eggs in the grassy dunes.

“One of the challenges for wildlife in this situation is that we have a lot of migrating birds,” said Nancy Brown, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “And this includes whooping cranes. Whooping cranes are about to begin their migration. And migration is an incredibly dangerous time for a bird.”

So far, none of the oil has turned up on the bay side of the island around the whooping crane habitat. But wildlife experts are still worried that all the activity surrounding the cleanup will somehow affect the migration of the rare birds, which are accustomed to spending their winters on a virtually deserted island.

“There are more people on this island right now than there are whooping cranes in existence in the world,” Brown said. “So we’re very concerned about that. And we’re working as part of this effort to try minimize the impact to that highly endangered bird.”

The Coast Guard says Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the barge from which the oil spilled, is paying for the cleanup. Nobody knows how much it will cost, a company spokesman says, because nobody knows how long the cleanup will take.

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

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


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.

Christine Dell’Amore
National Geographic

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

New Orleans Advocate: Guest commentary: Why is lawsuit such a bad idea?

Associated Press photo by Dave Martin — Water washes around the tombs of those buried in a Leeville cemetery, where much of the ground has subsided to barely sea level.

by Oliver Houck
April 08, 2014

Louisiana legislators, still searching for a reason to quash the New Orleans levee board’s you-broke-it-you-fix it lawsuit against major oil companies, have turned up instead a canard. They have apparently learned that South Louisiana is sliding into the Gulf of Mexico (who knew?), and, therefore, the 10,000 oil and gas canals that have torn up the coastal zone could not have caused the zone’s sudden demise. After all, they reason, you can’t kill a dying man.

They have it wrong five different ways. First of all, you can kill a dying man, and I prosecuted folks who did just that for several years. We are all mortal, yet we go to great lengths to perpetuate our lives and those around us. I do not think we are ready to write off the 5 million acres of wetlands that used to buffer us from the Gulf of Mexico and have provided so much bounty.

More to the point, this subsidence has been known since at least the 1970s, when I first started studying the coast. The first thing one learns is that it has been going on for millennia, over the very time that the coast was created. The rate of growth outpaced the rate of subsidence, which is not hard to understand, but upon understanding it one is left to look for other reasons that America’s largest land-gainer turned into its largest land-loser, virtually overnight.

Which brings us to the third error. Two new phenomena came along at the start of the last century and changed everything: the big levee systems, and a stunning network of oil and gas pipelines and access canals. A map tracing them is simply a mass of lines. Both the levees and the canals have had the same effects, cutting off sediments, nutrients and fresh water on which this landscape survives. At this point in time, no one could not know this.

And now for the fourth error. Blame-it-all-on-subsidence conflates the time scales involved, millennia as compared to the past 80 years, and also leads to a conclusion, were it correct, that our legislators would hardly endorse. If we are sliding into the Gulf so inexorably and rapidly, then there is no room for coastal restoration. It’s time to throw in the towel, turn out the lights, sayonara. Fortunately, the pace is not so rapid; there remains time.

Not much time, though, because of the beast whose name our legislators have trouble mentioning as well: sea level rise. Every time it is measured, the rates go up. Right now relative rise at Grand Isle is projected at four feet, and this does not include sudden melting at both poles. At some point, nature may throw in the towel for us, but the best science today says we can save parts of the zone, at least, if we act strategically and concentrate our resources. Which means having the resources we need.
Which brings us to the fifth and final error, and it is colossal. Louisiana will require major funding to hold whatever line it can. It projects $50 billion for a first stab, and upwards of $100 billion to actually restore. State taxpayers will pay part of this, and the nation’s taxpayers part more, but one big player is missing: the one that created much of our predicament (most conservative estimates start at one-third of coastal loss), made large sums of money so doing and has so far avoided paying any part of the bill: The oil and gas industry.

That is all the levee board suit is asking: not that this industry be heaped in blame, not that it pay for all harm, just that it pay its share. If our legislators wanted to get real about this, instead of killing the messenger they would arrange a settlement in which all contribute commensurate with the damage they’ve caused. Please remind me: Why is that such a bad idea?

Oliver Houck is a professor of law at Tulane University.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com The Lens: Oil and gas industry looking to kill lawsuits from Jefferson, Plaquemines over wetlands


By Tyler Bridges, Staff writer April 8th, 2014

A high-profile lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East is not the only lawsuit under assault by the oil and gas industry and its allies in the state Legislature.

They are also trying to kill lawsuits filed by two parishes – Jefferson and Plaquemines – that say oil and gas companies dredged coastal wetlands to drill their wells and then violated state permits by failing to restore them to their previous condition.

“I think it’s being driven by Big Oil,” said John Carmouche, part of the Baton Rouge-based law firm that filed the parishes’ lawsuits. “Big Oil is the party that destroyed the coast and is responsible. They are trying to get immunity from the courts.”

“That’s nice rhetoric,” countered Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, whose members include the major oil companies. “But the parishes don’t have jurisdiction to enforce state permits. If they have a beef against the state, they should go to the state.”
The effort to kill those two lawsuits gets its first hearing next week before the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee. The matter was initially set for Tuesday, but was moved back so it could be the only item on the agenda, giving the public more time for comments.

The bill, by state Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, would derail the parishes’ lawsuits by requiring them first to file their allegations with the state Department of Natural Resources to determine whether the oil and gas companies violated the terms of their permits. The agency would have to find violations and then authorize any lawsuit.

The bill also would require that any money won through a lawsuit be deposited in the state Coastal Resources Trust Fund – meaning that Carmouche and the other trial attorneys would get nothing – and give state officials the authority to decide how to spend that money on coastal restoration.

“The bill is about setting up what I would consider is good policy for compliance and procedure,” said Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. “This will set up a procedure for a parish to follow if they think something is out of compliance, rather than filing a lawsuit.”

Until now, the focus at the Capitol has been on state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, and his efforts to kill the lawsuit filed by the flood protection authority. One Adley bill that would do so has already won Senate approval, while another has won approval by a Senate committee.

Gladstone Jones, the lead attorney for the flood protection authority’s lawsuit, said his side opposes the Robideaux bill.

“It’s another bill to bring the whole thing down and get it out of the court system,” Jones said.
But two important differences between them give the parish lawsuits a greater chance of surviving the legislative session intact.

To begin with, opponents of the Robideaux bill – such as Jefferson Parish President John Young – said that it would trample on the rights of local government.

“They’re trying to micromanage and tell parish governments what they can and can’t do,” Young said. “That’s just like the federal government trying to tell the state Legislature what to do.”
Young expects that this argument will find some favor since many state legislators previously served as local officials.

Secondly, Carmouche notes that the attorneys representing the parishes are not working on a contingency-fee basis – meaning they would not get set percentages of any monetary award and would receive payment beyond the damages given to the parish.

“The fees would be decided by the court, or the oil companies if the case is settled,” he said.
This is an important distinction. Gov. Bobby Jindal and Adley have sharply criticized the contingency fee that Jones and the trial attorneys representing the flood protection authority would receive – attacks that have resonated with state lawmakers.

Jones and his colleagues would earn from 22.5 percent to 32.5 percent of the money won by the flood authority, depending on the amount of the judgment or settlement, according to the contract with the board.

In fact, Jindal has muted his criticisms of the parishes’ lawsuits while removing two members of the flood authority who backed its lawsuit, including John Barry, its prime champion.

Robideaux, a third-term lawmaker who is an accountant, said he filed the bill after a Lafayette company complained to him that it was among the dozens of companies targeted by the parishes’ lawsuit because it had brought equipment on barges.

“I think that violates the spirit of the legal system,” Robideaux said. “You shouldn’t be able to throw something against the wall and see what sticks. That is patently unfair.”

Carmouche, of course, believes that the courts offer the correct remedy.

“The oil and gas companies have to re-vegetate, detoxify and restore the wetlands to their natural state,” he said. “If they dug canals and then did not close the canals, we must hold them accountable.”
About 20 parishes claim coastland in Louisiana. Besides Plaquemines and Jefferson, two other parishes are considering joining the lawsuit, Cameron and St. Bernard.

Besides Carmouche, three other law firms are representing the parishes. They are: Metairie-based Connick & Connick; Metairie-based Burglass Tankersley; Lake Charles-based Mudd & Bruchhaus; and Belle Chasse-based Cossich Sumich Parsiola & Taylor.

The Robideaux bill would retroactively seek to kill the lawsuits, something that the trial attorneys say would not pass a legal challenge. The Adley bills do the same.

While getting less attention, the Robideaux bill has already led to at least one heated exchange. Environmental groups on Friday demonstrated outside the Poydras Street law firm of Liskow & Lewis, which represents BP and other oil companies. One of Liskow’s attorneys is state Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, who will lead Tuesday’s House Committee meeting.

The environmental groups – Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Sierra Club, the Green Army and the Gulf Restoration Network – called on Abramson to recuse himself from the bill. Abramson said he saw no conflict and hadn’t decided how he would vote.

The Lens’ donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
More from this author
Tyler Bridges covers Louisiana politics and public policy for The Lens. He returned to New Orleans in 2012 after spending the previous year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where he studied digital journalism. Prior to that, he spent 13 years as a reporter for the Miami Herald, where he was twice a member of Pulitzer Prize-winning teams while covering state government, the city of Miami and national politics. He also was a foreign correspondent based in South America. Before the Herald, he covered politics for seven years at The Times-Picayune. He is the author of The Rise of David Duke (1994) and Bad Bet on the Bayou: The Rise of Gambling in Louisiana and the Fall of Governor Edwin Edwards (2001). He can be reached at (504) 810-6222.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New Orleans Advocate: Stephanie Grace: Ex-govs agree on worth of lawsuit



Photo by Harold Baquet, Loyola University Office of Public Affairs — From left, moderator Lee Zurik with former Govs. Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards at the Institute of Politics Ed Renwick Lecture at Loyola University in New Orleans.

April 01, 2014

Proponents of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies say that, in private, they’re not only getting a fair hearing from many politicians but sense some support for their effort to force the powerful industry to help remediate coastal damage. Ask them to name names, though, and they turn mum.

Opponents, of course, are showing no such reluctance. Gov. Bobby Jindal adamantly opposes the suit, and sympathetic legislators, led by oil and gas man and state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, are seeking to kill before it ever gets to court. Jindal removed the effort’s prime architect, author John Barry, from the levee board and is maneuvering to stack it with allies, even as the Legislature is poised to consider codifying more gubernatorial control. The Louisiana Oil & Gas Association sued, arguing Attorney General Buddy Caldwell had no right to OK the suit in the first place, but a judge ruled in Caldwell’s favor. Meanwhile, LOGA President Don Briggs has been vociferously arguing that the suit would have a chilling effect on companies that do business in the state, although in a deposition, he couldn’t come up with a single example.

Such is the atmosphere surrounding the suit and the widely perceived risk in bucking one of the state’s biggest employers and most potent political forces.

That’s what made last week’s unmitigated endorsement of the lawsuit by three former Louisiana governors remarkable.

It’s not that Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards said anything particularly outlandish when they appeared at a Loyola University Institute of Politics forum. Instead, they simply acknowledged that the industry bears responsibility for environmental damage its operations caused and argued that going to court is not a form of intimidation but, rather, a perfectly acceptable way to determine liability.

“All you gotta do is fly over the coastline of Louisiana,” Roemer said. “You don’t need a big speech, you don’t need a lecture series, you don’t need to read a book. Just hitch a ride on a plane, fly over our coastline and see that we are literally disappearing,” particularly along the channels dug by oil and gas interests.

“They do what is best for capitalism, that is to maximize their profits. And the job of the regulators and the citizens is to make sure that damage done is repaired. And that should figure into the cost of profit, and it’s not done now, and Louisiana is particularly egregious in this matter,” he said. “In my opinion, this ought to be a for-profit state, but those who abuse the privilege and don’t pay for damaging the land and water and air which we breathe ought to pay the cost to fix it.”

Next up was Edwards, who noted that “the damage is there, they have made billions of dollars, they have paid millions of dollars in taxes.”

“At the very least, we ought to go to court and find out who is responsible and to what extent, and if it’s determined that they are, then they should be required to pay,” he said.

Then came Blanco, who reminded the crowd that she’d overseen the creation of the independent levee boards in the first place and is “rather concerned that it’s going to be repoliticized.”

“Well, I think that certainly both governors are correct. We’ve all known that the channels that were dug and not restored have contributed mightily to our land loss,” she said. “I would predict that these major companies will come to the table if the lawsuit isn’t destroyed in the political process by the Legislature, but I think that they’ll come to the table and we’ll have a negotiated settlement. I think that they all know that it’s long overdue and that they owe something back to the state of LouisianaŠIt may not go all the way through the court system, but it will bring everybody to the table and force a more honest discussion than we’ve ever seen before.”

Those don’t sound like fringe sentiments, and they don’t come from fringe players.

Roemer, a former Democrat, became a Republican while in office and embarked on a banking career afterward. He can hardly be labeled anti-business, even if he has embraced a crusade in recent years against the poisonous influence of special interest money in politics.

As governor, Blanco was pretty mainstream on oil and gas issues, although she did on a few occasions push back against the industry, with little blowback.

And Edwards may be a lifelong populist, but he coexisted just fine with the industry, as have most Louisiana politicians.

The other thing the three have in common, of course, is that they’re untouchable. Roemer and Blanco are safely retired from politics, and while Edwards is going for an unlikely comeback, he doesn’t seem worried about ticking off any powerful interests.

No, this was just a common-sense take from three politicians who know the lay of the land but have nothing to fear.

Makes you wonder what some of today’s politicians might say out loud, if they felt they could.
Stephanie Grace can be contacted at sgrace@theadvocate.com. Read her blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/gracenotes.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

KBTX: Texas A&M-Galveston Scientists Assisting In Oil-Spill Aftermath, Texas A&M Vet Also Involved


Bryan, College Station, Texas

Posted: Tue 2:54 PM, Apr 01, 2014
By: Texas A&M University

GALVESTON, April 1, 2014 – Texas A&M University at Galveston scientists, along with colleagues from the main Texas A&M campus in College Station, have assisted in coping with the oil spill that temporarily shut down the Houston Ship Channel and affected a large additional area-and their work in some instances will go on indefinitely.

TAMUG researchers are studying the winds and currents to determine the path for the oil slick as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico. Other researchers are studying the damage that occurred to sea life and the ecosystem of Galveston Bay, its tributaries and wetlands.
Dr. Antonietta Quigg, a marine biologist and expert on the Galveston Bay ecosystem, is examining the water and sediment samples her team collected.

