“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.
BY TIM SANDLE May 19,2014 IN SCIENCE
Microbial activities in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that gas-rich deepwater plumes following the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout overwhelmed methane-oxidizing bacterial species, leading to high concentrations of methane lasting for a very long time.
Deepwater Horizon was an ultra-deepwater, semi-submersible offshore oil drilling rig. In 2010 the oil rig failed and it was responsible for the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. At approximately 9:45 p.m. CDT, on 20 April 2010, high-pressure methane gas from the well expanded into the drilling riser and rose into the drilling rig, where it ignited and exploded, engulfing the platform. From this, the total discharge has since been estimated at 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gallons).
Although microorganisms played a useful role in helping to clean up the oil disaster, new evidence suggests that levels of methane remained very high after the incident because marine microbes in the Gulf of Mexico were less able to oxidize the large stores of methane released.
While gas-rich deepwater plumes were the most visual but short-lived feature of the spill’s aftermath, researchers noted that the overall concentrations of methane remained high. Scientists speculate that this was because the marine microbes that consume the compound were ‘overloaded’. The data gathered highlights the risks to the ecosystem from human-made disasters.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Geoscience, in a paper titled “The rise and fall of methanotrophy following a deepwater oil-well blowout.”
Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/science/methane-levels-from-deepwater-horizon-remain-high/article/383984#ixzz321Uq0I7a
Special thanks to Richard Charter
BY BRADENTON HERALD EDITORIAL
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.
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
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
A study of what the controversial seismic tests would do to whales, dolphins and fish is on track for release at the end of February, an Interior Department official told lawmakers on Friday. Pictured is a North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES / NOAA/MCT
BY SEAN COCKERHAM
MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON — The Interior Department is endorsing seismic exploration for oil and gas in Atlantic waters, a crucial move toward starting drilling off the Carolinas, Virginia and possibly down to Florida.
The department released its final review Thursday, favoring a plan to allow the intense underwater seismic air gun blasts that environmentalists and some members of Congress say threatens the survival of whales and dolphins.
The oil industry wants to use the air guns to find out how much oil and gas lies along the U.S. Atlantic seabed. Federal estimates of a relatively modest 3.3 billion barrels of oil date from the 1970s and 1980s and are considered too low.
“The currently available seismic information from this area is decades old and was developed using technologies that are obsolete,” said Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The federal government wants to use the information to decide whether to open up the mid- and south Atlantic to oil and gas drilling for the first time in decades. President Barack Obama had planned to start allowing drilling at least off the coast of Virginia, but he postponed consideration of the idea after the massive 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Interior Department’s plan is to start allowing underwater seismic air gun tests in an area from Delaware to Florida’s Cape Canaveral, though most of the push for offshore drilling involves the waters off the Carolinas and Virginia.
The seismic tests involve vessels towing an array of air guns that blast compressed air underwater, sending intense sound waves to the bottom of the ocean. The booms are repeated every 10 seconds or so for days or weeks.
The echoes are used to map the locations of subsea oil and gas deposits.
The Interior Department received more than 55,000 public comments on the proposal. Environmental groups warn that the blasts make whales and dolphins deaf, preventing them from feeding, mating and communicating. More than 50 members of Congress, including a few Republicans, have sent letters to the president opposing the seismic air gun tests and saying that up to 138,500 marine mammals could be injured by them.
Interior Department officials said their plan protected the endangered North Atlantic right whale by closing areas along the whales’ main migratory route to the air gun testing. Beaudreau said the tests would be monitored closely.
“We’re really going to require and demand a high level of environmental performance,” he said.
The environmental group Oceana said the protected area was too small and the endangered whales would suffer from the “dynamite-like blasts.”
“They are like the American bison of the ocean. They deserve protection. There are only 500 of them left,” said Matthew Huelsenbeck, a marine scientist for Oceana.
Oceana last week spearheaded a letter from more than 100 marine scientists and conservation biologists that urges the Obama administration not to approve the seismic tests until the National Marine Fisheries Services releases upcoming new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is expected to give the final approval to the seismic testing plan in April. At that point the government would start reviewing the nine applications from companies that want to conduct the testing and decide whether their specific proposals should go forward.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.,, said the seismic testing plan was a major milestone for efforts to open the Atlantic to oil and gas drilling.
“While it has taken far too long, this step today will help put America on a path to open new areas to more American energy production,” Hastings said.
The Obama administration is weighing whether to include mid- and south Atlantic oil and gas drilling in the next federal offshore leasing plan, which runs from 2017 through 2022.
The National Ocean Industries Association, a group that’s lobbying for offshore drilling,
said the Interior Department’s approval of seismic testing appeared to be a huge step. But the group said it needed to review the plan to make sure its restrictions didn’t make testing unworkable.
The industry group said seismic testing had been used for decades in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in the world to make informed decisions about where to drill for oil.
There’s been controversy along the Gulf of Mexico, though, where the industry, environmental groups and government agencies settled a lawsuit last summer by putting some areas off limits to air gun testing for 30 months while environmental studies are conducted.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @seancockerham
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/27/3963572/feds-support-air-gun-blasts-to.html#storylink=cpy
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Radio New Zealand: Anti-oil protesters take to the beaches
Updated at 10:07 pm on 15 February 2014
Greenpeace says beach demonstrations around the South Island on Saturday are a clear message New Zealanders don’t want offshore drilling.
The Texan company Anadarko is about to begin drilling its first test well off the Otago-Southland coast in the search for a possible gasfield.
Greenpeace says more than 2000 people gathered on 21 South Island beaches in protest on Saturday afternoon.
Energy campaigner Steve Abel says protesters, including families, fishermen, tourism operators and iwi representatives, demonstrated they want a clean energy future for New Zealand.
He says the biggest turnouts were at beaches in Dunedin, with 600 people, Christchurch, with 500, and Kaikoura, 350.
Mr Abel says this shows people are very much saying they don’t want dozens of oil rigs dotted around the coastline.
He says they want jobs for New Zealand that don’t risk ruining fishing grounds or leave oil washing up on beaches.
Anti-oil protests at South Island beaches
18:29 Sat Feb 15 2014
Anti-oil protest have been held around South Island beaches as US oil company Anadarko continues its exploration of New Zealand waters.
Greenpeace says there were more than 2000 people at 20 beaches on the Mainland on Saturday, with the biggest crowds in Dunedin, Christchurch and Kaikoura.
The numbers showed New Zealanders did not want deep sea drilling off the coast, said Greenpeace energy campaigner Steve Abel.
“We don’t want to see dozens of oil rigs dotted off our coastlines – that is the awful vision of John Key and Anadarko. We want jobs for New Zealanders that don’t ruin our fishing grounds or risk oil washing on our beaches.”
Anadarko’s chartered ship the Noble Bob Douglas is now exploring the Canterbury Basin after failing to find oil off the west coast of the North Island.
It says it will most likely find natural gas in the Canterbury Basin, rather than oil.
The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association says finding commercial quantities of oil and natural gas is not easy, but drilling can be done safely in deep water.
In November last year, six boats protested against the Noble Bob Douglas off the Waikato coast. A subsequent Greenpeace legal challenge to the exploration permit failed.
Anti-oil protesters are again planning a sea-going protest off the Otago coast.
They say deep sea drilling for oil and gas is extremely risky for the environment and question the safety record of Anadarko, which was one of the companies behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
TV New Zealand
Oil Exploration Protesters Take to the Beaches
Anti-oil protesters across the South Island have continued their fight against Texan oil giant Anadarko today.
The Noble Bob Douglas will arrive close to New Zealander’s southern shores in the coming weeks for oil and gas exploration.
Over 2,000 people on 20 beaches across the South Island took part in the ‘Banners on the Beach’ protest against the ship’s arrival.
Last week Oil Free Otago sent a flotilla of yachts out to the drill-ship in an attempt to stop the exploration vessel.
Protesters from Kaikoura say seismic testing creates noise pollution that they fear will distress Kaikoura’s whales, dolphins and marine life.
Greenpeace energy campaigner, Steve Abel, said today’s turnout has sent a strong message to the Government and oil industry.
“Over 2000 people and families that have joined in today show that Kiwis don’t want deep sea drilling off our coasts. That’s not the future we want for New Zealand.
“We don’t want to see dozens of oil rigs dotted off our coastlines – that is the awful vision of John Key and Anadarko. We want jobs for New Zealanders that don’t ruin our fishing grounds or risk oil washing on our beaches.
“It’s about defending the way people put food on the table in New Zealand now and not selling out our kids’ future to foreign oil companies. We belong as part of the solution – sticking true to our clean green values and innovating a way forward – not as another oily backwater run for the benefit of US drillers.”
Last November over 5,000 people turned up to protest Anadarko’s drilling off the coast of Raglan.
The Eastern Tribune
Anti-oil protestors gather across the South Island
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15TH, 2014
KAIKOURA: The Anti-oil protesters across the South Island are still fighting against the Texan oil giant Anadarko. The Noble Bob Douglas will soon arrive near New Zealander’s southern shores in the next few weeks for oil and gas exploration.
Around 2,000 people on 20 beaches throughout the South Island took part in a protest, ‘Banners on the Beach’, against the arrival of the ship. Earlier it was reported that Oil Free Otago had sent a fleet of yachts out towards the drill-ship in an effort to stop the exploration vessel. Kaikoura protesters believe the seismic testing creates noise pollution that will distress Kaikoura’s marine life.
Steve Abel, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said the turnout on the beaches has sent a strong message to the Government and oil industry. He said around 2000 people and families have come together which shows that Kiwis do not want deep sea drilling to be done off their coasts. That was not the future they wanted for New Zealand.
The protestors demand that they did not want to see dozens of oil rigs dotted off on their coastlines. That is an awful vision of John Key and Anadarko. They want jobs for New Zealanders that do not ruin their fishing grounds or have the risk of oil washing on their beaches. Steve Abel said that this fight was about defending how people put food on the table in New Zealand and not selling out their kids’ future to foreign oil companies. He said they were sticking true to their clean green values and finding a way forward with innovation and not as another oily backwater run for the benefit of US drillers.
Over 5,000 people had turned up to protest Anadarko’s drilling off the coast of Raglan.
– See more at: http://www.theeasterntribune.com/story/2906/anti-oil-protestors-gather-across-the-south-island/#sthash.eUGvbZrU.dpuf
Special thanks to Richard Charter
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
‘Out-Of-Control’ Rig In The Gulf Gushing Methane Freely Into The Atmosphere
BY EMILY ATKIN ON JANUARY 31, 2014 AT 9:48 AM
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
After 8,400 Gallon Oil Spill, Safety Standards On Norwegian Offshore Rigs Questioned
By Emily Atkin on January 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm
The Statfjord C rig.
Approximately 32 cubic meters, or 8,400 gallons, of oil spilled into the sea early Sunday morning following a leak at a Statoil-owned rig off the coast of Norway, according to media reports and a company statement.
“It has been confirmed that a limited amount of oil has leaked into the sea,” the Norway-based company said, noting that the leak had been stopped. “We are currently working on mapping the extent of the leak. The platform has been shut down.”
Though weather was not indicated as the cause, Statoil confirmed that harsh conditions and high waves were preventing emergency response teams from adequately observing the area immediately following the spill, and that it would inspect the area from the air. The spill originated from an area in the rig’s drainage system that was supposed to trap liquids, the company said, but did not note how or why the drainage system failed. The rig’s crew of 270 people were ordered onto lifeboats, Statoil said.
Statoil said it would launch an in-house investigation of the spill’s cause. Norway’s police and Petroleum Safety Authority also said it would probe the incident.
“We view an oil leak into the sea as serious,” company spokesman Morten Eek told Bloomberg News. “Statfjord C is shut and won’t be started again before we’ve had the system verified.”
The Statfjord C platform is part of the Statfjord fields, which produce about 80,000 barrels of oil a day through its A, B, and C platforms, according to Statoil’s website. Though Statoil does not give production value of the oil obtained via the Statfjord platforms, Statfjord holds the record for the highest daily production ever recorded for a European oil field outside Russia.
Statoil’s production has also likely helped Norway’s recent influx of riches. The country’s sovereign wealth fund ballooned in the last year because of high oil and gas prices, with the fund — which collects taxes from oil profits and invests the money, mostly in stocks — exceeding 5.11 trillion crowns ($905 billion) in value last week. Theoretically, that made everyone in Norway worth a million crowns per person, or about $177,000 per Norwegian.
Safety on Norway’s offshore rigs, however, has been an issue for some in the country. Just one day after Sunday’s spill, four unions that represented Norwegian offshore oil rig workers decided to withdraw from an industry-sponsored safety group, saying the offshore rig industry was ignoring critical safety standards.
The group, called the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association’s Network for Safety and Emergency Response Training (NSOB), was originally established in the wake of a 1980 platform disaster that killed 123 people. But now, the four unions — Fellesforbundet, Industri Energi, Lederne and SAFE — said NSOB had recently made “a number of changes that impair safety and emergency training on the Norwegian continental shelf.”
“For us, it appears that cost savings and superficiality have taken precedence at the expense of safety and emergency response,” Fellesforbundet Secretary Mohammed Afzal said in a statement to UPI news.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
January 22, 2014
Michael Weller and Jason Hutt
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP
Region 9 of the US Environmental Protection Agency recently made available the finalized National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit applicable to discharges from oil and gas exploration facilities offshore Southern California. NPDES General Permit No. CAG280000 (2014 NPDES General Permit), issued under provisions of the Clean Water Act, authorizes discharges from exploration, development and production facilities located offshore of Southern California in accordance with specified effluent limitations, monitoring and reporting requirements and various other conditions.
The final 2014 NPDES General Permit includes certain new requirements that EPA indicates were added to address offshore hydraulic fracturing operations, including increases in the monitoring requirements associated with produced water discharges and new inventory and reporting requirements.
While operating offshore, waste streams generated by oil and gas operations are generally either treated and discharged via a NPDES permit or shipped back to shore for disposal. The 2014 NPDES General Permit authorizes discharges from 23 platforms operating offshore Southern California, including discharges of Drilling Fluids and Cuttings, Produced Water, Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids, Bilge Water, and Water Flooding Discharges.
This reissuance of the 2004 NPDES general permit was initially proposed in 2012. During the public comment period, the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), several California legislators and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) expressed interest in hydraulic fracturing operations offshore of California. To address the concerns raised over offshore hydraulic fracturing, EPA changed portions of the final general permit, adding new testing and reporting requirements.
Section 301(a) of the Clean Water Act prohibits point source discharges of pollutants into navigable waters unless in compliance with a permit. To comply with the prohibition on point source discharges, businesses typically obtain CWA Section 402 permits from the state; however, because these operations are offshore, EPA issues the NPDES permits directly. Under the NPDES program, EPA may issue individual permits or general permits. The latter allows the Agency to authorize discharges from a large number of facilities engaged in the same activity. When EPA issues a general permit, a prospective permittee simply submits an application for coverage and then abides by the terms and conditions of the general permit.
NDPES general permits typically contain monitoring requirements. In its response to public comments on the 2014 NDPES General Permit, EPA indicated that it has increased the mandatory Whole Effluent Toxicity or “WET” testing for produced water discharges from an annual to a quarterly requirement. EPA indicated that, because the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations are “commonly commingled and discharged with produced water,” the mandatory tests applicable to produced water will address any concerns over discharges associated with hydraulic fracturing operations.
NPDES permits may also contain inventory and reporting requirements. In the 2004 version of this particular NPDES permit, EPA required that permittees maintain inventories and report drilling fluid constituents added downhole for all discharges of “Drilling Fluids and Cuttings.” In the 2004 version, the mandatory inventory and reporting requirement only applied to mud systems and there was no such requirement for “Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids.”
The 2014 NDPES General Permit includes that same requirement for discharges of “Drilling Fluids and Cuttings.” However, the permittee must also now submit detailed information for discharges of “Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids,” which includes chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Specifically, EPA added Part II.C.3 to the 2014 NPDES General Permit, which requires the permittee to:
1. maintain an inventory of the quantities and application rates of chemicals used to formulate well treatment, completion and workover fluids; and
2. if those fluids are discharged, report to EPA Region 9 the chemical formulation of the discharges and the discharge volume with the operators quarterly discharge monitoring reports.
The disclosures under the 2014 NDPES General Permit are not to the “public” and EPA has indicated that the inventory would be available to EPA where the Agency “deems it necessary to meet the purposes of the CWA. For example, in case of well failure or other accident resulting in an unexpected discharge, EPA may access such inventory in order to immediately assess emergency response needs.” It is not yet clear how the chemical formulations must be reported or to what extent trade secret protections are available.
The public comment period for the 2014 NPDES General Permit closed nearly one year ago on February 4, 2013. The effective date of the permit is March 1, 2014.
Michael Weller is member of the firm’s environmental and natural resources practice in Washington DC.
Jason Hutt is a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office. He counsels clients on current and upcoming regulatory developments at the nexus of environmental and energy policy, with focused attention on natural gas development, including hydraulic fracturing.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
4:40 a.m. EST, January 21, 2014
WASHINGTON – Cuban officials are preparing to resume offshore oil drilling in deep waters as close as 50 miles from the Florida coast, posing a threat to the state’s beaches and marine life, former Gov. Bob Graham said Monday after a trip to Havana.
The Cubans, he said, are negotiating with energy companies from Angola and Brazil to drill exploratory wells along the maritime border where U.S. and Cuban waters meet, starting next year. Graham warned that if drilling in that area produces a major oil spill, the powerful ocean current known as the Gulf Stream would drag any slick north to the Florida Keys and along the coast to South Florida’s coral reefs and beachfront.
“If there were a spill of any significant size, without question it would impact Florida,” Graham said.
The former Florida governor and U.S. senator, who co-chaired a presidential commission on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, said Cuba is aiming for high safety standards but may lack the capacity to contain a major spill.
“This is an inherently risky operation when you are drilling two or more miles under the ocean,” he said.
Graham went to Cuba along with staff members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank, and met with Cuban energy and environmental leaders.
The Cubans, desperate for an economic lifeline, are convinced that crude oil worth billions of dollars is deposited near their shores, despite failed efforts to find it.
After spending nearly $700 million over a decade of exploration, energy companies from around the world all but abandoned the search last year. The initial results brought relief to environmentalists alarmed about the prospect of a spill and the complications of dealing with it amid the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
A floating rig built in China and operated by Repsol, a Spanish firm, found oil in waters north of Havana, but not enough to be worth the expense of extracting it. A Russian company, Zarubezhneft, also searched without success in shallow waters closer to shore.
But Cuba is determined to keep trying, Graham said, because of seismic testing that indicates sizable deposits north of the island.
“In fact, they have either made a commitment or are negotiating commitments for drilling in 10 additional blocks of the area north of the Cuban coast, and they hope to have some drilling started as early as 2015,” Graham said. “They are satisfied that these [seismic tests] show enough commercially promising oil deposits that they are proceeding forward aggressively.”
Their latest target, he said, is near the maritime border, midway between Cuba and Key West. That would push the exploration into deeper water closer to Florida – and increase the risk of a spill.
“What is contemplated is an area north of Cuba that could be 10,000 to 12,000 feet deep,” Graham said. “It could be considerably deeper. And the deeper it gets, the riskier it is.”
The Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico was in water more than 5,000 feet deep. It spewed 210 million gallons of crude oil, causing billions of dollars of damage to five coastal states, slathering beaches, ruining the area’s tourist season, devastating its fishing industry and causing lasting harm to marine life.
Gulf currents carried part of the oil slick toward the Florida Keys, but an eddy shut it off, sparing South Florida from damage.
Oceanographers who study the currents share Graham’s concern.
“If you do have an oil spill anywhere north of Havana, in all likelihood you would end up with oil reaching the U.S. coast,” Frank Muller-Karger, a marine scientist at the University of South Florida said Monday. “If the oil reaches the coast, it’s a disaster. We have the largest coral reef in the continental U.S. there. It’s a tremendous wildlife resource, a fishing resource, a tourism resource, huge cities that depend on those beaches. So it would have a very big impact.”
To guard against disaster, the U.S. Coast Guard plans to skim, burn or spray chemical dispersants on any slick that forms in the Caribbean to stop it from reaching the Florida coast. The Coast Guard’s contingency plan also calls for placing floating booms along the entrance to marine sanctuaries and inlets to protect mangroves and hatching waters for fish and other wildlife.
But the task is complicated by the embargo and frosty relations between the countries, which could block U.S. companies from going to the site of a potential spill without Cuban permission.
Coast Guard and other U.S. officials have been meeting with counterparts from Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica to confront these barriers and form a regional response plan.
“In terms of safety issues, their standards are high – in some instances they even exceed U.S. standards,” Graham said. “The question is their capability to meet those standards.”
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Special thanks to Richard Charter
BY ZACK COLMAN | JANUARY 10, 2014 AT 2:04 PM
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests…
A long-awaited final federal study on the environmental impact of using seismic guns to search for oil and gas deposits off the Atlantic coast is due at the end of February, signaling future battles between Republicans and Democrats regarding offshore drilling.
The final environmental impact study on using seismic guns to explore for oil and gas from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean energy Management has been five years in the making, and will be used to inform decisions on whether to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.
A seismic gun shoots compressed air into the water and reflects off the seabed to deliver information about whether oil and gas deposits lay beneath. Proponents say it reduces the costs and environmental damage of exploration, while opponents say the shots can deafen marine life, disrupt habitats and lead to eventual death.
While Democrats say the practice disturbs marine life, Republicans say it’s safe, noting that the federal government has never pinned a marine mammal death to seismic guns.
It’s a complicated matter, said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Deputy Director Walter Cruickshank, who noted the environmental study has taken longer than usual.
“There’s a lot of species out there, a lot of ocean to cover, and we’re continuing to learn new things as we conduct this research,” he said during a Friday hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
At its core, though, approval of seismic guns is a discussion of expanding offshore drilling, lawmakers noted at the hearing.
“There’s been a lot of talk about, ‘Let’s explore.’ But talk is cheap. Action is needed,” said Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., who noted the state’s Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, support offshore drilling.
For now, the Obama administration’s current drilling plan that runs through 2017 blocks energy development in the Atlantic Ocean. Those Atlantic blocks were included in a draft of the president’s first five-year drilling plan, but he revised it following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers and spewed 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Drilling supporters say wading into the Atlantic could be lucrative — an American Petroleum Institute report said it would provide 280,000 jobs and add $23.5 billion to the U.S. economy each year between 2017 and 2035.
If the federal government decides to offer oil leases in the Atlantic, it would likely come in the latter half of the next five-year drilling plan that would run through 2022, Cruickshank said.
Many Democrats hope that doesn’t happen.
They warned at the hearing that U.S. laws have not strengthened enough in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident — though Donald Boesch, a marine biologist who worked on a White House-convened independent commission evaluating the response to the spill, said federal regulations and industry have responded well.
Democrats maintained another spill would threaten tourism and fishing industries that support 200,000 jobs and bring in $11.8 billion annually, according to ocean conservation group Oceana.
Seismic testing would pose a risk to those industries too, said Boesch, who is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
“There’s legitimate concerns,” Boesch said. “It’s a matter of legitimate scientific controversy.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests that exposure to intense underwater sound in some settings may cause certain marine mammals to strand and ultimately die.” Oceana, citing federal projections, says seismic testing would injure 138,500 dolphins and whales through 2020.
“We should not be risking our fishing and tourism industries … because the energy companies want to get their hands on a quick oil buck,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the subcommittee.
But Republicans and industry say seismic testing has greatly improved since its early use in the 1970s.
They also noted that none of the 60 “unusual mortality events” that killed marine life since 1991 and were documented by a federal working group were the result of seismic testing.
Suggestions of a link between seismic testing and marine mammal deaths “is likely a chimera,” said James Knapp, chairman of the department of earth and ocean sciences at the University of South Carolina.
Enhancements in seismic testing include the advent of 3D imaging, which witnesses credited with reducing environmental damage through curtailing exploration by drilling.
It also has helped shed light on the potentially vast resources available undersea. In the Gulf of Mexico, seismic testing revealed a resource basin five times larger than previously thought, Richie Miller, president of Spectrum Geo Inc., said during the hearing.
“We would expect the same thing just with this new technology off the East Coast,” he said.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Posted on Nov 15th, 2013 with tags California, News, offshore fracking .
Citing the use of hazardous hydraulic fracturing chemicals and the release of oil industry wastewater off California’s coast, the Center for Biological Diversity yesterday called on the Coastal Commission to halt fracking for oil and gas in state waters and press for tighter regulation of fracking in federal waters.
In a letter delivered as commissioners meet this week in Newport Beach, the Center says hundreds of recently revealed frack jobs in state waters violate the Coastal Act. Some oil platforms are discharging wastewater directly into the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a government document.
“The Coastal Commission has the right and the responsibility to step in when oil companies use dangerous chemicals to frack California’s ocean waters,” said Emily Jeffers, a Center attorney. “Our beaches, our wildlife and our entire coastal ecosystem are at risk until the state reins in this dangerous practice.”
After noting seven risky chemicals used by oil companies fracking in California waters, the letter describes the duties of the Coastal Commission to protect wildlife, marine fisheries, and the environment. “Because the risk of many of the harms from fracking cannot be eliminated, a complete prohibition on fracking is the best way to protect human health and the environment,” the letter says.
At minimum, the Coastal Commission must take action under the Coastal Act to regulate the practice, including requiring oil and gas operators fracking in state waters to obtain a coastal development permit.
The letter also contains the Center’s analysis of chemicals used in 12 recent frack jobs in state waters near Long Beach. Drawing on data disclosed by oil companies, the Center found that at least one-third of chemicals used in these fracking operations are suspected ecological hazards. More than a third of these chemicals are suspected of affecting the human developmental and nervous systems.
The chemical X-Cide, used in all 12 offshore frack jobs examined by the Center, is classified as a hazardous substance by the federal agency that manages cleanup at Superfund sites. X-Cide is also listed as hazardous to fish and wildlife.
Oil companies have used fracking at least 200 times in waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, as well as in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking involves blasting massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals into the earth at pressures high enough to crack geologic formations and release oil and gas.
Approximately half the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge all or a portion of their wastewater directly to the ocean, according to a Coastal Commission document. This produced wastewater contains all of the chemicals injected originally into the fracked wells, with the addition of toxins gathered from the subsurface environment.
The Center’s letter says that water pollution from fracking and oil operations in California’s waters poses risks to a wide range of threatened and endangered species, including Blue whales, sea otters, and Leatherback turtles.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ
Oil Free Seas Flotilla
A flotilla of protesters is promising to defend the ocean from deep-sea oil exploration as an Anadarko vessel sets a course for their location.
The flotilla of ocean-going yachts, which include the Greenpeace yacht Vega, raced the drillship the Noble Bob Douglas to the site at the Romney Prospect, 110 nautical miles off the Raglan coast, at the weekend.
Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid, who was on one of the six boats, said they planned a peaceful protest where Anadarko will drill in 1500 metre of water in what will be New Zealand’s deepest well.
“Our objective is to faithfully defend our oceans and our coastline, defend our climate, defend out future generations against very risky and unnecessary deep-sea oil drilling,” she said.
Changes to the Crown Minerals Act, known as the Anadarko Amendment, limits protest activity in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and requires all boats to remain 500m clear of drilling operations.
“Seeing as the ship is not here yet there is no restricted zone where we are. We’re just sailing off the coast of New Zealand in very beautiful water.”
The Oil Free Seas flotilla was a loose alliance who wanted to halt exploration and said coastal communities would suffer in a major spill. “The Raglan community and that coastline there would be in the direct path of any major oil spill if it should happen so they have a lot to lose.”
Former Green party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons was also on the flotilla and said Anadarko threatened her grandchildren’s right to a clean environment.
Anadarko’s drilling ship the Noble Bob Douglas was 50 nautical miles off New Plymouth last night and was due to depart overnight.
They will set up in the permitted area and corporate affairs manager Alan Seay expected everything to run smoothly.
“We respect their right to protest and I’d ask that they respect our right to go about our lawful business and respect the safety zone that will be around the Noble Bob Douglas,” he said. “I do understand that they are not allowed to interfere with that location that they must move off when the drillship arrives so we very much hope that that is what happens otherwise they will be interfering.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Nov. 18, 2013 at 8:37 AM
HOUSTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) — Black Elk Energy said it didn’t agree with violations outlined by a federal safety regulator in response to a deadly fire on an offshore platform in 2012.
Three of the 24 rig workers on a platform operated by Black Elk Energy died in a November 2012 accident off the coast of Louisiana.
The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said Nov. 4 the company lapsed on several safety requirements on the rig and operated “a climate in which workers feared retaliation if they raised safety concerns.”
Black Elk said in a statement Friday it was committed to a safe and compliant offshore working environment.
“Black Elk Energy does not agree with the basis for the [incidents of noncompliance order issued by BSEE] and is evaluating its options for response,” the company said.
In August, Black Elk said a third-party investigation found contractors failed to follow basic safety standards.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Anti-Anadarko-flotilla-sets-sail/tabid/423/articleID/320773/Default.aspx#ixzz2kInOrRmD
Monday 11 Nov 2013 6:16a.m.
By 3 News online staff
A flotilla of protestors campaigning against Anadarko’s offshore oil drilling plans will set out today, and organisers aren’t promising they won’t breach legally protected zones around drilling vessels.
Boats will leave Auckland and Kaikoura at midday as part of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla to head to a proposed drilling site.
