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BP Claims Tides Will Help Remove Oil from Marshes

8:05 pm in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

In a press conference on the beach of Grand Isle, Louisiana last week, a BP spokesman claimed that the company’s solution to removing oil from marshes will be to set up boom that will capture oil as the tides come in an out.

FDL Seminal diarist Ivan Oleander asked BP’s spokesman about how to remove oil from the marshes around Elmer’s Island, part of Grand Isle BP blocks press from viewing.

"What we’re doing with the marshes is deploying snare and absorbent boom currently. With the tide changes, it works pretty effectively at picking up oil as the tide comes in and out," said BP’s flack.

That sounds nice, except for the reality of how oil hits the marshes. Oil covers the grasses and plants, leaving the plants brown as the water recedes. Pelican nests and rookeries become covered in thick brown oil as the tide comes in. The oil soaks into the soil of the marsh lands and barrier islands, eroding the fragile ecological makeup of the wetlands. Even with a minor spill, oystermen reported oil-covered oysters ten years after the spill because of oil seeping into soil.

Yet BP’s plan to clean up the marshes and wetlands is to set up some boom and let the tide handle it. "It works pretty effectively," BP says.

BP clearly doesn’t begin to know, understand, or care about the realities of the problems created by its oil disaster.

Sign our petition to the Senate: make BP pay every penny for its destruction of the Gulf.


BP Payments: “It’s Really Nothing, But It’s Nice of Them Doing It”

11:25 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

Louisiana fisherman Raleigh Lasseigne, whom I introduced to the FDL community in a video last night, as well as his wife earlier this morning, received a $5,000 check from BP after the oil disaster struck. I asked him what he thought about that compensation.

"BP done gave us something already, gave us $5,000…but that’s really, it’s really nothing," said Raleigh. "It’s nice of them doing it, but it’s really nothing. Because it’s not just a one month thing we got coming with that oil. We’re there we don’t know how many years."

Raleigh says that the one-time compensation doesn’t begin to take care of the years-long effects of the disaster. "They gave us $5,000, but that really don’t mean too, too much if we’re going to be 10 years out of business."

He also compared the responses of BP’s oil disaster with a leak from an Exxon pipe in the Gulf that hit his oyster beds. While Exxon had someone in touch and were cleaning up his beds the day after the leak, Raleigh got lawyers involved before he ever heard from BP.

Watch the video:

Sign our petition to the Senate: make BP pay every penny for its destruction of the Gulf.


Video: Meet Kay Lasseigne and Her Oyster Memorial

6:51 am in BP oil disaster, Energy, Government by Michael Whitney

Last week I told you about my morning spent with Kay and Raleigh Lasseigne, a fisherman husband and his wife who live in Grand Isle, Louisiana. I introduced you to Raleigh this morning, and you saw their memorial to their oysters in photos on Friday; now let Kay show you herself.


Sign our petition to the Senate: make BP pay every penny for its destruction of the Gulf.


Louisiana Oysterman: Oil “Is a Total Disaster”

12:08 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

Raleigh and Kay Lasseigne, Oyster FishersI spent part of Friday morning with Raleigh and Kay Lasseigne, a husband and wife in Grand Isle, Louisiana whose lives were completely upended by the BP oil disaster. Raleigh was a fisherman, shrimper, and crabber, and oysterman who sold his catch from a small building next to his home. Together with his son, also a fisherman, Raleigh’s life was the ocean and its bounty.

Now Raleigh says it’s all covered in oil. "It’s a total disaster for the oyster business," Raleigh told me Friday. Their 200 acres of oyster beds are "full of oil," who says the oil in shallow waters is so thick "that you could pick it up with a stick and it looked like peanut butter coming out of there," said Raleigh. "The marshes are full of it."

He used to have a lease on an oyster bed near where an oil rig tried to drill for oil but instead hit a "dry well." Nonetheless, despite not hitting a situable oil reserve, the drilling released oil to such an extent that "ten years after you grab an oyster out of there, where they have the mud, you pull and oyster out of the mud and still see the oil. Ten years."

The problem isn’t just what’s on the surface or dispersed in the water, but what silently seeps into the soil and is literally impossible to remove. That’s the death of the oyster business in Louisiana.

Watch Raleigh tell his story:


Fisherman to Oysters: “We Love You, Going to Miss You”

11:51 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

I went to the home of Raleigh and Kay Leseigne, 60-something residents of Grand Isle who have both lived here their whole lives. Raleigh was a fisherman, a shrimper, a crabber, and an oyster man. His family has owned what he says is the best lease on an oyster bed in all of Bartaria Bay for more than 100 years.