“It is too early to determine the results, it will take weeks to months,” she noted. “Once the findings are available, we will compare them to baseline data as we have been studying this bay for many years and we have the background data to determine the effects of this spill.”

Dr. Bernd Würsig, a marine biologist and one of the world’s foremost authorities on marine mammals, was not surprised to see that the area’s dolphins-seen almost daily in the waters off the university’s waterfront-left the oil zone for about four days.

“They are very smart and know to stay out of an oil slick; however this kind of oil forms globs that dolphins do not often see and that can pose a danger to them,” said Würsig.
Nevertheless, during one of his trips he noticed a pod socializing and feeding in the area.

“While it may be good that they are returning to the bay and commencing with regular activities, it could be dangerous for some if they ingest oil-tainted food or otherwise become compromised due to the disruption to the bay ecosystem,” Würsig said.

Dr. Tom Litton, a specialist on currents and waves, is working with data based on NASA’s satellite imagery.

“Indications are that the main slick should be moving down the coast and may affect fragile wildlife sanctuaries,” he said.

A team from the state has moved into those same areas to rescue wildlife and clean any oil globs from the beaches.

All agreed that it will take months to determine the true effects of this spill. Meanwhile, Texas A&M University at Galveston’s scientists are doing their part to help authorities get the bay and the wildlife back to normal.

Rear Admiral Robert Smith, CEO of Texas A&M at Galveston and a vice president of the university, said the Texas A&M branch campus was not directly affected by the oil spill.

He noted that, in addition to those faculty members who are actively engaged in projects related to the oil spill, several other Texas A&M faculty members were contacted by various media for expert comment and by the Coast Guard for the long-range effects and related matters.

A member of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Jill Heatley, was dispatched to the Galveston area to treat oil-soaked animals as part of the emergency response team of the Wildlife Center of Texas.

The spill near the Houston Ship Channel, which has dumped as much as 168,000 gallons of oil, has affected numerous birds, and Wildlife Center officials are expecting more to be brought in needing immediate care.

The situation is especially tricky because thousands of birds are currently passing through the area of the Texas coast as part of their annual northern migration pattern. Many of the birds eventually land in the area’s thousands of acres of marshes, and cleanup crews are focused on preventing the marshlands from becoming soaked with oil.

Heatley says removing oil from birds can be a tedious process.

“First of all, we often have to go out and capture the bird and bring it back to shore because if the bird is soaked, it is really struggling,” she explained.

“We examine the bird to see if it is injured in any way, and if not, then we begin the cleaning process. It involves wiping the oil off the bird, then soaking it in a mixture of mild detergents and water.

“Many times, these steps have to be repeated over and over if there is a lot of oil present,” she added. “That’s why it can take a while for each bird to get fully cleaned. It can be a time-consuming process but it is absolutely necessary.”
Heatley said she and other veterinarians from across Texas could be at their posts for several days, perhaps longer. “We stay as long as we’re needed,” she noted.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Press Enterprise: Audio sheds light on Texas oil spill


Apr. 1, 2014 8:52 PM ET

Houston Chronicle

TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) – The captains of the two vessels that collided in the Houston Ship Channel were aware they were perilously close to one another but still failed to avert a spill that dumped 168,000 gallons of oil into the water, according to a U.S. Coast Guard audio recording.

The recording, obtained by the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1ommtpw ) in a Freedom of Information Act request, indicates the captains spoke in a frantic radio exchange beginning about five minutes before the March 22 collision. But the exchange apparently came too late for the captains to avoid making contact in the crowded waterway, trafficked daily by massive, oceangoing container ships.

“If you keep on going, I’m going to get you,” the captain of the bulk carrier, the larger of the two vessels, says in the recording, released Monday.

“Captain, I can cut her back. I can go dead slow, but that still ain’t going to stop it because I’m coming up on half a mile of you,” he added.

The captain of the smaller vessel, which was towing two barges carrying nearly a million gallons of marine oil, responded to the warning by attempting to back out of the channel at full speed.

With less than a mile of visibility because of heavy fog, and as the vessel towing the oil-laden barges backed up, the smaller ship’s captain radioed the approaching carrier, saying, “I’m looking at you now and it don’t look good.”

Moments later, one of the barges was sideswiped by the larger vessel, resulting in a puncture that sent a stream of dense, sticky oil into Galveston Bay. It then spread into the Gulf of Mexico and southward along the Texas coast.

The collision near Texas City closed one of the nation’s busiest seaports for several days, stranding some 100 vessels.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Andy Kendrick said that cleanup continued Tuesday and that animals affected by the oil are being treated in rehabilitation centers.
As many as 21 dolphins, four sea turtles and 168 birds have died as a result of the oil spill, Kendrick said.

About 220 miles southeast of the site of the collision, Padre Island National Seashore education coordinator Buzz Botts said that 3 percent of the sand on the northern part of Padre Island was contaminated and hundreds of seabirds are covered with at least small amounts of oil.

“A lot of the effects to wildlife at this point are hard to gauge,” Botts said.

Investigators are still trying to identify the cause of the accident, but Texas law considers the company carrying the oil, Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine Corp., a responsible party, Greg Pollock, deputy director for the Texas General Land Office’s oil spill response division, told The Associated Press.

The other ship was a Liberian-flagged vessel owned by a Greek shipping company, the Chronicle reported.

A report from the U.S. Office of Inspector General said in May 2013 that the Coast Guard didn’t have adequate processes to investigate marine accidents or take corrective actions. A lack of dedicated resources, the report said, had resulted in a backlog of 6,000 investigations.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Gulf Seafood Institute: Galveston Re-opens to Vessel Traffic, Oil Still Being Cleaned Up

by News Editor / Newsroom Ink March 26, 2014

A Coast Guard response boat patrols the Kirby Barge 27706 during cleanup efforts near the Texas City Dike. The oil spill occurred after a collision between a bulk carrier and the barge. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

Fishing operations have been greatly reduced in Galveston Bay over the past few days due to channel restrictions as works continues to contain a spill that occurred when a barge carrying almost 1 million gallons of heavy oil collided with a ship near Houston.

Galveston Bay, and the Houston ship channel, is home to the largest U.S. petrochemical port in to the Gulf of Mexico.

“This is just a stupid mistake that could have been avoided,” said Galveston fisherman Buddy Guindon, owner of Katie’s Seafood House, which sells fresh Gulf seafood. “We have oil everywhere; on the docks, the boats, it’s just a big mess.” Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“This is just a stupid mistake that could have been avoided,” said Galveston fisherman Buddy Guindon, owner of Katie’s Seafood House, which sells fresh Gulf seafood. “We have oil everywhere; on the docks, the boats, it’s just a big mess.”

The leaking barge was carrying approximately 168,000 gallons of bunker oil — a tarry, heavy fuel used in Marine vessels. It has spilled an unknown amount into the Houston Shipping Channel since the collision last Saturday.

“The remaining oil has been transferred off of the damaged barge and it has been removed from the channel,” said Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for the Unified Command Joint Information Center, and a Gulf Seafood Institute board member. “More than 70 vessels are on the water assisting in the clean up, and approximately 70,000 feet of boom has been deployed in sensitive areas.”

During the clean up efforts there have been no use of dispersants like the controversial corexit used during the Deepwater Horizon cleanup efforts in the Gulf.

“The channel has been almost completely shut down until today,” explained Guindon, who bought his last fresh shrimp on Saturday. “ Nobody has been able to move within the port. Shrimpers and other fisherman have been forced to sit idle.”


“The remaining oil has been transferred off of the damaged barge and it has been removed from the channel,” said Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for the Unified Command Joint Information Center, and a Gulf Seafood Institute board member. Photo: BFM

The Houston ship channel reopened to limited daytime traffic on a priority basis as of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, with limited access to the spill area from Channel Buoy 40 to Channel Buoy 3.

The spill forced Guindon to divert one of his fishing boats, “We had to send one of our boats to Freeport. It was scheduled to unload more than 26,000 pounds of snapper and grouper here in Galveston, but that just didn’t happen,” he said.

The spill has also affected the bay oyster harvest.

In a letter to its customers, Sysco Louisiana Seafood’s Johnny Elgin, director of quality assurance, said the company has not received any affected lots related to the closure. In order to minimize disruption, the company has made arrangements to secure product from alternative approved sources.

According to Beauerman, as of late Tuesday all vessel traffic and channels and Ports have been reopened, although mariners are urged to proceed with caution. Private vessel cleaning stations will also be made available. “Boat owners can call 832-244-1870 to schedule decontamination,” he said.

After the oil is removed he is not sure how long it will take for him to get back into business. “I haven’t even taken an extensive look at how much oil there is around our dock, or how hard it will be to clean up,” he said. “I just know that it is a mess, and I am not looking forward to the task ahead.”

Special thanks to Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

Fox News: Coast Guard aims to reopen Houston ship channel after oil spill

Coast Guard aims to reopen Houston ship channel after oil spill
Published March 24, 2014
Associated Press


March 23, 2014: Vessels work with skimmers and oil containment booms in Galveston Harbor. Dozens of ships are in evolved in clean-up efforts to remove up to 168,000 gallons of oil that make have spilled into Galveston Bay after a ship and barge collided near the Texas City dike on Saturday afternoon. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)

TEXAS CITY, Texas – The Coast Guard aimed to reopen one of the nation’s busiest seaports Monday, two days after a collision between a barge and a ship caused nearly 170,000 gallons of tar-like oil to spill into the waters south of Houston.

The closure of the Houston Ship Channel has forced more than 80 ships to wait to enter or leave the bay. Coast Guard Warrant Officer Kimberly Smith said the agency’s goal was to reopen the channel at some point Monday, but she did not know the precise timing.

Authorities are still trying to determine how much oil spilled Saturday, when a barge carrying about 900,000 gallons collided with a ship. Initial estimates were that as much as a fifth of the barge’s cargo spilled.

By Sunday, oil had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Twenty-four vessels were working to skim the spilled fuel and deploy containment booms.

Environmental groups said the spill occurred at an especially sensitive time and place. The channel in Texas City, about 45 miles southeast of Houston, has shorebird habitat on both sides, and tens of thousands of wintering birds are still in the area.

“The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” said Richard Gibbons, conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society.

Just to the east is the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, which attracts 50,000 to 70,000 birds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat.

Fewer than 10 oiled birds had been found and sent to a wildlife rehabilitation center as of Sunday afternoon, the Coast Guard said. The Texas General Land Office sent a bird-rehabilitation trailer to the area.

Draining the remaining oil from the barge and transferring it to other vessels eliminated the risk of additional spillage, said Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the Coast Guard at Houston-Galveston.

Nearly 400 people joined a fleet of oil-retrieving skimmers and other vessels in deploying some 60,000 feet of containment booms around environmentally sensitive areas.

Some black, tar-like globs, along with a dark line of a sticky, oily substance, were seen along the shoreline of the Texas City dike, a 5-mile jetty that juts into Galveston Bay across from a tip of Galveston Island.

Jim Guidry, executive vice president of Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine Corp., which owned the barge, said the company — the nation’s largest operator of inland barges — was taking responsibility for the cleanup costs.

“We’re very concerned. We’re focused on cleaning up,” he said.

The damaged barge has been moved to a shipyard, according Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office.

The spill also suspended state-operated ferry service between Galveston and Port Bolivar, affecting thousands of travelers.

Two cruise ships were allowed to travel through the spill area “to minimize inconvenience” to thousands of passengers and limit the spill’s economic effects, the Coast Guard said.

The channel, part of the Port of Houston, typically handles as many as 80 vessels daily.

If the bottleneck of vessels eases in a day or so, fuel prices are unlikely to change much. But a more prolonged closure could raise prices briefly, said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Jim Ritterbusch and Associates in Chicago.

The contents of the barge’s torn tank, equal to about 4,000 barrels, were lost or displaced into other vacant areas of the barge. Penoyer said currents, tides and wind were scattering the spill.

“Containment was never a possibility in this case,” he said.

The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating.

“It will take quite a bit of time, given the complexity of the vessels and a very busy waterway,” Penoyer said.

Also closed was the Texas City dike, a popular fishing spot that extends into the Gulf for a few miles.

Lee Rilat, owner of Lee’s Bait and Tackle, the last store before the access road to the dike, said if it weren’t for the spill, his business would be hopping. Instead, the access road was blocked by a police car on a breezy, overcast Sunday.

“This would be the first spring deal, the first real weekend for fishing,” he said.

The spill site is 700 yards offshore from the Texas City dike. A crane and several small boats could be seen at the cleanup site, and dozens of trucks were at a staging area along the beach.

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


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



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


March 11, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

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


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


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

The Advocate: Committee being formed to promote Gulf drilling


Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Advocate staff report

A new offshore committee is being formed by the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association to promote energy production and responsible development of energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

The initiative will be coordinated by consultant Lori LeBlanc, of Lori LeBlanc LLC in Thibodaux, association Chairman Jim Hutchison said. LeBlanc served as deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources from 2008 to 2010.
She became executive director of the Gulf Economic Survival Team, which was formed in June 2010 to push for a full return to energy production in the Gulf after a drilling moratorium resulted from the BP disaster.

“The Gulf is America’s energy workhorse, and its economic impacts are astounding,” Hutchison said. “Thirty percent of our nation’s domestic oil is produced in the Gulf of Mexico and energy activity in the Gulf contributes $5 (billion) to $8 billion per year to the U.S. Treasury.” The economic impact in Louisiana is $44.3 billion, he said. “To continue this great success story, it’s imperative that we increase our outreach efforts with federal leaders and have a seat at the table when key policy decisions are being made,” Hutchison said.

“Lori LeBlanc has had great success working with federal leaders on regulatory issues and promoting energy production in the Gulf as part of the Gulf Economic Survival Team, and we are very pleased to have her on board to lead this exciting effort for our group,” association President Chris John said.

The offshore committee will focus on policy, partnership, public input and positive communication in support of oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. Activities will include developing and maintaining relationships with federal policymakers and members of Congress. monitoring and commenting on federal rules that affect Gulf development, collaborating with members, other trade associations and other Gulf Coast states on energy policy initiatives and communicating the significance of Gulf energy production to the nation’s economy and energy supply.

Targeted policy issues may include the Rigs to Reef program, national ocean policy, effects of new mitigation requirements, outer-continental-shelf lease sales, revenue sharing, and industry safety and technology. The committee also will maintain LMOGA’s involvement in Louisiana’s coastal restoration and protection efforts.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Passing the baton in oil spill research on the Gulf Coast; Students find 1250 lb Tar mat found on Pensacola Beach (with images)

FDEP Monitoring Report_02.27.14_FLES2-005_SOM

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute picked a perfect day to go to Pensacola Beach. Our DEP boys found a 1250 lb Tarmat. Had to remove it by hand, since bp clean up team, OSRO, wasn’t allowed into waist high water to mitigate. Captain Walker, former FOSC is supposed to be there tomorrow AM. BP is working on getting long arm excavator to remove additional oil.