The Nobel Bob Douglas, a newly-commissioned drilling ship currently carrying out exploratory drilling, is positioned at the site 110 nautical miles west of Raglan. “Nuclear testing in the Pacific wasn’t right and deep-sea oil drilling in the Tasman is not right either. We will not be bullied into submission by big oil or dubious laws,” says spokesperson Anna Horne.
“We’ve got six fantastic boats, great skippers and crew, who are going to go out for as long as it takes to get the message across to Anadarko directly, and also to make it clear to the Government that it’s not a popular thing.”
Anadarko is due to begin drilling for oil at the site later this month. Vessels from the Bay of Islands and Wellington will depart for the site later this week.
The flotilla could be the first test of legislation passed earlier this year which bans aspects of protesting at sea. That law states it is illegal to interfere with any structure or ship that is in an offshore area that is to be used in mining activities, with an exclusion zone of 500 metres.
However members of the group say they do not anticipate violating the exclusion zone.”Safety is paramount in our minds – we wouldn’t do anything to risk a spill,” says Ms Horne. “We are just determined with our banners and a peaceful presence, to show that these things don’t go unnoticed.”
She says it’s too early to say whether the group will or won’t deliberately breach the 500m exclusion zone. “We are committed to peaceful non-violent protest, and we are absolutely mindful of the lawŠ we’re used to acting within those international laws of the sea.”
One of the ships involved in the flotilla, the Vega, was also involved in a flotilla protesting against French nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Anti-Anadarko-flotilla-sets-sail/tabid/423/articleID/320773/Default.aspx#ixzz2kInOrRmD
Special thanks to Richard Charter
A Russian Coast guard officer points a knife at a Greenpeace activist as protesters attempt to climb the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Arctic Ocean’s Pechora Sea. Credit: Greenpeace
An environmental organization with a $350 million war chest, a giant protest vessel, 28 activists and a rubber raft have succeeded in drawing Russian President Vladimir V. Putin into a very public global dispute.
Attention is now focused on the Greenpeace activists-who were arrested last month by Coast Guard agents for trying to hang a protest banner on an Arctic Ocean oil platform-and whether they will languish in prison for up to 15 years each on dubious piracy charges.
“They are obviously not pirates,” Putin said in a speech to the International Arctic Forum last month. Yet Russian authorities so far seem to be throwing the book at the activists as international outrage grows to secure their freedom. Protests have been held at Russian consulates in about a half dozen cities worldwide to release the activists.
While the unfolding drama is now focused on issues of civil disobedience and human rights, underneath the uproar is a tangle of issues around Arctic drilling that Greenpeace has been campaigning to address for many years. And now it has secured the world’s attention and a chance to spark a discussion-and the stakes are high.
Earlier this year in a report called Point of No Return, the confrontational organization identified oil drilling in Arctic waters as one of the biggest climate threats being ignored by the world’s governments.
“Oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice … to produce up to 8 million barrels a day of oil and gas,” Greenpeace said in the report. “The drilling would add 520 million tons of CO2 a year to global emissions by 2020.”
That Greenpeace would target Russia’s Prirazlomnoye oil platform-which this fall is expected be the world’s first offshore Arctic well-should not come as a surprise. And it is equally unsurprising that Russia, currently the world’s biggest oil producer, would react so sharply to protect its oil interests and the flagship project of its multibillion-dollar quest to drill, especially as the United States is overtaking Russia as the No. 1 energy producer.
“This is probably the strongest reaction we’ve gotten from a government since the French government blew up one of our ships [in 1985 in an anti-nuclear protest],” said Philip Radford, executive director of Greenpeace USA.
Hidden from view so far, however, has been the environmental damage the Arctic is already suffering at the hands of the Russian oil industry, a degradation that would likely get worse if the oil boom there continues without better regulation, according to Greenpeace and other Russian environmentalists and scientists.
Every year, according to Greenpeace, about 30 million barrels of oil products leak from wells and pipelines in Russia. An estimated four million barrels of that, roughly the size of BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, flows straight into the Arctic Ocean through tributaries.
The precise impact of these spills on the fragile Arctic environment and its people is unknown but is likely substantial, Greenpeace says. For them the leaks-and the alleged lack of adequate means to deal with them-are an example of an inadequate safety culture in the country’s oil industry. And they’re causing deep concern about Russia’s aggressive push to start drilling for oil in open Arctic waters.
“Russia will not be ready for effective monitoring, supervising and working in the Arctic Ocean,” said Vladimir Chuprov, a Russian citizen and the head of energy for Greenpeace Russia in Moscow, the country’s main energy industry watchdog. Chuprov has been monitoring oil spills for the past decade.
While Russia produces 12 percent of the world’s oil, it is responsible for roughly half the world’s oil spills, according to Greenpeace Russia figures. Broken down, the numbers reveal that some 30 million barrels of petroleum leak from 20,000 inland spills each year.
Official government records paint a different picture. Russian environmental officials say there are only hundreds of inland spills a year. Among other omissions, however, those figures don’t include spills that dump less than 56 barrels, because companies aren’t required to report those incidents.
The two Russian oil companies that already received government approval to drill the Arctic have notorious records for oil accidents and spills.
The Prirazlomnoye platform in the Arctic’s Pechora Sea that Greenpeace targeted is owned and operated by Gazprom Neft Shelf LLC, a subsidiary of the state-run energy giant OAO Gazprom. Gazprom Neft was responsible for the country’s worst offshore oil disaster in December 2011, when a floating rig sank in the Sea of Okhotsk, killing 53 workers.
According to the company’s 2012 sustainability report, the company reported 2,626 pipeline ruptures that year and 3,257 ruptures in 2011.
Gazprom has landed several other licenses to build exploratory drilling wells and platforms in a half dozen other Russian Arctic seas.
Rosneft, another major state-run oil company and the country’s biggest oil producer, has also secured licenses and is expected to begin drilling its first well in early 2014.
Last year, Rosneft was named Russia’s worst environmental polluter by the regional paper Bellona after a government report found that the company had 2,727 reported spills in 2011 in a single northwestern province.
In an interview with InsideClimate News, Vladimir Antoshchenko, a Gazprom Neft Shelf spokesperson, said the Prirazlomnoye project was “based on strict demands on environmental and industrial safety.” He said the rig has Arctic-specific ice-crushing machines to blast floating icebergs and special boats to safely navigate the icy waters.
Alexey Knizhnikov, an environmental policy officer based in the Moscow office of the World Wildlife Fund, said he “has not seen any effective technology to combat an oil spill in ice conditions.”
Either way, environmentalists and other critics of Russia’s Arctic energy plans say there are deeper reasons why the country’s oil industry isn’t ready for Arctic drilling.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that substantial environmental regulations for energy companies were introduced in Russia. The end of Communism brought the establishment of environmental advocacy in the country, which, among other factors, led to the roll out of more and better rules, such as financial penalties for oil spills, but they’re not enough.
For decades the government has been harshly criticized for concealing petroleum spills from the public and the media, levying meager fines that hardly discourage violators, and for failing to require companies to have adequate emergency response plans and spill response tools, among other criticisms.
Valentina Semyashkina, former chair of the Save the Pechora Committee, an environmental organization that works in the Arctic Komi Republic told InsideClimate News that “concealment of accidental oil spills” by energy companies is a regular occurrence. So is the government’s “turning a blind eye,” she said.
The Komi Republic, a province the size of Germany with a largely indigenous population, has been on the frontlines of Russia’s oil rush for years. Accidents have been prevalent, including a vast spill of as much as 2 million barrels from a corroded pipeline in 1994. The incident was first made public by a U.S. Department of Energy official who revealed the spill to the New York Times, prompting accusations of a Russian government cover-up.
“The power is always on the side of big businesses and never on the side of the citizens,” Semyashkina said.
She pointed to a recent oil spill in the Komi Republic. In late May this year, a local Komi resident on his way to work spotted a big blob of black gooey oil in the area’s Kolva River from a pipeline that tore apart in the early winter months. The pipeline’s operator, the Russian- and Vietnamese-owned company Rusvietpetro, had detected the rupture in November but nothing happened.
More than a dozen community members ran the cleanup, shoveling oil into barrels and putting them on the shore before the government emergency response officials arrived and took over about a week later. By late June, Rusvietpetro had repaired the line, which it said broke due to a drop in pressure in the line. The government response ended on July 25, after 3,500 barrels of oil spilled out.
A resident helps clean up the Kolva River oil spill/Credit: Greenpeace
The oil is still threatening the fish and cows that the local indigenous Komi people depend on to earn their living, according to Semyashkina. And several residents are still cleaning up the mess without compensation.
Rusvietpetro didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Local authorities say some of the oil and oil products have reached the Pechora River, a tributary of the Arctic Ocean, as is typical following spills in the Russian tundra, the country’s biggest oil-producing area, Greenpeace’s Chuprov said.
About 13 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its natural gas lie under Arctic land and water, most of it offshore, according to projections.
One-third of that oil and more than half of the gas is buried on and off Russia’s coastline. And for the first time, the trove of energy is accessible to drilling, a result of both global warming-which has turned the northern ice cap into mush in the summer months-and advanced drilling technology.
Drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean poses new and difficult challenges for industry, and this is particularly worrying for conservation advocates who oppose Russia’s advance into the Arctic.
“We saw how hard it was to respond to the serious offshore drilling incident in the Gulf of Mexico with the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Doug Norlen, director for Pacific Environment, an advocacy and research organization that supports a moratorium on Arctic drilling. Now imagine a spill in the Arctic, where “you are dealing with places that are far away from response capabilities. … It’s a recipe for a disaster.”
Although drilling conditions vary across the ocean’s 5.4 million square miles, the risk of a blowout and a catastrophic spill are threatening all over. Fast-developing storms can wield hurricane-force winds. Icebergs up to a mile in length drift across its choppy currents.
Water temperatures typically hover well below zero. If an accident were to occur in countries lacking emergency response infrastructure along their Arctic coastlines-as in Russia-it could take emergency response crews several hours to arrive at the site under the best conditions and perhaps days.
Marilyn Heiman, director of the U.S. Arctic program at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said that to respond to spills immediately all countries bordering icy Arctic waters would need emergency response centers that are located within a few hundred miles of a drilling site.
These centers would have to be manned by response workers 24 hours a day, because once oil enters the sea, the dark slime can be carried to distant shorelines via strong ocean currents or sink to the depths of the ocean floor.
No country with icy waters has a center this close. In Alaska, the nearest Coast Guard response unit is around 1,000 miles from planned Arctic drilling locations. (It is unclear whether U.S. Arctic drilling regulations, to be released later this year, will require closer emergency centers at planned U.S. drilling sites.)
Knizhnikov of the environmental organization WWF said he’s skeptical that adequate centers will be built in Russia. “It will be very difficult to become reality because [the centers are] very costly,” he said. “It will take many, many years before they will be created, if they will be created.”
Companies in Control
Still, on July 1, Russia passed stricter safety standards and pollution cleanup regulations for offshore drillers than it has in place for inland operations.
Russia now requires companies to have more and better equipment to collect spilled oil-such as booms and skims on hand at all times at drilling sites. The rules also require companies to react to spills faster. According to Russian law, drilling operators must respond to spills at sea within four hours of discovering them, whereas companies have six hours to respond to spills on land.
Most experts say the regulations are not sufficient to address serious concerns about a major spill in the Arctic, one of Earth’s last pristine wilderness areas. For instance, regulations dictating the type of safety equipment and spill response operators must use are too general to be effective, many say.
Even those experts who say Russia’s rules are adequate have their worries.
“The regulations are good,” said Alexei Bambulyak, a Russian environment expert at the Norwegian environment research institution Akvaplan-niva. However, “whether they are followed or not is up to the [drilling] operators.”
The five counries with major Arctic claims-Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States-are moving somewhat slower than Russia, either because of uncertain energy prospects or environmental security and safety concerns.
Norway is the exception, but it has the world’s most stringent standards for offshore drilling safety and is drilling in warmer waters than Russia with less sea ice. In 2007, Norway’s Statoil became the first driller in the world to produce natural gas in Arctic waters.
According to Eric Haalan, a spokesperson for Statoil, Arctic drillers everywhere have “absolutely everything to lose” by working in the Arctic Ocean unprepared.
“Meaning, if we don’t do it properly, we lose more than anyone else. And we have seen the consequences of accidents that have happened in the past, and what effect that has had on even large companies,” he said.
Greenpeace has a long history of taking a strong stand against Arctic drilling and other issues and accepting the consequences, according to Radford, the Greenpeace USA executive director.
“But the consequences by Russia are unbelievably extreme and illegal and unjust,” he said.
Twenty-eight Greenpeace activists and two journalists from 18 countries are sitting in prison and facing charges of piracy, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Two of the activists tried to scale the tower on the Gazprom Neft platform before the Russian Coast Guard fired 11 warning shots into the water near their raft and ordered them to come down. They descended before they were able to hang a banner and were immediately arrested. The Coast Guard waited a day before raiding the Arctic Sunrise protest ship, where the other activists were located.
This week Russia denied bail to the U.S. captain of a Greenpeace ship and another activist.
The harsh reaction reflects Russia’s new urgency to tap its Arctic resource. Almost exactly one year ago, six Greenpeace protestors climbed the same Arctic platform and hung a banner, and the Coast Guard did nothing. In fact, oil company crew members reportedly gave them soup.
Radford said he hopes people see that the arrested Greenpeace activists were acting for the benefit of the world.
“They were doing this to alert the world of the first ever offshore deep Arctic well drilling that could cause radical climate change and could cause a huge oil spill that the [Russian] Coast Guard thinks is their nightmare scenario,” Radford said. “Now, that wasn’t for private gain, that was for the benefit of all of us.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By Xerxes Wilson
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin Greeson, National Audubon Society, 503.913.8978, email@example.com
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, firstname.lastname@example.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
Candace Calloway Whiting
Marine mammal biologist
Posted: 09/24/2013 2:11 pm
While a debate rages over the deleterious effects of seismic oil exploration on whales and dolphins, it turns out that our commercial fish stocks may be as vulnerable to the noise as are the marine mammals.
Cod populations are depleted everywhere, and the blame has been directed variously at fishermen for not managing stocks, at the protections afforded seals and sea lions, and warmer ocean temperatures — but there is strong evidence that the failure of these fish populations to rebound may be tied to the loud sonar and airguns that are nearly constant in areas where these fish are found.
This was demonstrated in a study which carefully evaluated the impact of seismic airguns in a region where Norwegian fishermen have fished for centuries, and the results of the study are staggering — up to 70 percent of the fish disappear immediately and do not return over the five days following exposure to the sound. The researchers also report that the biggest fish were the most likely to leave, and that all the fish were impacted for 18 nautical miles from the source.
“Effects of seismic shooting on local abundance and catch rates of cod ((Gadus morhua) and haddock )(Melanogrammus aeglefinus)” by A Engås, S Løkkeborg, E Ona, A V Soldal. Published on the web 09 April 2011. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 1996, 53(10): 2238-2249, 10.1139/f96-177
“Abstract: To determine whether seismic exploration affected abundance or catch rates of cod (Gadus morhua) and haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), acoustic mapping and fishing trials with trawls and longlines were conducted in the central Barents Sea 7 days before, 5 days during, and 5 days after seismic shooting with air guns. Add the possibility of oil spills which we already know are deadly to the marine environment, and it becomes clear why communities are united in their protest to keep the oil exploration at bay.
Seismic shooting severely affected fish distribution, local abundance, and catch rates in the entire investigation area of 40 ? 40 nautical miles.Trawl catches of cod and haddock and longline catches of haddock declined on average by about 50 percent (by mass) after shooting started, which agreed with the acoustic abundance estimates; longline catches of cod were reduced by 21 percent.
Reductions in catch rates were observed 18 nautical miles from the seismic shooting area (3 ? 10 nautical miles), but the most pronounced reduction occurred within the shooting area, where trawl catches of both species and longline catches of haddock were reduced by about 70 percent and the longline catches of cod by 45 percent; a relatively greater reduction was found (in catches and acoustic estimates) for large (>60 cm) than for small fish. Abundance and catch rates did not return to preshooting levels during the 5-day period after seismic shooting ended.”
Research has shown that fish can be permanently deafened by seismic airguns, so it is possible that some of the fish are not able to survive or find mates.
In Newfoundland the fishery has collapsed, and the fishing villages and pristine environment are being replaced with oil refineries. Sure, the oil extraction and processing provides jobs — but at what cost? People are losing a way of life that they cherish.
A Group of Oil Companies Announce They Are Going Ahead With a Major Drilling Project Off the Coast of Newfoundland, With the Promise of Thousands of New Jobs
A Group of Oil Companies Announce They Are… by tvnportal
Cod fishing has dropped so significantly in the Gulf of Maine that quotas have dropped 77 percent, and fishermen feel that it will be difficult for smaller boats to make a living. The thought that the big oil companies can then move in and wipe out the efforts to rebuild the stocks must be galling, and even though the U.S. has temporarily suspended the decision to allow seismic exploration along the Eastern seaboard, it will be reevaluated when NOAA presents their decision on marine mammal acoustic quidelines. Fish don’t seem to be considered important, and that is a mistake — we can’t eat petroleum oil.
We have finally come to understand that we can’t just keep taking from one environment, depleting its resources before moving on to destroy the next one. Yet out of sight over the horizon or beneath the ocean surface, oil companies continue to follow the model we all recognize doesn’t work. They profit, and we pay with our future.
Black Elk Energy is the lead proponent of the Rigs-to-Reefs program….. Richard Charter
by Karen Boman|
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 email@example.com.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
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
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
August 28, 2013 – 09:38
The action is a protest against Shell spearheading the search for oil in the vulnerable Arctic region
Around 40 Greenpeace activists, some dressed as polar bears, forced entrance to the Shell oil refinery in Fredericia this morning (Photo: Greenpeace)
Shell’s oil refinery in the Jutland city of Fredericia was invaded by about 40 Greenpeace activists dressed up like polar bears early this morning.
The activists forced entry to the Dutch oil giant’s refinery just after 6am and a group of them immediately began climbing up one of the refinery’s large silos , where they hung a banner featuring an image of the well-known yellow and red Shell logo juxtaposed with a polar bear’s face.
“We are here to reveal Shell’s true face. The company is leading the hunt for oil in the Arctic, despite having shown us that they are completely unable to protect the vulnerable environment and unique nature in Greenland and the rest of the region,” Helene Hansen, a 28-year-old activist, told Ekstra Bladet tabloid.
Part of a global campaign
The activist group in Fredericia includes Danes as well as individuals from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany and Latvia.
The police showed up at around 6:30am but as of two hours later no arrests had made.
The Fredericia action is the latest Greenpeace stunt aimed at taking on Shell’s hunt for arctic oil. In July, six activists climbed western Europe’s tallest building near Shell’s headquarters in London to display a ‘Save the Arctic’ banner, and last Sunday a 20-metre banner was unveiled during the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Belgium.
The Arctic: another Nigeria?
Shell is currently preparing a number of seismic examinations in protected sea areas in Baffin Bay, the body of water between Greenland and Canada. Whale experts have warned that the noisy seismic tests could threaten the population of whales in the area. In June, Denmark’s Arctic oil spill preparedness was found woefully inadequate by experts.
“Shell has already a displayed horrendous breach of security in Alaska, they’ve polluted the entire Niger Delta and now they’re getting ready for Russia and Greenland. The plans should be stopped so Greenland doesn’t become the next Nigeria,” Niels Fuglsang, a spokesperson for the Danish Arctic campaign in Greenpeace, told Ekstra Bladet.
Greenpeace is hoping that politicians in Greenland and Denmark step up and prohibit Shell’s tests before they commence over the next few months.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Aug 28, 2013, 11:46am CDT
Deon Daugherty, Reporter-
Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC hopes to bring its West Delta 32 oil platform back into production as early as next week, company executives said Wednesday during a conference call with investors.
The platform was the site of an explosion in November that resulted in the death of three contract workers in the Gulf of Mexico, 17 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
Art Garza, chief technical officer at Houston-based Black Elk, said he expects a final walk-through with federal regulators this week and that the Bureau of Safety Environmental Enforcement officials will permit the platform to return to service. Garza said that by next week, production could be up to 300 barrels of oil per day. In the following weeks, the company anticipates getting production closer to the 650 barrel per day mark.
Last week, a report commissioned by Black Elk said it was actions taken by poorly trained subcontract workers hired by a contractor, in violation of a construction contract, that led to the deadly explosion.
The platform’s return to work comes at a crucial time for the company. Black Elk reported first quarter revenue was down $22 million compared to the first quarter of 2012, and revenue for the first six months of 2013 was down $55 million compared to the same period a year earlier.
Bruce Koch, Black Elk’s CFO, said production was down from last year’s 15,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day to about 10,000 barrels in the second quarter 2013. The company is moving toward producing closer to 13,000 per day or more by the end of the third quarter.
Garza said bringing West Delta back online will help to mitigate the declines. The company also expects to benefit from a $50 million capital program signed in March with Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund LP, as well as its $50 million sale of four noncore Gulf of Mexico properties to Renaissance Offshore LLC in Houston.
What’s more, the company is reducing its general and administrative staff by 25 jobs in August – a savings of about $4.5 million, Koch said. That leaves about 120 people left at the company.
Deon Daugherty covers energy and law for the Houston Business Journal..
Special thanks to Richard Charter
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
Fireboat crews battling a blaze at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off Louisiana, on April 21, 2010, a day after the rig exploded, killing 11 workers and resulting in the blowout of an exploratory well owned by BP. Ultimately, roughly 200 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the gulf.
By HENRY FOUNTAIN
Published: August 19, 2013
An analysis of water, sediment and seafood samples taken in 2010 during and after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has found higher contamination levels in some cases than previous studies by federal agencies did, casting doubt on some of the earlier sampling methods.
The lead author, Paul W. Sammarco of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, said that dispersants used to break up the oil might have affected some of the samples. He said that the greater contamination called into question the timing of decisions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reopen gulf fisheries after the spill and that “it might be time to review the techniques that are used to determine” such reopenings.
Eleven workers died and roughly 200 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the gulf after a blowout at an exploratory well owned by BP caused the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to explode on April 20, 2010. Nearly two million gallons of Corexit, a dispersant, were sprayed on the surface or injected into the oil plume near the wellhead.
In all, more than 88,000 square miles of federal waters were closed to commercial and recreational fishing. Some areas were reopened before the well was capped three months after the blowout; the last areas were reopened a year after the disaster.
Like other studies after the spill, the new analysis, published last week in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, found that components of oil were distributed along the Gulf Coast as far west as Galveston, Tex. — about 300 miles from the well site — and southeast to the Florida Keys.
But the study found higher levels of many oil-related compounds than earlier studies by NOAA scientists and others, particularly in seawater and sediment. The compounds studied included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are classified as probably carcinogenic, and volatile organic compounds, which can affect the immune and nervous systems.
“When the numbers first started coming in, I thought these looked awfully high,” Dr. Sammarco said, referring to the data he analyzed, which came from samples that he and other researchers had collected. Then he looked at the NOAA data. “Their numbers were very low,” he said, “I thought what is going on here? It didn’t make sense.”
Dr. Sammarco said that a particular sampling method used in some earlier studies might have led to lower readings. That method uses a device called a Niskin bottle, which takes a sample from a specific point in the water. Because of the widespread use of dispersants during the spill — which raised separate concerns about toxicity — the oil, broken into droplets, may have remained in patches in the water rather than dispersing uniformly.
“Sampling a patchy environment, you may not necessarily hit the patches,” he said.
The plastic that the bottles are made from also attracts oily compounds, potentially removing them from any water sample and leading to lower readings of contaminants, Dr. Sammarco said.
Riki Ott, an independent marine toxicologist who has studied effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska as well as the BP spill, said she was “totally shocked” when she read the high numbers in Dr. Sammarco’s study.
“To see NOAA doing this, that’s inexcusable,” Dr. Ott said, referring to the use of Niskin bottles. “It has been known since Exxon Valdez that this spotty sampling does not work.”
A spokesman for NOAA said the agency would not comment because it was involved in a legal review known as a Natural Resource Damage Assessment to determine how much BP must pay for restoration work. But BP, in a statement, noted that tests on seafood by NOAA and other agencies consistently found levels of contaminants 100 to 1,000 times lower than safety thresholds set by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Sammarco suggested that more continuous monitoring of oil spills should be undertaken before fisheries are reopened. “It’s a good idea to follow these things long term, to make sure the runway is clear so people are safe and the food is safe,” he said.
Julia M. Gohlke, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who conducted an independent review of seafood safety after the spill, said that while decisions to reopen fisheries are currently based on fish samples only, “it seems like it would definitely be important to keep looking at water samples as well.”
By August 24, 2013 8:40am
The Philippine Embassy on Saturday (Philippine time) refused to comment the reported findings of a consultant that blamed contractors for an explosion at an oil platform off Louisiana that killed three Filipino workers last November.
In a statement, the embassy said it will not comment on the supposed findings of ABSG Consulting, the so-called independent consultant hired by Black Elk Energy.
“The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines does not intend to comment on the thorough investigation that was supposed to have been conducted by (ABSG) Consulting, the so-called independent consultant hired by Black Elk Energy that also cleared the Houston-based company of responsibility over the accident,” it said.
According to the embassy, it will wait for the expected release in September of the results of an official investigation by the US interior department.
“The Embassy would like to wait for the release next month of the results of the official investigation conducted by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) of the Department of the Interior in which the Filipino workers involved in the accident were given the opportunity to participate,” it said.
However, the embassy noted Black Elk President John Hoffman reiterated “his recognition of the reputation of Filipino offshore oil workers for competence and professionalism.”
Last Aug. 21 (US time), Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, released the report of its commissioned investigation into the November 2012 explosion and fire.
In the explosion at Black Elk’s West Delta 32 Platform, three Filipino offshore workers died while three other Filipino workers sustained serious burns in the incident.
For now, the embassy said it continues to “assist the affected workers and is prepared to take all actions to ensure that their rights are fully protected and their claims properly addressed.”
A report on The Times-Picayne Greater New Orleans said the ABSG report was released on the same day two injured workers and their spouses filed a $180-million federal lawsuit over the accident.
The report quoted ABSG as saying Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., which was under contract for construction work when the blast happened, used a subcontractor despite having committed not to use subcontractors on Black Elk projects.
It said Grand Isle’s use of a subcontractor prevented Black Elk from “effectively auditing the employers of all personnel on their facilities.”
ABSG recommended that Black Elk provide additional oversight for construction activities on platforms and discourage the use of “hot work” on platforms.
The Times-Picayne also reported two workers injured in the accident, Antonio Tamayo and Wilberto Ilagan, together with their spouses filed a lawsuit before the US District Court in New Orleans.
Named defendants were Black Elk, Wood Group, and others.
The four claimed physical and mental injuries, numerous medical expenses and loss of future wages in seeking $20 million each in actual damages, and $100 million in punitive damages “if any of the defendants are found to have been grossly or intentionally negligent.” – VVP, GMA News
Special thanks to Richard Charter
And, from the company leader in lobbying against stronger safety measures in the Gulf of Mexico, lobbying in favor of Rigs to Reefs, and implicated in human trafficking charges.….Richard Charter
Eoin O’Cinneide 21 August 2013 15:16 GMT
Eoin O’Cinneide 21 August 2013 15:16 GMT
Three workers who died and others who were injured in an explosion on a Black Elk Energy platform in the Gulf of Mexico late last year were not following due safety practices at the time, the operator has said.
Subcontracted workers who were welding on the shallow-water production platform in West Delta Block 32 which led to the 16 November blast were not given proper safety training or appropriate supervision, the platform owner said, citing an independent report into the incident.
The explosion occurred as Louisiana-based contractor Grand Isle Shipyard was carrying out maintenance work on the platform about 32 kilometres offshore in about 21 metres of water. The platform had been shut in since about mid August.
There were 22 people aboard the platform when the fire broke out, one of whom was pronounced dead shortly after the blast with one more missing, later pronounced dead. Nine of them were injured and airlifted to hospitals in Louisiana with one later dying.
Another 11 were safely evacuated from the rig. Fourteen of those on board and all of the injured were employees or subcontractors of Grand Isle Shipyard.
However, following an independent report from ABSG Consulting, which was carried out in coordination with the US Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement, Black Elk criticised Grand Isle for allegedly going against an agreement not to subcontract out any of the maintenance work.
“Although Grand Isle committed in its contract to not use subcontractors on Black Elk Energy projects, all of the workers performing the welding involved in the incident were employed by DNR Offshore and Crewing Services, a subcontractor of Grand Isle,” Black Elk said.
“ABSG determined that use of the DNR Offshore subcontractor without notifying Black Elk Energy was one of several causes of the incident.
“ABSG also determined other causes were that Grand Isle and DNR Offshore employees failed to adequately follow safe work practices for performing welding and failed to stop work when unsafe conditions existed.”
Black Elk also pointed out that the subcontractors were all Filipinos and that, while Filipino offshore workers “have a deserved reputation for competence and professionalism”, Grand Isle had shown an “apparent failure to provide proper safety training and appropriate supervision”.
ABSG’s report said Black Elk had “established procedures for safe work practices for equipment isolation, job safety analyses, and stop work authority” and confirmed that a contract was signed between Black Elk and Grand Isle agreeing to follow the former’s safety standards and provide adequate training.
“On the day of the incident, the safe isolation of equipment, hazardous waste programme, job safety analyses, and stop work authority procedures were not followed,” the report found.
“Workers cut, grinded, and welded on the open sump discharge pipe. Flammable vapors from the open sump discharge pipe ignited and subsequently reached the vapors and oil in the three tanks,” it continued.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
TAMPA BAY TIMES
06:55 PM, Thursday, August 22, 2013
Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 2:36pm
The thick globs of BP oil that washed ashore on beaches along Florida’s Panhandle in 2010 never reached Tampa Bay, to the relief of hotel owners, restaurateurs, anglers, beachgoers and local officials.
But oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, floating beneath the surface after being sprayed with dispersant, settled on a shelf 80 miles from the Tampa Bay region within a year of the spill’s end, according to a scientific study published this week.
There is some evidence it may have caused lesions in fish caught in that area, according to John Paul, the University of South Florida oceanography professor who is lead author on the study, published in Environmental Science & Technology. However, research is continuing on that question.
Tests of the samples from those areas on bacteria and other microscopic creatures normally found in that part of the gulf found that “organisms in contact with these waters might experience DNA damage that could lead to mutation,” the study reported.
The oil that landed on the shelf, which extends miles into the gulf, is likely to stay there a long time, Paul said.
“Once it’s in the sediment, it’s kind of immobile,” he said.
BP spokesman Jason Ryan said scientists working for the company, as well as various government agencies, had “conducted extensive sampling to identify, track and map oil in the water column over time,” and found no signs of BP oil on the shelf near the Tampa Bay area.
But Paul said the researchers looked for signs of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the shelf based on observations by a colleague, USF oceanographer Bob Weisberg.
Weisberg found a major upwelling – a swirling current of cool water from deep in the gulf – had begun in May 2010 and continued through the rest of that year. The upwelling could have caught hold of the underwater plumes of dispersed oil off the Panhandle and then pushed them southward onto the shelf that lies off the state’s west coast, he said.
“It made its way southeast across the bottom and eventually it gets to the beach,” Weisberg said. “A little bit probably got into Tampa Bay, and a little bit probably got into Sarasota Bay, and it exited the Florida shelf down around the Dry Tortugas.”
When he put forward his theory in 2010, Weisberg called for sampling to be done along the shelf to test whether he was right, but that proposal did not get any funding, he said.
Eventually, though, as part of a series of 12 trips into the gulf for their own research, Paul and his colleagues collected samples along the shelf, as well as closer to the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster off Louisiana.
They found nothing in 2010, but when they went back in 2011 and 2012, they found what Weisberg had predicted. The oil did not reach the southern end of the shelf until last year. Water samples collected off the shelf were toxic to bacteria, phytoplankton and other small creatures, the report said.
The USF discovery shows that scientists continue to grapple with measuring the full impact of the disaster, which began with a fiery explosion aboard an offshore drilling rig on April 20, 2010.
The disaster held the nation spellbound for months as BP struggled to stop the oil. To try to break up the oil before vast sheets of it washed ashore on the beaches and marshes along the Gulf Coast, the company sprayed the dispersant Corexit directly at the wellhead spewing oil from the bottom of the gulf – even though no one had ever tried spraying it below the water’s surface before. BP also used more of the dispersant than had been used in an oil spill, 1.8 million gallons.
The Corexit broke the oil down into small drops, creating underwater plumes of oil, something no one had ever seen before in an oil spill. The discovery of the plumes raised questions about how they would affect sea life in the gulf.
Yet even before BP managed to shut off the undersea flow July 15, 2010, observers ranging from Time magazine to Rush Limbaugh said damage from the 4.9 million-barrel spill seemed far less severe than predicted. In the three years since, though, scientists have uncovered ongoing damage – deformed crabs, dying dolphins and other woes.
Getting this study published in a peer-reviewed journal was a long process, Paul said.
“Publishing anything about the oil spill is inherently more difficult than anything else because it’s so contentious,” he said.
BP agreed last year to pay $4 billion to settle criminal charges, including manslaughter, in connection the disaster, and rig owner Transocean settled civil and criminal charges for $1.4 billion.
BP is now locked in a civil court battle with the U.S. Justice Department and hundreds of businesses affected by the spill. If it loses, BP could face damages of $17.5 billion, although company officials have predicted the fines will be less than $5 billion.
Craig Pittman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lingering damage from BP oil spill
In the three years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, scientists are still learning about how it affected the Gulf of Mexico. Some of their findings include:
* Fish with lesions and immune problems.
* Deformed crustaceans.
* Dolphins dying from bacterial infection after immune system compromised.
* Massive die-off of microscopic foraminifera.
* Bacteria producing increased mutations after exposure to oil.
* Weathered particles of oil found buried in the sediment in the gulf floor.
Oil from BP spill pushed onto shelf off Tampa Bay by underwater currents, study finds 08/20/13
Special thanks to Rchard Charter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2013 5:39 PM
Sune Scheller, Greenpeace communications, email@example.com or +45 27144257
Greenpeace International press desk, firstname.lastname@example.org or +31 20 718 24 70
WASHINGTON – August 21 – Barents Sea, August 21, 2013 – The Russian government has denied permission for the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise to enter the increasingly busy Northern Sea Route (NSR), despite the ship having fulfilled all the requirements for such an entry.
Greenpeace International claims the decision is an attempt to prevent it from exposing the activities of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Multiple vessels contracted by Rosneft and US partner ExxonMobil are conducting seismic testing and geological work in the Kara Sea in preparation for offshore Arctic drilling.
“This is a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest and keep international attention away from Arctic oil exploration in Russia. The Arctic Sunrise is a fully equipped icebreaker with significant experience of operating in these conditions, while the oil companies operating here are taking unprecedented risks in an area teeming with polar bears, whales, and other Arctic wildlife,” says Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise.
“The decision to deny us entry to the Kara Sea is completely unjustified and raises serious questions about the level of collusion between the Russian authorities and the oil companies themselves. Over three million people are behind our campaign, and they want to know what Russia and its Western oil partners are trying to hide here in the Arctic.”
Greenpeace International entered three detailed applications for entry to the Northern Sea Route Administration, clearly stating its intentions to engage in peaceful and lawful protest. All applications were rejected. (1) The latest application was refused on the grounds that the information provided on the ice strengthening was apparently insufficient. From the pattern of refusals it is clear that the NSR administration has never been interested in granting Greenpeace access. The refusal is in violation of international law including the right to freedom of navigation (2).
None of the six oil exploration vessels operating for Rosneft and ExxonMobil in the area has an ice classification as high as the Arctic Sunrise. More than 400 vessels have been granted access to the Northern Sea Route this year, many of them with an inferior classification to that of the Arctic Sunrise, which is classed as an icebreaker (3).
Greenpeace International has written to the head of the Northern Sea Route Administration with an urgent request to reverse the unjustified decision. As the Arctic Sunrise is a Dutch flagged-vessel, a copy of the letter has also been sent to the Dutch Infrastructure and Foreign Ministries.
The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on a month-long expedition in the Arctic to expose and protest oil exploration.
-Statement from the independent Det Norske Veritas (DNV) on the classification of the Arctic Sunrise: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/briefings/climate/2013/DNV-classification-letter.pdf
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
hmmmmmmmmmmmm Who knew? DV
By Sarah Rae Fruchtnicht, Tue, August 06, 2013
Hydraulic fracturing has been occurring off the coast of California for about 15 years, in the same sensitive waters where all new oil leases were banned since the 1969 Union Oil Santa Barbara spill, the third worst spill in American history.
The California Coastal Commission wasn’t even aware the offshore fracking was taking place, according to Grist, because it happens three miles off the coast, in federal jurisdiction. California, however, has the right to reject federal permits if water quality is in danger.
Regulators have allowed fracking in the Pacific Ocean to occur at least 12 times since the late 1990s, according to federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. A new fracking project was recently approved.
Gas companies want to frack the Santa Barbara Channel, the same place where the 3 million gallons of crude oil from Union Oil’s Platform A were spilled in 1969. The spill was the worst of its time. Today it is the third worst spill behind BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 and the Exxon Valdez Spill in Alaska in 1989. The Santa Barbara spill killed thousands of sea birds, dolphins, elephant seals and sea lions.
DeSmogBlog reported Tuesday that a censored Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation found a clear link between shale gas fracking and groundwater contamination in Dimock, Pa.
Currently federal regulators allow offshore fracking chemicals to be released into the sea without companies having to file a separate environmental impact report or statement on the possible repercussions.
Fracking an area that includes oil wells adds even more risk. Tulane University petroleum engineering professor Eric Smith said that high pressure fracturing could break the rock seal on old well bore and leak oil into the ocean.
The Coastal Commission plans to grill new offshore drilling projects on details pertaining to fracking now that they know it is occurring in the Pacific. They could require new, separate permits and stricter review processes for new fracking projects.
Sources: Grist, AP
Special thanksto Richard Charter
NORFOLK August 3, 2012
While oil rigs drilling off the coast of Virginia are still a question mark in the near future, local environmental groups will be making noise about the possibility today.
Beginning at noon, members of Oceana and the Sierra Club will blow horns and clang pots and pans at Waterside Festival Marketplace to symbolize the loud noises made by seismic air guns – devices used to identify oil and gas reserves in the ocean.
“The point is to be noisy,” said Eileen Levandoski, assistant director of the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club. But it won’t be a literal simulation. “We’d be too loud,” she said.
Surveyors use seismic air guns to send blasts toward the sea floor and measure their echoes to identify drilling prospects. The industry says the method hasn’t been shown to hurt marine life and is necessary to open drilling. But environmentalists say it could injure animals and disrupt migration and mating patterns.
“The unique part about this technology is that not only is it that first step (toward offshore drilling), but in and of themselves, the air guns are really, really dangerous and destructive,” said Caroline Wood, Virginia organizer for Oceana’s climate and energy campaign.
The U.S. government has estimated that 138,500 whales and dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean will be deafened, injured or killed by the blasts, according to the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club website. The North Atlantic Right Whale – of which only about 500 remain – is among the species at risk. The demonstration, which will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m., is one of many on the East Coast, Wood said, adding that similar demonstrations will take place in Virginia Beach and Alexandria.
Debate over offshore drilling, which is years away even under supporters’ most optimistic scenarios, is coming to a head this year. The U.S. House in June approved a bill to lift a moratorium on drilling in Virginia waters. The federal government will release a report this fall outlining the environmental impact of East Coast drilling.
Offshore drilling has the potential to create 18,000 jobs in Virginia by 2030, according to Nicolette Nye, vice president of communications and external relations of the National Ocean Industries Association.
Locally, drilling faces opposition beyond environmentalists: The Navy has opposed it in the offshore areas it uses, and the federal government has been reluctant to share royalties with coastal states, which local legislators say is key to their support.
Still, the environmental groups say they will keep making a clatter.
“We just want to make a lot of noise to get people’s attention,” Wood said.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Dead and dying dolphins are washing up on Virginia beaches in numbers that are baffling marine stranding experts, who are hustling to determine the extent and pinpoint the cause. Dolphin beachings aren’t unusual in the summer months, and in a typical July the state might get six such reports. But by Thursday the number for this July had soared to 49 – and Mark Swingle with theVirginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach said they have no idea why.
“We really don’t know – I wish we did,” said Swingle. The aquarium’s Stranding Response Team has been gathering dolphin remains from throughout the Virginia coast – including two from Buckroe Beach in Hampton on Tuesday and one from Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County on July 26 – for necropsy and tissue testing. He said it could take two to three weeks to get results.
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“In some ways, we’re trying to rush these tests to try and get a handle on what’s happening,” Swingle said. “We know there’s some sort of disease process going on. There’s no evidence on these animals of any sort of any human interactions.”
The number of reported dolphin strandings in Virginia for a typical year is about 64, he said. So far, the state has already seen 88. The unusual hikes were reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which runs a network of stranding teams throughout the country.
So far, the only other state reporting an unusual uptick for July is New Jersey, said Maggie Mooney-Seus, spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries. Their most recent number for New Jersey strandings is 20, but she said that figure might not reflect new strandings over the last couple of days. The state logged four strandings for July in 2012, and seven in 2011.
So far, she said, New York reported 15 dolphin strandings in July, Maryland seven and Delaware one. New York reported only one stranding July of last year, while Maryland and Delaware reported none. If enough unusually high numbers of strandings come in, she said, NOAA will assemble a team of experts to examine the data and necropsy results and determine if it qualifies as an “unusual mortality event.” The last such event in Hampton Roads occurred in 1987-1988, she said, and involved about 740 animals.
While that number was unusual, she said, dolphin beachings in general are not. “Keep in mind we do have strandings,” Mooney-Seus said. “They do occur regularly along our coasts and are caused by a number of reasons. If it’s a large population and living in close proximity, they’re not unlike deer populations or human populations where they can pass things to each other.”
Dolphin strandings can also be caused by entangling in fishing gear, ingesting plastics, toxic algal blooms or red tides, changes in water temperature and the rare vessel strike, as well as diseases like the distemper-like morbillivirus, which can also affect other marine animals such as seals, said Swingle. The stranding team hasn’t seen an uptick in stranding reports of other animals.
Determining the cause of death in a stranding can be hard, he said, especially if it’s not reported right away.
“The main thing is to call as soon as possible, because the sooner we get to the animals, the better the information we can get from them,” Swingle said. “It’s like the whole ‘CSI’ thing – if you have a fresh body, you can get a tremendous amount of information from it. If it sits in the sun for a day, it gets less valuable in terms of figuring out what’s happening.”
Seismic airguns. Meanwhile, environmentalists worry that even more such strandings could occur if geophysical survey companies are allowed to use seismic airguns to search for deposits of oil and gas buried deep beneath the sea floor, including off the coast of Virginia.
Airguns are typically towed behind ships and emit pulses of compressed air in a shock wave described as 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. The airguns would boom every 10 seconds, day and night for days or weeks at a time.
To protest the plan, Oceana and the Sierra Club plan to make a big noise outside the Waterside Festival Marketplace in downtown Norfolk beginning at noon Saturday. Demonstrators are expected to use horns, vuvuzelas and the like to draw attention to the damage airguns can inflict on marine life and sensitive habitats.
An environmental impact statement released last year by the U.S. Department of the Interior estimated 138,500 whales and dolphins could be injured, deafened or possibly killed by the blasts over an eight-year period. “It’s loud, booming, and it disrupts their activity,” said Eileen Levandoski, assistant director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club. “They depend on hearing to find their food. They can’t communicate with each other and they get lost. When you have a compromised animal with a bacteria or virus, they’re already weakened. You’re adding insult to injury.”
Swingle said seismic airguns have been used in other parts of the world, and “what those impacts may or may not be is open for question.” “Certainly anything that’s dangerous for marine mammals would be concerning,” he added.
President Barack Obama announced in March he was reversing a ban he’d placed on oil lease sales off most of the country’s coasts after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and spilling nearly 5 million barrels of oil. Obama’s reversal re-opened the door to potential oil and natural gas exploration and drilling along the Atlantic coast, the eastern portion of the Gulf and part of Alaska.
Oceana and the Sierra Club want the Administration to reject proposals that include airgun use, and phase them out of U.S. waters. But if seismic testing is to occur, it should be done using the least harmful technology, with defined “no activity zones” to protect vulnerable marine habitats and species.
To report a stranding
If you see a beached dolphin or other marine animal, call the Stranding Response Program hotline 24/7 at 757-385-7575.
By Trisha Marczak | July 31, 2013
Surfers enjoy the waves near a conventional offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. These rigs could soon be joined by offshore fracking operations. In fact, in California, it turns out they already exist. (Photo/berardo62 via Flickr)
Environmental advocates are crying foul after the discovery that oil companies are using the controversial process known as fracking to extract oil off the coast of California, warning that the West Coast operations could become the norm from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.
According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the news organization Truthout, two fracking operations have been ongoing in the Santa Barbara Channel since 2009 without the environmental review normally required under federal regulations.
The same discovery was made by the Environmental Defense Center, which indicated that its research confirmed that Venoco Inc. conducted an offshore fracking operation in 2009. According to the center, no public disclosure was made before the fracking began.
“It’s completely illegal for the agency to approve fracking in the outer continental shelf without conducting a complete environmental impact statement,” Center for Biological Diversity Senior Counsel Kassie Siegel told Truthout.
The offshore fracking operations were approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement as a regular oil drilling operation.
According to documents obtained by Truthout, oil companies Venoco and Dcor LLC modified drilling permits already in place to pave the way for the fracking operations.
An email obtained by Truthout indicates the federal government knew the companies were fracking. In an email sent on behalf of the bureau’s chief of staff, Thomas Lillie, to a fellow employee, he posed the question: “Has there been an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) to assess the environmental consequences of fracking on the OCS? How can we begin to review permit requests without that?”
That’s the question environmental organizations are asking, too.
“Venoco’s fracking operation was allowed under existing authorizations, and no further environmental analysis or public disclosure was made prior to the operation, despite the fact that offshore oil development raises its own host of environmental issues,” the Environmental Defense Center states on its website.
Those environmental issues, including groundwater contamination and propensity for spills, are still being debated as onshore fracking spreads in California and around the nation. There are also issues relating to the wells’ location near seismic faults.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management justified its endorsement of fracking operations using the argument that updated permits were approved after all new threats were assessed. But according to the Center for Biological Diversity, that doesn’t do the trick, either scientifically or technically.
Venoco, however, claims it does. Its website illustrates the company as one “concerned about the environment.”
“We operate in areas with extensive environmental regulations such as in and around the Santa Barbara Channel as well as in prime agricultural areas such as the Sacramento Basin,” the company’s site states.
California landlocked fracking questioned
California sits atop the Monterey shale formation, estimated to hold a potential 15 billion barrels of crude oil, representing the largest reserve in the nation.
In April, the federal Bureau of Land Management lost a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club over the issuing of leases to oil companies to drill in the Monterey shale. The Sierra Club successfully argued that leases were improperly given to the oil companies without the proper environmental reviews.
In all, roughly 17,000 acres of land in the Monterey shale formation was leased by the federal government to oil companies.
This is, essentially, the beef environmental organizations have with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
According to a bureau fact sheet obtained by Truthout, the agency has allowed fracking to occur 11 times in the last 25 years. However, a spokesperson for the bureau told Truthout the exact number of fracking operations is not known, as it would require combing through years of files.
The offshore fracking is similar to the process used on land to drum up oil locked in shale – a combination of water, chemicals and silica sand is shot into the earth to break up and extract hidden oil.
In the sea, it’s no different, although the process doesn’t require as much water or silica sand, otherwise known as frac sand. According to Truthout, offshore fracking uses 7 percent of the frac sand and 2 percent of the combined water and chemicals used in onshore fracking wells.
On land and sea
The offshore fracking discovery comes at a time when the safety of onshore fracking is being debated in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to release its study on the impact of fracking – recently announcing it would be delayed until 2016.
In the meantime, the effect on groundwater supplies is being monitored by people on both sides of the debate.
A study released by the University of Texas this month indicates water supplies surrounding fracking wells had elevated and toxic levels of arsenic, strontium and selenium, all associated with the fracking process.
The study assessed water samples taken from 100 private wells, 91 of which were within 3 miles of drilling sites.
The University of Texas study echoed one released this year by Duke University that found fracking operations were linked to groundwater contamination.
The study looked at roughly 140 water samples from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale formation and discovered methane levels were 23 times more prevalent in homes less than a mile from a fracking well.
The University of Texas study comes after the National Energy Technology Laboratory, or NETL, released a report indicating groundwater supplies near a Pennsylvania fracking site did not show any signs of contamination. However, the report was only preliminary, and the laboratory intends to release its full report in 2014.
“NETL has been conducting a study to monitor for any signs of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations at a site on the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania,” NETL said in a statement following the preliminary report release. “We are still in the early stages of collecting, analyzing, and validating data from this site. While nothing of concern has been found thus far, the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims. We expect a final report on the results by the end of the calendar year.”
On top of issues associated with groundwater contamination, fracking has raised questions associated with wastewater disposal and spills.
This month, Exxon Mobil was fined $100,000 for a fracking wastewater spill that contaminated the Susquehanna River in 2010. The EPA discovered water tested near the spill included elevated levels of chlorides, strontium and barium, chemicals also found in the company’s wastewater storage tanks.
Within three months, two major fracking fluid spills occurred at fracking well sites operated by Carrizo Oil and Gas. In May, a fracking well sent 9,000 gallons of fracking fluid onto nearby property in Pennsylvania. In March, a fracking well sent 227,000 gallons of fracking fluid into another Pennsylvania community.
These are the types of incidents environmental advocates are worried about, especially when there’s now a possibility such spills could occur in the ocean. While the offshore fracking process requires less fracking fluid, the possibility for detection and cleanup is in question, particularly when most people aren’t aware that offshore fracking is taking place.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN 07/16/13 11:47 AM ET EDT
NEW ORLEANS – A team of researchers has concluded that pockets of oil trapped in the wreckage of the sunken Deepwater Horizon are the likely source of oil sheens that have been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the deadly 2010 explosion on the BP-leased drilling rig.
A newly published study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of California at Santa Barbara rules out BP’s sealed-off Macondo well and natural oil seeps as possible sources of the sheens.
The researchers said their conclusions are based on an analysis of 14 sheen samples collected from the surface of the water during two trips to the Gulf.
Last year, BP PLC said it capped an abandoned piece of equipment that was believed to be the source of a sheen.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Douglas Main, Staff Writer | July 16, 2013 10:29am ET
Recurrent sheens of oil in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill have baffled researchers and led to fears that oil may once again be spewing from the seafloor well.
But a study published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology shows that there is no new leak: The oil is coming from isolated tanks and pockets within the wreckage of the sunken rig, according to a statement from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the research.
The mysterious sheens of oil were first reported in September 2012. To find out their provenance, researchers took samples of the sheens and compared them against others taken from various sources, including floating pieces of wreckage recovered shortly after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sunk on April 20, 2010.
“This appears to be a slow leak from the wreckage of the rig, not another catastrophic discharge from a deep oil reservoir,” David Valentine, a geochemist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said in the statement. “Continued oil discharge to the Gulf of Mexico from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig is not a good thing, but there is some comfort that the amount of leakage is limited to the pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the rig.”
Using a technique developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researcher Chris Reddy, the scientists found that the oil from the sheens reported last fall matched those taken from the floating wreckage. The samples both contain uniform amounts of olefins, a chemical used in drilling fluids, according to the statement. Olefins are not found in crude oil, meaning the sheens aren’t likely to originate from the Macondo well or any other natural oil seep in the Gulf, the NSF reported.
When the rig sunk, it held tanks containing hundreds of barrels filled with a mixture of drilling mud and oil. Researchers speculate that these tanks are leaking after being gradually corroded by seawater, according to the statement.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the biggest in American history, releasing about 205 million gallons (776 million liters) of oil. The area of the Gulf near the spill has been negatively affected ever since; tar balls containing dangerous bacteria have washed up on beaches in the area and there has been an unusually high death rate for dolphins.
Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.com.
– See more at: http://www.livescience.com/38200-deepwater-horizon-oil-sheen-source.html#sthash.M2hByyJZ.dpuf
Special thanks to Richard Charter
by Beth Buczynski
July 14, 2013 5:00 am
As the age of coal and oil draws to a close, the “drill baby drill” crowd has become louder and more rambunctious than ever. No longer content to poison our oceans with offshore drilling platforms, tar sands oil has become all the rage.
For years those who see the futility of barreling head first down Hydrocarbon Lane have warned that unleashing Canada’s tar sands would be a climate death sentence. But who cares about the dumb old climate, right? Humans don’t act until it’s personal. Well, now it is.
In the past six months we’ve seen a rash of deadly oil spills, the most recent of which have resulted in multiple human fatalities. These disasters show that no matter how we attempt to extract, transport or consume it, oil is killing us. And it won’t stop until we realize the folly of our addiction.
Below are details of just a few of the major oil spills that have happened in the first half of 2013:
In early March a 26,000-gallon tank car (just one car in a mile-long train) transporting crude oil from Canada ruptured in Western Minnesota. The disaster leaked 30,000 gallons of crude something (the rail company refused to say whether it was tar sands oil or not, but you put the pieces together) onto the frozen ground.
Thanks to the cold conditions, the oil was as thick as molasses, making it nearly impossible to get up off the ground.
Just days ago, a train moving crude oil to Irving Oil Corp.’s Saint John refinery in New Brunswick suddenly derailed right in the middle of the town of Lac-Megantic. The immediate explosion engulfed the center of the small town in a literal lake of fire that killed at least 13 people and left dozens more missing.
“This is another data point that shows how much costlier and riskier rail is compared to pipelines,” John Stephenson, a Toronto-based fund manager, told Bloomberg.com.
But before you believe himŠ
In April of this year, a 65-year-old ExxonMobil pipeline burst without warning, dumping Canadian tar sands oil all over the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas.
Within minutes, “the slick of noxious black crude” spewing from the pipeline “was eight feet wide, six inches deep and growing fast.”
Ultimately, 5,000-barrels were spilled from the 22 foot-long gash in the pipe, covering suburban lawns and roads in a toxic goo. Residents reported putrid smells and burning sensations in their eyes, noses and throats.
Exxon immediately went to work blocking any information about how or why the disaster occurred, public relations maneuvering that has since caused the State of Arkansas and the federal government to file a suit against the oil company.
And just last month, heavy rain (that’s right, nothing more than rain) allegedly ruptured a pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest pipeline company. According to most reports, 750-barrels of synthetic crude oozed out of the pipeline before the company managed to shut it down.
The rupture occurred in Line 37, which serves CNOOC Ltd’s Long Lake oil sands project in northern Alberta and carries huge amounts of oil into America. Enbridge gloated in the fact that there were no human habitations or roads nearby, as if that simply wipes away the harm that hundreds of barrels of oil has on the eco-system.
These are only a few of the major oil spill disasters that have occurred this year, and we’re only seven months in. The truth is, there is no safe way to transport poison. Floods happen. Human error happens. And when these statistical certainties happen to a train or pipeline carrying thousands of barrels of toxic oil, death always happens next.
If the Keystone XL pipeline expansion is approved, however, the next time might be in your backyard.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM, updated July 14, 2013 at 1:03 AM
It’s difficult to talk about Louisiana seafood these days without the BP oil spill working its way into the conversation. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that television screens were filled with high-def images of fouled coastal marsh and angry fishermen forlornly staring at their idled fleet.
But some scientists and fishers say it remains impossible to gauge the 2010 spill’s precise environmental and biological toll. Asked about a 15-percent drop in the statewide oyster harvest in the two years following the spill, experts say the spill definitely continues to be a potential factor, but is only one of several.
Perhaps as damaging as the oil and the temporary closures of thousands of acres of Gulf waters in the wake of the disaster three years ago, they say, was the millions of gallons of fresh Mississippi River water that flowed into the Lake Pontchartrain Basin east of the river in 2010 and 2011. Oysters, essentially immobile and unable to withstand the torrents of fresh water, bore the brunt.
A closer look at the preliminary data from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reveal wide variation from area to area. But in terms of oyster production, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin east of the Mississippi River saw the worst of it.
Before the oil spill, Louisiana regularly led the nation in oyster production, with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin traditionally the state’s most productive harvest grounds.
From 2002-2009, the Pontchartrain Basin averaged 7.2 million pounds of oyster meat annually. But beginning in 2010, that production took a nose dive – falling to 2.6 million pounds that year, then to 2.4 million pounds in 2011 and, finally, to 1.8 million pounds in 2012.
Overall, just in 2011 and 2012, oysters in Pontchartrain Basin saw a 71-percent drop compared to the 2002-09 average.
While oyster production showed an increase in the Terrebonne Basin, east of the Mississippi River, the decline in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin was so pronounced that it pulled the overall statewide numbers down in all three years.
“It’s been really down. ŠNormally we always put 400 sacks on the trucks but the last three years or so, we have only been able to put on 150, 130, 140 sacks,” said Shawn Assavedo, an oyster harvester in Pontchartrain Basin out of eastern St. Bernard Parish. “That’s exactly what it’s been since they opened that siphon.
“That freshwater, it goes into Lake Borgne and it has killed a lot of oysters there, really a massive amount of oysters.”
Now the measly haul of oysters in Pontchartrain Basin often is dwarfed by the expanse of the 18-wheeler trucks’ beds.
Brad Robin Sr. talks about how one of the most production areas in the country for harvesting oysters is still struggling to recover.
Brad Robin Sr., a fellow St. Bernard oysterman who typically harvested out of Lake Borgne, said that his old stopping grounds have had “zero percent come back.”
“There is no life left there,” Robin said. “The east side of the river is way down and still trying to recover, trying to get some sort of normalcy out of it all.”
But the fears is that the decline east of the river could continue for an extended period: The Pontchartrain public harvesting grounds in the Breton and Chandeleur sounds provided the majority of the oyster seed that harvesters transplanted to grow oysters in private leases across the state.
“Our public reefs on the east side of the river, that was our mother seed ground,” said John Tesvich, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force. “That is basically wiped out right now.”
The freshening of the water
While the oil spill is an easy fall guy – and many scientists continue to study its impact, often in secrecy for future oil-spill litigation – scientists and some fishers also point to the Mississippi River diversions in 2010 and 2011 as major culprits for the plummeting oyster haul.
“Freshwater is the biggest killer of oysters in the world,” said Greg Voisin, an eighth-generation oysterman who helps run his family business, Motivatit Seafoods, in Terrebonne Parish.
Ken Brown, a Louisiana State University biologist, said he and his colleagues haven’t seen any major effects from the oil on adult oyster mortality rates, but when fresh water dilutes salinity levels “below 10 parts per thousand, and especially if you get below 5 parts per thousand, then oysters have problems.”
Hoping to keep the oil that was spewing from BP’s Macondo well away from Louisiana’s fragile inshore marshes and estuaries, the state in 2010 ran the Davis Pond and Caernarvon river diversions at full speed for several months to push the oily Gulf waters away. The diversions did appear to help drive out some of the oil but they also dropped salinity levels in much of that Pontchartrain Basin to levels unsustainable to oysters.