Now he has nothing but oil. Raleigh estimates that, since the oil sinks into the soil where the oysters grow, it will be at least 10 years before Grand Isle fishermen can harvest oysters again.

Raleigh and Kay made a memorial to their last oysters, putting them up on a shelf in their home. Kay wrote on the memorial: "We love you, going to miss you."

I’ll have video of my conversation with Raleigh and Kay tonight. For now, here are some pictures from the home.

Raleigh and Kay Laseigne, Oyster Fishers

Raleigh and Kay Laseigne, Oyster Fishers

Raleigh and Kay Laseigne, Oyster Fishers

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Cleanup Theater in Full Effect as Obama Comes to Grand Isle, LA

10:49 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

BP, Come Get Your OilPresident Obama arrived on Grand Isle, Louisiana moments ago. His motorcade came zipping through the main road along the beach. Once sounds of helicopters and police sirens were audible, almost the whole restaurant along the road emptied to catch a glimpse of the 40mph+ motorcade.

Despite the disaster, residents here are excited about Obama’s visit. A group of kids on a golf cart drove by earlier screaming, "Obama’s here!" (He wasn’t yet.) Some little girls set up a lemonade stand hoping for a visit from Obama. Dozens of people are braving the sun and 90 degree heat hoping to see the motorcade on its way out of town.

Raleigh Leseigne, an oyster fisherman, said he doesn’t blame Obama for the response so far. He’s mad at BP because the oyster bed that’s been in his family’s name for more than 100 years is now completely covered in oil, and the mud will be oiled for at least the next 10 years. "Obama is one man, he can’t fix the country in a year," said Raleigh. "It’s Bush I blame for selling this country to the oil companies."

Oil Cleanup CrewsAhead of Obama’s visit to this seven-mile-long island, BP brought in at least 100 additional cleanup workers from other areas. Eight school buses were parked at the foot of the bridge into town this morning, with dozens of cleanup workers milling about the bait shop and deli. They all wore distinct clothing from the workers who have been cleaning up the island this week.

According to Grand Isle residents who were at the foot of the island, the additional workers hit the beaches right before the motorcade came through with their plastic suits on; when the motorcade passed, the workers returned to the shaded tent. Cleanup theater at its finest.

Earlier this week, maybe two dozen people were cleaning the beaches. It’s easily quadruple that today. Anyone want to guess what it’ll be tomorrow?

Obama’s about to give his remarks at the very eastern end of Grand Isle, behind the security of the Coast Guard complex. His helicopter landed at Port Fourchon, the next town up on Highway One, and he had a brief press event with the Parrish president. From the pool report:

Potus began by introducing the president of the parish and said, "This parish has been as effective as any in coordinating and working to make sure they rerspond quickly."

"You’ve got about seven miles here where boom has been laid," he said, motioning to what looked like a line of cheerleader pom-poms strung together.

He squatted and picked up tar balls, but the gentle surf obscured his words. What the booms don’t soak up will be picked up manually. No sign of oil besides those. Yet.

The parish president and Thad Allen said they attribute all the small balls to BP though she acknowledged that tar balls are common along the beaches even in good times, tho not so many.

Cleanup theater – oil’s not hitting the beaches in Port Fourchon. But it is all over the marshes, beyond the bridge where a police car is parked across both lanes, lights on, blocking access.

Where Obama is on Grand Isle, there’s again no oil. It’s on literally the opposite end, where think pools of oil and water with oil sheens still sit. The question is if this will be the extent of Obama’s visit, or if he takes the time to at least do an aerial overview of the real damage, if not a boat tour.

Help us continue our coverage of the BP oil disaster. Please donate today to fund our reporting from the Gulf.


Louisiana Fishermen: “How Are We Going to Live?”

3:46 am in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

I spent a heartbreaking three hours with Louisiana fishermen Jim and Angel. They work and live on a mid-size shrimping boat docked on Grand Isle, Louisiana. They’ve been through Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, and Ike. They’ve been through more hardships than many of us can imagine. Each time, they’ve got through because they had the one thing on which they could always count: the water and its bounty. And now it’s gone.

Watch Jim and Angel describe how the oil disaster affects them. This is just four minutes of much more footage, including some time on their boat to come tomorrow. Their story is heartbreaking, and truly representative of the pain many feel here in Grand Isle and across Louisiana and the Gulf.

Where do they go from here? No one knows.