Oh the irony! FL DEP is discontinuing these efforts June 30, 2014 due to lack of $ had these men not been out doing their observations/ we would have missed this incident. Also terrible management that CG and OSRO teams cannot go in water to remove. This is why I have been pushing for updates to OPA and improving response due to real life scenarios.

Hope this is the moment people will remember and take action in helping our state with continued response issues.

Susan Forsyth

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Environmental News Network

From: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Media Relations Office
Published February 26, 2014 09:30 AM

As part of on-going research nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will team up with a group of high school students in Florida to collect remnants of oil from Gulf Coast beaches this week. Marine chemist Chris Reddy studies how the many compounds that compose petroleum hydrocarbon, or oil, behave and change over time after an oil spill. He and his researchers have collected and analyzed about 1,000 oil samples from the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“With an iconic and wide-ranging spill like Deepwater Horizon, the need to perform such long-term studies is a top priority for me,” said Reddy. He has already catalogued many of these samples in an on-line database to make the data available to the public and scientific community.

How the compounds react and weather in the environment also can help inform the chemical industry, governments, and cleanup efforts when future oil spills occur.

“Spilled oil undergoes a series of changes due to Mother Nature called ‘weathering.’ Weathering differs from one site to another based on several factors including the type of oil spilled and the local climate. Therefore, each location is a living laboratory that allows us to interrogate how Nature responds to these uninvited hydrocarbons.”

On Feb. 28, the group of students will work alongside Reddy’s team and colleagues from the Florida State University in one such living laboratory at a Pensacola, Fla. beach. This field expedition is part of a new education initiative called the Gulf Oil Observers (GOO), which trains volunteers to be effective citizen scientists. GOO mentors are educators and scientists associated with the Deep-C Consortium research project – a long-term study investigating the environmental consequences of oil released in the deep Gulf on living marine resources and ecosystem health.

The students from West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in Pensacola will collect samples of small, round clumps of sand mixed with crude oil. These oiled sand patties can be easily overlooked on the beach. No bigger than a silver dollar, they resemble small dark rocks, driftwood, and other beach debris.

“But if you know what to look for, they’re not difficult to identify,” said Reddy. That’s why he and WHOI researcher Catherine Carmichael will train 23 high school students, the first group of GOO volunteers, on-site in Pensacola, Fla. to help conduct this research.

Read more at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Deepwater Horizon sand samples image via WHOI.

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


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

Thinkprogress.org: Oil Spill Shuts Down 65 Miles Of The Mississippi River



An oil spill has shut down 65 miles of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, as authorities work to clean up the oil.

The spill occurred on Saturday when a barge carrying oil crashed into a tugboat between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Authorities closed the stretch of river on Sunday and still can’t say exactly how much oil was spilled, though a light sheen of oil is being reported. No injuries were reported from the crash.

In St. Charles Parish, public drinking water intakes along the Mississippi were closed as a precaution, but a news release Sunday assured the public that the water supply “remains safe” in the parish. As of Sunday night, the closure was stalling 16 vessels waiting to go downriver and 10 waiting to go upriver.

This isn’t the first time the Mississippi River has experienced an oil spill due to a barge crash. Last year, a barge carrying 80,000 gallons of oil crashed into a rail bridge, spilling oil and causing a sheen as far as three miles from the crash site. That spill closed the Mississippi River for eight miles in each direction. In February 2012, an oil barge crashed into a construction bridge, spilling less than 10,000 gallons of oil into the river. In 2008, according to the AP, a major spill occurred on the Mississippi, when a barge broke in half after a collision and spilled 283,000 gallons of oil into the river, closing it for six days.

In this aerial photo, river traffic is halted along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Vacherie, La., due to a barge leaking oil in St. James Parish, La., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014.


The Coast Guard reopened the stretch of river affected by the spill on Monday, and officials said about 31,500 gallons of light crude oil spilled into the river. The Coast Guard also said that as of now, there have been no reports of wildlife affected by the spill. This post has been changed to reflect new information on the size of the spill.


Special thanks to Richard Charter

Times-Picayune: BP Deepwater Horizon spill oil causes heart damage that can kill tuna, new study finds

video at:



A school of bluefin tuna. A new study by scientists with Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration link oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill to heart damage in tuna and other marine species. (Richard Herrmann/Galatee Films)

By Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

on February 13, 2014 at 3:03 PM, updated February 13, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Crude oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill contains a chemical that interferes with fish heart cells, slowing heart rates, reducing the ability of the heart to contract and causing irregular heartbeats that can lead to heart attacks or death, according to new research released Thursday by researchers at Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The scientific paper, which will be published in the Feb. 14 edition of the journal Science, was discussed by several of the researchers at a news conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.
The research was conducted as part of the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment process required by the Oil Pollution Act in the aftermath of the spill. Its findings will help federal and state officials, working with BP, to determine the extent of damages to natural resources from the spill and how those damages should be mitigated.
Researchers took samples of crude oil from the spill and tested the effects of tiny amounts mixed with water on living heart muscle cells of bluefin and yellow fin tuna.

The tests revealed that very low concentrations disrupted potassium ion channels in heart membranes that control the flow of molecules into and out of the heart cells that in turn regulate the electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract and relax.

The studies found that certain three-ring versions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in the oil – which are also found in coal tar, creosote, air pollution and stormwater runoff from land – were what blocked the potassium ion channels, which increased the time it took for the heart to restart on every beat.

Tuna were chosen for the study in part because the BP spill occurred in an area of the Gulf of Mexico where Atlantic Bluefin tuna were spawning at the time of the accident.

The effects are believed to be more of a problem for fish embryos and early developing fish, because the heartbeat changes could also affect the development of other organs, including the lungs and liver, said Nathaniel Scholz, head of the Ecotoxicology Program at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

Adult fish have developed gill and liver systems that can detoxify the PAHs, he said.
He said similar secondary effects were found in other fish species in Alaskan waters in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, including cardiac edema and deformed spines.

The research also found that weathered oil contained more of the three-ring PAH compounds, and thus was more toxic to fish, said Barbara Block, a marine biologist at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Block’s research has included tracking individual tuna moving into and out of the Gulf of Mexico during spawning seasons. One of those tuna moved back and forth in a part of the Gulf adjacent to the site of BP’s Macondo well a year before the accident.

The study used four different samples of oil from the BP spill: oil taken directly from the riser pipe of the well, riser oil that was artificially weathered by heating, and samples collected from oil slicks by Coast Guard cutter Juniper on July 19 and July 29, 2010, about three months after the Deepwater Horizon accident.

Soon after the news conference, BP issued a statement raising questions about the study and the use of its conclusions in the damage assessment process.

“The paper provides no evidence to suggest a population-level impact on tuna or other fish species in the Gulf of Mexico,” the statement said. “Bathing isolated heart cells with oil concentrations is simply not comparable to the real-world conditions and exposures that existed in the Gulf for whole fish.

“The bodies of live tuna have numerous defensive mechanisms that isolated heart cells do not,” the statement said. “Equally important, the oil concentrations used in these lab experiments were rarely seen in the Gulf during or after the Deepwater Horizon accident.”

The statement said the paper also doesn’t include a realistic assessment of the exposure of fish to oil and its PAH constituents, “and it is scientifically inappropriate to take data from in vitro laboratory tests on isolated tuna heart cells and use it to make unsupported predictions about effects on a variety of live marine species or humans in the Gulf – effects that no one has observed or measured in the field.”

During the news conference, Scholz said other studies under way as partof the damage assessment are aimed at the exposure question.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Savitz, a spokeswoman for the Oceana environmental group, said it was ironic the study finding Gulf fish “suffering from broken hearts” came on the eve of Valentine’s Day, but said the results are not surprisng.

“Fish larvae are generally more sensitive to the toxic effects of oil and other chemicals than adults,” Savitz said in a statement. “Even in a healthy ocean, only a small fraction of larval fish have what it takes to make it to adulthood. So after a spill, toxic chemicals in the oil could wipe out some of the few fish that might have otherwise succeeded, which could be a major setback to a species in need of recovery like bluefin tuna.”

She said the study backs up her group’s concerns that offshore drilling remains unsafe.

“This and other studies on the impacts of the spill, underline the importance of breaking our oil addiction and not expanding offshore drilling into the Atlantic or the Arctic,” Savitz said.

The research paper concludes that the effects seen in tuna are likely to occur in other vertebrates found in the Gulf of Mexico, including shrimp and other fish species, marine mammals and turtles.

The paper also warns that the scientists’ findings may also indicate a threat to human health resulting from exposure to PAHs in air pollution, including from car exhausts.

“The protein ion channels we observe in the tuna heart cells are similar to what we would find in any vertebrate heart and provide evidence as to how petroleum products may be negatively impacting cardiac function in a wide variety of animals,” Block said in a news release announcing the paper. “This raises the lpossibility that exposure to environmental PAHs in many animals – including humans – could lead to cardiac arrhythmias and bradycardia, or slowing of the heart.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

Miami Herald > Business > Business Breaking News
Posted on Thursday, 02.13.14

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


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


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


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.
Inside EPA Public Content, Vol. 28, No. 2

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Thinkprogress.com: ‘Out-Of-Control’ Rig In The Gulf Gushing Methane Freely Into The Atmosphere & ABC News: Gas Continues to Escape From Rig off La. Coast

‘Out-Of-Control’ Rig In The Gulf Gushing Methane Freely Into The Atmosphere



An “out-of-control” well that began blowing gas into the air on Thursday is still not under control as of Friday morning, according to a report from the Associated Press.

42-non essential workers from Rowan Companies PLC’s offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico, named “Louisiana,” were evacuated, while 37 stayed on the rig to try and stop the flow of gas. Rig operator EnVen Energy Ventures said that while workers attempt to kill the well, gas was being “vented” off of the rig. Although gas, water and sand are still flowing from the well, EnVen said no pollution has occurred in the Gulf.

“All personnel currently aboard the rig are safe and non-essential personnel have been evacuated, all well control equipment is functioning as designed (and) there has been no environmental impact,” Rowan Companies spokesperson Deanna Castillo told the AP.

Unlike a spill, an out-of-control well blowing gas does not pollute in a traditional, visible sense. Instead, it releases methane – the potent, second-most prevalent greenhouse gas – into the air, contributing to climate change. Pure natural gas is mostly methane, a fuel that burns cleaner than coal or oil. However, when methane is released directly into the air, ittraps heat in the atmosphere.

From an air quality perspective, it is better to burn flowing gas through a flare system, rather than venting it directly into the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was not clear early Friday whether the companies would attempt to flare off the gas.

Because of a fire risk, the Louisiana platform as well as an adjacent platform that was producing oil and gas was shut down as a precaution, according to the The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. To prevent a fire, all engines on the platform and rig were turned off, and workers are pumping seawater into and over the flow stream.



ABC News: Gas Continues to Escape From Rig off La. Coast
NEW ORLEANS January 31, 2014 (AP)
By BILL FULLER Associated Press

Crews worked Friday to stop natural gas from escaping an underwater well where a rig was drilling off the Louisiana coast. The Coast Guard said workers had cut the flow in half since losing control of the well a day earlier.

No injuries or pollution have been reported. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said most crew members had been evacuated from the rig, which was drilling in 262 feet of water about 108 miles southwest of Lafayette.

The rig operator is EnVen Energy Ventures of Metairie, La. Company spokesman David Blackmon said the flow from the well has “significantly diminished” and consists almost entirely of water and sand, with “just a trace” of natural gas. No sheen has been spotted in the area, Blackmon added.

Work is underway to secure the well, said Deanna Castillo, a spokeswoman for rig owner Rowan Companies.

“All personnel currently aboard the rig are safe and non-essential personnel have been evacuated, all well control equipment is functioning as designed (and) there has been no environmental impact,” she said Thursday.

Blackmon said workers planned to pump mud and water to kill the well.

“They’re just getting everything lined up,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a while to stage these kinds of operations.”

A spokeswoman for the environmental department, Eileen Angelico, said water temperatures in the Gulf were too cold Friday for the agency to send its own officials out to inspect the scene. The agency spokeswoman also said a platform that was producing oil and gas near the EnVen rig was shut down as a precaution.

Wild gas wells tend to be less of an environmental threat than blowouts from oil wells.

A natural gas blowout off Louisiana’s coast in July 2013 ended one day later. Authorities believed the well had been clogged by sand and sediment. The rig, operated by Hercules Offshore Inc., blew out and later caught fire. Part of the rig collapsed before the well apparently plugged itself.

The BP PLC blowout in April 2010 off the southeast Louisiana coast killed 11 workers and spewed a mixture of natural gas and oil from a busted well nearly a mile under the Gulf’s surface. The worst environmental damage appeared to be caused by the hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil that escaped and fouled marshes and seafood grounds.

The EnVen rig was operating in relatively shallow waters, where measures to control a leak or blowout are easier to manage than in the deep waters of the Gulf.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com Times-Picayune: 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.


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.


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.

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.”


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.


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.


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


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.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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


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

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

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.


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

Save the blue.org: Can We “Save the Blue” by Dumping Old Drilling Rigs into the Ocean? by Richard Charter


How Oil Companies Plan to Maximize Their Profits at the Expense of Our Coastal Waters

By Richard Charter, for the H2oover Foundation

Exploration of natural gas and oil brings with it numerous and diverse environmental and human health problems. With so much attention focused on a long list of issues including oil spills, tar sands, fracking, carbon emissions, etc., little attention is being paid to the removal of thousands of offshore oil and gas structures.

Removing disused offshore drilling rigs from U.S. federal waters after the economic life of a seafloor oilfield has concluded is established public policy. In the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, beyond state waters that extend for three miles from shore off most coastal states and for ten miles off Texas and Florida’s Gulf Coast, longstanding federal regulations have required full decommissioning and removal of obsolete oil platforms.

Drilling platform support “jackets” that are no longer in use have long been required to be disposed of by being cleaned of oils, cut up, and either recycled for metals or transferred to landfills, while any remaining seafloor oil well casings have had to be sealed and severed 15 feet below the mud line. In each of the original Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease contracts executed between the Department of Interior and the petroleum industry, the companies willingly agreed to carry out eventual terrestrial decommissioning as part of the legally binding terms of their lease. In certain sensitive areas off of Southern California, this written contractual commitment by industry to eventually restore the seabed to “as-near-prelease conditions as possible” played an instrumental role in enabling drilling to proceed in the first place.