Then in 2011, when Mississippi River levels in New Orleans approached the 17-foot flood stage because of heavy rainfall in the Midwest, the Bonnet Carré Spillway west of the city was opened from early May through mid-June, further freshening the basin.
That fresh water that poured from Bonnet Carré into Lake Pontchartrain eventually pushed into the surrounding waters of Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound.
The state had anticipated the impact from the Bonnet Carré opening. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission chose to open oyster reefs within portions of the Pontchartrain Basin area before opening the spillway, allowing oyster fishers to take oysters from those grounds and move them to private leases in higher salinity areas.
Oysters thrive when the salinity is 15 parts per thousand, about half the salinity of seawater. They struggle when it falls below 10 parts per thousand and die off when it dips below 5 parts per thousand.
Parts of Pontchartrain Basin fell to less than 3 parts per thousand during periods of 2010 and 2011, according to state and federal data.
Oyster growth problems
Because fresh water diversions carry so much sediment – they often are envisioned as land builders – the diversions in 2010 and 2011 also buried or at least partially covered much of the cultch in Pontchartrain Basin, according to a Wildlife and Fisheries assessment.
Oysterman Brad Robin Jr. explains how small pieces of chopped concrete made from the slabs of flooded Hurricane Katrina homes helps oysters grow.
Cultch is the broken stones and oyster shells that form the reefs upon which oyster larvae attach and grow into adult oysters. Lose the cultch, and the oysters have nothing to latch onto.
Also, in some areas east of the river, much of the oyster shell was covered with an unidentified algae that seems to have prevented oyster seed from taking hold on the reefs.
Some oyster fishers pointed to that algae as an indicator that the oil spill had ruined their crop, but scientists say it also might have been created by the excess nutrients in the river water that poured into the basin.
While nutrients carried by freshwater play an important role in the high productivity of the Gulf systems, they also bring algae blooms, which consume oxygen and create “dead zones” with fish- and oyster-killing low oxygen levels.
Tesvich said he and others also worry about the quality of that river water and whether problems with oyster reproduction on the existing cultch could be tied to the oil.
“Was there some sort of industrial waste or agricultural runoff in that river water?” he asked. “Or is it something from BP in addition to the river water that is causing something? There are a lot of things we just don’t know about these oysters coming back.”
But it wasn’t all bleak where the oyster harvest is concerned.
State Wildlife and Fisheries Department data show that in 2011 the Barataria Basin, to the west of the river, harvested 23 percent more oysters than its pre-spill average and then, in 2012, harvested 44 percent more.
And because the price of oysters continued to rise, the Wildlife and Fisheries numbers show that Barataria oyster fishers earned about $18 million in 2012 – about 116-percent more than they had earned on average between 2002 and 2009.
In 2012, the average price statewide was about $3.70 per pound at the dock, or about 30 percent above the pre-spill average of about $2.80 per pound.
Nonetheless, Al Sunseri, who owns P & J Oyster Co. with his brother Sal, thinks the Wildlife and Fisheries numbers are wrong when it comes to the amount of oysters that have been harvested in Barataria the past few years.
“I’m not a scientist, but I just have some common sense,” Sunseri said. “There is something going on, because we are not seeing the oysters come back like they always did.”
Still, Mitch Jurisich, who harvests a large chunk of the oysters in Barataria, recently said that the last few years have been “the best crop in our family’s history.”
“Jurisich and others in the area did extremely well,” Tesvich acknowledged, but he added that other parts of the Barataria “have been having trouble because of so much fresh water.”
And then there is Terrebonne Basin, which was hopping the past few years, according to the state landings data and discussions with oystermen.
A basin that on average harvested 2.3 million pounds of oysters between 2002 and 2009, Terrebonne produced 4.4 million pounds in 2011 and 4.3 million pounds in 2012. That’s about an 85-percent increase.
Most of that increase in Terrebonne Basin actually could be tied to decreases elsewhere, as oystermen relied on that area to cover declines. For instance, the number of trips oyster fishers took in the basin grew from an average of 7,814 between 2002-2009 to 16,928 trips in 2012 – a 116-percent increase.
“Our oysters being available, it allows the areas east of the river to rest and go through whatever cycle they are going through,” Voisin said. “You have to utilize the resource here when it’s not there, and there when it’s not here, and that’s just the way that we’ve be doing things throughout history.”
Despite the 15-percent drop in statewide oyster production the past couple years, the state’s oyster fishing industry as a whole doesn’t appear to have fared too bad financially.
Because the price per pound has risen since the spill, the overall amount earned by oyster harvesters across the state in 2011 and 2012 actually rose by about 10 percent compared to the pre-spill average, according to the Wildlife and Fisheries’ at-the-dock price and landings data.
Also, the state’s 2012 basin-by-basin data and the statewide 2012 data from the federal Fisheries Service remain very preliminary. Often, the federal data rise by several million pounds when finalized.
The Fisheries Services is expected to release more official 2012 statewide catch numbers this fall.
The conventional wisdom is that two or three years after a major fresh water event, oysters will grow back strong. Often in history, it creates a boom crop. With less salinity, for example, there often are fewer predators that eat the oysters.
So some oyster fishers are waiting, fingers crossed, hoping that in the next few years there will be a bumper season.
Count Assavedo among them. Assavedo is among those oystermen plowing ahead in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, spending money to put down new cultch in the hope that better days are ahead.
It’s a risk he feels he has no choice but to take.
“If it is not fresh cultch material, you are not getting anything. But my new stuff out there, that I laid down, it seems to be doing good,” Assavedo said. “The oysters stuck to it and are growing. I haven’t lost any of them yet. ŠI just hope that continues.”
Wayne Gordon, an employee with P&J Oyster Co., loads up a delivery truck on Oct. 28, 2010, with the first load of oyster that Pete Vujnovich harvested near Port Sulphur since the closure of area 13 back on May 20, 2010.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013
HOUSTON — A mixture of gas, condensate and water has stopped leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at a broken offshore well, according to government regulators and the company that owns it.
Work is now shifting to permanently cap the well, which rests in about 140 feet of water about 70 miles south of Port Fourchon, La. Rough waters are making that work more difficult, but officials at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement say they will continue to monitor the crew’s work to plug the well with cement, which the agency foresees happening over the weekend.
Energy Resource Technology GOM Inc., the operator of the well and now a subsidiary of Talos Energy LLC, halted the leak last night by pumping drilling mud into the well after BSEE approved the plan.
ERT said the volume of hydrocarbons released into the environment is low enough that it would naturally dissipate and evaporate, much as naturally occurring oil sheens in the Gulf of Mexico do. No cleanup operations are planned at this time.
“The discharge volumes were very low, and the sheen that had formed earlier in the week appears to have evaporated almost completely,” a Talos spokesman said in an email.
“Permanent plugging and cementing is what will come next,” the spokesman added, confirming that choppy seas were slowing the pace of the intervention.
ERT workers were performing maintenance on the well earlier this week when they noticed a loss of control and escaping natural gas. The platform was promptly evacuated, and no injuries were sustained.
The platform, located in the offshore area known as Ship Shoal, is connected to another nearby platform by a bridge, and intervention work and situation monitoring have been occurring largely from that installation. The Coast Guard also responded to the incident.
The installation was built in the 1970s and has been a marginal producer since at least the late 1990s. According to BSEE, the
response team is now considering how to permanently close it.
“BSEE engineers are reviewing plans and procedures from ERT for moving forward to isolate the well’s hydrocarbon zone,” the agency said in a release. “A BSEE supervisory inspector is on board the platform monitoring the ongoing site assessment and well analysis.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013
HOUSTON — A crew continued to try to regain control of a busted offshore natural gas well in the Gulf of Mexico last night after the federal government approved an intervention plan.
Late yesterday afternoon, officials at Energy Resources Technology LLC (ERT) began pumping drilling mud into the stricken shallow-water well in an attempt to stop the out-of-control flow of natural gas. The company lost control of the well, one of three on the offshore platform, during work aimed at temporarily plugging it.
Aside from the gas leak, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard reported a 4-mile-wide sheen on the surface of the waters surrounding the well when the accident occurred Tuesday. BSEE spokeswoman Eileen Angelico said the sheen was caused by a small volume of associated condensates released with the gas when the crew lost control of the well.
The agencies said that about 3.6 barrels of light condensate was leaking from the site every 24 hours. “The well is flowing gas, so it’s gas, water and condensate,” Angelico said.
As of late last night, there was no word on whether the ERT crew had been able to stop the gas leak with the drilling mud operation. The government says the company’s plan was formally approved after a review, and BSEE and the Coast Guard are monitoring the entire operation from a neighboring platform.
“Procedures for the source control operations were prepared by ERT and reviewed and approved by BSEE,” the agency said in its most recent notice on the situation. “Once confirmation of the successful well kill operation is received, BSEE will review ERT’s plan for plugging the well.”
The platform where the accident occurred rests atop the Ship Shoal Block, and offshore concession about 70 miles south of Port Fourchon, La. The small, mostly gas production operation sits in about 146 feet of water.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Why wasn’t the rig properly decommissioned and the well plugged when they ended operations as their lease requires? DV
By John Upton
Sheens of oil atop the Gulf of Mexico have become a depressingly familiar sight – the result of reckless drilling by the oil and gas industry. Here is a photograph shot Wednesday of the latest such debacle. An old natural gas well off Louisiana’s coastline was being sealed shut Monday when it began leaking, 144 feet beneath the water’s surface. This photo is one of a series taken during a flight over the site by On Wings of Care, an environmental nonprofit.
On Wings of Care
From On Wings of Care’s blog post:
A badly leaking natural gas well in the Ship Shoal Lease Block #225 of the Gulf of Mexico has spread an ugly, toxic mass of oily rainbow sheen over several square miles not far from the top of Ewing Bank – an area once rich with marine life, especially large plankton feeders and many other species of marine life. We have flown that area in eight different five-to-six-hour wildlife survey flights just within the past three weeks, helping scientists find and study whale sharks.
Today, despite mirror-calm seas, excellent water and air visibility, and clear blue water, we saw barely a trace of marine life in this area.
Fuel Fix reports that the well continues to leak a “briny mix” of natural gas, light condensate, and seawater: Late Wednesday, workers were preparing to begin pumping drilling mud into the well, the first stage in an operation to kill it permanently, 15 years after it last produced gas commercially and four decades after it was drilled.
For much of the day, they were waiting for proof that gas at the platform the well serves had dropped to safe levels so that workers could board the facility. In the meantime, federal regulators and well control specialists waited at a neighboring platform.
The Coast Guard and the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said they plan to conduct an investigation.
John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: email@example.com.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By Sara LaJeunesse
July 10, 2013
Billions of dollars.
That’s what’s at stake for BP as a result of the damage caused to ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
News of that spill — which began on April 20, 2010, with an explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 people and injured 17 — dominated the media for weeks. Millions watched with a feeling of helplessness as the rig sank and over the next 86 days over 200 million gallons of oil spewed out of the Macondo well and into the ocean.
Five months after the spill was capped, the federal government estimated the marine animal death toll at 6,104 birds, 609 sea turtles, and 100 mammals, including dolphins. But what of the deep-water corals that provide habitat and reproductive grounds for numerous species of fish, shrimp, and crabs?
According to Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State, these corals and the organisms they support are important components of a healthy deep sea and open-ocean ecosystem. That’s why both BP and the government are closely collaborating with him on his investigation of the disaster’s impact.
“It’s a new experience for me to conduct research that could have such a dramatic financial impact and also to have so many people involved in everything we do,” says Fisher. “You have to be very careful to document all the details and be very sure that you’re right with your interpretations. We’re always careful, but every little comment we make could be misinterpreted, so we’re being extra conservative with this data set.”
Calling on a World Expert
It was the middle of May, about a month after the oil spill began. With classes over, Fisher was looking forward to spending a little extra time on his farm, located 25 miles east of State College. But that was before the calls started to come in from federal agencies.
Over a period of about a week, Fisher was contacted independently by program officers from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). All had financially supported Fisher’s research in the Gulf in the past, and all were now calling on him to help assess the impact and damage of the oil spill to the deep-sea ecosystems he knows so well.
Fisher “was selected as an expert based on his extensive and unique experience working on the ecology of the cold seep and deep-sea coral communities in deep-sea, hard-bottom habitats in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Robert Ricker, southwest region branch chief of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. “He is a recognized leader in his field, and we pick leaders.”
Fisher agreed to help. After all, he already was leading another big research program that had overlapping goals — to locate, describe, and study deep-water coral communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico that could potentially be impacted by energy company activities.
Coral impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill
For nearly three decades, Fisher has been studying the physiology and the ecology of the communities of animals that inhabit cold seeps — areas of the ocean floor where methane and other hydrocarbon-rich fluid seeps out — and hydrothermal vents — underwater fissures in the Earth’s surface that emit geothermally heated water rich in reduced chemicals — in the deep sea. Marine invertebrates such as clams and tubeworms live in these dark places, surviving the lack of sunlight by forming symbiotic associations with bacteria. The bacteria use the reduced chemical compounds contained in the water as an energy source and, in turn, supply nutrition to their animal hosts.
Fisher has visited these deep places in submarines some 120 times. “When you’re down there, you feel like you’re on another planet because the landscape is like nothing you’ll see on the surface of the Earth,” he says. “You’re oftentimes in a place where nobody has been before, so you have in the back of your mind that you may see something that nobody has ever seen. Every once in a while you do.”
Among his accomplishments are the discovery of ice worms living on methane-rich ice at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and the unraveling of the complex physiological ecology of giant hydrocarbon-seep tubeworms, among the longest-lived animals on Earth. The bizarre two-meter-long tubeworms use their buried roots to suck up toxic hydrogen sulfide that lies deep in the sediments of the seafloor. They then pass the hydrogen sulfide to symbiotic bacteria living inside their bodies.
These bacteria, in turn, oxidize the sulfide and provide nutrition back to the worms. The end product is sulfuric acid, which the tubeworms pump back into the sediments, where yet other bacteria use methane to remake the sulfide and supply it back to the worms.
Whenever possible, he works with Jim Brooks, president and CEO of TDI Brooks International, a company that specializes in conducting offshore surface geochemical exploration for petroleum producers.
“Jim’s group discovered seep communities in the Gulf of Mexico in the 1980s when he was on the faculty at Texas A&M University,” says Fisher. “I’ve been involved in multiple projects with him over the years. In addition to his expertise in oil geochemistry and prospecting, his company can handle all the administration, travel, budgets, and reporting, and I get to just concentrate on the science.”
So in October 2010, with TDI Brooks International managing the expedition, Fisher and his colleagues set out for the Gulf of Mexico on board the NOAA ship, the Ronald H. Brown.
Discovering Damaged Corals
For nearly a month, the team revisited deep-sea coral sites all over the northern Gulf of Mexico that they had discovered the year before during a previous project. Each time they stopped, they used Jason II — a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) or submersible designed for scientific investigation of the deep ocean and seafloor — to sample and study corals and associated animals.
“We revisited all of the sites for which we had good baseline data,” says Fisher. “We were all quite pleased to find that there was no obvious damage to the deep-water coral communities at any of these sites.”
Although they had covered a four hundred-mile span east to west and a depth range from 1,300 feet to almost 6,500 feet, Fisher and his colleagues had observed only a couple of coral sites close by the Macondo well. So, on the last dive of the expedition they decided to check out a very promising area they had identified about seven miles southwest of the well and 45 miles from shore.
The research vessel coasted to a stop with nothing but the occasional seabird in flight to break the monotony of the view. Six hours into the ROV’s dive, Fisher was working in the ship’s laboratory, glancing up every now and then at the 36-inch screen through which video was streaming from the vehicle’s camera, now positioned 4,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. As the ROV moved across the seabed, the camera recorded scenes of mud, mud, and more mud, he remembers. Then, all of a sudden, a coral popped into view, and another and another. But something was wrong. The animals were not brightly colored as they are supposed to be.
Fisher recalls jumping up and sprinting across the deck of the ship to the control van. “Stop!” he warned. “Don’t touch anything!”
The ROV pilots were about to take a sample, but he asked them instead to zoom in with the camera. What he saw were corals covered in dark gunk and dripping snot. “When a coral is physically insulted, it reacts by exuding mucus,” he explains. “It’s a normal stress reaction. It helps to clear the surface if there’s something irritating or sticking on it.” To avoid stressing the animals further, the team decided to minimize sampling.
“Normally we would take little pieces of lots of different corals for genetic identification and population genetic studies,” Fisher says, “but we decided to back off on that and try to do our sampling around the edges, taking only samples of corals that we didn’t recognize. We also collected one of the impacted corals so we could take a closer look at the gunk and what was underneath and determine whether the coral branch was dead or alive.”
By the end of the cruise, the team had visited 14 sites, all but one of which were at distances greater than nine miles from the Macondo well. Only corals at that last site, just under seven miles southwest of the well, had clearly been impacted.
As the researchers headed home with their samples, they began to discuss future expeditions. They knew that impact to at least some corals could be readily identified visually and, since the organisms are attached to rocks and don’t swim or float away when impacted, they provide a record of past events. Their next steps would be to discover the full extent of the oil spill’s reach with regard to corals, and to determine the animals’ ultimate fate. Would they live or would they die?
Learn how Fisher’s colleague Iliana Baums is investigating the use of molecular tools to detect signs of stress in corals before they become ill.
On five subsequent cruises over the next two years, Fisher and his team have explored for additional sites and revisited the established ones to check the corals’ statuses. They have carefully monitored about 50 of the corals that they first discovered in November 2011. Those that were not too heavily impacted seem to be recovering.
“When I say recover,” notes Fisher, “I don’t mean that tissue died and the coral got better. I mean they were covered with slime, but they never died. These corals still do not look as healthy as corals at other sites, and we may have to monitor them for several years before we will know their ultimate fate.”
The corals that were heavily impacted, on the other hand, are largely not recovering. “We are seeing absolute proof of total death of parts of them,” says Fisher. Since corals are colonial, branching animals, parts of them can die while other parts remain alive.
Specifically, at the first damaged site they witnessed — the last site of the October cruise — the researchers have discovered that 86 percent of the coral colonies show signs of damage, with 46 percent exhibiting impact to more than half the colony, and 23 percent displaying more than 90 percent damage.
At each site visited, the researchers deployed markers and set up permanent monitoring stations with a goal of returning to them again and again to monitor both natural processes and, potentially, long-term effects.
“At that depth and at those temperatures in the deep sea, life passes at a slow pace,” notes Fisher. “These are animals that often live 500 years. They live slow; they die slow. We’ll have to monitor the sites for a decade before we’ll have very much confidence we know the full extent of the impact.”
The team’s second cruise, which took place in December 2010 and made use of the Alvin deep-diving submarine, included Helen White, a geochemist from Haverford College. White used state-of-the art oil fingerprinting technology and determined that the brown muck on the corals did, indeed, include oil from the Macondo well.
Fisher’s research to date has demonstrated that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed some corals. As a result, BP is going to have to pay. But how much and to whom?
“People have asked me how much a dolphin is worth, and there is no clear-cut answer,” says Timothy Zink, spokesperson for NOAA, the organization that oversees natural resource damage assessments performed by researchers like Fisher, tabulates the check for the parties responsible, and formulates and carries out a plan for restoring the ecosystem.
“The public needs to be compensated for its losses, and not just for the resource itself, but for the human use of the resource — such as recreational fishing, bird watching, and going to the beach — as well,” said Zink. “The final price that BP will pay will be based on the full cost of restoring the environment back to what it was on the day the oil spill happened.”
Unfortunately for deep-water corals, the full effects of the spill may not be felt for many years, too late for any near-term settlement to fully cover them.
“I believe everyone involved would like to settle as soon as we can,” says Fisher. “However, the full extent of damage to deep-sea ecosystems may not manifest itself until after a settlement is reached. If corals all over the deep gulf start dying, and we thought only those very close to the Macondo well would die, then we have to reassess the situation.” In that case, Zink says, the investigation could be reopened.
BP has already paid over $20 billion to cover some of the damages from the spill, and in a November 2012 settlement with the Justice Department, agreed to pay $4 billioon in criminal fines. The company has also committed hundreds of millions to research into understanding the effects of oil spills on ecosystems and preventing future disasters.
Despite the trouble the oil spill caused for deep-sea ecosystems, Fisher says he’s not against deep-water drilling for oil. “As much as I love the ocean, there are a lot of resources in the ocean, and as long as I drive a car, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to say that we shouldn’t obtain those resources for human use,” he notes. “I’m conflicted in the way I feel about it, but I don’t think this means we should stop accessing oil in the marine environment.
“I think, in general, oil companies try pretty damn hard to be responsible.” Fisher adds. “It’s in their best interest to be responsible. This has cost BP billions of dollars; they don’t want it to happen again. In a way, this oil spill has been a beneficial wake-up call in that it tells us that the unthinkable can happen. I think a result of it will be better oversight by oil companies and the federal government.”
Charles R. Fisher is professor of biology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This photo, taken as part of a major research project led by Penn State Professor of Biology Charles Fisher, shows a reef formed by the coral species Lophelia pertusa at 450m below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico with an orange brisingid starfish in the foreground and a school of fish overhead.
Image: Image courtesy of Lophelia II 2010 Expedition, NOAA OER BOEM
Special thanks to Richard Charter
This rig is ripe for decommissioning and removal from the seabed before it does any more damage. DV
By Melissa Gray, CNN
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
NEW: The well owner says the leak should be stopped sometime Wednesday
NEW: About six barrels of oil leaked along with the natural gas, the company says
NEW: Environmentalist says the gas and oil could be toxic to marine life
The leak is at an oil and gas platform 74 miles southeast of Louisiana
(CNN) — A natural gas leak in the Gulf of Mexico has left a four-mile-wide “rainbow sheen” on the water’s surface south of Louisiana, the Coast Guard said Tuesday, but the owner of the well said it expects the leak to be plugged within a day.
Houston, Texas-based Talos Energy said the gas is flowing from a well that it was in the process of abandoning. The leak happened while it was trying to permanently plug the well, located about 74 miles southeast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
Talos said it evacuated all five staff members from the platform and shut down the two other working wells there. It notified the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Coast Guard and began a spill response.
“We expect that the well will be shut in within the next 24 hours,” Talos said in a statement Tuesday.
Massive tar mat dug up off Louisiana coast, 3 years after spill
Along with the gas, the well leaked about six barrels of oil, or about 252 gallons, the company said, adding it expects the oil to evaporate quickly.
The Coast Guard and BSEE officials flew over the leak Tuesday and found natural gas still flowing from the well, with a rainbow sheen visible on the surface measuring more than four miles wide by three-quarters of a mile long, the Coast Guard said.
The well is on the sea floor, about 130 feet deep, according to a U.S. congressional source briefed on the incident.
Gulf oil heartbreaker for bellwether fish
There is a concern that the gas leak could have a toxic effect on marine life, even if it is stopped by Wednesday.
“Toxic gases will damage the bodies of fish that come into contact by damaging their gills and causing internal damage,” said Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental advocacy group in New Orleans. “Marine species in the Gulf are more vulnerable when water temperatures are high and when oxygen concentrations are low like they are now.”
Coast Guard, BP end Gulf cleanup in 3 states
Talos said the well is older and in a field developed in the 1970s. By 1998, the well was producing mostly water at a low-flowing pressure, so the company was plugging and abandoning it.
The company said it believes the age of the tubing may have contributed to the leak, though the Coast Guard said the cause is still under investigation.
The Coast Guard said the well is owned by Energy Resource Technology Gulf of Mexico. Talos acquired the company earlier this year.
CNN’s Lesa Jansen and Todd Sperry contributed to this report.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Jean Chemnick and Jason Plautz, E&E reporters
Published: Monday, July 8, 2013
Arctic drilling among new Interior regs
I’ve edited down this article to the portion relevant to oil. DV
The White House agenda also notes several significant rule making efforts at the Interior Department, including new regulations for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and for the flaring and venting of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells on public lands.
Making its first appearance on the regulatory agenda is a proposed rule from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that would codify regulations for drilling in the oil-rich Arctic Ocean, where at least three major energy firms are pursuing exploration.
Former Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes in May said those regulations will mirror the voluntary steps Royal Dutch Shell PLC
agreed to take during its 2012 Arctic exploration season, which included an oil spill containment plan and the ability to drill a
relief well, among other steps.
Hayes at the time said he believed the agency would issue draft rules by the end of the year.
“There will be clarity going forward,” Hayes said, noting that industry would be given flexibility for how it complies with
performance-based standards. It appears Interior has pushed to 2014 the release of a separate set of rules aiming to strengthen the integrity of blowout preventers, the hulking devices used to stanch the flow of oil or gas from an out-of- control well. BP PLC’s blowout preventer failed to prevent the escape of oil and gas from the Macondo well in April 2010, leading to the worst oil spill in the nation’s history. The blowout preventer rule was listed on the White House’s long-term agenda, and the proposed rule is tentatively scheduled for October 2014. The administration deemed it “economically significant,” which means it could be costly to implement.
“The industry has developed new standards for BOP design and testing that contain significant improvements to existing documents,” the White House said in its description of the rule. “By incorporating these new requirements into regulations and other supplemental requirements, the regulatory oversight over this critical equipment will be increased.” The Bureau of Land Management is continuing to evaluate a proposed rule to establish standards to “limit the waste of vented and flared gas and to define the appropriate use of oil and gas for beneficial use.”
The rule appears to address a significant concern environmentalists have about the emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells on public lands. Environmentalists claim current affordable technologies could keep more methane in pipelines to be burned for heat and power, but BLM has been hesitant to require that those technologies be used. BLM’s proposed “onshore order 9” is scheduled for release in May 2014, according to a description of the rule.
Environmental groups continue to pressure the agency for tougher regulations in federal court (Greenwire, June 17).
BLM also continues to pursue rules that would provide for the competitive leasing of wind and solar energy on public lands, for the regulation of hydraulic fracturing and to address the royalty rate for oil shale.
BOEM is also pursuing a rule that would set a preliminary term of one year for offshore wind companies that lease federal waters to submit a site assessment or general activities plan to encourage diligent development of renewable energy.
Reporters Phil Taylor and Annie Snider contributed.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
July 5, 2013
By Emily Culver
The beaches of Lobitos were the most affected by a broken tube in an oil transport
* Ecuador oil spill reaches Peruvian river
* Peru’s biodiversity is vital to country’s history, and future
* Oil spill pollutes Peruvian waters
* Peru declares emergency in jungle over oil contamination
A broken tube in Savia Peru’s oil transport caused a spill of approximately 200 barrels of crude oil in the ocean in Piura, right in front of Punta Lobas and Batería Primavera beaches in Lobitos.
Savia Peru is one of the country’s top hydrocarbon companies. According to Gestión, Savia Peru’s total sales added up to $88.3 million from January to March of this year. Its latest project is a duct for transporting natural gas in Piura that has a $48.3 million value.
State oil company PetroPeru and the Marines sent some agents to the port to attend to the emergency around mid day yesterday. The oil spill was under control about two hours later.
The oil spill affected over 3,000 meters of ocean, although a full study of the effects on the ecosystem has yet to be completed.
Savia Peru has come out with a statement, promising to clean up the spill and assess the environmental damage. It is currently coming up with an appropriate contingency plan to deal with the accident.? Savia Peru reiterates its responsibility to care for the environment and the responsibility it has towards activities in the region› a representative told El Comercio.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
The Guardian, Sunday 7 July 2013 13.44 EDT
Britain’s offshore rigs and platforms have leaked oil or other chemicals into the North Sea on 55 occasions over the past month alone, challenging claims by the industry that it has a strong safety and environmental record.
Among the fields to have reported pollution discharges is Piper Alpha, the scene of the world’s worst offshore accident in terms of fatalities when it blew up, killing 167 workers, 25 years ago.
Facilities operated by Shell, BP and BG were all offenders, according to the latest petroleum operations notices (PON1s) reported to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Greenpeace said the alarming statistics should act as a reality check for an industry that was trying to persuade the world it should be allowed to drill in the pristine waters of the Arctic.
“They’re trying to convince the world that they can operate safely in one of the world’s harshest environments, yet they can’t prevent this steady trickle of oil and other polluting chemicals leaking into the relatively safe waters of the North Sea,” said Greenpeace senior climate adviser Charlie Kronick. “This will do little to increase public trust in their ability to drill in the Arctic without damaging this incredibly beautiful and fragile corner of our planet.”
But the industry itself says the leaks often contain tiny amounts of relatively harmless substances and the reporting system is an example of a good regulation.
One of the worst offenders in the latest set of DECC figures is Shell, which on 3 June reported lubricant and other chemical discharges from its Brent Bravo and Brent Charlie platforms.
A Shell spokesman said: “Asset integrity and process safety is Shell’s foremost priority at all times. No spill is acceptable and we work hard both offshore and onshore to minimise risks to maintain a safe working environment for our workforce and reduce any environmental impact on the North Sea.
“Shell is actively participating in the Step Change in Industry safety initiative, which includes a focus on hydrocarbon spill reduction. The industry has achieved an almost 50% reduction in hydrocarbons leaks during 2012, based on a baseline set in 2009.”
In 2006, Shell was fined £900,000 after pleading guilty to safety lapses on the Brent B platform following an accident in 2003, when the facility was hit by a gas leak in which two oil workers died.