Help us continue our coverage of the BP oil disaster. Please donate today to fund our reporting from the Gulf.


Video: Mass Grave of Huge Fish Covered in Oil

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

We walked along the northwest end of Grand Isle, Louisiana and spotted pockets of oil not cleaned up along the beach and rock jetties. We apparently walked too far south and attracted the attention of a four-wheeling sheriff who told us to walk off along the dunes.

On our walk back, we stumbled across a mass grave of huge, dead, rotting fish covered in oil set a few feet back in the dune weeds. They were recently deceased and clearly coated with black oil, evidently dumped there by clean up crews several days earlier.

Video of the mass grave below. Warning: not for the faint of heart.

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BP, Coast Guard Dance Around Question of Who’s in Charge of Grand Isle Cleanup (UPDATED)

2:03 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

I just came from a press conference held on the beach of Grand Isle, Louisiana. It was a joint briefing by representatives of BP and the Coast Guard. When questioned about which entity was in charge of the operation, there was clear confusion about how to answer the question. In fact, no one was in charge of how to answer that question.

We drove up the beach to a media staging area with satellite trucks. We counted about 24 workers half-wearing their plastic suits digging up debris and sand from the beach and putting it into plastic bags. As the media drove down the sand, Sheriff’s deputies on four wheelers sent most of the workers to tents further down the beach, while several stayed to pick up sticks and sand.

The press briefing focused on cleanup operations in Grand Isle. BP says that they have "everyone they need" and "all the resources" required to clean up Grand Isle, Port Fourchon, and other localities around us – no more boats, no more men – BP’s rep was very certain of that. Even the Fox reporter rolled his eyes at that.

The final question of the conference asked who was in charge – BP or the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard’s spokeswoman said that while BP was the "responsible party," the Coast Guard was "overseeing" BP’s operations.  When pressed on what that meant, BP said they work "in tandem" on all decisions. "Coast Guard is in every meeting," he said. The Coast Guard then stepped in and said that wasn’t quite correct, as the CG oversees what BP does – it doesn’t make decisions with them. But they step in"when something’s not going right."

When pressed for what hasn’t gone "right," Coast Guard reps closed down the press conference. Later, I overheard the spokeswoman saying one of the things that CG stopped was rescue workers from smoking while cleaning up.

From what I can tell down here, it’s clear BP is fully in charge, and Coast Guard is sitting on the sidelines.

UPDATE: I added video of the relevant section of the press conference and realized I missed a key statement. BP says that the Coast Guard is "embedded in our organization." Huh? How is that "overseeing?"

BP Pulls Back Fishermen from Cleanup after Man “Busted His Skull” on Dock

11:55 pm in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

BP ordered 125 fishermen using their boats for the cleanup effort to go home late Tuesday after four workers fell ill. From the "Unified Command:"

At approximately 3:30 p.m., crewmembers of three vessels reported experiencing nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. One individual was medevaced by air to West Jefferson Hospital in Marrero, La., another was transported to the same facility via boat, and two were transported via ambulance. The other crewmembers refused treatment at the dock.  As a precautionary measure, the Unified Command directed all 125 of the commercial vessels that had been outfitted with equipment for oil recovery operations in the Breton Sound area, to return to their temporary accommodations in Breton Sound where medical personnel were being dispatched to evaluate the remaining crewmembers as an additional precaution.

“No other personnel are reporting symptoms, but we are taking this action as an extreme safeguard,” said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Robinson Cox, the assistant safety officer at Incident Command Post Houma.

I was in fishermen’s bar tonight in Grand Isle, LA, and spoke with a shrimper, a carpenter, and a outboard motor repairman. I’ll have more on that tomorrow, but while I was there with FDL diarist Ivan Oleander one of the bartenders took a phone call.

She reported after the call with a friend in Venice, Louisiana – the other main location of oil disaster buzz – witnessed a fisherman back from a BP cleanup trip who "busted his skull" as he fainted from his boat onto the dock. I assume that this is the man who was medevaced from the dock. Add in three more who required hospitalization and you have real evidence of just how poisonous the oil and chemical spays are for humans, in addition to animals.

While BP’s recall is in only one area in which it has a presence, word of the incident is already quickly spreading through fishing communities. All these people know is the water, and some hoped to make up for the fishing ban with money from BP. But now in the footsteps of the Exxon Valdez fishermen, a new generation of fishermen will endure what will be a lifelong battle with BP and the reality created by BP’s recklessness: no work and debilitating illnesses.