Old non-producing platforms have logically been slated for removal because they can create serious safety, environmental, and navigational risks, and often deteriorate in ways making them more susceptible to structural failure, leading to substantial liability issues for the rig owner or the government agency administering the lease. On November 10, 2012 a barge loaded with five million gallons of fuel oil hit a submerged oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The platform had been damaged by Hurricane Rita and was marked with unlit buoys. The 150,000-barrel double-hull barge DBL 152 suffered a 35’×6′ gash in one of its cargo tanks after striking the West Cameron 229A platform, leaking an estimated 1.3 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. Efforts to remove remaining oil from the barge were still underway a month after the collision.

In the past, parts of the Gulf of Mexico have been littered with disused offshore drilling rigs. In some instances leftover damaged wellheads have continued to leak oil for years into the Gulf, and some are still leaking even now. In response to the problems created by these kinds of orphaned rigs in the Gulf, the Interior Department has had to initiate what it calls the “Idle Iron” policy, requiring removal and careful plugging and abandonment of old wells within a certain timeframe with penalties for noncompliance.

An Industry Dodging Fiscal Responsibility:

The immense potential cost savings to the petroleum industry to be gained by not removing old rigs that have made immense profits for companies over the decades has led oil interests to undertake a slick public relations campaign as they try to break their promises. Financially motivated to avoid about 50% of their obligated decommissioning costs, the drillers cleverly anointed their effort to circumvent federal decommissioning requirements with the name Rigs-to-Reefs. Thus altering the “life cycle costing” considerations for a company as it evaluates whether or not to bid on a particular future drillsite can change a bidding decision considerably when the drilling company knows it will not be required to remove and recycle the rig itself at the end of its useful lifetime. This means that sensitive waters like the Arctic Ocean, the California coastline, and Florida’s long-protected Gulf Coast and Panhandle, for example, will be placed at increased jeopardy as industry bids more aggressively on challenging or remote drilling targets with the foreknowledge that the company will ultimately be able to just cheaply discard a platform in the ocean near the drilling site.

The petroleum industry has spent a lot of money and focus group message-testing as part of their nationwide Rigs-to-Reefs greenwashing effort, aimed primarily at the recreational fishing industry and at policymakers, trying to gain federal approval for their proposal. Once the oil industry figured out how much money they could save by simply dumping their cut-off steel jackets – or even by cutting them off “in-situ” below the water line and leaving the wreckage in place on site – an elaborate promotional effort was put into motion. Sadly, some of the most vocal advocates for the Rigs-to-Reefs concept have apparently not turned out to be among the most responsible operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

In response to political pressure from the oil industry, the Interior Department has initiated its own version of a Rigs-to-Reefs program, designed to interact with state programs in states that have passed specific legislation to establish programs for dealing with old oil and gas platforms, including Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and most recently, California. Under certain limited conditions, the Interior Department can now waive existing federal law requiring full decommissioning and “donate” the spent rig to one of these states for offshore abandonment in a state-designated “reefing site”.

With the exception of Florida, the Gulf Coast states that are still reeling economically from the disastrous BP Gulf Oil Spill find the powerful combination of the long-entrenched political persuasion of the petroleum industry and the pressure from the similarly influential sportfishing lobby combine to force them to embrace Rigs-to-Reefs with little objective scientific scrutiny, since few studies are available that have not been designed and paid for by the oil companies. First dozens, then hundreds, and eventually thousands of offshore rigs and related subsea pipelines and other petroleum infrastructure facilities will eventually need to be decommissioned, with Rigs-to-Reefs representing a potential savings to the industry amounting to billions of dollars. Even for the 23 rigs nearing obsolescence and facing near-term abandonment in federal waters off of California, the lure of potential future state funding that might someday be derived from even a fraction of industry’s cost-savings motivated the state legislature and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration to gloss over what was admittedly only a cursory literature review and become the latest guinea pig for the Rigs-to-Reefs scheme. California’s petroleum interests, joined by well-compensated sportfishing lobbyists and at least one normally-cautious conservation group, managed to dominate the debate and to obscure legitimate public concerns about the plan. Going forward, at least California agencies will supposedly be required to perform a case-by-case evaluation for each of the discarded rigs off the state’s coast, some of which are immense structures located in 400 to 1000 feet of water.

Hidden Adverse Impacts:

There are several underlying problems inherent in enabling the industry to avoid their prior requirement for full decommissioning of spent platforms. At the site of many offshore drilling rigs in relatively shallow water, seafloor obstructions consisting of drill mud mounds containing toxic substances often remain behind. Studies conducted around offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have revealed small amounts of mercury with the potential to bio-accumulate in the fisheries food chain leading to humans. This mercury pollution is thought to originate from mercury contained in spent barite drill muds used to cool and lubricate the drill bit, after which the used muds are discharged into the water column and dumped on the seafloor. Other toxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic chemicals often remain in the seafloor wastes accumulated from years of drilling and oil production. Concentrations of these discharged oil-related pollutants do not need to be particularly high to be of serious biological concern. Research on oil pollution in Alaska’s Prince William Sound since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill has provided compelling evidence that very low levels of PAH compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) associated with the spilled oil are causing life-cycle mutagenic damage to the eggs of Pink salmon at levels of two parts-per-billion. Dilution, it turns out, is not the solution for toxic pollution that bio-concentrates in the marine food chain.

Beyond the toxic chemical components found in the mud mounds, these seafloor snags also represent physical obstructions to the activities of commercial fishermen.

Can Oil Companies Really “Improve on Nature”?

There is also an ongoing dispute about the efficacy of the much-touted “artificial reef” functions supposedly provided by abandoning discarded drilling rigs in the marine environment. The oil industry’s Rigs-to-Reefs advertising claims that the dumped rigs reliably attract fish in various ecological settings. The state of current science, however, provides ample contrary evidence indicating that while their abandoned drilling structures might sometimes attract certain species of fish, in many locations these fish are not necessarily “new” fish biomass, but are instead coming from natural hard-rock seafloor substrate or other nearby natural habitat. Certain species are simply being aggregated around the dumped rig components in a manner that makes the fish easier prey for sportfishing interests normally precluded from fishing in close proximity to an active rig due to the usual closure zone surrounding an operating platform. There is no evidence that either operational or discarded platforms provide net ecological benefits to the marine ecosystem as a whole, relative to parts of the ocean left in a natural state.

Each proposed platform abandonment location in the Gulf of Mexico and off of Southern California is necessarily unique in terms of ecological setting and the specific types of marine species found in surrounding waters. No matter how carefully considered, not all artificial reefs are functional contributors to marine health. A 176-acre rocky-bottom fish habitat that Southern California Edison Company built a half-mile off San Clemente in 2008, supposedly “replacing” fish lost due to operations at the company’s nearby nuclear power plant, has recently been found to be failing to propagate enough fish to meet the agreed-to mitigation requirements.

The vision of a restored ocean returning to vibrant and healthy productivity after offshore rigs are removed is proving an elusive one in the face of a lopsided debate being dominated by petro-dollars, but for many states and for much of the American ocean, the fate of our marine environment is yet to be decided.

Promises Not Kept:

The word “ecosystem” finds its meaning in the Greek word oikos, defining a “house, dwelling place, or habitation.” The ocean is a key part of our collective home. In ecosystems, diversity is closely connected with network structure. A diverse ecosystem is resilient because it contains many species with overlapping ecological functions that can partially replace one another. We ourselves are living with, and literally living as part of, the Earth’s ocean ecosystem.

Left alone by human intervention and absent polluting activities, the ocean environment can prove to be a powerful and pervasive self-healing mechanism, and the case could be made that the ecosystem design that preceded the age of offshore oil development was likely the most successful biological niche that could have evolved in a particular location. Ultimately allowing the marine environment to restore itself was the stated rationale for the decommissioning contracts that the drillers originally accepted and signed when they began to explore and develop the offshore sites now in question, and there is no conclusive evidence that Rigs-to-Reefs is a beneficial use of spent drilling rigs for anyone but the accounting department of an oil company.

If our society allows the petroleum industry and their captive scientists to determine the fate of our sustaining hydrocommons in the oceans, decisions made by this special interest lobby will not be in the public interest, but made instead in the interest of maximizing industry profits by avoiding remediation of corporate messes and by circumventing willingly-accepted corporate responsibilities for rig removal.

In the event that we arbitrarily extend the duration of the impacts of the industrial detritus of the fleeting carbon age in our oceans, we are denying our grandchildren the possibility of experiencing the ocean we inherited from our ancestors. We are instead allowing the ocean itself to become a vast corporate chemical and biological experiment, with no coherent vision or sound science to tell us what the results might turn out to be over the long term.

Enabling the drilling industry to avoid keeping their solemn promise of full decommissioning of spent rigs, aside from the trail of pollution that would be left behind, particularly endangers ever more sensitive places in our coastal waters by making them more economically attractive for exploitation while arbitrarily incentivizing their unnecessary sacrifice. Our ocean, while appearing deceptively uniform when viewed from above the sea surface, actually embodies a wide diversity in seafloor habitats, species composition, and water column conditions, and an approach to dealing with obsolete drilling infrastructure that might at first appear to be effective in one location may not work at all elsewhere. The petroleum industry has an obligation to society to follow the precautionary principle that they themselves often espouse and to honor their original agreements to remove spent drilling rigs and restore the seafloor as much as possible to pre-drilling conditions when an oil field is depleted, lest Americans someday wake up to a polluted ocean haunted by thousands of dumped rigs comprising an offshore junkyard of epic proportions.

Richard Charter is a Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation and has worked for 35 years on offshore drilling safety, oil spill response, and ocean protection issues with local and state governments and the conservation community. Richard currently serves on the Methane Hydrates Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Energy and on NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Committee.

“The wise use of water is quite possibly the truest indicator of human intelligence, measurable by what we are smart enough to keep out of it. Including oil, soil, toxics, and old tires.”
-David Orr, Reflections on Water and Oil

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

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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

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.
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.

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.

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

Marine Link: BOEM Proposes Eastern Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale


Posted by Eric Haun
Wednesday, December 04, 2013, 9:29 AM
As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today announced that it will hold Gulf of Mexico Eastern Planning Area oil and gas lease sale 225 in New Orleans on March 19, 2014, immediately following the proposed Central Planning Area (CPA) Sale 231.

Proposed Sale 225 is the first lease sale proposed for the Eastern Planning Area under the 2012 – 2017 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Natural Gas Leasing Program, and the first sale offering acreage in that area since Sale 224, held in March of 2008.

“This proposed sale is another important step to promote responsible domestic energy production through the safe, environmentally sound exploration and development of the Nation’s offshore energy resources,” said BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau.

The proposed sale encompasses 134 whole or partial unleased blocks covering approximately 465,200 acres in the Eastern Planning Area. The blocks are located at least 125 statute miles offshore in water depths ranging from 2,657 feet (810 meters) to 10,213 feet (3,113 meters). The area is bordered by the Central Planning Area boundary on the West and the Military Mission Line (86º 41’W) on the East. It is south of eastern Alabama and western Florida; the nearest point of land is 125 miles northwest in Louisiana.

Of the 134 blocks available in this sale, 93 are located in the same area offered in 2008’s Eastern Planning Area Sale 224 and are subject to revenue sharing under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA), which provides that the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas share in 37.5% of the bonus payments. These four Gulf producing states will also share in 37.5% of all future revenues generated from those leases. Additionally, 12.5% of revenues from those leases are allocated to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The remaining 41 blocks, located just south of that area, are not subject to revenue sharing under GOMESA.

BOEM estimates the proposed lease sale could result in the production of 71 million barrels of oil and 162 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The decision to move forward with plans for this lease sale follows extensive environmental analysis, public comment, and consideration of the best scientific information available. In October, BOEM published a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for proposed Eastern Planning Area Sales 225 and 226. The Final EIS updated information gathered in three previous EIS’s. EPA Sale 226, scheduled for 2016, is the only other Eastern Gulf of Mexico lease sale proposed under the current Five Year Program.

The proposed terms of this sale include conditions to ensure both orderly resource development and protection of the human, marine and coastal environments. These include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region.

All proposed terms and conditions for Lease Sale 225 will be finalized when the Final Notice of Sale is published at least 30 days prior to the Sale.

The Notice of Availability of the Proposed Notice of Sale can be viewed today in the Federal Register at: www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html. Proposed terms and conditions for the sale are fully explained in a new streamlined format, available at: www.boem.gov/Sale-225/.
CD’s of the sale package as well as hard copies of the maps can be requested from the Gulf of Mexico Region’s Public Information Office at 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70123, or at 800-200-GULF (4853).

The Gulf of Mexico contributes about 25% of U.S. domestic oil and 11% of domestic gas production, providing the bulk of the $14.2 billion in mineral revenue disbursed to Federal, state and American Indian accounts from onshore and offshore energy revenue collections in Fiscal Year 2013. That was a 17% increase over FY 2012 disbursements of $12.15 billion, due primarily to $2.77 billion in bonus bids received for new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico
The 2012-2017 Five Year Program offers nearly 219 million acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf for lease, making all areas of the OCS with the highest oil and gas resource potential available for exploration and development. The plan includes up to 15 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The first three sales under the Five Year Program offered more than 79 million acres for development and garnered $1.4 billion in high bids.


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


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.


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


video at:

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.

J. J. Creppel repairing shrimp nets. Photo: Lisa Whiteman/NRDC

Follow Rocky Kistner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rockyatnrd

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Houston Business Journal: 2012 explosion cost Black Elk millions


Nov 21, 2013, 2:41pm CST

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC has spent millions so far this year on costs associated with the 2012 explosion at its West Delta 32 Gulf of Mexico platform.

Olivia Pulsinelli
Web producer-
Houston Business Journal

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC has spent millions so far this year on costs associated with the 2012 explosion at its West Delta 32 Gulf of Mexico platform, and it’s still dealing with the repercussions of the incident.

According to regulatory filings, Black Elk spent $4.7 million in the third quarter – and a total of $12.4 million in the first nine months of the year – on costs associated with the Nov. 16, 2012, explosion, which killed three subcontractor workers. The Houston-based company operated the platform, located 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La.

In addition to reporting a net loss of $18.4 million for the third quarter, Black Elk noted the following in its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:
Total oil, natural gas and plant product production declined 18 percent for the third quarter and 23 percent for the first nine months of year, compared to the same periods a year earlier, “as a result of downtime in the fields requiring hot work, which was delayed due to the (Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) requirements for approval after the West Delta 32 incident, pipeline repairs, and the asset field sales to Renaissance on March 26, 2013, and July 31, 2013. The year-to-date variance was also a result of a longer winter weather season.”