BP, which is still fighting criminal charges following the Deepwater Horizon accident of 2010 in the US Gulf, is reported to have had crude leaks off the Paul B Loyd Jnr rig, which was working on the Clair field on 6 June this year. There was also a release of “another” substance from the same drilling unit two days earlier. On 25 May there was discharge on the Marnock field.
BG had a leak on the Everest North platform on 31 May while Talisman Energy discharged chemicals the day before on the Piper Bravo platform that was built in place of the Piper Alpha structure destroyed by fire in 1988.
Petroleum operations notices are all reviewed and investigated by an offshore environmental inspector as they are reports of potential breaches of DECC-enforced regulations.
Some of the discharges are allowable under North Sea rules but most on the latest PON1s monthly data whose status is marked “completed” rather than still “under review” ascribed the source to various mechanical failures.Those incidents that do show how much product was released indicate small amounts but any unintended action is unwelcome at a time when safety and the environment are major concerns of the public.
Although the PONS1 data seen by the Guardian for the month from 6 May to 6 June show 55 different numbered notices, employers dispute the figures and downplay their significance.
Mick Borwell, Oil & Gas UK’s environmental issues director, said: “The vast majority of the 103 spills this year [in PON1 reports] are very small operational chemical spills. They have no potential to cause a major accident, so do not compromise the increase in safety standards reported recently including a year on year reduction in combined fatal and major injury rates and in all types of dangerous occurrence and a 48% reduction in hydrocarbon releases over three years.”
BP and Shell declined to comment. On Monday, BP will appear in court in New Orleans to argue that the huge compensation package agreed last year following the Deepwater Horizon disaster is being abused. Lawyers for BP will claim that large numbers of “fraudulent, excessive or improper claims” are being filed to the victims’ fund, to which BP set aside around $8bn.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Posted on July 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm by David Vaucher
A friend of mine recently shared an article from the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Regulated States of America”. The article is very relevant: a lot of the political discourse today in the United States concerns the role (or non-role) of government, and its reach as it pertains to regulations. The oil & gas industry comes up frequently in this context, and stirs up strong opinions from all sides of the issue. I have my own thoughts to share with you in the hope that it stimulates some discussion, and I suspect what you read will surprise you coming from someone very “pro” oil & gas!
Full disclaimer here: I’m not an American citizen, and as a Green Card holder, I have no voting rights so in the strictest sense, my opinion literally doesn’t count. This means that I’m speaking entirely for myself with the only goal of sharing my views, and nothing I say today is meant as an endorsement of any political belief or party. As much as I’d like the country to recognize the continued supply of energy as a common problem to solve rather than a political line in the sand, the fact is that oil & gas HAS been politicized, so I think it’s important to state my political neutrality up front.
If you ask anyone what they think the oil & gas industry’s stance on regulation is, I’m sure the answer would be: “they don’t want it”. It just makes sense to give that answer: more rules means more complexity which means possibly more costs and less efficiency. To be fair, I’ll point out that NO industry is asking for more regulations, but the oil & gas business has a very particular public image and impact on society, so in that sense we should consider it separately from other sectors of the economy.
I do get the impression that regarding regulations, the message from the industry goes something like this: “the government doesn’t know the industry as well as we do, so there’s no way it can monitor us effectively or fairly. The bottom line is that regulations just get in the way of us operating efficiently.”
It’s a fair point, but I’ve said many times that the oil & gas industry has a clear public relations problem, and that this is entirely our own doing. When our “knee jerk” reaction to any new regulation is “no” (even if its goals seem good!), we come across as having something to hide. Clearly, this is incompatible with what should be one of the industry’s top priorities: building trust with the public.
I can already anticipate two related objections to my argument. The first is that many operators do in fact strive not only to meet but also exceed local standards of operation. Actually, it’s even been documented that safety records can improve when large operators move into a play, or acquire smaller players. The second objection could be that people will say that overall the bigger companies operate well, and it’s the very small independents operating at a very local level (who may not hold themselves to equally high standards) that are giving the industry as a whole a bad name.
Even if you believe those objections to be true, the problem is that given much of the public’s view of the oil & gas business, ANY incident caused by ANY company will tarnish the whole industry. Furthermore, if I, as someone deeply involved in, passionate about, and fairly knowledgeable about the industry get the impression that we automatically resist any proposed rule changes, how is someone removed from oil & gas supposed to think any differently? Again, how is resisting every proposed change justifiable, even when that change seeks to achieve something objectively positive (more transparency, stricter environmental standards, etcŠ)?
Look, I believe strongly in Capitalism (I wouldn’t be a very good MBA if I didn’t!), and I understand that accepting this system means trusting that resources are allocated most effectively by a free market, and this market should have more freedom than not. However, I think that there is a “spectrum” of Capitalism: you don’t have to have “the Market” deciding everything for this system to be in place, and to the extent that it would be a terrible idea to let companies just do as they please, some intervention is necessary to keep things working smoothly. In oil & gas, we rely way more than other businesses on a “social contract” with the public, and if it takes rules to keep EVERYONE honest, then so be it. This is why I emphatically think that fair, reasonable regulation of the oil & gas industry is a very good thing.
Sports provide a great analogy with which to make that point. In sports, there are rules and referees. The rules are established by a governing body, usually in tandem with players’ representatives. The idea is not to dictate anything outright, but to come to some compromise on a rule (regulation) that brings about hopefully positive change to the game.
Take football (the American kind, for international readers).
I love football, but the game has gotten so violent that I worry every weekend that I’m going to see a player die. There is currently a dialogue going on between the National Football League, players, and to some extent the fans to determine what the best course of action is to make the game safer: stiffer penalties for illegal hits? Mandating new equipment specifications? Altering kickoff procedures?
If changes are implemented, they likely won’t satisfy everyone, but they’ll probably be made taking into account multiple points of view, and if player safety increases, how can anyone label these changes “bad”? Ultimately, the goal of keeping players safe must be given priority over other considerations such as fans’ enjoyment of how the game “should be”.
Now let’s consider the referees.
If you accept that everyone is self-interested, and doesn’t always have incentives to take the honest course of action, there needs to be some enforcement mechanism. Referees are supposed to be neutral third parties whose role is to enforce the rules, NOT deliberately determine the outcomes. Granted, referees’ decisions will always disappoint someone, but the idea is that spectators should be able to trust that referees will use all means available (instant replay, conferences with other referees) and their best judgment to make the best, “in good faith” call.
How is this any different from the fields in which we operate and the role of regulators?
Though I believe in regulation, it’s important to notice that I’m staying away from the questions of “how much regulation should there be?”, “what kinds of regulations should be implemented?”, and “how much involvement should come from the federal vs. state levels?” If I knew the answers to these questions I’d be much better paid than I am now!
In all seriousness, I’m not interested in getting “down in the weeds” of policy debates. Rather, I’m advocating for a fundamental shift in attitude of the oil & gas industry with regards to regulations and the governing bodies that propose them. While we shouldn’t be prepared to accept anything and everything that comes our way, our initial reaction should be “ok, let’s talk about this” rather than “no, this will be bad for business”. Might there be some cost to this shift in attitudes? Maybe, but what if the return on that investment is greater public trust, and more leeway to undertake the projects to which there is currently resistance?
One industry I’ve always been impressed with due to its “healthy” relationship with government is air transportation. It seems that there is a good spirit of collaboration between the public and private groups, and a culture among pilots of reporting any incident no matter how small so that more severe accidents can be avoided later.
Think back to Boeing and the Dreamliner: I’m sure Boeing wanted to avoid grounding its new plane and incurring the associated costs and loss of reputation, but safety took top priority, the government grounded the airplanes, Boeing went along with it, and after a thorough investigation the planes are now flying again. Certainly, air travel is one area I’m grateful for regulation. Can you imagine how things would be if we allowed airlines to operate completely independently and just let “the Market” decide which one to use based on the resulting safety (or lack thereof) records? That would be nuts!
Ultimately, in oil & gas we should aim to have the same relationship the airlines have with the government: collaborative rather than combative, and presenting transparency to the public rather than secrecy. The hard truth is that oil & gas operators don’t have sovereignty over the areas they work in. These companies work in these areas because they are granted permission to do so, both by government and residents. If we attempt to run roughshod over a region in ways that benefit us solely and say “well, we know better, please keep away and let us do our work”, then eventually that social license to operate WILL be revoked and WE will be the ones told to keep away.
Specialthanks to Richard Charter
Jul. 4, 2013 |
Written by Kevin Robinson
Ocean Alliance Founder Roger Payne and a group of environmental activists with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are making a port of call in Pensacola on board the RV Odyssey. The conservation group and the 93-foot research vessel is operating in the Gulf of Mexico collecting data on whales and sea-life in the gulf as it relates to the BP oil spill.
Watching the Whales: Listen to Eliza Muirhead, discuss how 12 members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance’s mission, Operation Toxic Gulf, will spend the remainder of July tracking sperm whales 100 miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Ocean Alliance have arrived in Pensacola with the 93-foot research vessel RV Odyssey. The group is making a port of call in Pensacola as part of its Operation Toxic Gulf mission in the Gulf of Mexico. / Tony Gibersonemail@example.com
An International crew of the scientists and activists will be docking in Pensacola periodically this month while they study the effects of the BP oil spill. About 12 members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance will spend the remainder of July tracking sperm whales 100 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The sperm whale is at the top of the food chain, so all of the toxins consumed by smaller animals eventually end up accumulating inside the sperm whales,” crew member Eliza Muirhead said. The crew of the Odyssey will examine changes in sperm whale health and behavior to get a snapshot of how toxins from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and the chemical dispersant sprayed to contain it are affecting marine ecology. To help people understand their research and its ramifications, the crew allowed the public to tour the Odyssey on Wednesday. About a dozen people wandered the 93-foot craft, snapping pictures and asking questions.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a controversial environmental group featured on the popular Discovery Channel program “Whale Wars.” The group has gained notoriety for its aggressive tactics pursuing, harassing and sometimes boarding Japanese ships in the Southern Ocean conducting research by killing whales. Sea Shepherd contends the Japanese whaling operation is illegal and immoral. “My brother and nephew watch ‘Whales Wars,’ so when they told me they were coming down I decided to come along,” said Wendy Hauman. “I got to talk to the crew and the scientists. It’s cool to see what they do in person and see live some of what they do on TV.”
The team has a full laboratory on the ship to begin preliminary analysis of the data collected during the expedition. Lead researcher Robert Payne said it could be up to a year before the findings of the study are published.
Payne, the founder of Ocean Alliance, has studied whale behavior since 1967. He and colleague Scott McVay are credited for discovering that humpback whales sing songs.
Payne said that by partnering, Ocean Alliance and the Sea Shepherds are able to accomplish goals they could never have achieved alone. “The value of this study is that normally scientists work in their own little world,” Payne said. “People who take action work in a whole different world. Those two worlds are finally getting together.”
Payne said that by pairing the research-minded Ocean Alliance and the action-oriented members of the Sea Shepherds, the expedition could more fully investigate an environmental disaster that he said has been largely marginalized by special interests and the federal government.
“The mission of one side is to confuse things and our job is to clarify,” Payne said. “We’re dealing with a problem you can’t see, so it’s easy for people to pretend it doesn’t exist.” The research expedition will be documented online on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance Facebook pages.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
JULY 2, 2013 BY: LAURIE WIEGLER
Snapper are filleted at Inland Seafood in NOLA in August of 2010. Chemical and “sniff testing” of fish began after the spill. Three years later, there are mixed views on whether Gulf seafood is safe to eat.
On the 28th, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham announced that additional areas of Grand Terre Islands were closed. In a press release, the LDWF said that, tar mats located during ongoing surveys were removed this week in the intertidal and subtidal areas of Grand Terre Islands. Some of those mats were in areas that are already closed, however some additional closures were required.
The area closed is the portion of state outside waters “seaward a distance of one-half mile from the shoreline from the southwestern shore of east Grand Terre at -89 degrees 54 minutes 04 seconds west longitude; thence eastward along the shoreline to the southeastern shore of Grand Terre at -89 degrees 51 minutes 39 seconds west longitude; thence eastward along 29 degrees 18 minutes 46 seconds north latitude to -89 degrees 51 minutes 19 seconds west longitude.
The LDWF did this following the announcement that “state health leaders” called for the ban after flesh-eating bacteria were suspected in these coastal waters, reports WBRZ. However, this was not mentioned in LDWF’s official press release on its web site.
The LDWF’s actions drew a response from BP today, who issued their own press release claiming that actions such as these hurt the image of the state, and once again reassured the public that they believe Gulf seafood is safe to eat.
Nevertheless, LDWF says:
[that] no person shall take/possess or attempt to take any species of fish for commercial purposes from waters within the closed area. The possession, sale, barter, trade or exchange of any fish or other aquatic life from the closed area during the closure is prohibited.
All commercial fishing is prohibited in the closed areas. Recreational fishing is limited to recreational rod and reel fishing which includes licensed charter boat guides.
Commercial fishing activities prohibited are: shrimping, trawling, skimming, butterflying, crabbing, flounder and garfish gigging, cast netting, oyster harvesting, gill netting, hoop netting, minnow trapping, rod and reeling, jug lining, using a bow and arrow, purse seining, set lining and spear gunning.
Prohibited recreational fishing means no crabbing, shrimping, flounder gigging, cast netting, bait seining, bow fishing, spearing, snagging and dip netting. Charter boat and recreational angling are still allowed.
According to BP, not one test [of Gulf seafood] has exceeded thresholds for human health established by the Food and Drug Administration. Gulf seafood is the most rigorously tested seafood in the country, and every test conducted – by multiple state and federal agencies – has shown the same thing: Gulf seafood is safe.
BP says that by extending fishery closures, the state may help perpetuate the myth that consumers should avoid Gulf seafood and tourists should avoid Louisiana’s waters. When no scientific basis is provided for the decision, Louisiana does a disservice to the thousands of people who work in the commercial fishing, recreational fishing, and tourism industries and who depend on those industries for their livelihoods.
The state’s decision to extend the fishery closure appears to be groundless, and that hurts the people of Louisiana and the reputation of the state.
However, readers should note that these closures of recreational and commercial fishing have been implemented based on the Secretary of the Department’s information received from biologists and other scientists.
BP is still in the midst of a contentious civil trial in New Orleans, where not only billions, but the company’s gravely tarnished image, are at stake .
Here is a map detailing this closure. Here is another area map that highlights the fishing closures in red. For a complete list of press releases that detail the history of closures and openings in the area following the spill, please click here.
Note: An earlier version of this article today did not include the link to flesh-eating bacteria. Also, the original photo caption said Gulf seafood isn’t safe to eat and it has been corrected to express there are mixed views. Also, the original caption referred to sniff test “fishing” and that has also been corrected to sniff “testing” of fish.- lw
Special thanks to Richard Charter.
Find this article at: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/health-problems-still-plaguing-many-bp-oil-spill-cleanup-workers-213828351.html
The Life Care Solutions Group discusses the unmet needs of many BP oil spill workers who’ve faced challenges in getting help for their injuries.
< NEW ORLEANS, July 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Following the 2010 BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a number of response workers reported being stricken with ailments purportedly linked to cleanup efforts. For many workers with limited resources to find medical help, there remains a need to have concerns about resulting medical conditions addressed, even three years after the spill. The Life Care Solutions Group has developed a resource for response workers and volunteers who have questions about how to receive medical and legal help if they have been plagued with health problems linked to participation in the oil spill cleanup. Help for BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Many individuals involved in the BP oil spill cleanup were migrant workers, service industry workers, and Gulf Coast residents who volunteered in the effort, and lacked health care coverage or other means to pay for proper medical care. Thousands of workers spent months working to clean up oil, applying chemical dispersants, and completing other tasks in an attempt to restore the Gulf Coast to a safe environment for residents, businesses, tourists, and ecosystems, not knowing of the extent of exposure to toxic chemicals they were subjected to. The BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk is available for those who have been plagued with health problems including conditions of the stomach, skin, respiratory system and more. For those who still have questions about whether they are eligible to receive compensation for their injuries from funds set aside by BP for the damage caused, the help desk can also address their inquiries. A free medical review is being offered to those who visit the help desk and contact the Life Care Solutions Group today. About the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk The BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk is a resource, developed by the Life Care Solutions Group, made available to support workers who have been left with health problems attributable to Gulf Coast cleanup efforts. The Life Care Solutions Group is comprised of a network of medical and legal experts who assist individuals in need of information regarding their legal rights in a BP oil spill settlement or medical options after sustaining a serious injury. Individuals can visit the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk online today to request a free medical assessment or assistance with a BP gulf oil spill claim. For more information about the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk, please visit http://disasters.lifecare123.com. CONTACT: Lyn Giguere, Lyn@submitmypressrelease.com, +1-972-437-8952 SOURCE Life Care Solutions Group RELATED LINKS http://disasters.lifecare123.com Special thanks to Richard Charter
July 1, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Congress, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects
By Mordechai Treiger, Environmental Defense Fund
Last month, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident announced Phase III of their Early Restoration efforts. The NRDA Trustees include representatives from the five Gulf Coast states and four federal agencies who are charged with assessing damage to natural resources, such as marshes, sea grasses, birds and marine mammals, stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Phase III represents the largest collection of NRDA proposals to date, encompassing 28 proposals intended to restore ecosystem health and lost recreational opportunities across five states. At $320 million, the biggest of these new projects will be to rehabilitate Mississippi River Delta ecosystems devastated by the oil spill and subsequent cleanup efforts. Called the Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration project, it will restore damaged barrier islands in Plaquemines and Terrebonne Parishes by rebuilding beaches, dunes and back-barrier marsh habitat.
Restoration workers will deposit sediment in an effort to create new land, install sand fencing to encourage dune growth and plant native species across the island in an effort to combat erosion. The strengthened barrier islands will protect wetlands along the delta’s coastline as well as provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife that suffered in the aftermath of the spill, including fish, shellfish and birds. The cost of the Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration project is expected to cost $320 million.
Previously, the NRDA Trustees finalized the first phase of early NRDA projects, which included eight restoration projects spread across five gulf states in April 2012, and the second phase of early NRDA projects, which introduced an additional two restoration projects in November 2012. In addition to the $71 million committed to Early Restoration in Phases I and II, the new projects will bring restoration spending totals under NRDA to well over $600 million.
All NRDA projects, from Phase I through Phase III, are being negotiated and funded in accordance with the $1 billion Early Framework Agreement signed by the NRDA Trustees and BP in April of 2011. The Framework Agreement was largely seen as a positive step toward restoring the Gulf when it was signed, but since then, money has been slow to flow under the agreement. The NRDA Trustees recently announced their intention to delay further implementation of early restoration, including the recently announced Phase III projects, until the completion of a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for all Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery efforts. Nevertheless, the Trustees remain committed to swiftly advancing these important ecosystem restoration projects with all deliberate speed.
At a June 6 U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing, Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior, underlined the urgency of Gulf restoration, stating, “Interior fully recognizes, without hesitation, that the time to begin restoration is now.” She went on to promise that early restoration efforts would not come at the expense of, or otherwise undermine, the ultimate goal of complete restoration. “We will not stop until the entire billion is obligated,” Jacobson continued. “It is important to note that our early restoration efforts in no way affect our ongoing assessment work or our ability to recover from BP the full measure of damages needed for complete restoration.”
Columbia County Observer, Columbia County, Florida
A Call For A Twenty-First-Century Solution In Oil Spill Response
Posted July 1, 2013 05:25 am
“What if that dark area were crude oil and your job was to clean it up without damaging the environment; could you do it?”
By Barbara Wiseman
International President, Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization
I appreciate that you are keeping this issue alive in the news: A Deadly Paradox: Scientists Discover the Agent Used in Gulf Spill Cleanup Is Destroying Marine Life. The devastation that is continuing to occur in the Gulf as a result of the on-going application of Corexit is jaw-dropping and heartbreaking. The article mentioned that Corexit 9527 is more toxic than Corexit 9500.
Toward the beginning of the spill, when the public began to get an idea of how toxic Corexit 9527 was and began demanding that something else be used, the EPA sent a letter to BP giving them 24 hours to find another chemical dispersant on their approved list of products on the National Contingency Plan (NCP) for Oil and Hazardous Chemical Spills.
The EPA did not say a safer product on the NCP list. They demanded another chemical dispersant.
The EPA did this knowing that because of the monopoly it has created for Exxon’s Corexit over the past 25 years, (they have never allowed any other product to be used on U.S. navigable waters when an actual spill happens, despite the fact that there are numerous other products on the NCP list that are less toxic, less expensive and demonstrably more effective), that BP would have to come back saying that the only product that was stockpiled in enough quantities for deployment on a spill of this size was Corexit.
The “solution” was to acquiesce by switching to Corexit 9500.
The public was appeased, but duped, because they didn’t know that per the science and chemical information regarding 9500, 9500 is only slightly less toxic than 9527 by itself, but once it is applied to oil, the combination becomes more toxic than the combination of 9527 and oil. The idea that scientists are just now finding how destructive Corexit is, is totally inaccurate.
Every chemical manufacturer has to fill out a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on their product and submit it to the EPA and make it generally available. Both Corexits, 9527 and 9500, specifically say on the MSDS, “Don’t contaminate surface waters [with this product].” Yet, as of July 2010, close to 2 million gallons were sprayed on and injected into the Gulf waters. Because the spraying has continued, this figure is far higher now. The EPA applies a graduated numbering system to chemicals regarding their toxicity level. The higher the number, the less toxic it is.
One product on the NCP list that effectively and thoroughly cleans up oil is so non-toxic you can take a swig of it and it won’t hurt you has a toxicity number of 1400.
Corexit’s toxicity number ranges between 2 and 15, depending on the test. You almost can’t get more toxic than that. The MSDS sheet says that the product is low risk.
However, if you read the fine print, you will find that it is only low risk as long as you rigorously follow the safety guidelines of wearing a full respirator and full hazardous materials suit. In other words, don’t breathe any in and don’t get any on you. If you do, all bets are off. The MSDS list is easily accessible.
The fact that Corexit keeps being touted as “safe as dish detergent” is patently false. This statement is made because Corexit contains 2BTE (2 Butoxy Ethanol) in it. 2BTE can be found in Dawn dish detergent. However, what they don’t say is that 2BTE is a tiny fraction of Dawn dish detergent, while it makes up at least 70% of the volume Corexit.
2BTE is mutagenic (causes mutations), teratagenic (causes birth defects and problems with procreation), and carcinogenic (cancer causing).
All of the devastation that has occurred to the marine life in the Gulf: the shrimp with no eyes, crabs with no eyes and claws, fish with open lesions, fish with tumors, huge increase in dolphin miscarriages, and massive depopulation of the marine life is no surprise and was utterly predictable.
The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization has written a position paper on this subject, A Call for a Twenty-First-Century Solution in Oil Spill Response. It covers all of this in depth.
Learn more: Change Oil Spill Response Now?
In 2003, Barbara was the Executive Director of a management consulting firm in Los Angeles, CA, when Dr. Lawrence Anthony asked her to help him create the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. Until Dr. Anthony’s passing in 2012, they worked together to build and expand LAEO’s reach around the world. Mrs. Wiseman holds the functions of Executive Director for LAEO US, LAEO US Board member, as well as LAEO’s International President. Beginning with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Barbara began researching to find effective methods that could be immediately implemented to swiftly and thoroughly clean up the toxic oil and chemical dispersants that so negatively impacted the wildlife, marine life, and public’s health. Once solutions were found, she has then lead LAEO’s campaign to break down arbitrary barriers put in place by government regulators, and now expanded LAEO’s focus to all oil spills around the world.
Here is an excerpt from the paper: DV
A Call for Change in Oil Spill Response:
* Ban the use of toxic chemical dispersants or any other scientifically identified toxic agent used for oil spill “cleanup,” in US navigable waters and all environments.
* Revise and correct the National Contingency Plan and all related guidance documents referenced by regional and area response teams to reflect current science and information, specifically including
» the immediate withdrawal of the EPA’s preapproval (blanket authorization) for the use of dispersants in US navigable waters as part of the National Contingency Plan;
» correction of all material guiding the use of Bioremediation Agents, to remove the misinformation and to list EA type as a first-response non-toxic option;
» add the article BIOREMEDIATION TECHNIQUES, CATEGORY DEFINITIONS, AND MODES OF ACTION IN MARINE AND FRESHWATER ENVIRONMENTS to the NRT, RRT, NOAA, and Coast Guard published bioremediation materials to reeducate all team members on the corrected science concerning bioremediation.
* Exert pressure on the US EPA to issue the necessary authorization for nontoxic bioremediation methods already screened by EPA scientists and approved (Bioremediation Agent Type EA, OSE II) to be deployed immediately to bring the Gulf waters and associated
environments back to good health.
* Raise pollution removal standards up to the original intent of the Clean Water Act by requiring all companies that have the potential through their working processes of creating oil spills to include NCP-listed products that are nontoxic in their cleanup protocols, ensuring their plans employ methods that swiftly and completely remove oil from a spill area.
If you find this to be a worthwhile message and purpose, please help us by passing it on to others. Your help and support is welcome and appreciated.
Lawrence Anthony Science & Technology Advisory Board
Who We Are: http://theearthorganization.org/Whoweare.aspx
Los Angeles Times
Oil drilling off Santa Barbara coast? House Republicans say yes
By Richard Simon
June 28, 2013, 10:23 a.m.
WASHINGTON — In spite of a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House on Friday launched a new effort to open up the California and Atlantic coasts to oil drilling.
The measure is a long shot in the face of fierce opposition in the Democratic-led Senate and from the White House. Still, Republicans are eager to stoke the debate over offshore drilling and highlight differences between the parties over energy policy heading into next year’s election battles for control of the House and Senate.
The bill, which passed 235-186, would require lease sales by the end of next year for energy production off the coast of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
It also would direct the Interior Department to develop a new five-year plan for drilling in areas containing the “greatest known oil and natural gas reserves,” including areas off Southern California, Alaska and the Eastern Seaboard.
Virginia and South Carolina, whose governors have expressed support for offshore oil production, would likely be the first Atlantic states where new coastal drilling would be permitted under the proposed Offshore Energy and Jobs Act.
Offshore drilling has long been a hot issue in California, where a 1969 spill off Santa Barbara devastated the coast. A long-standing ban on new drilling off much of the nation’s coast expired in late 2008, but the Obama administration has kept the Pacific Coast off-limits to new coastal drilling.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water, led the administration to back off plans to open the eastern gulf and portions of the Atlantic to oil and natural gas exploration.
Republicans argued that the new bill would help lower fuel prices, create jobs, generate $1.5 billion over 10 years for the U.S. Treasury and enhance the nation’s energy security.
“I think, by most standards, that would be considered a fairly good bill,” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).
But Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) assailed the House GOP majority for giving “lip service to respecting states’ rights” while seeking to “override the will of voters in my district and my state” opposed to new offshore drilling.
“I get it; this is a message bill,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) added. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) ridiculed the debate as a “Groundhog Day moment for Congress,” noting that similar House-passed bills “never went anywhere in the Senate, and it will meet the same fate again.”
Underscoring the divisions in the California delegation over energy policy, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay) assailed the “ideological extremism” that has put the California coast off-limits to new energy exploration.
Drilling opponents, he said, “have had their way in California for a full generation. I’ve watched their folly take what once could boast of being America’s golden state and turn it into an economic basket case and a national laughingstock.”
The California delegation broke along party lines with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposing it, except for Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, who voted yes. Reps. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), John Campbell (R-Irvine) and Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) did not vote.
The bill directs that new energy production in federal waters off Santa Barbara and Ventura counties occur only from existing offshore platforms or “onshore-based, extended-reach drilling.”
The measure also would offer states 37.5% of the revenues from energy production off their coasts. That provision drew opposition from taxpayer watchdogs that said it would siphon off money the federal government needs.
Wall Street Journal
June 28, 2013, 12:12 p.m. ET
U.S. House Votes to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling
By Tennille Tracy and Keith Johnson
WASHINGTON–The U.S. House voted Friday to open up the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to oil and natural gas drilling, passing a bill that has little chance of becoming law but marks the latest effort by Republicans to portray President Barack Obama as an enemy of fossil fuels.
The bill forces the Obama administration to offer drilling leases off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina and California. The administration has not offered leases in these areas although Congress lifted a formal ban on drilling there in 2008.
The bill also directs the Obama administration to revise its five-year leasing plan, which determines which areas will be offered for new drilling in the next five years. Separately, it allows coastal states to collect a portion of federal energy royalties.
The Republican-led House passed a similar piece of legislation last year.
The White House threatened to veto the measure, saying “the bill would undermine the targeted, science-based, and regionally-tailored offshore development strategy” that is currently in effect.
The bill’s passage, by a 235-186 vote, followed the release earlier this week of Mr. Obama’s new climate change plan. The initiative included new rules to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.
Republicans said Mr. Obama’s plan represented a “war on coal” since coal-fired power plants are among the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the U.S. The power industries have warned that tough new limits on carbon dioxide could force power plants to install expensive upgrades or shut down facilities altogether.
Mr. Obama often boasts of a big uptick in energy production that has happened on his watch. Industry groups, and quite a few lawmakers, just as often decry regulatory roadblocks and bemoan lost opportunities.
The Obama administration’s energy plan will “impose new energy taxes and federal red-tape that will increase energy prices and cost American jobs,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a main backer of the bill passed Friday.
In broad terms, total crude oil production on lands and waters owned by the U.S. government is higher than it was in the last year of the Bush administration, but it was lower in 2012 than in 2009, 2010 or 2011.
But the decline is confined to offshore oil production, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, where production was lower last year than in any of the first three years of the Obama administration. Onshore, the picture is quite different: oil production on federal lands has risen to levels not seen in a decade, and production on Indian lands has tripled, from a pretty small base, during the Obama years.