“As of Nov. 12, 2013, several civil lawsuits have been filed as a result of the West Delta 32 Incident. Š We believe we have strong defenses and cross-claims and intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”

“On Oct. 15, 2013, the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a subpoena pertaining to all physical evidence collected and maintained by (Black Elk) and ABSG Consulting as part of the investigation of the West Delta Incident.”

In August, Black Elk released the results of the ABSG investigation, which said contractor Grand Isle Shipyard violated its contract by hiring a subcontractor to perform construction work.

Black Elk filed its third-quarter report on Nov. 14, the same day BSEE issued incident of noncompliance citations against the company and its contractors on the West Delta 32 platform. Black Elk said in a Nov. 15 statement it “does not agree with the basis for the INC (citations) and is evaluating its options for response.” The companies have 60 days to appeal the citations.

Earlier this month, BSEE released a report of its investigation into the incident, and Black Elk said in a statement that it is fully cooperating with BSEE in the investigation and will be carefully reviewing the report.

“Black Elk Energy always has in its thoughts and prayers the victims of this tragic accident last November,” John Hoffman, Black Elk’s president and CEO, said in the statement.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

AP: Gulf states get first $113M from oil spill pleas

By Jeff Amy, Associated Press
Updated 1:08 pm, Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gulf Oil Spill Begins To Reach Land As BP Struggles To Contain Leak
Birds fly over an island that was threatened by the massive Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill on May 9, 2010 in Gulf of Mexico. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The five states that border the Gulf of Mexico are getting $113 million to improve the environment.
The grants, announced Thursday by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, are the first small chunk of $2.5 billion that BP PLC and Transocean Ltd. were fined as a result of criminal pleas last year following the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Louisiana is getting $67.9 million, Florida $15.7 million, Alabama $12.6 million, Texas $8.8 million and Mississippi $8.2 million.

Over the next five years, the foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund will receive about $1.3 billion for barrier island and river diversion projects in Louisiana, $356 million each for natural resource projects in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, and $203 million for similar projects in Texas.

Thursday’s announcement spent only part of the first $158 million that the companies paid earlier this year. Another $353 million will be paid by February, but the largest payments will come in later years, said Thomas Kelsch, who leads the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for the foundation.

Louisiana will use its coastal restoration plan as a guide, foundation officials said. “There’s not a requirement that the funds go directly to the habitats that were affected by the spill,” Kelsch said. In Louisiana, the money will go for planning and engineering to restore coastal islands and divert Mississippi River water and sediment into vanishing marshlands, part of the state’s fight to stop its coastline’s erosion.

Environmental advocates applauded the $40.4 million for a diversion from the west bank of Mississippi south of New Orleans to the Barataria estuary. That diversion is supposed to be a pilot project that will guide the design of others in the future.
“The Barataria Basin has one of the highest rates of land loss in the world, and this large-scale wetland restoration project is crucial to reversing that trend,” the Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation said in a joint statement.

Money in other states will generally go to improve natural areas and create better habitats for animals. For example, Mississippi will use $3.3 million to uproot invasive land and wetland plant species in its 26 coastal preserves, replanting with native species.

In Florida and Texas, foundation officials said they tried to choose projects closest to the spill zone. That means projects were generally in Florida’s western Panhandle and on the eastern part of Texas’ coast.
Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

Special thanks to Richard Charter

WWLTV: Black Elk, contractors issued 41 violations following report & Forbes: Fail, Fine, Repeat: Business As Usual For Some Offshore Drillers


black elk

GULF OF MEXICO – Commercial vessels spray water to extinguish a platform fire on board West Delta 32 approximately 20 miles offshore Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico. First responders medevaced nine of the platform’s 22 personnel to nearby rigs. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 4:34 PM
Updated yesterday at 6:00 PM

David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: dhammer@wwltv.com | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL

PLAQUEMINES, La. — Following up on a damning investigation report last week, federal offshore regulators issued 41 formal violations against Black Elk Energy and its contractors for their role in causing an explosion last year that killed three welders on a platform off Plaquemines Parish.

Three Filipino nationals – Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo and Avelino Tajonera – were killed by the explosion on Black Elk’s West Delta 32 E Platform on Nov. 16, 2012. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued its investigation report Nov. 4, finding that Black Elk and contractors Compass Engineering and Consultants, Grand Isle Shipyards/DNR and Wood Group PSN failed to follow their own basic safety plans.

The investigation concluded that Black Elk failed in its supervisory role and its contractors communicated poorly about whether flammable gas had been properly purged from tanks and pipes before the workers started cutting with blow torches.

The report states that Wood Group’s supervisor left a lower-level employee without proper training to sign and approve a welding permit to cover the entire platform, rather than each welding location as rules require. Then, that employee turned the job over to a Grand Isle Shipyards supervisor based on a faulty understanding from a Compass consultant that all areas had been purged and were ready for hot work.

In fact, nobody had cleared the areas for hot work. The report describes how gas detectors that were supposed to be used to check the hot-work areas were not functioning properly and were left in their charging stations, but when workers complained, their Grand Isle supervisor told workers not to forget about it.

“According to the DNR workers, the GIS/DNR supervisor instructed the construction workers to hang the non-functioning gas detector up like a ‘decoration’ so everyone could at least see that they had one,” the report says.

The most serious violations still were issued to Black Elk, which is the lease-holder and ultimately responsible. Black Elk got 12 violations, or Incidents of Non-Compliance. Wood Group received 11 INCs and Compass and Grand Isle Shipyards got nine each.




ENERGY | 11/14/2013 @ 9:53AM |456 views
Fail, Fine, Repeat: Business As Usual For Some Offshore Drillers

In the Gulf, an operator’s safety track record doesn’t seem to matter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every oil company operating in the Gulf of Mexico must be terrified today after the harsh crackdown on Black Elk Energy by federal regulators. The feds hit the Houston-based offshore oil producer and three of its contractors with 41 citations related to a rig explosion last year that killed three workers. The companies could face – that’s right could face – civil penalties. Don’t worry, though, Black Elk and its contractors have 60 days to appeal the citations for “incidents of noncompliance.” Such fines often are negotiated down.

Black Elk has plenty of experience dealing with these types of citations. While 41 may seem like a lot, at the time of last year’s fatal accident, Black Elk already had been cited 315 times in the previous two years for rules violations and risky procedures. As recently as one month before that accident, regulators found that Black Elk “showed a disregard for the safety of personnel” in another accident that sent six workers to the hospital.

In addition to Black Elk, the latest round of citations included its contractors, Grand Isle Shipyard of Galliano, La., which employed the workers who were killed, Compass Engineering & Consultants of Lafayette, La., and Wood Group PSN of Aberdeen, Scotland.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement found that the contractors didn’t clear pipes of flammable hydrocarbons before they began welding. As the operator, though, Black Elk is responsible for the overall safety on its rigs, and BSEE found that Black Elk’s safety procedures were lacking. One regulator described Black Elk as having “the antithesis of the type of safety culture that should guide decision-making” in offshore operations. The feds also told Black Elk to come up with a safety plan.

Shortly after the accident, Black Elk chief executive John Hoffman told me that BSEE’s investigation would vindicate his company and “shed light where it needs to be.” Clearly, he was wrong about the first part, but the BSEE investigation certainly sheds light on one of the dark realities of offshore safety – lax accountability. Federal regulators largely ignore the role of recidivism in safety violations. For all the talk of creating a “safety culture” the only consequences for not having one is being told to get one and, perhaps, some civil fines.

Even for small companies like Black Elk, the size of those fines is minimal. In 2011, for example, the average fine levied by BSEE for offshore safety violations was about $62,000. Black Elk, by comparison, had a fine last year that topped $307,000 after an inspection found a gas leak on one of its platforms that the company didn’t fix for more than 100 days. Black Elk has had three more civil penalties so far this year totaling more than $250,000.

The citations pile up like traffic tickets on the windshield of an abandoned car while lives continue to be lost.

Nuisance fines allow lax safety to persist in the Gulf because operators can engage in their usual tactics of denial – blaming contractors and complaining about burdensome regulations. What we have seen, though, both in shallow water operations like Black Elk’s, and deepwater disasters like BP’s Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010, is a steadfast refusal of regulators to consider an operator’s safety track record in allowing them continued access to the Gulf. That’s the one thing they care about most.

Until there’s stiffer consequences for major safety violations, business as usual will continue in the Gulf: fail, fine, repeat.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Chron.com: Study: Tar balls found in Gulf teeming with ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria


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


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

Justice News Flash.com: BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Still Searching for Answers & UGA researchers help continue Gulf oil spill research, community

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.


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


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

FuelFix: Feds to release new rules for offshore emergency equipment this year


Posted on September 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The blowout preventer stack (right) and lower marine riser stack (left) from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill (AP file photo/Gerald Herbert)

The nation’s top offshore drilling regulator said he hopes to unveil new requirements for blowout preventers by Dec. 31, nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster revealed vulnerabilities in the emergency devices.

The hulking devices sit atop wells and can be activated in an emergency to cut drill pipe and block off the hole, trapping oil and gas inside. But a forensic investigation of the blowout preventer used at BP’s failed Macondo well concluded that a powerful rush of oil and gas caused drill pipe to buckle and shift, ultimately preventing powerful shearing rams on the device from cutting the pipe and sealing the hole.

In response, the nation’s three main blowout preventer manufacturers are developing and selling newly robust shearing rams and other designs to slash through thick pipe connections and debris. But a new federal rule would give those voluntary changes the force of law.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement aims to issue those proposed requirements by the end of 2013, said agency director Brian Salerno.

“Blowout preventers are an integral part of the safety systems on drilling rigs,” Salerno said in a letter to Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and other lawmakers. The safety bureau “is working to continue to advance blowout preventer improvements.”

In July, the lawmakers told the safety bureau they were concerned that regulators were “failing to provide clarity for rig operators” while preparing potentially “sweeping new rules” for blowout preventers.

Response ready: Spill containment system headed for Texas coast

Regulators at the safety bureau are likely to lay out specific performance standards for the devices, such as a mandate that they be capable of cutting through casing and drill pipe and effectively sealing a well. Officials could insist that companies use a second set of shearing rams, potentially boosting the odds of successfully cutting drill pipe – a method already being used by some operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

The measure also could require the use of real-time technologies that could aid in diagnosing problems or detecting unexplained surges of oil and gas.

Salerno said his agency is consulting with the manufacturers of blowout preventers and the oil companies that use them as it writes new requirements. The consultation officially began with a public forum in May 2012.

“BSEE has received significant input and specific recommendations from stakeholders, such as industry groups, operators, equipment manufacturers and environmental organizations,” Salerno said.

When a notice of proposed rule making is issued, Salerno said, stakeholders will have a chance to comment further.

Offshore operators say they want to make sure there is a sufficiently long on-ramp for compliance, with plenty of time to redesign blowout preventers and retrofit existing drilling rigs with the devices.

Regulators previously have vowed to give the oil industry plenty of time to adapt, especially given the prospect that requirements could hasten the retirement of some older industry equipment. For instance, a mandate for a second set of shear rams could grow the size of blowout preventers beyond the available space in some rig cellars at shallow-water operations.

The safety bureau is also drafting new standards for oil and gas activity in U.S. Arctic waters, with hopes to unveil that proposal by the end of the year.

(Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle)
Employees at National Oilwell Varco work on a lower blowout preventer stack (left) and lower marine riser package (right).

Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Jennifer A. Dlouhy covers energy policy, politics and other issues for The Houston Chronicle and other Hearst Newspapers from Washington, D.C. Previously, she reported on legal affairs for Congressional Quarterly. She also has worked at The Beaumont Enterprise, The San Antonio Express-News and other newspapers. Jennifer enjoys cooking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and toddler son.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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.

Conservation Organizations Demand BP Accountability for Gulf Oil Disaster
September 27, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Media Resources
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

CBS/AP:Researcher: Extent of BP oil spill’s damage to sea-floor life “astounding”


CBS/AP/ September 25, 2013, 9:13 PM

The vast 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill damaged the tiny animals that live on the sea floor for about 57 square miles around the blown-out BP oil well, with severe damage in about nine square miles of that area, says a researcher from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Pollution and damage to animal life was severe nearly two miles from the wellhead and identifiable more than 10 miles away, Paul Montagna wrote in a report published Tuesday in the online journal PLOS One.

Montagna, a professor of ecosystems and modeling, said the refrigerator-cold water a mile beneath the surface means oil takes longer to decay than in shallower waters, where spill recovery has taken years to decades. That means full recovery could take a generation or more, he said in an interview Tuesday.

“This is the first large-scale examination of the impact on the soft bottom, which is the largest habitat in deep water,” said Robert Carney, a deep-sea ecologist and professor in Louisiana State University’s department of oceanography and coastal sciences. Carney, who was not part of this study, said Wednesday that it was well done.
He said he wasn’t surprised by the extent of the damage, given the size and reach of the plume of oil. BP PLC’s Macondo well blew wild for nearly three months starting April 20, 2010, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers.

“The plume … drifted all over the place,” so oil that became heavy enough to sink could cover a large area, Carney said.

The study is part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment that will help decide what damages BP must pay. Montagna said he expects to be subpoenaed as part of the litigation spawned by the oil spill, since he was working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and with NOAA scientists.

BP issued a statement expressing skepticism about some details of the report.

“The paper provides no data to support a claim that it could take decades for these deep sea species to recover. In fact, the researchers acknowledge that little is known about recovery rates of these communities following an event such as this,” BP said. It said the paper “confirms that potential injury to the deep sea soft sediment ecosystem was limited to a small area in the immediate vicinity of the Macondo well-head” first identified in December 2010.

Because it was the nation’s first deep-sea spill, “we’re in uncharted territory,” said Montagna, who took seabottom cores in September and October 2010, looking for oil. The well had been capped July 15, but cleanup and other vessels kept the survey boats from checking some spots where they wanted samples, Montagna said.

“What was astounding was we found effects out to many, many miles,” Montagna said.

He said he was surprised in spite of the extent of the spill, which closed about 88,000 square miles of federal waters to fishing.

“When the spill started, we were saying, ‘Oil floats. There won’t be effects on the deep sea or bottom. Obviously that wasn’t true,” he said.

The scientists analyzed core samples from 68 sites between one-third of a mile and nearly 78 miles from the Macondo wellhead, looking for animal life and for pollutants such as the toxic oil components called polyaromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals such as barium from drilling mud used in unsuccessful attempts to shut the well.

Statistical analysis reduced it to one number – an index of high contamination and low biological diversity – used to map the effects.

The analysis took so much time because one step was counting and classifying animals less than one-hundredth of an inch long and comparing the numbers of nematode worms and the tiny crustaceans called copepods, which are more sensitive to pollution. That is still going on for samples from a follow-up cruise in spring 2011 and hasn’t even begun for 102 of the sites checked in 2010, Montagna said.

The team hopes for a spring 2014 cruise, he said.

Carney said “the neatest thing” is that the information is public.

“One of the frustrations for people who are trying to find out what has happened in the Gulf is the legal necessity of the secrecy of the NRDA data. To have this come out so it can get scientific review is great.”

BP announced in June that the U.S. Coast Guard was ending its clean-up effort along the shorelines of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and transitioning the area back to the National Response Center.
Yet not everyone is convinced the clean-up is near completion. “I don’t think BP should be relieved of saying clean-up is over anywhere until there’s a lengthy period of time where there is no oil and we haven’t seen that yet,” Billy Nungesser, president of the Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, told CBSNews.com.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Rigzone: Black Elk Incident Reminder of Dangers from Hazardous Vapors

Black Elk Energy is the lead proponent of the Rigs-to-Reefs program….. Richard Charter


by Karen Boman|
Rigzone Staff|
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The November 2012 explosion at a Black Elk Energy-operated platform – which resulted from welders welding onto a pipe leading to a wet oil tank – serves as a reminder of the importance of educating workers on the dangers fire or explosions sparked by hazardous vapors, an offshore safety official told Rigzone.

A third party investigation found that the explosion and fire that occurred resulted from contractors failing to follow standard safety practices. Black Elk last month published the results of the investigation into the explosion and fire that killed three workers at the platform at West Delta Block 32 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The wet oil tank and pipework would have contained hydrocarbon gases that could have easily been ignited by an ignition temperature as the weld heat generated inside the pipe, said Tony Scott, general manager for the OCS Group, in an interview with Rigzone.
“If the workers knew more about the dangers around them the fatalities may well have been avoided,” said Scott.

To address part of this potentially fatal shortfall in training, the OCS Group now offers a Complex Mechanical course for mechanical workers. However, Scott believes that satisfactory Zone awareness training should be offered to all rig personnel throughout the industry.

A hazardous area is considered to be an area where an explosive atmosphere is or may be expected to be present. Thirty-five percent of rigs and drillships offshore will have this area broken down into zones or divisions. Zone Zero, potentially the most hazardous of the three risk areas mentioned, is where an explosive gas/vapor is present continuously for long periods. Zone Zero is not typically found on a rig, but in refineries and chemical plants; a Zone Zero can be found inside a tank where a gap exists at the top and vapor is trapped.

Zone 1 is where an explosive gas/vapor is likely during normal operation; with Zone 1, gas will be present but it is diluted by air. Zone 2, the least potentially hazardous of the three risk areas mentioned – is where an explosive gas/vapor is unlikely to occur in normal operation. If an explosive gas/vapor does occur in Zone 2, it is likely to do so infrequently and existing for short periods. Zone 2 accounts for approximately 28 percent of the total hazardous area of the rig.

Sources of accident ignition include welding, burning and static, which can occur even through nylon clothes. Welding activity could generate an ignition that could be considered an ignition temperature, or when material ignites without an external source of ignition such as a spark. This type of ignition could cause the gas/vapor inside a pipe to explode if someone was welding on the pipe.

“People erroneously assume that a spark is needed to cause ignition but this is not the case,” Scott noted. “When a spark causes ignition, this is called the Flash Point and is different to an ignition temperature. A Flash Point is where the minimum temperature at which a substance gives out sufficient vapor to form an explosive atmosphere is reached. A spark from an aluminum ladder on a rusty beam could generate a Flash Point and cause a gas or vapor to explode.”

The problem with hazardous areas is that offshore workers can be unaware that they are entering a potentially explosive area. Electricians and electronic technicians are likely to have received training to gain a full understanding of the hazardous area zones and their importance where electrical equipment is concerned. However, the rig safety preparatory courses offered to many other groups of rig workers, including welders, mechanics, scaffolders, and riggers, don’t give workers adequate in-depth knowledge of the rig zones and their potential for explosive gases and vapors.

The courses available for offshore workers are good but lightweight on hazardous vapors, an area that Scott feels has been almost neglected in training.
“You almost need separate, half day training session to talk on the dangers of vapors,” Scott commented.

While workers are trained to find muster stations in case of a fire, workers with backgrounds outside of electrical/instrumentation jobs are not given enough training in recognizing the dangers of hazardous vapors, Scott noted. The lack of understanding surrounding hazardous areas presents an issue for both offshore and onshore oil and gas facilities.

For example, a rigger going into a hazardous area on and offshore rig and breaking a junction box while trying to use the box as a foothold. These workers need to be warned on the dangers of a spark.

Scott said it wasn’t clear whether the pipe that blew up on the Black Elk platform was in a zoned area. If it was located in a zoned area, it would likely have had a hot work permit and controls to guard against sparks.

“All it takes is for a spark or hot surface to explode,” said Scott. “People don’t and should understand these hazards.”

Better training and better systems for conveying the dangers of hazardous vapors are definitely needed to fill the knowledge gap. While regulations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico have tightened since the Macondo incident, in Scott’s opinion, the oil and gas industry is not doing enough to alert workers to the dangers of hazardous vapors, beyond the training and electrical and mechanical inspections. The failure of the Deepwater Horizon rig’s blowout preventer was the root but not the cause of the Macondo incident. Instead, the rig blew because gas that was floating around the rig found a spark or a hot surface.

Besides training, another option could be for rigs to clearly inform workers when they are entering a hazardous area which has zones or divisions that could be explosive, such as the signs used in European Union rigs under the Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Directive (ATEX). The directive, which came out in 2003, established what equipment and work environment is allowed in an explosive atmosphere in order to protect employees from explosion risk.

“I would love to go onto a rig and know that I’m going into a hazardous area,” Scott commented, noting that the times he’s been on offshore rigs, he’s found out about a rig’s hazardous areas by accident.

OCS has done one course for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and will conduct another course for BSEE on ignition sources and hazardous areas.

The company has recommended to the Coast Guard a collection of information needed to demonstrate that certain specific requirements have been undertaken with U.S. Gulf and international requirements. The document proposed would contain electrical equipment in hazardous locations documents contain data on previous inspections and maintenance of electrical equipment. The document also would contain Hazardous Area Equipment Register (HAER), supplied by a third party, including Remedial Actions, an Emergency Shut Down register, also supplied by a third party.
The document in the form proposed by OCS also would include:
* A register of Hazardous Areas qualified staff certified by the American Petroleum Institute, International Association of Drilling Contractors, or CompEx
* Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit or Vessel Hazardous Area classification drawings
* Record of Special X conditions for any equipment marked accordingly with certificates of reference
* Notified incident records within the Hazardous Areas and any potential gas/vapor catastrophes outside of Hazardous Areas
* Details of Fire, First Aid and Rescue Services
* Emergency Shut Down register, supplied by a third party

The dossier would be held on the rig or vessel and be easily accessible by the Coast Guard when they visit. The company that operates the rig or vessel or a third party would maintain the data, which would be introduced into the companies’ quality system. The data could be compiled on certified table so the Coast Guard could check against any of the items on the Hazardous Area Equipment Register.

Under the current Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) 2 requirements, a third party audit of offshore rigs and vessels. The SEMS II final rule enhances the original SEMS rule, or Workplace Safety Rule, issued in October 2010.

SEMS II was passed to provide greater protection by supplementing operators’ SEMS programs with employee training, empowering field level personnel with safety management decisions and strengthening auditing procedures by requiring third parties to conduct auditing activities. The U.S. Coast Guard’s role with SEMS II is to act as police, following up with visits to rigs and vessels to ensure that third party audits have been conducted.

“As a company that performs Ex inspections, in our experience, we know that sometimes Remedial Action’s aren’t closed out,” OCS said in an Aug. 22 letter to the Coast Guard.

In June of this year, the Coast Guard proposed to amend the electrical engineering regulations for electrical installations in hazardous areas that would expand the list of acceptable national and international explosion protection standards. The IEC System for Certification to Standards relating the equipment for use in Explosive Atmospheres also would be added as an acceptable independent third-party certification system for testing and certifying electrical equipment.

The proposed regulations would apply to foreign and U.S. mobile offshore drilling units, floating facilities and vessels that engaged in activities on the Outer Continental Shelf for the first time after the regulations’ effective date. They would also allow owners and operators of U.S. tank vessels to choose the compliance regime in existing regulations on the proposed regulations.

When the ATEX Directive came out in Europe in 2003, complaints arose that equipment had to be classed as in service to be used. What started to happen was that equipment that would be used in non-risk areas could be certified by the company. The self-certification was good for mechanical people. But the ATEX self-certification process slipped out of Europe into the United States, Scott noted. This led to confusion on the Coast Guard’s behalf that companies would self-certify equipment for Zone 2 work, not only mechanical but electrical equipment as well.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at kboman@rigzone.com.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Maritime Executive: NOAA Releases Millions of Chemical Analyses from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


September 12, 2013

Includes data on underwater hydrocarbon plume, dispersants

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


The Lens

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

Energy & Environment: Regulator hopes Gulf mapping tool can defuse tension between drillers, fishermen

Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013

HOUSTON — The federal government is racing to roll out a new mapping
tool that it hopes will lead to a truce between offshore drillers and
fishing interests over the spike in rig decommissioning and tear-downs.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement hopes by the end of
this month to have the basic framework for a geographic information
system mapping tool that would be used to track the life span of the
thousands of offshore structures and platforms standing in the Gulf of
Mexico, hundreds of which are slated for removal. But finalizing it
will take many more months or even years and will require the input of
charter fishermen, recreational diving companies, shrimp boat captains
and anyone else who has a stake in the Gulf’s natural resources.

The aim is to defuse the tension between charter fishermen and divers,
who depend on the artificial reef environments created by the rigs for
their livelihood, and the very owners of those offshore structures, who
are legally required to remove them when they are no longer in use. Rig
owners also fear the legal liability they are exposed to should a
defunct rig cause an accident or suffer storm damage.

In an interview, David Smith, a public affairs specialist at BSEE, said
the map that he and his team hope to complete this month will just be a
bare-bones version of the final product. The ultimate aim, he said, is
to develop a tool that enables all interested parties to know ahead of
time when a rig might be coming down and whether that structure would
be a good candidate for the federal Rigs to Reefs program.

BSEE sees Rigs to Reefs as the key to bridging the divide between the
fishermen and offshore oil and gas companies. Charter fishing interests
have been lobbying hard in Congress for a temporary moratorium on rig
decommissioning and removal, something that oil and gas companies and
the decommissioning industry are eager to avoid.

“You have the older platforms that have created this temporary
artificial habitat for fish and other marine life, but they’re also the
ones that are probably going to come out the soonest,” Smith explained.
“What we found is that there needs to be a lot more collaboration in
the planning process for decommissioning.”

Although the platforms, caissons and other offshore structures are the
private property of oil and gas companies, commercial and charter
fishermen insist that their voices should be added to the discussion on
what to do with an aging offshore structure. At the same time they and
some state agencies complain that the Rigs to Reefs program is too slow
and laden with bureaucracy. Six federal agencies have some say in what
happens to a structure resting above an abandoned offshore well.

Capt. Gary Jarvis, former president of the Corpus Christi, Texas-based
Charter Fishermen’s Association (CFA), expressed some skepticism that
BSEE’s planned reforms of Rigs to Reefs will work, but he is satisfied
that at least BSEE is hearing his industry’s concerns.

Still, he and others feel that nearly all offshore structures should be
reefed in place after they are no longer of use to the industry. That
currently happens with only a small fraction of them.

“Ideally for us, we would say reef them right where they’re at,” Jarvis
said. “That would be a good compromise.”

Delicate balancing act

Once the GIS map is in place, Smith said he hopes to organize a cross-
industry commission to help manage it and keep it updated.
Representatives of charter fishing and dive trip operators could
identify which structures are of most value to them, and oil and gas
interests across the table could provide updates on the status of these
structures, notifying whether they plan to tear them down and how

Representatives of Gulf state agencies that assume responsibility for
artificial reefs created in Rigs to Reefs would also be at the table to
give guidance on whether these structures can be folded into the
program. Not all are eligible to become artificial reefs.

“We’re trying to develop a GIS map as a planning tool, and then we want
to develop a collaborative planning body that will sort of be an
information repository and facilitate a dialogue,” Smith said.

It’s a delicate balancing act that will attempt, for the first time, to
bring all Gulf of Mexico commercial interests — fishing, recreation,
and oil and gas — together to hash out compromises over their
competing needs.

Though charter fishermen may want to keep all structures in place,
shrimp boat captains by and large would like to see all those defunct
platforms removed to avoid damaging their equipment. Oil and gas firms
are keen to rid themselves of liability for these defunct platforms as
soon as possible. Meanwhile, thousands of workers are employed in the
Gulf Coast region by companies that tear down platforms and salvage the
“idle iron” for scrap metal.

The committee or planning commission that he hopes to form would “take
all of the input from the shrimping community, from the trawlers, from
the fishing and recreational charters, commercial diving community, all
of those different organizations and bring it all together, and then
have regular update meetings and have a place where people can come and
talk about what’s working and what’s not,” Smith said.

Complicating matters further, the science surrounding artificial
reefing is still in its infancy. The ecological benefits of artificial
versus natural reefs is still hotly debated and will be the principal
topic of discussion at the forthcoming Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries
Institute conference in Corpus Christi, Texas, slated for November.

Wes Tunnell, associate director of the Harte Research Institute at
Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, explained that the current debate
swirls around whether artificial reefs generate new populations of fish
species or simply concentrate existing ones. He said there is evidence
for both.

Gulf of Mexico researchers are also still trying to develop a sound,
standardized technique for studying and monitoring artificial reefs,
counting the populations of fish that call them home and comparing this
data with what researchers collect at natural reef sites. “There’s
never been a really good way to count the fish around these artificial
reefs and have kind of an objective method for doing that,” Tunnell

But there is some general understanding of artificial reefs among the
scientific community. Tunnell indicated that there’s evidence to
suggest that, though natural reefs are more biodiverse, artificial
reefs may actually harbor larger numbers of fish and therefore might be
more productive for fisheries.