Gas production is a different story altogether. Even as the U.S. has become the world’s biggest producer, that has happened mostly on private lands. The reason has less to do with regulatory roadblocks, though, than with the fact that the lucrative shale gas plays don’t lie under federal lands. Gas production on federal lands has fallen during the fracking boom every year during the Obama administration.
The Interior Department says it is not wholly opposed to oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. It is currently reviewing plans to allow seismic companies to try to determine how much oil and natural gas exists in the U.S. waters there–a move that could pave the way for drilling in a few years.
Unlike energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, which tends to have broad political support in surrounding coastal states like Louisiana and Texas, proposals to drill off the East and West Coasts often generate mixed reactions–if not outright opposition.
Write to Tennille Tracy at Tennille.Tracy@dowjones.com and Keith Johnson at Keith.Johnson@wsj.com
U.S. House Backs Bill to Expand Coastal Oil, Gas Drilling
By Lynn Garner – Jun 28, 2013 8:24 AM PT
Oil and gas exploration off U.S. coasts would be expanded under legislation the U.S. House of Representatives passed over the threat of a presidential veto.
The vote on the bill, H.R. 2231, was 235-186.
The measure would require the Obama administration to conduct additional sales of oil and gas leases off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina, southern California and Alaska over the next five years, reports Bloomberg BNA.
In addition, it would order the administration to create a plan that would open up almost all of the nation’s coastline for exploration; a draft would be due July 15, 2014, and a final plan approved by July 15, 2015.
“This bill doesn’t harm the environment,” said Washington state Republican Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “We want to drill safely and responsibly.”
The Senate isn’t expected to take up the legislation.
The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a June 25 statement of administration policy warning of a potential veto. The measure “would undermine the targeted, science-based and regionally tailored development strategy that the American people and the states have helped development,” according to that statement.
The requirement that the Interior Department open new areas for exploration “would be directed without secretarial discretion to determine whether those areas are appropriate for leasing,” the agency said.
Expanded offshore leasing would benefit the large oil companies, which have the resources to finance the high startup costs, according to Bloomberg Government analyst Jason Arvelo. ConocoPhillips (COP), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), BHP Billiton Ltd.
(BHP) and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) were among the most active in the federal offshore leasing circuit in 2012 and 2013.
The large companies would be the most likely to take advantage of the expanded territory available for offshore drilling activities, according to Arvelo.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lynn Garner in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at email@example.com
House moves to expand offshore drilling
Posted on June 28, 2013 at 10:10 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
BP’s Thunder Horse semi-submersible facility in the Gulf of Mexico, about 150 miles southeast of New Orleans. (Photo courtesy BP)
The House on Friday passed legislation that would expand offshore drilling by forcing the federal government to sell new oil and gas leases along the coasts of California, South Carolina, Virginia and any other states where governors say they want the work.
But the measure, which passed on a mostly party-line vote of 235-186, is not expected to advance in the Democrat-controlled Senate, much less clear the chamber with enough support to overturn a threatened veto by President Barack Obama.
Beyond targeting California, South Carolina and Virginia for offshore oil drilling, the bill would limit environmental reviews of the mandated lease sales, forcing federal regulators to study the implications of oil exploration in all three areas simultaneously, rather than with separate, area-specific studies.
At the same time, it would force the Interior Department to focus all future oil and gas leasing plans to areas with the most potential. Regulators would have to sell leases in areas estimated to contain more than 2.5 billion barrels of oil or more than 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – or if the adjacent state governor asks for the auction.
The measure also would slowly phase in a program for coastal states to collect a share of federal revenues tied to offshore oil and gas development. Although far less aggressive than the leading Senate revenue-sharing proposal, the House measure is opposed by offshore drilling foes who say it could lure even skeptical state leaders to support coastal oil exploration as a way to raise money.
By a vote of 238-185, the House adopted an amendment by Rep. Bill Cassidy, D-La., that would give Gulf Coast states a chance to score even more money from nearby drilling, by boosting a $500 million cap on the amount they can collect under a revenue-sharing program set to begin in 2017. Cassidy’s amendment set the annual threshold at $999 million.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who sponsored the underlying bill, said it would put the U.S. “back on the right path,” by creating 1.2 million American jobs, lowering energy prices and generating an estimated $1.5 billion in new revenue to the federal government.
But critics said the legislation would radically and irresponsibly expand offshore drilling, while short-circuiting environmental reviews of the work and before Congress makes some major changes called for in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
“The bill . . . would allow Big Oil to put drilling rigs off the Atlantic, Pacific and Alaskan coasts without enacting key drilling safety reforms that we know should be there following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said the “bill would completely rewrite the administration’s plan for offshore leasing in a reckless and irresponsible manner.”
The Interior Department took steps administratively to boost offshore drilling safety after the Gulf spill, including a sweeping reorganization of the agency that oversaw coastal oil and gas development. Regulators also began requiring companies to prove they can rein in a subsea blowout before getting approval to drill deep-water wells, imposed new well design standards and set new testing requirements for essential emergency equipment.
Hastings’ bill would largely codify the reorganization of agencies that oversee offshore drilling, but it does not include a plan to hike oil spill liability for companies working on the outer continental shelf.
One of the last acts before lawmakers head home for a week-long July 4 recess, passage of the bill gives political ammunition to Republicans as motorists hit the highway – and fuel up at filling stations – for summer vacations.
More domestic oil and gas development means lower fuel prices, Republicans said on the House floor.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., stressed wider economic benefits of expanded drilling, well beyond the Gulf Coast.
“The first domino is the jobs that are created on the offshore rigs,” he said. “But if you ride on Highway 90 from Lafayette, La., down toward New Iberia and Houma, La., you’re going to see on both sides of the road, business after business after business that is supporting the offshore industries.”
“This is a true job creator,” he added.
Democrats cast the bill as nothing more than a political messaging measure that faces certain death in the Senate.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., called the legislation “a messy conglomeration of retread ideas that wastes this chamber’s time,” since portions of the bill “have been rejected by the Senate, by many of the affected states, and have a zero chance of being signed by the president.”
Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, acknowledged the bill was meant to send a message _ but said that’s exactly why he was backing the legislation, despite some concerns.
“While I do not agree with some of the environmental provisions in this bill, I support it because it is a message bill about the importance of accessing our offshore resources,” Green said. “With the president reneging on certain areas originally contained in his 2012-2017 five-year offshore leasing plan, our future access over the next decade is extremely limited. We need to open new offshore areas up for production instead of producing on the same lands we have for decades.”
The Interior Department’s current five-year plan, which lays out the schedule for offshore lease sales through June 30, 2017, includes a dozen auctions of territory in the Gulf of Mexico and three of tracts near Alaska. But regulators at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opted not to plan an auction of leases near Virginia, where a sale had previously been scheduled (and canceled after the 2010 Gulf spill). Some Alaskan areas and southern California acreage, near existing development, also were left out of the plan.
Republicans turned back a bid by Democratic Rep. Lois Capps to strip out the bill provisions requiring a sale of offshore oil and gas leases near her home state of California. By a vote of 235-183, the House also rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., that would have blocked future oil and gas development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
Offshore Drilling Bills’ Sponsors, Cosponsors Received Big Bucks From Oil Industry
By Monica Vendituoli on June 28, 2013 12:30 PM
Sponsors and cosponsors of two bills to expand offshore drilling taken up by the House this week received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry in the last election cycle.
The first bill passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 256-171. The Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hyrdocarbon Agreements Authorizations Act would implement a February 2012 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico to expand drilling along the maritime boundary between the countries in the Gulf of Mexico. Many Democrats opposed the measure in part because it contains language that removes a requirement for companies to disclose payments they make to foreign governments.
The oil and gas industry gave $41,500 to the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), for his 2012 campaign, making it his top industry donor, according to OpenSecrets.org data.
Oil and gas was also the top industry donor to four of the 17 cosponsors of the bill: Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), and Ted Poe (R-Texas), received a combined $442,000 in 2011-2012: almost $167,000 for Cramer, almost $135,000 for Hastings, more than $64,000 for Lamborn and nearly $76,000 for Poe.
The industry came in second for Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who received more than $68,000; Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who took in nearly $79,000; and Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who was given $20,500 by oil and gas interests.
The remaining co-sponsors — Reps. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Trey Radel (R-Fla.), Mark Amodei (R-N.V.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Mo.), Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) — received almost $226,000 combined from the industry.
The second bill, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, which passed in the House with a vote of 235-188 today, would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to boost energy exploration and development on the outer continental shelf.
Many of the same players are involved. It’s sponsored by industry favorite Hastings, and Cramer, Lamborn and Duncan are all among the bill’s 11 cosponsors, as is Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas). Oil and gas was the top industry donor for all five of them, contributing more than $608,000 in all to their 2012 campaigns.
It was the second-ranking industry for three cosponsors, Reps. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) ($42,000) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) (more than $108,000) as well as Mullin (almost $79,000).
And it came in third in 2012 for Reps. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who received more than $92,000 and more than $35,000, respectively.
The other cosponsors were Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), who took in $21,000 from oil and gas in 2012 and Robert Wittman (R-Va.), who has received more than $47,000 from oil and gas throughout his career.
However successfully the industry has invested in the House, the Senate hasn’t acted on similar bills, and the White House strongly opposes both.
June 20, 2013 (note earlier date)
Senator: Coastal states getting raw deal with federal drilling dollars (video)
Posted on June 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Sen. Mary Landrieu isn’t picking a fight with Wyoming, and she says she has nothing against the Great Plains state.
But the Democratic senator from Louisiana insists Wyoming is exhibit A for her argument that coastal states are getting a raw deal when it comes to collecting federal dollars tied to energy development.
After all, she notes in a new web video that highlights the disparity, in 2011, Wyoming was able to keep nearly $1 billion of the $2.1 billion that energy companies paid the federal government for oil and gas production in the state. At the same time, Louisiana held on to just $26.7 million, out of $5.7 billion that was paid to the federal government for oil and gas harvested in Gulf of Mexico waters near its shores.
The video, released Wednesday, insists this is “an unfair situation,” and touts Landrieu’s preferred solution: legislation she sponsored with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would put coastal and inland states on more even footing.
The measure would expand an existing offshore energy revenue sharing program that is set to begin in 2017 and is limited to four Gulf Coast states (including Texas) so that every state with ocean views can participate and collect up to 37.5 percent of the money. Known as the FAIR Act, the bill also would allow the program to start right away, gradually phase out a $500 million cap on the amount of offshore energy revenues that can be shared with coastal states.
According to one catchy line in Landrieu’s new video, the bill also would treat all forms of energy equally, allowing dollars to be divided up among states whether they come from “oil or gas, wind or wave, onshore or offshore.”
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the Landrieu-Murkowski bill in early July. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the panel chairman, has signaled his support – no doubt partly because the latest version of the legislation would allow states to capitalize on renewable energy developments near their shores.
But the proposal is controversial, particularly among offshore drilling foes, who believe the lure of revenue could encourage cash-strapped states to support oil and gas development in nearby waters.
In a March letter to Wyden and Murkowski, eight senators insisted they would “vigorously oppose any effort that expands or provides further incentive for offshore oil and gas drilling in areas where drilling is currently prohibited.”
The critics stress that offshore oil spills don’t linger in one space; instead, they threaten beaches, tourism and coastal economies far from the original site. “Revenue sharing is inherently inequitable because it compensates a single state while other nearby states bear the risk, without receiving any resources to mitigate that risk,” the group said.
Landrieu actually uses a similar argument to push for her bill. She says the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster underscored the potential danger for coastal communities that sustain oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico – and illustrates the need for them to cash in on more of the development: “The Gulf contributes to the U.S.’ energy security and economic vitality. One-third of domestic seafood is produced in the Gulf. It drains 40 percent of the North American continent. And the oil and gas produced off its shores fuels cars, heats homes, keeps the lights on and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. To keep doing all of these critical things, coastal communities deserve a fairer partnership with the federal government to make their communities more resilient,” the narrator in her web video says. “The revenues kept in Louisiana under the FAIR Act will allow it to rebuild its eroding coast, protect its coastal communities from storms, create jobs and preserve a unique and treasured culture.”
Broader offshore energy legislation pending in the House of Representatives contains a similar revenue sharing proposal. But that bill is controversial because it would also force the Obama administration to sell oil and gas leases off the coasts of California, South Carolina and Virginia.
The issue could end up being a thorny one for Senate Democratic leaders. Despite the strong opposition from some Democrats – including Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – revenue sharing could be important to the political futures of some in the party.
Landrieu and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, (who has his own revenue-sharing proposal) both face tough reelection contests next year. For those senators, passing an offshore revenue-sharing plan could be a hit with some key voters back home. The same may also be true for some inland senators representing oil patch states, such as Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Posted on June 25, 2013 at 8:35 PM
Updated yesterday at 9:26 PM
NEW ORLEANS — Three years after the Deepwater Horizon spill, workers have dug up a massive tar mat found along the Louisiana coast.
The huge chunk of oil residue mixed with wet sand is about 165 feet long by 65 feet wide, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
It was found under the surf off of Isle Grand Terre, about 90 miles south of New Orleans.
It weighs more than 40,000 pounds, though the Coast Guard says more than 85 percent of that is sand, shells and water.
Louisiana is the last state where BP is still cleaning up after the spill.
Earlier this month, BP and the Coast Guard said the clean-up was over in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
BP has reportedly recovered more than 2.7 million pounds of waste from Louisiana shores so far this year, with residual oil making up between 5 to 15 percent of the total weight.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Tar mats photographed on the beach at Elmer’s Island in September 2012, a few days after Hurricane Isaac. State officials say they are concerned more oil from the BP spill could surface after tropical storms this year. (Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority)
By Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
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on June 19, 2013 at 11:25 PM, updated June 19, 2013 at 11:26 PM
The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority used its monthly meeting in Baton Rouge on Wednesday as a bully pulpit to criticize BP and the U.S. Coast Guard for their attempts to downgrade the continued clean-up of oiled wetlands and shoreline areas in Louisiana, in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil spill triggered by the fatal explosion on the Macondo well.
The authority also criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for the agency’s attempts to turn over to state control completed segments of the post-Katrina New Orleans area levee system before the entire east and west bank system is determined to be complete.
The complaints about BP and the Coast Guard come a week after the company and federal agency announced that they’ve ended official “response” actions involving oil sightings in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The public complaints are in part an effort to forestall a similar move in Louisiana, which authority Chairman Garret Graves said BP has been demanding and the Coast Guard has been threatening to do.
Coast Guard officials have repeatedly denied that they will end official clean-up efforts in Louisiana until it’s clear that contaminated shorelines are clean or that further cleanup would be more detrimental than leaving the remaining oil in place.
Drue Banta Winters, a lawyer who handles BP environmental response issues for Gov. Bobby Jindal, told the authority Wednesday that oil contamination continues to be found in patches along 200 miles of the state’s shoreline.
In April and May, 2.2 million pounds of oily material in Louisiana were collected, compared with 4,112 pounds in the other three states, she said.
A spokesman for BP said the company’s contractors continue to remove oily material from the state’s coastal area.
“We continue to make significant progress in Louisiana where most of our active cleanup activities in 2013 have focused on the barrier islands,” said BP spokesman Jason Ryan. “Over the past 6 months we have drilled over 14,000 auger holes and found that about 3 percent of the locations required any clean-up. Recovery of the material is nearly complete.
“In the marshes, the highest concentrations of oil were found primarily in Upper Barataria Bay and Middle Ground Shoal,” he said. “In Upper Barataria Bay, we have completed active cleanup and are now progressing the segments through the final inspection process.
“At Middle Ground Shoal, the area with the most remaining oiling is about a half-acre in size and includes both MC252 and non-MC252 oil,” Ryan said. BP’s Macondo well also is known as Mississippi Canyon 252, or MC252 for short.
“The Coast Guard has determined that intensive manual and mechanical treatment could do more harm than good. The (federal on-scene coordinator) is considering treatment options, including allowing this small, remote area to recover naturally,” he said. “Our operations in Louisiana will continue until the Coast Guard determines that active cleanup is complete.”
Graves said the state also is upset that the Coast Guard and BP have refused to commit to establishing a plan to inspect Louisiana beaches and wetlands for oil in the aftermath of a tropical storm or hurricane.
When Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana last August, its storm surges and waves unearthed large quantities of oily material that had been buried beneath the sand along Grand Terre, Grand Isle, Fourchon Beach and Elmer’s Island, and oozing oil was discovered in other wetlands. Within days of the storm, BP contractors were collecting the material, a task that has continued into this year.
In public statements, BP and Coast Guard officials have said they will respond to any apparent resurfacing of oil, and have urged the public to report sightings to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center.
The criticism of the corps surfaced during a briefing by authority executive director Jerome Zeringue on the status of levees for the 2013 hurricane season, which extends through Nov. 30.
The corps has agreed to not turn over several major structures to the state, which would mean the state would be responsible for operating and maintaining them. While the state is the official local sponsor for the projects, the actual operation and maintenance would be done by local levee districts, acting under the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East and -West.
The structures include the storm surge barrier wall along Lake Borgne, which includes a navigation gate for ships and barges at the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in eastern New Orleans and a smaller navigation gate for fishing vessels on Bayou Bienvenue; a storm surge gate at the Seabrook entrance of the Industrial Canal from Lake Pontchartrain; and the West Closure Complex on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway on the West Bank, south of the confluence of the Harvey and Algiers canals.
The state and flood protection authority want the corps to operate the navigation gates at Seabrook and on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway at the Lake Borgne barrier. Legislation pending before Congress would give the corps the responsibility of running only the Lake Borgne GIWW navigation gate.
Operation of the various gates – and operation and maintenance, including grass cutting and levee lifts, along the levees – will cost millions of dollars a year.
Graves said the state has repeatedly demanded that the entire levee system should undergo a comprehensive review before the state accepts authority for it. He said the corps’ attempts to send letters to the state and local levee districts indicating individual segments of the system are being turned over conflict with that plan.
Graves said the state is concerned about a variety of issues that state officials have raised about the design of some parts of the system, including the corps decision to allow contractors to use thicker sheet piling instead of coating the pilings with a material that would resist rust.
An independent peer review that the corps promised concerning the use of the thicker sheet pilings instead of the coatings has never been completed, Graves said.
Also awaiting test results is a decision by the corps on how to “armor” earthen levee segments to assure that storm surge doesn’t cause erosion. Tests on an East Bank levee in St. Charles Parish and a West Bank levee in Jefferson Parish of a fabric material through which grass grows is not yet complete.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
I hope the Corps of Engineers uses their resources to help these native tribes remain on traditional lands but it may be inevitable that they move further inland as others have had to do. Coastal erosion in this area has been rampant for wayyyyyyyy tooooo long due to the loss of marshlands from offshore oil activities. DV
17th June 2013
By Susan Buchanan
Theresa Dardar, a member of the Pointe-au-Chien tribe in Terrebonne Parish, is down to the last bag of shrimp she froze in late April 2010 after the BP spill. The state opened the shrimp season early that spring before oil began lapping at the coast. Her husband Donald, a commercial fishermen, hauled in all he could that April and May. The Dardars have worked through their frozen supplies and aren’t sure they trust fresh shrimp-something that’s always been a staple of their diet.
Pointe au Chien, 20 miles southeast of Houma on Lake Chien, is a close-knit Native American community that was hurt by the spill and a string of hurricanes. Last week, Dardar said the area’s shrimp catch is declining, some of the local fish look diseased and oiled marshes are rapidly eroding.
Residents include 68 families from the Pointe-au-Chien tribe, along with some Cajuns. “People here work mainly as commercial fishermen and a few are tugboat captains,” Dardar said. She’s a board member of GO FISH, a south Louisiana advocacy group formed after the spill. Her husband Donald is second chairman of the Pointe-au-Chien tribe.
The Dardars are distressed by what they’ve seen trawling “Last year, my brother-in-law caught a fish that didn’t have scales and threw it back,” she said. “Then my husband pulled in what we call a triple tail, and it didn’t have scales. Last summer, my husband’s uncle started to prepare a drum fish he caught but saw it had hardly any meat.”
Shrimp season opened May 13 and the catch is down for the second year in a row. “This May, my brother caught a fish that had a tumor on it when he was shrimping,” Dardar said. Her brother-in-law reeled in a puppy drum with lesions. She discussed her concerns with Louisiana State University AgCenter. “I have the puppy drum in my freezer, and LSU has agreed to pick it up for lab inspection,” she said last week. “I’m worried the lesions could be some form of cancer.”
Dardar suspects BP oil and dispersants have taken a toll on seafood. “Tests were done on our seafood in 2010 and the results weren’t good,” she said last week. “Dillard University found heavy metals in our shrimp, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade detected cadmium in our oysters.” She wants to know whether the local catch is safe. “We want seafood in this area tested further,” she said. “And I hope the authorities will tell us the results.”
In mid-October 2010, Dillard chemistry professor Edwin Agwaramgbo, in conjunction with the Treme-based People’s Environmental Center, sampled soil, water and seafood at Pointe au Chien. They found high levels of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons in water-bed sediments. Shrimp were full of arsenic and oysters were loaded with zinc. They found high levels of copper in the Pointe’s shrimp, oysters and snails.
Oysters collected at Pointe au Chien in August 2010, and tested by Pace Analytical Service in Wisconsin in December 2010 for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, contained amounts of cadmium that greatly exceeded federal standards. Last week, Anne Rolfes, president of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade said LABB paid for that sampling at the request of the Pointe-au-Chien community. In large doses, cadmium is a human carcinogen.
Three years after the spill, all federal waters and most state waters have reopened for fishing. Federal and state officials continue to collect and test Gulf seafood. Tests show seafood in reopened areas is as safe to eat as it was before the spill, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries spokeswoman Laura Wooderson said “we’re doing extensive testing along the coast.” But she provided no details about findings.
Dardar and her husband, along with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law next door, are shying away from fish and shrimp now. “Other people in this community are eating seafood since the feds and state say it’s safe,” Dardar said. “And that worries me. I’m more concerned about how children might be affected by bad seafood than I am about my husband and me since we’re getting on in years.”
Bigger fish are eating smaller fish, and “the problems are just going up the food chain,” she said.
Dardar said oil remains in the Gulf and the bayous. “After shrimp season started this year, my brother-in-law and his cousin caught some tarballs,” she said. “Last year, my husband’s cousin caught a big block of oil that may have broken away from an underwater mat.”
Land at Pointe au Chien has eroded more quickly since the spill. “Oil in the bayou is killing the marsh grass,” Dardar said. “Once the grass is gone, there’s nothing to hold the dirt together.”
Dardar wants to see more attention to land loss. “A year ago, we asked Terrebonne Parish to install rif-raf to stop land erosion near a tree in our community,” she said. Rif-raf or broken cement is sometimes used to shore up land. “The parish told us they’d do it, but never did, and now the tree is dead in the water and thirty feet from land.”
Dardar said the area is known for its trees. Traditionally, it was called Pointe aux Chennes, meaning “point of the oaks.” Today, it’s name is sometimes translated as “point of the dog.”
Barrier islands near Pointe au Chien are rapidly disappearing. “We want to see our barrier islands rebuilt,” Dardar said. “In the past, they slowed incoming water and protected us. We’ve just about lost Timbalier, Whiskey and Last Islands, leaving us much more vulnerable to storms. Lower Pointe au Chien, where I live, gets water. And in recent storms that water has spread to Upper Pointe au Chien, which didn’t used to flood.”
The Dardars live ten feet above ground in a house they built with insurance money after Hurricane Juan damaged their mobile home in 1985. Lower Pointe au Chien residents need to be up high. “We had three feet of water in our yard two years ago from Tropical Storm Lee and then another three feet from Hurricane Isaac last August,” Dardar said. “That’s more than we used to flood.”
Dardar likes some of what she’s seen in the state’s 50-year Coastal Master Plan, approved by the legislature last year. “In the last community meeting I attended on the plan, Whiskey Island was going to be saved,” she said. “And I’ve been assured that the Morganza to the Gulf project will include Pointe au Chien. Depending on when it’s built, that project could protect us.”
Morganza to the Gulf is a planned, $10.3 billion system of levees and floodgates that will be funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state and local levee districts to protect Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes from storms. The state and the parishes are building parts of the levee system now but the fed’s contribution still has to be approved. When those levees are finished, thousands of residents outside of them might be encouraged to relocate, according to planners.
Dardar said her neighboring community, Isle of Jean Charles, has been left out of the Morganza to the Gulf plan.
“We have a few, old levees here now,” she said. “But they’re not really hurricane protection. The one behind our house is eight feet high and was built after Hurricane Juan.”
Dardar said her tribe’s burial grounds lie below Pointe au Chien and aren’t included in the Morganza to the Gulf project. “We have four or five different cemeteries named after tribal leaders, and we visit them by boat,” she said. “One of our ancestral mounds is already starting to wash away.”
She explained why her tribe and other Native Americans live deep in the bayous by the Gulf. “Our ancestors were chased down here centuries ago,” she said. “Andrew Jackson said he wanted every Indian killed and our people made their way down into the boondocks.” Jackson oversaw anti-Indian campaigns before and during his two terms in the White House from 1829 to 1837.
In addition to the Pointe-au-Chien, tribes in south Louisiana include the Bayou Lafourche, Grand Caillou/Dulac and Isle de Jean Charles bands of the Biloxi-Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogees, or the BCCM.
The Pointe-au-Chien tribe adapted to its watery circumstances long ago. “Everyone comes back after a big storm here,” Dardar said. “No one has left except for some young people who got married. Our elders don’t want to move. No one I talk with wants to leave.”
But Isle of Jean Charles has considered moving somewhere else, Dardar said. “Communities in Alaska are trying to do that,” she noted. A number of Eskimo villages, threatened by melting ice as the climate warms, are considering new sites. Waves of climate refugees, moving to safer locales, are expected in the United States this decade.
This article originally published in the June 17, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By PAUL HAMPTON – firstname.lastname@example.org
BILOXI — One of the most effective people at Tuesday night’s meeting on the RESTORE Act didn’t have a great speaking voice, a polished presentation or a bunch of political connections.
Annika Smith of Biloxi did have the exuberance of a 5-year-old and one very connected pal — Justin Ehrenwerth, who eight days ago became chairman of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
“Before I say anything else, I have to tell you about the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in my eight days and it happened just a few minutes ago,” said Ehrenwerth, the Commerce Department’s representative on the council. “There is a young girl and I don’t know if she’s still here, she may have had to leave Š there she in the back, she’s waving. I hope you can see Annika in the back.”
And just like that, most of the several hundred people Coast Convention Center met Annika, the little girl bouncing up and down and waving wildly.
“I’ve been talking about Annika a long time. She was here when we were here in February and she was handing out these buttons that say
‘Restoring our Ecosystem Restores Our Economy.”
Ehrenwerth said at that meeting he couldn’t wait to get his button, but before he got the chance Annika’s bedtime arrived and she had to leave. But she’d heard the request.
“She wrote me the nicest letter in my favorite color of crayon — thank you for that — and included a few stickers. I’ve been really looking forward to this and hoping you’d be here tonight. So thank you for being here.”
Later she said she was handing out the stickers (“They’re not buttons, they’re stickers”) for a friend, Mark LaSalle, the director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point. She said after she sent Ehrenwerth his sticker, he sent her a thank-you note.
“That was nice,” she said.
A parade of ideas
Then came a parade of people — someone from just about every activist organization on the Coast, it seemed — to give their thoughts on the council’s draft plan to spend money the government has received and will receive in the wake of the BP oil disaster. There was the Audubon Society, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Steps Coalition, Boat People SOS, Oxfam, the Sierra Club, Gulf Restoration Network, Women of the Storm, Ocean Conservancy, Asian Americans for Change, Nature Conservancy and others.
One theme that emerged was similar to Annika’s stickers — restoration and economic development go hand in hand.
Avery Bates of the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama commended Mississippi for rebuilding the oyster reefs.
“It’s a major, major improvement to the environment, the ecosystem, because of the work that that little oyster does,” he said. “And he’s wonderful eating. And we like to feed the people in Alabama and Mississippi, where many of our people have to come to make a living. We literally have thousands and thousands of people who depend on us for their seafood. And we want to commend you for starting off right by building back not only the ecosystem but also the economy.”
But another theme was equally evident. There was skepticism, in some cases outright distrust, that the people would ever know how the money was spent or that it would be spent on projects that have nothing to do with restoration.
“The state of Mississippi is going to be completely oriented toward figuring out ways to pour concrete, build buildings and help the contractor buddies who helped get them into office,’ said Steve Shepard, Gulf Coast Group chair of the Sierra Club. “That’s the way the state of Mississippi works.”
Mike Murphy of The Nature Conservancy said one way to help ensure the money was allocated fairly would be to develop a ranking system “that is transparent.”
Many of the Vietnamese were worried they were being left out because the draft plan wasn’t translated and the meeting was being held the day shrimp season started, when many were out on their shrimp boats.
Grace Scire of Boat People SOS said her organization had finished a translation just the night before. She, too, urged the council to send out its meeting notices in more than just English.
About the plan
The plan, which provides a broad outline of the process to apply for RESTORE Act money and describes the process for the approval of each state’s plan to spend BP money, could be finished as early as July, officials at the meeting said. It also sets broad goals for restoration of the Gulf.
The council was established by the act and comprises the governors of the five Gulf states and officials from six federal agencies: Agriculture, Army, Commerce, EPA, Homeland Security and Interior.