Harte and other research centers are willing to aid BSEE’s efforts to
reach a general compromise, but Tunnell said his institute’s position
on the decommissioning and Rigs to Reefs controversy will be strictly

“We like to be what we call the honest broker,” he said. “We want to
keep providing the best information until we get to the right

Hurricane’s wake

The hurricane seasons of 2005 to 2008 brought this issue to the fore.

Hundreds of platforms were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina,
Rita, Gustav and Ike. In investigating the problem, BSEE discovered
that more than half of the damaged structures were in disuse, sitting
abandoned for years. Fixing the damage cost hundreds of millions of

The 2010 Macondo well blowout and oil spill delayed action somewhat,
but after the dust settled from that incident, BSEE issued a notice to
oil and gas companies reminding them that they need to demonstrate a
plan for what they intend to do with abandoned platforms within five
years. The options include selling them to other companies, reusing
them for developing new wells, reefing or removal.

Smith is adamant that the Notice to Lessees issued in October 2010 was
not a directive that companies must remove abandoned structures.
Rather, the notice was meant to remind industry of the existing
regulations in place.

Smith estimated that the Gulf is home to nearly 2,900 production
platforms, but he stressed that, of these, 700 to 800 may have to be
dealt with as they near the end of their life spans. And even then the
law doesn’t require that they be removed, only that the owners come up
with a plan for what to do with them next.

Still, many in the industry acted as if the NTL was ordering immediate

BSEE estimates that 285 structures were removed from the Gulf in 2011,
up from 153 in 2008. Permit requests for rig decommissionings rose from
254 submitted in 2010 to 319 in 2011. Fishermen and divers grew alarmed
as hundreds of platforms were pulled, mostly from the western Gulf off
the coast of Texas. Structures that they’ve depended on for years
seemingly vanished overnight.

“Especially off South Texas where we are, we’ve just had so few rigs so
when they pulled out 30 or however many there were in our region, the
fishermen and the diving industry, they felt that tremendously,” said
Jennifer Wetz, a researcher at the Harte Institute. “That was huge to

The Charter Fishermen’s Association and other groups and individual
fishermen responded by getting politically active, pressing their local
members of Congress to get involved. Last year lawmakers proposed the
decommissioning moratorium. Although that effort failed, the speed and
strength with which fishing and diving interests acted got the
attention of offshore oil and gas firms. The dispute was a top item for
discussion among industry representatives at the Decommissioning and
Abandonment Summit held in Houston earlier this year.

J. Dale Shively, artificial reef program leader at the Texas Parks and
Wildlife Department, expressed sympathy for the fishing interests but
suggested they should have seen this problem coming. Offshore platforms
are meant to be temporary installations with their owners free to do
with them as they wish, as long as it complies with the law.

“One of the sticking points really is that the public doesn’t accept
that these platforms are private property,” Shively said. “They don’t
belong to the public. They don’t belong to the federal government or
the state. They belong to the oil company.”

CFA member Jarvis, however, argues that these structures become far
more than just a matter for the private owner because they create
valuable fish habitat, an asset that is tightly controlled throughout
the Gulf. Simply removing them when the companies want to would destroy
that habitat and the fish that reside there, an action that would
result in severe consequences for fishing interests but almost none for
oil and gas firms, he said.

“There are all kinds of federal laws and regulations about live coral,
and there’s nothing on those oil rig legs but live coral. They get a
free pass on that,” Jarvis said. “The fishing reefs, also known as oil
rigs, are a valuable asset to the fishery, not only from the
fisherman’s perspective but from the fish perspective too.”


Shively agrees with BSEE that the Rigs to Reefs program will be a
central factor to satisfying all sides of the issue, but he complained
that for a while now the program allowed too little flexibility for
state agencies like his to grab structures before they are removed and
recommend them for reefing.

He also echoed Tunnell’s point that the science of artificial reefing
is still being worked out. Texas Parks and Wildlife is relying on
researchers at the Harte Institute; University of Texas, Brownsville;
and Texas A&M University, Galveston, for help in studying Texas’ three
primary artificial reef areas. Getting a fix on the value and proper
management of the Rigs to Reefs program is a never-ending challenge, he

“We don’t ever predict that we’re done,” Shively said. “We put
materials down that are serving as a reef, but the scientific questions
are if you put more material, do you get more fish, or do you at some
point get all this competition and the population decreases because now
you’re bringing in more predators?”

Another challenge is the expense. Shively estimates that a typical
reefing job costs more than $500,000. A near-shore artificial reef he’s
working to put together this month near Corpus Christi using more than
400 concrete pillars will run about $700,000. Another near Matagorda,
spread across 160 acres, will probably cost $1.2 million to complete,
he said.

“Every reefing job is expensive,” Shively said. “We’re hoping to get
some of this Deepwater Horizon money to help with it. It’s in the
plans, but we haven’t gotten official approval yet.”

Though reefing can save an operator potentially millions of dollars,
the time-consuming and cumbersome process — and restrictions on where
and how rigs can be reefed — means that far more concrete and steel
will still be removed than left in the Gulf of Mexico. Last year BSEE
reported that the oil and gas industry requested approval to scrap
about 330 offshore structures. Twenty-seven were recommended for the
Rigs to Reefs program, or about 8 percent of the total. So far this
year the agency has received permit applications to scrap 121 rigs and
to reef 15.

The GIS mapping system that BSEE will try to roll out later this month
will be the beginning of attempts to bring more structure and order to
the Rigs to Reefs program and to provide fishermen and divers with
enough information so that they can know precisely what’s happening
with their favorite reefs. If such a structure is scheduled for
decommissioning, fishing and diving interests would be able to flag it
to state officials or BSEE for possible inclusion in Rigs to Reefs. If
popular structures are deemed unsuitable for reefing, then the divers
and fishers can at least learn of this ahead of time, giving them an
opportunity to seek out replacements to visit to keep their businesses

Smith said he needs the cooperation of all sides to make the experiment

“In order to get the map to work, we have to get all the BSEE data on
it, we need to get all the shrimping data on it, we need to get all the
fishing data on it,” he said. “It would help if the fishing and diving
community could point out those platforms that are really important to
them and make the states aware of those so that the states know where
to look for them.”

Though he thinks it’s been taking BSEE too long to put this mapping
tool together, Smith believes this step will prove to be the easy part
of this entire effort.

“The hard part is coming up with some sort of cooperative agreement or
something for a body to put all this stuff together,” he said. “I’m not
sure exactly how that’s going to happen yet. We’re still working on
that part.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Fuelfix.com: Rigs-to-Reefs program making a splash in Texas


Posted on March 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm by Emily Pickrell

Rigs become artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico

One of the big changes to the offshore industry is the diligence with which the federal government is ensuring that abandoned equipment from offshore oil platforms is not left behind.

Fishermen and conservationists have found a different solution for the underwater portions of these old oil and gas rigs – leave them for the fish in the deep blue sea, which, along with coral, turtles and mussels, have developed homes amidst the steel legs of these structures.

After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in the 2010 oil spill disaster, the U.S. Interior Department issued an “idle iron” directive requiring the removal of rigs or platforms from non-producing wells.

As companies have begun carrying out the order, however, fishing interests have protested that the structures are critical habitats for Red Snapper and other fish.

Offshore rigs: Dismantling Gulf’s idle iron may be a $3 billion job

The Interior Department has authorized states to provide the “rig-to-reef” disposal option in certain cases, recognizing that the abandoned metal can be “a biologically valuable structure in the marine environment”.

Supporters say the programs in 16 states including Texas save operators money, benefit fishing and don’t harm the environment.

But barely 10 percent of about 800 non-producing Gulf of Mexico platforms have ended up in the program, while more than 200 have been removed each year since 2010, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

“The biggest problem we have in the rigs-to-reef program is actually acquiring the donations,” said J. Brooke Shipley-Lozano, chief scientist for the Artificial Reef Program for Texas Parks and Wildlife, who spoke Wednesday at a Houston conference on decommissioning offshore equipment.

After the spill: Offshore enforcement remains murky

Parks and Wildlife has been running its program since 1990 and estimates that companies have saved as much as $400,000 per donated rig.

But several factors determine whether creating a steel reef makes financial sense for a company, including the size of the equipment and how far it has to be moved to reach a designated reef site, said Drew Hunger, the decommissioning manager for Houston-based Apache Corp.

Apache estimates that a rig donation is only economic if the reef site designated by regulators is less than 35 miles away.

The commercial fishing industry, upset about the large number of rigs removed from the Gulf in the last two years, has pushed for a two-year moratorium on platform removals.

Oil and gas operators have resisted delays because the program allows them to avoid liability for the equipment.

But while fishermen are the most interested in the platforms closer to shore, the need for the structures to be completely submerged has meant that only 1 percent of rigs in the program are in water less than 100 feet deep.

Hunger said that companies want to leave as many rigs behind as possible, but that the costs and needed permits do not always make it feasible.

“We haven’t gotten the word out about the cost and the economic limitations on leaving them standing,” he said.

New York Times: Facing Fire Over Challenge to Louisiana’s Oil Industry


Oh yeah, the good ol’ boys are angry now….so what do you think “secured” that gentlemen’s agreement? DV

August 31, 2013


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


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.

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.”

The Lens: Suing oil and gas interests to save the coast: author John Barry weighs in


OPINION By John Barry, Contributor August 22, 2013 11:36am 5 Comments

Dr. Terry McTigue / NOAA
Oil service canals in the Barataria Basin show the ravages of an industry that has given much and taken even more from Louisiana.
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East has filed a controversial lawsuit seeking to extract a settlement from oil, gas and pipeline interests in compensation for the industry’s long-term damage to Louisiana’s fragile and rapidly collapsing coast. The administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal claims that the Flood Protection Authority lacked the authority to file the suit and wants it withdrawn on grounds that it is hostile to oil and gas interests and possibly inimical to other state efforts to secure funding for coastal restoration.

In recent days, author and Flood Protection Authority vice chairman John Barry has spoken in defense of the suit before a joint legislative committee and the Baton Rouge Press Club. His remarks have been edited and updated to include developments at a Wednesday meeting of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, of which Barry is a member:
What we’re doing is simple: We want to save Louisiana, at least part of it.

First, the background:
We are an independent board, created by a constitutional amendment, which passed after Katrina with 81 percent of the vote. The amendment envisioned a board of experts who would try to prevent another such catastrophe – a board of experts independent of political influence.

A special nominating committee was created, including deans of engineering schools in the state, representatives of engineering and scientific societies and good-government groups.
This committee sends nominees to the governor, who must appoint someone from the nominees, and the senate confirms.

To guarantee we see the big picture, that we are not parochial, the law requires us to have four members from outside our jurisdiction.

Our board has expertise in engineering, meteorology, coastal science, oceans and the history of the levees. From North Carolina we have the co-author of the most advanced storm-surge model in the world, from California the head of that state’s flood plain management, and another board member has written textbooks used in college courses. I have the least technical training of anyone on the board, but I routinely participate in working groups at the National Academies of Science. I am the only non-scientist ever to win an honor given by the National Academies for contributions to water-related knowledge. I also serve on advisory boards at MIT’s Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals and Johns Hopkins’ School of Public Health Center for Refugees and Disaster Relief.

We all take our task very seriously and very personally. Two board members lost everything they owned in Katrina. Several of us know people killed in that storm.

Jindal can be a great governor for the coast – a great governor period – if he steps in, brings everyone together and solves this problem. It might make him the greatest governor in Louisiana’s history.

Flood protection has nothing to do with partisanship, I might add. We are a majority Republican board, including one vocal Tea Party member and at least one other member who leans that way.

With unanimous support, we filed the lawsuit seeking compensation from oil, gas and pipeline interests because we don’t want other people to die in a hurricane or have their homes and livelihoods destroyed.

Those who created the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East wanted to insulate us from political pressure – exactly the kind of pressure exerted on us by the governor and others in the past month.

We have gotten criticism from public figures but a lot of support from the public. We believe the public understands. The more people hear what we’re doing and why, the more support we have.
The first point I want to make is that no one has criticized the substance of our lawsuit. Let me repeat: No one has criticized the substance of our lawsuit.


Louisiana isn’t like any other state. Twelve thousand square miles of Louisiana – all the way north to the Arkansas border and our entire coast – was formed by sediment coming from the Mississippi River. We are not like Texas or Mississippi, and certainly not like Maine and Oregon. We have no rocky cliffs on the coast. We have mud held together by roots. And that mud is melting into the ocean.

Our board has never said oil, gas and pipeline companies are solely responsible for the loss of nearly 2,000 square miles of our state in the past 80 years or so. There are multiple causes.

It’s the industry which likes to blame one cause – the levees – as the source of all problems, but it isn’t just levees. If it was, the western part of the state wouldn’t have lost any land at all. The western part of the state is outside the river’s flood plain. Even if there were no levees, floodwater from the river would never reach that area. If levees were the only problem, out west they would have no land loss. Instead, they have plenty of it.

In fact, the multiple causes for land loss include levees, six dams in Montana and the Dakotas which retain almost a third of the sediment that used to flow down the river, benefits for the shipping industry, such as the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the lethal Mississippi River Gulf Outlet – and the oil and gas industry.

The fact that there are multiple causes does not mean, however, that an entity responsible for part of the destruction should not be accountable for what it has done.

Let me quote something: “Dredging canals for oil and gas pipelines Š took a toll on the landscape Š Canals and pipelines Š criss-crossed south Louisiana marshes Š The coastal marshes were lost when spoil banks were left randomly throughout the area, drastically altering the natural hydrology Š Saltwater intrusion increased and more land was lost Š Canal dredging has had one of the most dramatic effects on wetland growth and regeneration Š The marsh is unable to regenerate itself. [All of this amounts to] “industrial negligence.”

What I just quoted isn’t from our lawsuit. It’s from the state’s Master Plan for a sustainable coast.
The truth is the truth. Every scientist agrees that the oil and gas industry has done extraordinary damage to our coast. Even the industry concedes it. One U.S. Geological Survey study, a study that included input from industry scientists, concluded that 36 percent of the damage statewide comes from industry. Other estimates put it much higher.

It is also a truth that the industry operated under permits which required them to minimize damage and repair it when they finished. The industry has failed to obey these requirements.

Those are the two fundamental facts which drove us to consider taking legal action. There is a third truth. Everyone on the board has wondered how we can meet our responsibilities. Our job is not simply to operate and maintain a levee system handed to us by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Our job is protecting people’s lives and property.

We just conducted a study of the land bridge extending into Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans East. If that narrow spit of land disappears, the ocean will roar unchecked into the lake and threaten the lives and property of people who have never been threatened before. Reinforcing that alone would cost $1.2 billion.

We don’t have that money. As we look at the tremendous expenses necessary to maintain minimally adequate protection, we see nothing coming in.

One of our critics is quoted as saying: “We have a Master Plan. Let’s give it a chance.” I absolutely agree with that statement. Let’s give it a chance. Nothing we do is at variance with the state’s Master Plan. We want to carry out the Master Plan.

Let me repeat: Nothing we’re doing is inconsistent with the Master Plan. What we’re doing will let us carry out the Master Plan in our area.

Here’s the problem: The Master Plan has no funding.


The Flood Authority board believes that for our jurisdiction we have an absolute duty to pursue this case. If we don’t do it, we see no way to get the money needed to protect the public.

Our case is based on the fact that we are forced to maintain and possibly build more elaborate flood protection defenses because of land loss. The industry’s failure to comply with permits – its failure to do what they voluntarily agreed to do and to obey the law in exchange for taking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the state – has destroyed land.

That land loss means there’s no buffer to block storm surge, and that sends more water pounding against our levees. As the saying goes, the levees protect the people, and the land protects the levees.
The land is disappearing so fast that by 2100, if nothing is done New Orleans will be basically an island. The levees will be beach-front property. Much of the rest of the Louisiana coast will simply cease to exist.

Louisiana law also embodies a concept going back to the Romans called “servitude of drain.” This prohibits one party from increasing the natural flow of water from its property onto another’s. The destruction of land is sending more storm surge pounding against our levees.

We believe the oil and gas industry violated the law, and these violations have endangered the people we are responsible to protect.

Our suit does not ask that the industry restore the entire coast. But they must restore the part of the coast they destroyed. They must fix the part of the problem which they created. That’s all we want: Fix the part they broke.

If some areas are impossible to fix, industry should compensate us so we can upgrade flood protection to take care of the increased risk they caused.

We decided unanimously to file the lawsuit, and we unanimously reaffirmed our decision last week.

We have been called a rogue board, but we first informed Garret Graves of our plans Dec. 4, 2012. Garret is head of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. He attended the Flood Authority’s executive session Jan. 17. We informed him several more times of our intent to proceed with a lawsuit. We’re an independent, non-political board. We want to work with everyone, but ultimately each of us is responsible to his own conscience, and we did not operate in stealth.


We have been told we don’t have the authority to sue. We welcome a court challenge to that. You notice for all the talk – and there has been a lot of it – no one has filed for a declaratory judgment against us. They know the court will uphold our authority.

We have been criticized for trying to collect from an industry which was complying with the law at the time it conducted its operations. We believe that they were never in compliance with the law.
We have been criticized on grounds that we are interfering with efforts to get a larger share of federal revenues from offshore drilling. We absolutely support that effort but don’t believe our lawsuit interferes with it. [Louisiana’s U.S.] Sen. Mary Landrieu, the sponsor of that legislation, has said Louisiana should pursue coastal restoration everywhere, including in the courts.

We have been told our suit may interfere with the BP trial. Our attorney checked with the attorney representing the state and was told our suit would not interfere. How could it? The BP trial will be over long before our trial starts. And at Garret’s request we waited until the first phase of the trial was over before filing suit.

We have been told the state has litigation plans of its own, which our lawsuit interferes with. Those plans have been described to us, and in our board’s unanimous opinion our suit does not interfere; in fact it could complement the state’s strategy.

We have been told that we’ll cost the state jobs, but the reality is the oil and gas industry will stay as long as there’s oil and gas here. Look at BP. The state is suing BP. Every parish is suing BP. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against BP. And BP just sued the federal government to be allowed to bid on offshore tracts.

And as far as jobs go, no one talks about the jobs a major coastal restoration effort would create. These are not just construction jobs or transitory jobs. We have the potential to be the world leader in the science and engineering of this kind of work. We are the point of the spear, but every coastal area in the world will be dealing with problems like ours soon. We have the potential to produce great jobs, important jobs. We can create a silicon valley of water-related expertise.

Every one of the criticisms comes down to one thing: politics. But we are currently an independent board, specifically designed to do what politicians will not or cannot do.

They used to say, “The flag of Texaco flies over the Louisiana capitol.” People have to ask themselves, is that still true?

Legally speaking, the Flood Authority’s action involves our jurisdiction only. We are not acting for the state or for any other parish or levee board. Ironically, our jurisdiction has lost much less land than others. Much less.


What’s at stake is the future of Louisiana, the very existence of Louisiana as we know it. Everything is threatened. Our ports are threatened. Our way of life is threatened.

If you hunt anywhere near the coast, where will you hunt? What will you hunt? What happens to all the migratory birds that use our marsh? If you fish, where will you fish? Nearly every species in the gulf depends on the Louisiana marsh for some part of its life cycle. And if you live on the coast, where are you going to live? What will happen to your community? Because you won’t be able to live where you live now.

The U.S. Geological Survey is remapping the coast. They’ve finished only one parish, Plaquemines. They took 31 names off the map. These places no longer exist – 31 names in one parish, gone from the map. Many more names will come off the map as more parishes are mapped.

This lawsuit presents a choice:
Protect the industry from having to live up to its word and obey the law, or protect people’s lives and property from the crawling death of a vanishing shoreline and the violence of a hurricane storm surge. Protect the industry, or protect Louisiana’s way of life.

It’s really that simple.

Nearly everyone in Baton Rouge seems afraid of the oil and gas industry. They never talk about the elephant in the room, about the damage the industry has done to the coast. Our current status as an independent board allowed us to take the action we did. Because of it, the elephant isn’t in the room anymore. Right now it’s stampeding down the street. The issue cannot be ignored any longer.
Too many people in Louisiana, too many things, are threatened.

The industry itself is threatened. Chris John, head of Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, says the industry recognizes the need to “protect critical oil and gas infrastructure from storm surge,” adding that “our viability depends on” the coastal buffer.

The industry wants it 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. If the money comes from state or parish funds, it comes only from Louisiana taxpayers.

The wealthiest industry in the world wants taxpayers to pay to fix what the industry broke. We say to the industry: Fix what you broke.

I am not against the industry. I recognize it’s enormously important to the state and in the country. I’m proud of our ability to produce gas and oil, to let Americans heat their homes and drive their cars with what we produce. Years ago, I worked for an oil company – one of our defendants. I also applied for and got a job at the American Petroleum Institute, though in the end I didn’t take it because I would have had to give up my writing. But I appreciate the industry for treating me well when I did work for it.

We’re not charging that the industry has done nothing to help. They have done things to help. But they haven’t done enough. The industry isn’t responsible for all the land loss, but it is responsible for some of the land loss. It has to fix the part of the problem it created.

Compared to the size of the industry, the wealthiest in the world, the burden will be small. To Louisiana, the benefit will be enormous.

The Master Plan has no funding.

BP money won’t be enough. Even if we win, our lawsuit won’t be enough either, not even for our area. But if you start putting different funding together, we may get enough – enough to save what can be saved. If we don’t, most of the coast, most of the people who live there, will be gone.
Our board is not the problem. Land loss is the problem, and getting the industry to fix the part of the problem it created will go a long way toward the solution.


The governor wants us to withdraw the lawsuit. Last Thursday our board unanimously passed two resolutions. The first affirmed the suit. The second said we’d consider a 45-day pause in the substantive part of the suit in return for a good faith effort to create a task force to address the problem.

A pause was Garret Graves’s idea. We had hoped the CPRA would look upon our proposal as what it was, an olive branch.

We proposed a process that would result in oil being at the table to discuss a resolution to save lives and property – including industry’s own property. Our lawyers had already agreed, in the event of a resolution in this working-group process, to have their fee determined in arbitration with industry – and paid by industry, not taxpayers – in accord with long-established principles of Louisiana law.
No lawyers hijacked this board. The idea came from us. With a task force in place, our lawyers would stand down in accordance with our resolution.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) met Wednesday. But apart from my own comments offering this pause – again, a pause which Garret Graves had suggested – there was not a single mention of it in a three-hour meeting, not one. The meeting ended with CPRA voting to oppose the law suit. But they still did not authorize taking legal action against the law suit.
I still have hope for a resolution.

In return for a major contribution from the industry, there are many things the industry wants from the Legislature which I would personally support. This, of course, is not up to me. It’s up to the governor. He’s got tremendous abilities. Whether you agree with all his policies or not, there’s no question that when it comes to the coast he’s been a good governor.

He can be a great governor for the coast – a great governor period – if he steps in, brings everyone together and solves this problem. It might make him the greatest governor in Louisiana’s history.
That’s what I want. I want the governor to be great.

John Barry’s books include “Rising Tide” and, more recently, “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul.” A member of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, he also serves on the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

The Treasury Department sent its proposed rule to the Office of
Management and Budget earlier this month, and it could be finalized

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: Consultant’s report says unsafe welding led to fatal accident in Black Elk Energy platform


Black Elk platform fire
Three workers died after a November 2012 explosion in this oil platform owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy. A report commissioned by the firm said unsafe welding led to the accident. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Manuel Torres, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.By Manuel Torres, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 21, 2013 at 1:33 PM, updated August 21, 2013 at 7:30 PM

A consultant’s report for a Texas-based company says a deadly 2012 explosionon its Gulf of Mexico oil platform off the Louisiana coast happened when workers for a subcontractor used unsafe welding practices.

The report was released Wednesday, the same day two injured workers and their spouses filed a $180 million federal lawsuit in connection with the accident.

ABSG Consulting did the study and report for Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, which released the report and also made it available on its website. Three Filipino workers died in the Nov. 16 accident, which occurred at a time when production was shut down and a construction project was underway on the platform, according to the report.

ABSG says Grand Isle Shipyard Inc. was under contract for construction work when the blast happened. ABSG says Grand Isle had committed not to use subcontractors on Black Elk projects. However, the report says, workers doing the welding were employees of a subcontractor: DNR Offshore and Crewing Services.

A series of explosions occurred when workers were welding a pipe leading to a tank, known as a “wet oil tank,” according to the report.

“The WOT contained hydrocarbons, and the piping leading to it had not been isolated and made safe for welding,” the ABSG report said.

The report said Grand Isle and another contractor overseeing work on the platform, identified as Wood Group PSN, did not properly carry out welding processes, sometimes referred to as “hot work.” It said Grand Isle and DNR failed to stop work when “unexpected conditions” — including the smell of gas — arose.

Grand Isle’s use of a subcontractor was a factor in the accident because it prevented Black Elk from “effectively auditing the employers of all personnel on their facilities,” the report said.

The consultant also recommended that Black Elk provide additional oversight for construction activities on platforms and discourage the use of “hot work” on platforms.

Black Elk, Wood Group and others are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans by two workers injured in the accident, Antonio Tamayo and Wilberto Ilagan, and their spouses.

Alleging physical and mental injuries, numerous medical expenses and loss of future wages, among other things, the four ask for $20 million each in actual damages, plus a total of $100 million in punitive damages “if any of the defendants are found to have been grossly or intentionally negligent.”

Black Elk did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment on the lawsuit. Grand Isle officials did not immediately return a call for comment. A Louisiana attorney who has done work for DNR did not return a call for comment.

Wood Group responded to a telephoned request for comment with an emailed statement. “We are committed to preventing injuries to our people and everyone we work with. We will continue to review our procedures regularly and to provide our people with the training, knowledge and tools they need to work safely and prevent future accidents,” the statement said.

The federal agency that oversees offshore oil and gas safety, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, is still investigating the accident, a spokeswoman, Eileen Angelico, said in response to an email query. The bureau received the consultant’s report and was reviewing it, Angelico said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Fuel Fix: Black Elk Energy: Fatal fire hit finances, production


Posted on August 16, 2013 at 7:30 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Gulf of Mexico, Offshore

Houston-based Black Elk Energy says it is still dealing with financial fallout from last year’s fatal explosion at one of its Gulf of Mexico production platforms, even as federal investigators continue to probe the company’s overall safety.

The company said the accident hurt its financial results, that oil production slowed when the accident led to delays in obtaining permits for ordinary maintenance work and that it spent more than expected for “non-recurring regulatory, legal and platform restoration costs” tied to the incident. Black Elk provided the updates in investor guidance for the second half of 2013.

The company forecast that for July through December of this year, its daily production will average 13,500 to 14,500 barrels of oil equivalent, capital expenditures will be $45 million to $55 million and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will be $75 million to $85 million.

Legal fallout: Oil platform owner sued over blast in Gulf

Three people died and several others were injured in the explosion and fire last Nov. 16 at Black Elk’s West Delta 32 production platform 18 miles off the Louisiana coast. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement still is probing the incident, but the company has said a cutting torch may have ignited flammable vapors on the platform standing in 56 feet of water. Black Elk Energy has promised to release the report from a third-party investigation the company commissioned.

At the safety bureau’s request, Black Elk Energy gave the federal regulators a “performance improvement plan” last December and submitted an analysis of its previous violations in January. Facilities that were not producing at the time of the explosion were forced to stay offline temporarily .

The firm had racked up more than 300 documented mistakes and violations offshore before the fatal fire, and a safety bureau official said Thursday that the rates of those incidents – called incidents of non-compliance – have not declined since.

“We still have a lot of concerns,” the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

“Black Elk has met most of the requirements that were stipulated,” the official said, but the company “has not done enough to demonstrate to us that their overall performance is improving to the point we think it should be.”

Related story: Black Elk CEO vows vindication

Regulators have not given Black Elk Energy approval to resume production at its damaged platform, but they allowed repairs to begin in May. Those repairs are complete, the company said in a statement, adding:
“Over the past eight months, Black Elk officials, staff and advisers have worked cooperatively with government officials at the local, state and federal level to provide support for the victims and their families, analyze the underlying causes of the incident and implement policy and procedural improvements to minimize the risk of similar incidents in the future.”

The company otherwise had no response to the comments from the regulatory official.
The Black Elk explosion was the first in a recent spate of accidents in shallow Gulf of Mexico waters that have revived concerns about the risks of oil and gas production close to shore.

Last month, a gas well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, forcing the evacuation of 44 workers and igniting a fire that raged for nearly two days.

Just weeks before, a briny mix of gas, light condensate and salt water began leaking out of a 40-year-old Energy Resource Technology well while workers were trying to permanently plug it.

Founded in 2007 by a former BP and Amoco executive, Black Elk now holds interests in more than 1,000 wells connected to 176 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. It has been operating facilities in the Gulf of Mexico since 2010.

Its aggressive acquisition strategy has focused on buying old facilities and reworking offshore wells to eke out more hydrocarbons.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Nola.com: 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