The council’s website says it will soon:
– Refine its objectives and criteria for evaluating projects
– Establish advisory committees
– Develop regulations for allocating oil-spill money
– Release a schedule for submitting proposals
– Publish a list of programs and projects that will be funded over the next three years
– Adopt a 10-year funding strategy for money expected to be provided by the companies responsible for the disaster
Special thanks to Richard Charter
9 June 2013 Last updated at 22:38 ET
Brazil is “on alert” over an oil spill that originated in Ecuador and is travelling downstream towards the Brazilian Amazon.
In a statement, the Brazilian foreign ministry said the navy and other agencies had been informed, and help was offered to Ecuador and Peru. Last month, an estimated 11,480 barrels of oil leaked from a damaged pipeline into the River Coca in Ecuador.
The spill has already reached the Peruvian Amazon region of Loreto. “Ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment), Brazil’s navy and ANP (National Petroleum Agency) are on alert in the event that the oil slick reaches the country,” Brazil’s foreign ministry said. “Brazil has offered aid to Ecuador and Peru to support the work of containment and dispersion of the oil slick in the two countries.”
Peru also affected
On 31 May, a landslide damaged the trans-Ecuador pipeline, causing a spill of some 420,000 gallons (1.6m litres) of crude oil. Some entered the Coca river, a tributary of the Amazon that also flows through Peru and Brazil. As it travelled downstream, the slick polluted drinking water in Coca, an urban area of about 80,000 people at the confluence of the Coca and Napo rivers in Ecuador.
Days later, on 4 June, the authorities in Peru said the spill had reached the Loreto region. The Peruvian Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, called it a “very serious problem” and said Peru could seek compensation. “If there is a serious level of affected areas, international law always gives you the possibility to establish a compensation issue. “But… first we have to look at the extent of the problem,” he told Peru’s Canal N television.
On Saturday, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador offered an apology to Peru “for the problems we have caused”. He added that the Peruvian navy were helping Ecuador to clean up the spill. Ecuador’s state oil company, Petroecuador, has said it has hired a specialist US firm, Clean Caribbean & Americas, to begin clean-up operations.
Special thanks to 350.org
05/23/2013 04:06 PM EDT
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council marked significant progress today with the public release of the Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy (PDF 621kb) and accompanying Draft Environmental Assessment (PDF 1.1 MB) for formal public comment. The Draft Plan provides a framework to implement a coordinated region-wide restoration effort in a way that restores, protects, and revitalizes the Gulf Coast region following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Draft Plan establishes overarching restoration goals for the Gulf Coast region; provides details about how the Council will solicit, evaluate, and fund projects and programs for ecosystem restoration in the Gulf Coast region; outlines the process for the development, review, and approval of State Expenditure Plans; and highlights the Council’s next steps. The Council expects to release a Final Plan this summer.
Along with the release of the Draft Plan, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and Council Chair announced today that Justin Ehrenwerth will serve as the Executive Director of the Council. These steps signify the Council’s efforts to ensure that it is ready to move efficiently and effectively to implement a restoration plan once funds are received.
“As Chair of the Council, I am proud to announce that my Chief of Staff, Justin Ehrenwerth, will move into the role of Executive Director of the Council. I can think of no better person to help the Council continue to move forward with implementing a plan that ensures the long-term health, prosperity, and resilience of the Gulf Coast,” said Council Chair Blank.
In order to ensure robust public input throughout the entire process, the Council is hosting a series of public engagement sessions in each of the five impacted Gulf States in June to give the public the opportunity to provide input on the Draft Plan and the Council’s restoration planning efforts. The 30-day formal public comment period for the Draft Plan and associated documents begins today, May 23, and ends June 24. Public meetings to discuss the Draft Plan are scheduled for the following dates and locations:
June 3, 2013: Pensacola, Florida
June 5, 2013: Spanish Fort, Alabama
June 10, 2013: Galveston, Texas
June 11, 2013: Biloxi, Mississippi
June 12, 2013: Belle Chasse, Louisiana
June 17, 2013: St. Petersburg, Florida
To view or provide comments on the Plan and associated documents and to get additional details on the upcoming public meetings as they become available, please visit www.restorethegulf.gov.
Comments can be submitted here: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentFormBasic.cfm?documentID=53621
Background on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
The Council, which was established by the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourism, Opportunities Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), will help restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region by developing and overseeing implementation of a Comprehensive Plan and carrying out other responsibilities. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused extensive damage to the Gulf Coast’s natural resources, devastating the economies and communities that rely on it. In an effort to help the region rebuild in the wake of the spill, Congress passed the bipartisan RESTORE Act. The Act dedicates 80 percent of any civil and administrative penalties paid under the Clean Water Act by responsible parties in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (the Trust Fund) for ecosystem restoration, economic recovery, and tourism promotion in the Gulf Coast region.
Draft Initial Plan (PDF 621kb)
Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PDF 1.1MB)
Appendix A – Background Information – Preliminary List of Authorized but Not Commenced Projects and Programs (PDF 258kb)
Special thanks to Richard Charter
SOURCE URL: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2013/dispersants-05-30-2013.html
For Immediate Release, May 30, 2013
Deirdre McDonnell, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6404 email@example.com
Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation, (949) 492-8170
Kevin Harun, Pacific Environment, (907) 440-2443
SAN FRANCISCO- A court settlement filed today requires the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that toxic oil-dispersing chemicals used in federal waters off California will not harm sea turtles, whales and other endangered species or their habitats. Conservation groups sued to force the government to determine the dispersants’ safety for endangered species prior to their use – not afterward, as occurred during 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“We shouldn’t add insult to injury after an oil spill by using dispersants that put wildlife and people at risk. During the BP oil spill, no one knew what the long-term effects of chemical dispersants would be, and we’re still learning about their harm to fish and corals,” said Deirdre McDonnell of the Center for Biological Diversity, which brought suit with Surfrider Foundation and Pacific Environment. “People can avoid the ocean after an oil spill, but marine animals can’t. They’re forced to eat, breathe, and swim in the chemicals we put in the water, whether it’s oil or dispersants.”
Dispersants are chemicals used to break oil spills into tiny droplets. In theory, this allows the oil to be eaten by microorganisms and become diluted faster than if left untreated. However, dispersants and dispersed oil can also allow toxins to accumulate in the marine food web. People exposed to the oil and dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico disaster have also reported suffering lasting and damaging effects.
Today’s settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, requires the federal government to analyze the effects of approving the California Dispersants Plan – which authorizes the use of dispersants in the event of a spill – to determine whether these toxins would harm endangered wildlife and make sure any harm is minimized. The Endangered Species Act requires the EPA and Coast Guard to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding any activities that might affect endangered wildlife.
“The Pacific Ocean encompasses some of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, providing habitat for many endangered and threatened species,” said Kevin Harun, Arctic Program Director for Pacific Environment. “The government needs to take the precautionary approach in order to prevent future harm to the health of the environment and people.”
“These chemical dispersants are dangerous to human health in addition to wildlife, and shouldn’t be allowed to threaten a family’s enjoyment of the beach. Surfrider Foundation members in Florida are so concerned about the aftereffects of the BP spill, they have taken it upon themselves to test the Gulf sand and coastal waters, and have found likely traces of Corexit attached to undissolved tar product in the coastal zone,” said Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Director Angela Howe.
Studies have found that oil broken apart by the dispersant Corexit 9527 damages the insulating properties of seabird feathers more than untreated oil, making the birds more susceptible to hypothermia and death. Studies have also found that dispersed oil is toxic to fish eggs, larvae and adults, as well as to corals, and can harm sea turtles’ ability to breathe and digest food.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, visit http://www.surfrider.org/.
Pacific Environment is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that protects the living environment of the Pacific Rim by promoting grassroots activism, strengthening communities and reforming international policies. For nearly two decades, we have partnered with local communities around the Pacific Rim to protect and preserve the ecological treasures of this vital region. Visit www.pacificenvironment.org to learn more about our work.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
May 29th, 2013
Dear EarthTalk: The three-year anniversary of the 2010 BP oil spill just passed. What do green groups think of the progress since in restoring the region?
– Mary Johannson, NY
When an undersea oil well blew out 50 miles off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010 and caused an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig above it (killing 11 workers), no one knew that an even bigger disaster was yet to come. Over the next three months, 4.9 million gallons of crude poured into the water before BP could get the wellhead capped to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
According to BP, which has already spent $14 billion on clean-up and restoration, the Gulf is returning to baseline conditions prior to the disaster. “No company has done more, faster to respond to an industrial accident than BP did in response to the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010,” reports the company.
But not everybody sees the situation that way. Many environmentalists are concerned that, while BP has done a thorough job removing visible oil from the water column and surface, little has been done to repair damage to marine life and ecosystems.
“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” says Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). A recent report by the group found that the three-year-old spill is still having a serious negative effect on wildlife populations in the Gulf.
For one, dolphin deaths in the region have remained above average every single month since the disaster. In the first two months of 2013, infant dolphins were found dead at six times pre-spill average rates. Says Inkley: “These ongoing deaths-particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin-are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”
Gulf dolphins aren’t the only ones suffering. NWF found that more than 1,700 sea turtles were stranded in coastal areas of the Gulf between May 2010 and November 2012-almost three times the pre-spill rate for the animals. Researchers have also detected changes in the cellular function of Gulf killifish, a common bait fish at the base of the food chain. And a coral colony seven miles from the offending wellhead struggles due to oil and dispersants compromising its ability to rebuild itself.
“The oil disaster highlighted the gaps in our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico,” says Florida State University oceanographer Ian MacDonald. “What frustrates me is how little has changed over the past three years. In many cases, funding for critical research has even been even been cut, limiting our understanding of the disaster’s impacts.”
MacDonald and others are optimistic that a federal court will find BP accountable for further damages in a civil trial now underway. NWF says that substantially more money is needed to carry out restoration efforts vital to the biological and economic stability of the Gulf region. “Despite the public relations blitz by BP, this spill is not over,” says NWF’s David Muth. “Justice will only be served when BP and its co-defendants pay to restore the wildlife and habitats of the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf of Mexico.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
May 20, 2013
By PennEnergy Editorial Staff
The Green Party in New Zealand is placing a bid on the government’s oil and gas exploration tender in an effort to stop offshore drilling expansions. According to Radio New Zealand, the government announced it opened three offshore areas of more than 72,900 square miles for oil and gas exploration permits.
The Green Party plans to submit a competing bid for the acreage in order to protect the area from deep sea drilling and offshore exploration. Radio New Zealand said the group is calling it the Kiwi Bid, and is encouraging individuals to join the cause to prevent the government from exploiting New Zealand’s environment.
Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the government will be given a choice from the Kiwi Bid – they can move forward with offshore oil drilling or accept the bid from New Zealanders who want to protect the beaches and ocean.
According to TVNZ, the government is accusing the Green Party of scaremongering because of their opposition to the drilling.
“The fact of the matter is we want to sensibly explore and develop our resources so that there are higher paying jobs for Kiwis,” said Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.
Learn more about New Zealand’s gas markets in PennEnergy’s research area.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
by Judy Molland
May 14, 2013
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/scary-news-carbon-dioxide-level-highest-in-3-million-years.html#ixzz2TMuH4zg8
It’s official, and it’s scary: on May 9, the daily average concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere passed the milestone level 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.
Hooray for us humanoids. We are destroying our planet even faster than we realized, and we are moving into uncharted territory.
By analyzing fossil air trapped in ancient ice, along with other data, researchers have determined that the last time levels were this high was at least three million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, long before the evolution of modern humans (that happened in East Africa, about 200,000 years ago). At the Pliocene time the Arctic was ice-free, the Sahara was covered in savannah, and the sea level was over 100 feet higher than it is today.
They believe that the Pliocene era conditions will return, with devastating consequences for human life, if emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are not rapidly cut back.
We Have Failed Miserably On Climate Change
From The Guardian:
“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.
It’s not as if we haven’t been warned. A definitive scientific report in 2011 warned that extreme weather events linked to climate change will continue around the world in coming decades; President Obama spoke at his party’s convention in 2012 about his plan to continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet; the tab for last year’s extreme weather events in the U.S. will rise to well over $100 billion; the ice is melting in the Arctic.
We’ve been hearing these warnings for years, although of course if you live in Kansas or Oklahoma, your lawmakers will be encouraging you to deny the evidence.
But what we do know is that virtually every automobile ride, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of a light switch adds carbon dioxide to the air, and relatively little money is being spent to find and deploy alternative technologies. And despite all the warnings, global emissions of CO2 continue to soar.
China Now The Largest Emitter Of CO2
According to The New York Times, China is now the largest emitter, but Americans have been consuming fossil fuels for far longer, so that means the United States is more responsible than any other nation for the high level.
What do the experts say?
From The Guardian:
“It is symbolic, a point to pause and think about where we have been and where we are going,” said Professor Ralph Keeling, who oversees the measurements on a Hawaian volcano, which were begun by his father in 1958. “It’s like turning 50: it’s a wake up to what has been building up in front of us all along.”
I wonder how long it will take for things to get shockingly bad before they get better.
Need To Fight Big Oil And Big Coal
A Senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe has called climate change a hoax. He isn’t the only one representing the interests of Big Oil. There are many barons of industry, including the Koch brothers, who seem to not care at all about the future of our planet, or of humanity. As long as they can make a profit from fossil fuels, they are happy.
Perhaps our first step should be to work at limiting their power, and getting rid of the politicians who take money from them.
The extreme speed at which CO2 in now rising, perhaps 75 times faster than in pre-industrial times, has never been seen in geological records, and only by striving to reduce global emissions can we avoid the consequences of turning the climate clock back 3 million years.
This is a grim milestone. All our efforts at conservation, recycling, growing sustainable crops, are admirable, but only governments can make the big changes that are necessary to significantly reduce global emissions of CO2.
It’s time for change.
What do you think?
Laura Petersen, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013
Oil companies continue to rack up safety violations in the Gulf of Mexico three years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, House Natural Resources Committee Democrats said in a report released today.
Companies with the most “major environmental and safety” violations before the 2010 spill continue to have some of the worst records, the report says.
Ranking member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) urged Congress to toughen monitoring and impose heavier penalties to deter risky practices.
“We need to make sure these companies change their ways and pay a price for their risky practices,” Markey said in a statement.
The report, “Dangerous Drillers: Offshore Safety Lapses Continue Three Years After BP Spill,” is based on Interior Department data comparing accidents, inspections, safety violations and civil penalties before and after the 2010 disaster.
Markey also released letters he sent to BP PLC and U.S. EPA, faulting the oil company for failing to provide information requested by Congress after the 2010 Gulf spill.
Markey advised EPA to not lift BP’s debarment from federal contracts until the company provides the requested information.
“First, BP lied to Congress when I asked for information about the amount of oil being spilled into the Gulf,” Markey wrote. “Now, BP won’t provide me information about why company officials lied. Until it comes clean and cleans up its act, the government should not be in business with BP.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By Bob Marshall, Staff writer April 24, 2013 2:00pm
Question: Would enough American households be willing to make a one-time payment in their tax fillings to raise as much as to $201 billion for Louisiana’s coastal restoration effort?
C) You gotta be kiddin’!
The answer, according to a pair of Mississippi State University researchers who conducted a recent survey, is “A.”
Which will probably leave most coastal area residents thinking “C”.
That’s how one of the researchers reacted.
“I was surprised at the high numbers who said they would help, and then how much they would commit personally, ” said Dan Petrolia, an associate professor of agricultural economics at MSU who conducted the survey with colleague Matt Interis – an attempt to judge the financial commitment Americans would make to Louisiana’s coastal crisis.
“I think this shows there is enough awareness out there by enough people. And that’s very encouraging.” – David Muth
A Louisiana native who was raised in Independence, Petrolia said the idea for the survey came to him after seeing a growing number of “America’s Wetland” bumper stickers. They’re circulated by the America’s Wetland Foundation, the Louisiana civic group whose mission is alerting the nation to the state’s grave coastal emergency.
Does the nation embrace Louisiana as its wetland? “I wanted to find out if Americans really felt that way,” Petrolia said. “It seemed like a pretty straightforward thing to find out.”
One of the best ways to answer the question was to ask how much of their own money Americans would pay to help save the nation’s most productive coastal estuary and the storm buffer for a vital economic and cultural infrastructure.
The MSU researchers asked two different types of questions:
They first asked respondents if they would choose to help pay for the coastal effort, or do nothing.
The second question was multiple choice. Respondents could choose to contribute to two different habitat projects affecting wildlife, fisheries or storm protection. Or they could choose to do nothing.
In each case, those choosing to help did so knowing the decision came with a specified charge in their end-of-year tax filings.
The respondents included 3,400 people spread across every state; only 32 were Louisianans.
The results were good news for the coast:
Forty-three percent of those given the help-or-not question choose to help the state. The median amount they agreed to pay was $1,751.
That would translate to $201 billion, if the 43 percent sample held for the roughly 115 million American households counted in the most recent census.
Sixty percent of those given the multiple-choice question chose to help, with the mean contribution from that group coming to $909, the researchers found. If that result held true for the 115 million American households, it would raise $105 billion for the coastal effort.
The state’s current coastal Master Plan carries a price tag of $50 billion. But the planners reason they could do twice as much with twice the funding.
Petrolia stressed that he was not claiming the survey sample would necessarily hold true for all American households.
But since 93 percent of the respondents had never visited or lived in New Orleans, the level of support should be encouraging to Louisiana, the researcher said.
Garret Graves, head of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, declined to comment on the survey.
David Muth, state director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Louisiana Campaign, called the results a welcome surprise.
“I think it’s encouraging that Americans are willing to pay anything, frankly,” Muth said. “That’s because when you attach a dollar value to a question like that it sort of puts the (issue) on a whole new plain. I think this shows there is enough awareness out there by enough people. And that’s very encouraging.”
In other findings from the survey:
* Respondents ranked fisheries production as their first concern followed by storm surge protection and wildlife habitat.
* Respondents who had made lifestyle changes for environmental reasons were more likely to support restoration.
* Those who identified themselves as liberal tended to be more supportive than those who identified themselves as conservative.
* Past or present Louisiana residents tended to be more supportive.
The Northern Gulf Institute and the MSU Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station funded the study.
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ABOUT BOB MARSHALL
More from this author
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
The Lens–LSU study: Damaged minnow shows BP oil seeping into coastal food chain
By Bob Marshall, Staff writer April 30, 2013 11:45am
A minnow considered the canary in Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem can’t shake the hydrocarbon cough it picked up when BPs oil started washing ashore three years ago.
Recent studies on new generations of the Gulf killifish, a marsh minnow diagnosed with signs of oil poisoning in 2010, shortly after the Macondo blowout began, confirm that hydrocarbon toxins remain in marsh sediments and continue to cause biological impairments that were precursors for species-wide collapses in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill.
The results have no implication for seafood safety because the levels of toxins detected are well below those considered hazardous for seafood consumption, the researchers said.
While the killifish is best known locally as the “cocahoe minnow,” a bait fish favored by anglers, researchers consider it the equivalent of the proverbial canary in a coal mine, a keystone species in the food chain that can give early warnings of problems for the entire system.
Andrew Whitehead, who in 2010 led an LSU team studying adult killifish from heavily oiled areas of Barataria Bay, said at the time, “We were detecting cellular responses to toxins that are predictive of impairment of reproduction and embryo development.”
Now, follow-up lab research on killifish embryo have confirmed those fears.
“They had the same hallmark signature impacts of cardiovascular toxicity as the adults. There was an accumulation of fluid around the heart, depressed heart rates and decreased hatching success.” – Andrew Whitehead
The research team exposed one group of embryo to sediments collected from heavily oiled areas of the bay and another group to sediments from areas that were not impacted.
“We know that early life stages, especially in fish, are very sensitive to the effects of oil, and we know that many animals (in the Gulf ) use these estuaries for the early stages of life and will be exposed to these sediments,” Whitehead said. “So we wanted to bring the research into the lab with a control group to see what the results would be, especially more than a year later.”
The embryos exposed to uncontaminated sediments showed no abnormalities, but those exposed to the oil-impacted sediments displayed many of the same developmental impairments detected in the adult fish during the first project, researchers found.
“They had the same hallmark signature impacts of cardiovascular toxicity as the adults,” Whitehead said. “There was an accumulation of fluid around the heart, depressed heart rates and decreased hatching success.”
The researchers were looking for signs that the embryos were impacted by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), components of oil that are known carcinogens and that can persist for more than 50 years in ecosystems hit by oil spills. As in the first study, the levels recorded in this project were either trace or “undetectable” – the term used when a toxin does not register in water samples but animals exhibit biological responses that are symptomatic of exposure.
The responses shown by killifish embryos to such low levels of PAHs reinforced concern that trouble could be waiting down the line for economically more valuable species.
Whitehead, now at the University of California at Davis, said the concern wasn’t about the toxins accumulating in predators such as speckled trout and redfish that consume killifish, but that long-lasting PAHs could have biological impacts that may show up in future generations of a whole range of creatures that live close to and on the marsh bottom, such as shrimp, crabs and oysters.
“A lot of the (PAHs) have sunk into sediments in the marshes in Barataria Bay and get redistributed into the water column every time it gets windy,” he said. “So all animals that use shallow water in these estuaries will be exposed.”
A cause for hope, he said, is that only a handful of places across the vast Louisiana coast were heavily hit by the oil. That could mean large populations of killifish and other species were unaffected.
“So the hope would be animals that inhabit areas that were not heavily hit will be able to provide unaffected populations that can buffer the harm done in the affected area,” Whitehead said.
“Of course, we don’t know that, and that’s why we need to continue to monitor this.”
Whitehead repeated a concern voiced in 2010 that enough research should be done on the biology of the species being examined rather than just their safety for human consumption.
“As these studies show, you can have levels of these toxins that are no threat to humans, but can cause serious problems for a whole range of animals living in the ecosystem with just a very small level of contamination,” Whitehead said. “I haven’t seen a whole lot of research published on the biology of animals post-spill. That concerns me.”
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ABOUT BOB MARSHALL
More from this author
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.
Huffington Post: Corexit, Oil Dispersant Used By BP, Is Destroying Gulf Marine Life, Scientists Say
Posted: 04/25/2013 5:02 pm EDT | Updated: 04/25/2013 5:20 pm EDT
From TakePart’s David Kirby:
Three years ago, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon began leaking some 210 million gallons of Louisiana Crude into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. government allowed the company to apply chemical “dispersants” to the blossoming oil slick to prevent toxic gunk from reaching the fragile bays, beaches, and mangroves of the coast, where so much marine life originates. But a number of recent studies show that BP and the feds may have made a huge mistake, for which everything from microscopic organisms to bottlenose dolphins are now paying the highest price.
After the spill, BP secured about a third of the world’s supply of dispersants, namely Corexit 9500 and 9527, according to The New York Times. Of the two, 9527 is more toxic. Corexit dispersants emulsify oil into tiny beads, causing them to sink toward the bottom. Wave action and wind turbulence degrade the oil further, and evaporation concentrates the toxins in the oil-Corexit mixture, including dangerous compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), known to cause cancer and developmental disorders.
When BP began spraying the Gulf, critics cried foul. They said Corexit is not only toxic to marine life on its own, but when combined with crude oil, the mixture becomes several times more toxic than oil or dispersant alone.
Not surprisingly, BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley defended use of the dispersant. “The toxicity of Corexit is about the same as dish soap, which is effectively what it is and how it works,” he told stockholders. “In hindsight no one believes that that was the wrong thing and it would have been much worse without the use of it. I do not believe anybody-anybody with almost common sense-would say waves of black oil washing into the marshes and beaches would have been a better thing, under any circumstances.”
BP says that Corexit is harmless to marine life, while the Environmental Protection Agency has waffled, saying both that “long term effects [of dispersants] on aquatic life are unknown” and that data “do not indicate any significant effects on aquatic life. Moreover, decreased size of the oil droplets is a good indication that, so far, the dispersant is effective.”
But many scientists, such as Dr. William Sawyer, a Louisiana toxicologist, argue that Corexit can be deadly to people and sea creatures alike. “Corexit components are also known as deodorized kerosene,” Sawyer said in a written statement for the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group, a legal consortium representing environmental groups and individuals affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill. “With respect to marine toxicity and potential human health risks, studies of kerosene exposures strongly indicate potential health risks to volunteers, workers, sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles and all species which need to surface for air exchanges, as well as birds and all other mammals.” When Corexit mixes with and breaks down crude, it makes the oil far more “bioavailable” to plants and animals, critics allege, because it is more easily absorbed in its emulsified state.
Sawyer tested edible fish and shellfish from the Gulf for absorption of petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC), believed to have been facilitated by Corexit. Tissue samples taken prior to the accident had no measurable PHC. But after the oil spill, Sawyer found tissue concentrations up to 10,000 parts per million, or 1 percent of the total. The study, he said, “shows that the absorption [of the oil] was enhanced by the Corexit.”
In April 2012, Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences was finding lesions and grotesque deformities in sea life-including millions of shrimp with no eyes and crabs without eyes or claws-possibly linked to oil and dispersants.
The shocking story was ignored by major U.S. media, but covered in depth by Al Jazeera. BP said such deformities were “common” in aquatic life in the Gulf and caused by bacteria or parasites. But further studies point back to the spill.
A just-released study from the University of South Florida found that underwater plumes of BP oil, dispersed by Corexit, had produced a “massive die-off” of foraminifera, microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain. Other studies show that, as a result of oil and dispersants, plankton have either been killed or have absorbed PAHs before being consumed by other sea creatures.
Hydrocarbon-laden, mutated seafood is not the only legacy left behind by Corexit, many scientists, physicians, environmentalists, fishermen, and Gulf Coast residents contend. Earlier this week, TakePart wrote about Steve Kolian, a researcher and founder of the nonprofit group EcoRigs, whose volunteer scientists and divers seek to preserve offshore oil and gas platforms after production stops, for use as artificial reefs and for alternative energy production.
EcoRigs divers took water and marine life samples at several locations in the months following the blowout. Now, they and countless other Gulf residents are sick, with symptoms resembling something from a sci-fi horror film, including bleeding from the nose, ears, breasts, and even anus. Others complain of cognitive damage, including what one man calls getting “stuck stupid,” when he temporarily cannot move or speak, but can still hear.
“If we are getting sick, then you know the marine life out in the Gulf is too,” Kolian said. The diver and researcher completed an affidavit on human and marine health used in GAP’s report.
Kolian’s team has done studies of their own to alarming results. “We recently submitted a paper showing levels of hydrocarbons in seafood were up to 3,000 times higher than safety thresholds for human consumption,” he said. “Concentrations in biota [i.e. all marine life] samples were even greater.”
Kolian’s friend and colleague, Scott Porter, described in his affidavit to GAP how Corexit had caused dispersed crude to coat the bottom of the sea in a sickening, deadly film. In July 2011, he and other divers traveled to a part of the Florida Panhandle, known as the Emerald Coast for its pristine seawater, to collect samples for the Surfrider Foundation.
“When we went diving, however, the water had a brownish white haze that resembled what we saw in offshore Louisiana at 30 feet below sea level,” Porter’s affidavit stated. “I have never witnessed anything like that since I began diving in the Emerald Coast 20 years ago. We witnessedŠa reddish brown substance on the seafloor that resembled tar and spanned a much larger area than is typical of natural runoff.”
In areas covered with the substance, “we noticed much less sea life,” Porter continued. “There were hardly any sand dollars or crabs and only some fish, whereas we would normally see an abundance of organisms. It was desolate.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Posted on April 29, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Updated today at 9:56 AM
David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL
NEW ORLEANS – It was something of an eye-opener when an oil company pleaded guilty to two environmental crimes in January.
Not because the pollution reported was anything on the scale of the BP spill, but because of the brazen cover-up involved.
The company, Houston-based W&T Offshore, admitted its workers had used coffee filters in October 2009 to clean oil and other minerals out of the water byproduct discharged overboard from their platform in the Ewing Banks 910 lease block, about 65 miles south of Port Fourchon.
They were filtering the oil out of the water samples that were sent into a lab and recorded with the federal government.
Meanwhile, the water they were dumping back into the Gulf on a constant basis stayed contaminated.
W&T also pleaded guilty to spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico in November 2009 and not reporting it to authorities, as required by law. The company agreed to pay $1 million in fines and community service for their crimes.
The case was closed. But that may have been only part of the story. Eyewitness News found the original complaint that alerted the federal authorities, and the allegations in it go beyond what’s contained in W&T’s plea agreement. In fact, according to the man who blew the whistle and others, the problem of cover-ups and out-and-out dumping is widespread and will continue to go essentially unchecked because too few offshore workers are willing to report violations.
“When you’re in the offshore industry if you want to get along, you better go along,” said Randy Comeaux of Lafayette, who was a contract employee assigned to W&T platforms in 2009. “And what happens offshore stays offshore. You break any one of those two rules, in one fashion or another, you will not be working offshore.”
Comeaux says he’s one of the few who doesn’t simply “go along,” and he’s paid the price. He said he’s been fired multiple times for reporting violations and can’t get a job offshore because of it.
That’s why environmentalists and members of Congress say federal whistleblower protections have to be strengthened to protect the people who are trying to protect the public from more pollution.
“Why not just sweep it overboard? Nobody’s ever gonna see it. I mean, most people are never out here,” said Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network, one of several environmental groups that began flying offshore to monitor rigs and platforms after the 2010 BP spill. “Until the monitoring consortium really started looking, we had no clue how much oil and how many oil slicks we were going to find — how much oil we actually find every month.”
Comeaux said he first learned how to doctor water samples to trick the feds back in 1980. He admitted he filtered some of the samples himself before realizing how his actions were helping to pollute the Gulf of Mexico.
We also tracked down one of the workers Comeaux caught doctoring the water samples on W&T’s Ewing Banks 910 platform – Jason Bourgeois of Centreville, Miss. Bourgeois blamed his supervisors for teaching him the practice and encouraging it over the last nine years. He also said this kind of thing has been going on at W&T platforms for decades – and sometimes, the doctoring is even more blatant than a coffee filter.
“You get about a couple inches in the jug of your overboard water and the rest is basically Kentwood,” Bourgeois said. “You fill the rest of the jug with Kentwood water. Then it’s sent into a laboratory.”
When we asked why someone would use bottled water when they were already filtering the actual water that came out of the production equipment, Bourgeois said it would take hours to filter an entire water sample. He said a W&T foreman once told him that he sent the laboratory a sample that was all Kentwood, and it passed.
Bourgeois’ grandfather, M.J. Smith, said his late son, Mike Smith, worked for W&T more than 10 years ago and also doctored processed water samples. Smith said his son, who was Bourgeois’ uncle, would take water from his well during his time off and gather it to use during his next hitch offshore, to create cleaner samples.
W&T said in a statement that the “doctoring of water samples in 2009 is an isolated incident, something the contract workers on EW910 did on their own, violating W&T Offshore procedures and without the knowledge of their supervisors.”
But Bourgeois said he and others at W&T were pressured to clean the samples by their supervisors.
“We knew it wasn’t right,” he said. “But it was the fact of, do it this way or we’ll get somebody else that will.”
Specifically, Bourgeois blames his field foreman, Mike Lofton – who, incidentally, was also Bourgeois’ uncle’s boss at W&T. Lofton was stationed on a W&T headquarters platform about halfway back to shore from the Ewing Banks platform Bourgeois worked on. Bourgeois and Comeaux said Lofton knew about and condoned the water filtering.
Comeaux also said he reported at least three spills to Lofton in 2009 that went unreported to the authorities. Bourgeois said a huge amount of oil – as much as 500 barrels from an overfilled storage tank – shot out a flare boom in one of the incidents, and because of high winds and the grating on the platform decks, most of it ended up in the Gulf.
But W&T says the amount of oil spilled was nothing like what Bourgeois describes. In an email Bourgois sent to Lofton about two months after the spill, he reports that no sheen was visible in the dark right after the incident, which happened at 2 a.m. The email also said no spill was visible four hours later, when the sun came up and the water became visible.
But Bourgeois says he was forced by the company to write that statement to contradict an earlier one he had given.
Lofton declined to respond when we called him at his home in Picayune, Miss., and asked to interview him about the incidents.
But W&T disputes Comeaux and Bourgeois’ portrayal of events and stands by Lofton.
“Mike Lofton is a valued W&T Offshore employee,” W&T said in a statement. “The company acknowledges that Lofton should have reported the spill from the flare boom in November 2009, but W&T Offshore disputes that it was anything as large as Bourgeois claims. And Lofton was never told that there was a sheen visible on the water.”
Other spills alleged
Comeaux wasn’t on Ewing Banks 910 during the November spill. He said he watched from the headquarters platform while Lofton sent workers in helicopters to clean the spill.
Comeaux was present for the two other spills he reported to Lofton – one in March 2009 on W&T’s connected Ship Shoal 300A and Ship Shoal 315 platforms, and one in October 2009 on Ewing Banks 910. Bourgeois saw the October incident and says W&T supervisors pressured the workers to use a screw to plug the high-pressure leak, something Bourgeois says was too dangerous for him to participate in. It also didn’t work, and the platform had to be shut in.
Comeaux said that before they shut down operations, the hole got bigger and oil started spewing into the Gulf. He said he told the lead operator on Ewing Banks 910, David Cahanin, to report an oil spill, but, Comeaux said, Cahanin refused. Cahanin did not respond to our request for comment.
W&T says none of the oil from those two incidents made it into the water and would not have required Lofton or anyone else to report them to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Blowing the whistle
The reason we know about any of these issues is that Comeaux filed a federal lawsuit against W&T on behalf of the United States. The Department of Justice made sure his complaint was filed under seal.
In 2012, the case was unsealed when the Justice Department declined to join Comeaux’s lawsuit. But then the prosecutors turned around and used the information they gathered and convicted W&T of crimes. The Justice Department, through the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, said Comeaux is free to continue to pursue his civil claims.
Comeaux says he lost his job because he exposed the violations, and the federal prosecutors did nothing to protect him.
He also said he deserves a share of the fines against W&T under a provision in federal law, but the Justice Department decided not to use that law to prosecute W&T. Comeaux said it’s a travesty that the U.S. government would leave him vulnerable like that. And others agree.
“They laid him out to dry just like they did me and the other two guys,” said Bourgeois, who says that he, Cahanin and Bryan Barfoot were promised protection by federal investigators if they told the truth, but are no longer working on W&T platforms because, he claims, they cooperated.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., tried to get Congress to update the offshore whistleblower protection law after the 2010 BP oil spill. The bill died in the Senate, and Republicans in the House tried to water down the original bill, Miller said.
“Now why shouldn’t they have the same protection as railroad workers have, as transport workers have, as nuclear workers have, as pipeline workers have?” Miller said in an impassioned speech from the House floor in 2010. “Because they all have a modern whistleblower statute. But those men and women who go out on those rigs today do not have any protection, more less a modern protection.”
And Sarthou said she isn’t surprised the feds didn’t go to bat for Comeaux.
“I don’t think the Justice Department sees itself as in the business of supporting whistleblowers,” she said. “I think they see themselves as in the business of hitting somebody who’s done something wrong but not spending the money to go to trial unless they absolutely have to.”
History of complaints
Comeaux is undoubtedly disgruntled. He writes a blog railing against W&T, oil companies in general and the federal government.
He says companies come up with excuses to fire employees who blow the whistle, usually stating that they don’t work well with their colleagues. And Bourgeois confirms that Comeaux was generally distrusted by his co-workers and perceived as a snitch.
He certainly has a history of filing complaints and may fancy himself as a compliance officer even though he was listed as an instrument and electrical technician. His whistleblowing crusade apparently continued as soon as he returned offshore in 2012 to work on the ATP Titan platform in Mississippi Canyon 941. Just a few months into the job, he reported to the Coast Guard that 1,200 barrels of methanol were “dumped” overboard in December.
He says he couldn’t talk more about the incident at this time, but claims he was immediately fired because he reported it.
His allegations against ATP are not unique. ATP filed for bankruptcy last year, shortly after being charged with federal crimes for using an unauthorized chemical to break down the oil in the water they were dumping overboard from the ATP Innovator, a huge floating platform in Mississippi Canyon 711. According to the federal criminal complaint, the canister of the cleanser was hidden from view and workers called it “soap” and “sheen buster.”
ATP did not respond to our requests for comment.
W&T, on the other hand, addressed all of our questions. It says it has taken steps since 2009 to improve their environmental compliance. Even Bourgeois says he saw real improvement in the reporting before he stopped working for W&T last year.
Some of those corrective actions were required as a part of the guilty plea, some were already under way. The company says it now requires its managers to report spills to the Coast Guard if there’s a chance that some spilled into the Gulf, rather than waiting for visual confirmation. It also said it’s been conducting surprise water sampling on its platforms and has found all in compliance except for one, where there had been an upset in the system just before the test.
But, Bourgeois points to photographs he took of a 2011 oil spill on the Ewing Banks 910 platform as evidence that the company hasn’t totally learned its lesson.
That spill was reported to the Coast Guard as a “capful” of oil discharged into the water, which Bourgeois says is ridiculous given the photographs. But the pictures of the oil-soaked equipment don’t necessarily prove that more than a capful of oil made it into the Gulf.
It’s hard to tell how widespread these issues are. Sarthou said that even if it’s just a handful of bad actors doctoring water samples and keeping spills quiet, if they’ve been doing it consistently for 30 years, the volume of pollution could be devastating. She said we can’t rely on the massive Gulf to dilute the effects of the oil if the discharges have been that numerous and constant.
Comeaux agrees. A child of Acadiana who spent his whole life on the water and eating Gulf seafood, he is now afraid to touch it.
Whether he is a malcontent or not and whether he’s justified in seeking whistleblower reward money or not, there is little doubt he is passionate about protecting the Gulf waters.
He begins to cry when describing how pervasive he believes the unreported pollution is.
“This type of activity occurs under the cover of the night through a process of corrupting the morals of the people who work out there,” he said. “It’s not acceptable behavior for our industry. It’s not acceptable behavior for our world.
“Eventually people are gonna suffer from this. You can’t keep polluting something and expect everything to be OK. Sooner or later somebody is gonna get sick from this. Sooner or later somebody’s gonna die from this. Sooner or later, the Gulf is gonna die from this.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter.
By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Mon April 29, 2013
April 20 marked three years since the Gulf oil disaster erupted
Since the 2010 spill, Louisiana’s statewide oyster catch has dropped by more than 25%
Other seafood catch numbers have rebounded and studies show the catch is safe
But in certain areas, there’s still a pronounced downturn in blue crab, shrimp, oysters
Yscloskey, Louisiana (CNN) — On his dock along the banks of Bayou Yscloskey, Darren Stander makes the pelicans dance.
More than a dozen of the birds have landed or hopped onto the dock, where Stander takes in crabs and oysters from the fishermen who work the bayou and Lake Borgne at its mouth. The pelicans rock back and forth, beaks rising and falling, as he waves a bait fish over their heads.
At least he’s got some company. There’s not much else going on at his dock these days. There used to be two or three people working with him; now he’s alone. The catch that’s coming in is light, particularly for crabs.
“Guys running five or six hundred traps are coming in with two to three boxes, if that,” said Stander, 26.
Out on the water, the chains clatter along the railing of George Barisich’s boat as he and his deckhand haul dredges full of oysters onto the deck. As they sort them, they’re looking for signs of “spat”: the young oysters that latch onto reefs and grow into marketable shellfish.
There’s the occasional spat here; there are also a few dead oysters, which make a hollow sound when tapped with the blunt end of a hatchet.
About two-thirds of U.S. oysters come from the Gulf Coast, the source of about 40% of America’s seafood catch. But in the three years since the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up and sank about 80 miles south of here, fishermen say many of the oyster reefs are still barren, and some other commercial species are harder to find.
“My fellow fishermen who fish crab and who fish fish, they’re feeling the same thing,” Barisich said. “You get a spike in production every now and then, but overall, it’s off. Everybody’s down. Everywhere there was dispersed oil and heavily oiled, the production is down.”
The April 20, 2010, explosion sent 11 men to a watery grave off Louisiana and uncorked an undersea gusher nearly a mile beneath the surface that took three months to cap.
Most of the estimated 200 million gallons of oil that poured into the Gulf of Mexico is believed to have evaporated or been broken down by hydrocarbon-munching microbes, according to government estimates.
The rest washed ashore across 1,100 miles of coastline, from the Louisiana barrier islands west of the Mississippi River to the white sands of the Florida Panhandle. A still-unknown portion settled on the floor of the Gulf and the inlets along its coast.
Tar balls are still turning up on the beaches, and a 2012 hurricane blew seemingly fresh oil ashore in Louisiana.
Well owner BP, which is responsible for the cleanup, says it’s still monitoring 165 miles of shore. The company points to record tourism revenues across the region and strong post-spill seafood catches as evidence the Gulf is rebounding from the spill.
But in the fishing communities of southeastern Louisiana, people say that greasy tide is still eating away at their livelihoods.
“Things’s changing, and we don’t know what’s happening yet,” said oysterman Byron Encalade.
Life before the spill
Before the spill, Encalade and his neighbors in the overwhelmingly African-American community of Pointe a la Hache — about 25 miles south of Yscloskey — earned their living from the state-managed oyster grounds off the East Bank of the Mississippi.
Back then, a boat could head out at dawn and be back at the docks by noon with dozens of 105-pound sacks of oysters.
Now? “Nothing,” says Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association.
Louisiana conservation officials have dumped fresh limestone, ground-up shell and crushed concrete on many of the reefs in a bid to foster new growth.
It takes three to five years for a viable reef to develop, so that means Pointe a la Hache could be looking at 2018 — eight years after the spill — before its lifeblood starts pumping again.
“This economy is totally gone in my community,” said Encalade, 59. “There is no economy. The two construction jobs that are going on — the prison and the school — if it weren’t for those, the grocery store would be closing.”
When the catch comes in, everyone wants you to know that it’s safe to eat. Repeated testing has shown that the traces of hydrocarbons that do come up in the shrimp, crab and oysters are far below safety limits for human consumption.
“The monitoring of the seafood supply has been exemplary,” said Steve Murawski, a fisheries biologist at the University of South Florida. “There’s no incidence of people getting sick and no report of any tainted fish reaching the market.”
While much of the Gulf’s seafood industry has rebounded, the hardest-hit communities like Pointe a la Hache, Yscloskey and the inlets in Barataria Bay, west of the Mississippi, have not recovered.
Scientists are still trying to understand what the oil has done to the marshlands of southeastern Louisiana.
Sure, the catch is safe — but that doesn’t mean much when seafood prices are down and fuel costs are up.
“Since the spill, my shrimp production is off between 40 and 60% for the two years that I did work full time,” said Barisich, who has both a shrimp boat and an oyster boat tied up at Yscloskey. “But my price is off another 50%, and my fuel is high: 60 cents a gallon higher than it’s ever been.”
Figures from Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries tell a similar story.
The statewide oyster catch since 2010 is down 27% from the average haul between 2002 and 2009, according to catch statistics from the agency. In the Pontchartrain Basin, where Encalade and Barisich both work, the post-spill average fell to about a third of the pre-spill catch.
Barisich says oysters are barely worth the effort anymore.
Guys running five or six hundred traps are coming in with two to three boxes, if that.
“On the state ground — on a perfect weather day, keep that in mind — it’s 20 sacks a day,” he said. “Twenty sacks a day at $30 a sack is $600. $300 worth of fuel. $100 worth of other expenses and I pay the deckhand, I got $150 a day on a perfect day. It don’t pay to go out.”
And no boats going out means no fuel being sold at Frank Campo Jr.’s marina, down the bayou from Barisich’s dock.
“If you don’t burn it, I can’t sell it to you,” Campo says. “They’re not doing very well with the crabs, and there’s not a lot of oyster boats going out.”
Demand for the oysters is off, too.
“You used to never ask the dealer if he wanted oysters,” said Campo, whose grandfather started the marina. “You just showed up with them. Now, he’ll call you and tell you if he needs ’em.”
‘Like somebody had poured motor oil all over’
Across the Mississippi from Pointe a la Hache, beyond the West Bank levees, lie some of the waterways that saw the heaviest oiling: Barataria Bay and its smaller inlets, Bay Jimmy and Bay Batiste.
Interactive map of Gulf oil disaster
Louisiana State University entomologist Linda Hooper-Bui tracks the numbers of ants, wasps, spiders and other bugs at 40 sites in the surrounding marshes, 18 of which had seen some degree of oiling.
She is part of a small army of researchers who have been trying to figure out what effect the spill will have on the environment of the Gulf Coast. Since 2010, she’s recorded a sharp decline in several species of insects — particularly spiders, ants, wasps and grasshoppers, which sit roughly in the middle of the food web.
They’re top predators among insects but food for birds and fish.
Hooper-Bui said she expected their numbers to bounce back the following year: “Instead, what we saw was worse.”
Tar balls found washed up on Elmer’s Island, Louisiana, in early March.
The reason, she suspects, is that the oil that sank into the bottom of the marsh after the spill hasn’t broken down at the same rate as the crude that floated to the surface.
Instead, it’s in the sediments, still giving off fumes that are killing the insects.
Some napthalenes — crude oil components most commonly known for their use in mothballs — appear to have increased since the spill, she said.
“They’re volatile, and they’re toxic,” Hooper-Bui said. “And they’re not just toxic to insects. They’re toxic to fish. They’re toxic to birds. They cause eggshell thinning in birds. We think this is evidence of an emerging problem.”
Hooper-Bui said crickets exposed to the contaminated muck in laboratories die, and when temperatures were increased to those comparable to a summer day, “the crickets die faster.”
By August 2011, the number of grasshoppers had fallen by 70% to 80% in areas that got oiled.
“By 2012, we were unable to find any colonies of ants in the oiled areas,” she said.
Then on August 29, 2012, Hurricane Isaac hit southeastern Louisiana. The slow-moving storm sat over Barataria Bay for more than 60 hours as it crawled onto land.
When Hooper-Bui went back to the marshes after the storm, she had a surprise waiting for her.
“We discovered in Bay Batiste large amounts of what looked like somebody had poured motor oil all over the marsh there,” she said. “About three-quarters of the perimeter of northern Bay Batiste was covered in this oil.”
The chemical fingerprint of the oil matched the oil from the ruptured BP well, Hooper-Bui said. Other scientists confirmed that Isaac kicked up tar balls from the spill as far east as the Alabama-Florida state line, more than 100 miles from where the storm made its initial landfall.
Far from the shoreline, patches of oil fell to the bottom of the Gulf in a mix of sediment, dead plankton and hydrocarbons dubbed “marine snow.” It fouled corals near the wellhead, and it’s still sitting there.
There’s something about this stuff, the carbon in these layers, that’s not degrading.
Samantha Joye, oceanographer
“If you took a picture of a core (sample) that was collected today and took a picture of a core that was taken in September 2010, they look the same,” University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye said.
“What’s really strange to me is, the material is not degrading,” Joye added. “There’s something about this stuff, the carbon in these layers, that’s not degrading.”
Normally, microbes go to work on free-floating hydrocarbons almost immediately, digesting the compounds. The controversial large-scale use of chemical dispersants was supposed to accelerate that process by breaking up the oil into smaller droplets that could be more easily consumed.
But that’s not happening to this layer, Joye said, and the reason is unclear.
“The first thing everyone asks is, ‘Do you think it’s dispersants?’ And I can honestly tell you, we don’t know,” she said.
During the spill, scientists warned that fish eggs and larvae, shrimp, coral and oysters were potentially most at risk from the use of dispersants. The Environmental Protection Agency later reported that testing found the combination of oil and dispersants to be no more toxic than the oil alone.
But that’s no comfort to Encalade, who could watch planes spray dispersant on the slick from the marina where he keeps his two boats.
“We know from history, whenever you put soap in the water around camps and stuff like that, oysters don’t reproduce,” he said. “And we’ve heard BP say over and over again, ‘Oh, it’s like detergent.’ That’s the worst thing in the world you can do to an oyster.”
The impact of these dispersants on marine life is still an open question, and it’s something that’s under review by scientists involved in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, the federally run, BP-funded effort to figure out what the spill did to the Gulf Coast.
That assessment could take several years.
As scientists sort out the data, the Gulf fishing communities from Louisiana to Florida are still dealing with the impact of the spill. When you look at the entire expanse of the ocean, there isn’t a huge amount of oil, explained Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University.
“You have to look hard to find any oil at all,” he said.
But where the oil has been found, MacDonald said, the damage is “intense and widespread.”
There is some good news: Some studies indicate that commercial fish species in different parts of the Gulf escaped the worst. Recent research at Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab found that young shrimp and blue crabs off Bayou La Batre, the state’s major seafood port, showed no sign of decline since the spill.
But that’s no consolation for Donny Waters, a Pensacola, Florida, fisherman who has been involved with efforts to rebuild the red snapper populations off the Florida panhandle.
“I’m still catching fish. I’m not saying everything’s dead,” Waters said. “But it’s taking me longer to catch my fish. I’m not seeing the snappers farther around reefs, whether they’re natural or artificial. I’m not seeing the reefs repopulate nearly as fast since the oil spill.”
‘BP has retired me’
Like many in the trade, Encalade and the other guys on his dock in Pointe a la Hache can spin epic tales. But these days, they’re not about the catch. More often, they’re about the red tape and low-ball offers they’ve had to deal with in the compensation process set up after the spill — a process they say is stacked in favor of big operators.
“I got guys been fishing out here all their life. They’ve got trip tickets, more than you can imagine,” Encalade said, referring to the slips that document a boat’s daily catch. “You know what they come back and tell a man his whole life is worth? $40,000.”
The oil, the catch and the money: All converge at the big federal courthouse on Poydras Street in New Orleans, where squadrons of lawyers have massed for what promises to be a protracted brawl to figure out how much BP will end up paying for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
BP says it has shelled out $32 billion for the disaster, including $14 billion for cleanup. It’s also spent $300 million on everything from testing seafood to its ad campaign that encourages people to come back to the Gulf, and it pledged $500 million for research into the environmental effects of the disaster.
The company has paid to help replace oyster reefs in Mississippi and Louisiana and rebuild sand dunes and sea turtle habitats in Alabama and northwest Florida. In addition to monitoring part of the Gulf coastline, BP spokesman Scott Dean said, the company has planted new grass in the Louisiana marshes, where the losses sped up erosion already blamed for the loss of an area the size of Manhattan every year.
But of about 13,000 holes drilled into the beaches and marshes in search of settled oil, Dean said, only 3% have found enough to require cleanup, he said.
“The vast majority of the work has been done,” Dean said. But when previously undiscovered oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout does turn up, “We take responsibility for the cleanup,” he said.
Last year, the company agreed to pay $7.8 billion to individuals and businesses who filed economic, property and health claims. But in March, the company asked a judge to halt those payments, arguing that it was facing hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in payouts for “fictitious losses.”
It’s also pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges and fined $4 billion in the deaths of the 11 men killed aboard the rig and been temporarily barred from getting new federal contracts.
Now BP is back in court, battling to avoid a finding of gross negligence that would sock it with penalties up to $4,300 per barrel under the Clean Water Act — another $17 billion-plus by the federal government’s estimate of the spill. BP says that figure is at least 20% too high.
The plaintiffs include the federal government, the states affected by the disaster and people like Encalade and Barisich, who have rejected previous settlement offers from BP.
Freddie Duplessis, whose boat is tied up next to Encalade’s, settled with the company. He said he received about $250,000 from BP after the spill, including money the company paid to hire his boat for the cleanup effort. That’s about what he says he would have made in six months of fishing before the spill, before expenses.
I got guys been fishing out here all their life. You know what they come back and tell a man his whole life is worth? $40,000.
Pointe a la Hache oysterman Byron Encalade
“I’ve been all right. I’ve been paying my bills, but what I’m gonna do now?” asked Duplessis, 54. “You’re still gonna have bills. Everything I’ve got is mine, but I’ve got to maintain it.”
But proving just how much damage can be blamed on the oil spill will be a difficult task in the courtroom. That’s where the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, launched after the disaster and partly paid for by BP, comes in. And right now, the studies that make up that assessment are closely held, ready to be played like a hole card in poker.
“There’s a substantial amount of fisheries work that’s not actually going to see the light of day until after the court case is resolved,” USF’s Murawski said.
The region’s seafood landings largely returned to normal in 2011, after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closed most of the Gulf to fishing during the blowout, NOAA data show. And BP notes that across the four states that saw the most impact — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — shrimp and finfish catches were up in 2012 compared with the average haul between 2007 and 2009.
Blue crab was off about 1%. And while oysters regionwide remained 17% below 2007-09 figures, the company says that the flooding that hit the region in 2011 has been blamed for some of that downturn, again by dumping more fresh water into the coastal estuaries.
But Gulf-wide, shrimp landings in 2011 and 2012 were about 15% below the 2000-09 average, according to figures compiled by Mississippi State University’s Coastal Research and Extension Center.
And in Louisiana, there’s still a pronounced downturn.
State data show that blue crab landings are off an average of 18%, and brown shrimp — the season for which the industry is now gearing up — is down 39% compared with the 2002-09 catch.
In Yscloskey, Barisich said three bayou fishermen took settlements from BP, sold their leases and walked away from the docks. As for him, at 56, he’s trying to adapt.
He’s studying for a license that will allow him to take passengers out on shrimp trawls — a kind of working vacation for tourists with a taste for the job he learned from his father.
“I can’t do what I have for the last two years,” he said.
And in Pointe a la Hache, Encalade got heartbreaking news in early April.
The public reefs in nearby Black Bay, one of the post-spill reconstruction projects, had been closed after spat turned up to protect the larvae. But the spat died, and the reefs were being reopened to allow the few remaining mature oysters to be harvested.
“All the little oysters have died, and the big oysters, you can’t make a dollar with them,” Encalade said. “BP has retired me out of the oyster business.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
I encourage everyone to sign this petition now! Read the full report and sign the petition at: http://www.whistleblower.org/program-areas/public-health/corexit DeeVon
Published on Friday, April 19, 2013 by Common Dreams
Report released on eve of Deepwater Horizon anniversary tells of BP lies and government collusion in oil ‘clean-up’
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
A dispersant plane passed over an oil skimmer in the Gulf of Mexico ten days after Deepwater Horizon explosion (Patrick Semansky / AP)
Not only is the chemical dispersant that was used to “clean up” the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 extremely dangerous, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely “appear invisible” all the while exacerbating levels of toxicity in the Gulf waters, according to a report released Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by the Government Accountability Project.
According to the report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, Corexit-the dispersant chemical dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by oil giant BP and the U.S. government in the spill’s aftermath-was widely applied “because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared.”
“This report is a people’s history to rebut a false advertising blitz by BP, enabled by government collusion.”
Government Accountability Project
As GAP states: “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 Corexit/oil combination is highly toxic and will continue to cause “devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem” for a long time into the future, the report warns.
GAP spent 20 months collecting evidence from “over two dozen employee and citizen whistleblowers who experienced the cleanup’s effects firsthand,” and from extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
“This report is a people’s history to rebut a false advertising blitz by BP, enabled by government collusion,” stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, co-author of the report. “Gulf workers and residents who are still suffering deserve justice, and the public deserves the truth.”
“The price for making the spill appear invisible has been deadly,” he said. “It is time to stop covering up the truth about the deadly effects of the chemical cover-up Corexit.”
“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,” the group stated Friday.
The report includes first hand accounts from cleanup workers, divers, local doctors, and residents.
The findings also include “higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations,” and “pockets of ‘dead’ ocean areas where life was previously abundant.”
“Through their testimony and emerging science, the truth about the spill response’s toxic legacy is beginning to surface as the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion approaches,” GAP stated.
Below is a small selection of some of the voices included in the report:
As an environmental scientist, I look at the way the government and BP are handling, describing and discussing the spill Š [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 Š 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 Š 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
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 Š 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] Š 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
Special thanks to Richard Charter
by Kevin Mathews
April 15, 2013
As politicians take steps to advance the Keystone Pipeline project, oil spills and accidents continue to occur throughout North America. In the past month alone, there have been well over a dozen harmful oil incidents.
While a recent devastating pipeline burst in Arkansas has attracted a moderate amount of attention, most such accidents are swept under the rug. Claims that pipelines are highly safe and rarely malfunction are false, and there is a lack of evidence to prove them. Just because most pipeline incidents receive minimal media attention doesn’t make them any less true.
Here are 10 oil leaks from the past month that have been mostly covered up by the corporate media:
1. For the fourth time in just two years, a leak was found in Canada’s Norman Wells pipeline on March 19. In total, the pipeline has leaked 1 million liters of oil. Although the pipeline has been patched up each time, the fact that it keeps breaking has locals calling the repairs “a quick fix.”
2. Almost 1,000 barrels of crude oil leaked from Shell’s West Columbia pipeline near Houston, Texas. The massive spill was found on March 29, but not before over 50 barrels worth ran into nearby Vince Bayou.
3. A leak in a gas treatment plant’s pipeline in Parachute, Colorado continues to contaminate the local water supply over a month after it was discovered. As a result, harmful toxins have been found in Parachute Creek, which flows directly into the Colorado River. An estimated 30 million people live downstream of the leak and rely on the water supply. State law limits the maximum fine for “environmental mishaps” to just $10,000 total.
4. On March 31, the Lansing Board of Water and Light found that 3,000 gallons of oil leaked into the Grand River. Cleanup of the spill took nearly two weeks.
5. A March 18 pipeline crack leaked 21,000 gallons of fuel into the wetlands of Utah’s Willard Bay State Park. Some of the missing oil is still not accounted for, and the park will remained closed through Memorial Day.
6. A Canadian Pacific Railway train carrying fuel to Chicago derailed, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil in Minnesota on March 27. According to officials, the cold weather made cleanup efforts particularly difficult.
7. Repsol, a Spanish oil company, had its second oil spill in about a year in North Slope, Alaska. Though nearly 7,000 gallons sprayed on to the nearby terrain on April 9, an oil commissioner seemed unimpressed. “It wasn’t a big event. They had a hose rupture. How many times have you watered your garden and had a leak in your hose?”
8. On April 4, an S&S Energy oil and gas well in Damascus, Ohio exploded. A representative for the firefighters who came to put out the blaze said that this type of accident “is not unusual.”
9. A natural gas explosion occurred at a plant in Langston, Oklahoma on April 4. While no one was hurt, the gas line had to entirely burn off before firefighters could put out the resulting inferno.
10. After already demonstrating a spotty safety record, Suncor Energy acknowledged that 225 barrels of oil leaked in Port Moody, British Columbia on April 7, with a small portion of the fuel making its way to the water in the Burrard Inlet. Though Suncor managed to keep the accident a secret for four days, the incident was eventually exposed.
Unfortunately, oil spills are not isolated incidents as the corporations and mainstream media would like you to believe. If these 10 leaks aren’t enough to convince you of the Keystone Pipeline’s potential dangers, just wait until next month.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/10-oil-spills-in-a-single-month-that-have-been-covered-up.html#ixzz2QquSwndy