You are browsing the archive for gulf oil spill.

BP’s Gulf of Mexico Disaster: Two Years Later, Where Is The Response?

1:19 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

Co-Authored by Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA and Aaron Viles, Deputy Director of Gulf Restoration Network

The BP disaster turns two this week. Two years since the nation was reminded that offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous, and deadly.  Two years since the slow-motion disaster began changing our region, our communities, our ecosystem.

As we look back and assess where we are today, a troubling picture is emerging from the Gulf.

Throughout the foodchain, warning signs are accumulating.  Dolphins are sick and dying.  Important forage fish are plagued with gill and developmental damage.  Deepwater species like snapper have been stricken with lesions, and their reefs are losing biodiversity.  Coastal communities are struggling with changes to the fisheries they rely upon.  Hard-hit oyster reefs aren’t coming back and sport fish like speckled trout have disappeared from some of their traditional haunts. BP’s oily fingerprints continue to mar the landscape and destroy habitats.

With these impacts already here, some scientists are alarmed by what they’re finding. Unfortunately their concerns are largely drowned out by BP and the “powers that be” shouting through very large megaphones that, ‘all is fine, BP is making it right, come and spend your money’. But the truth is far different. The Gulf of Mexico, our nation’s energy sacrifice zone, continues to suffer.

Of course, the Gulf wasn’t a pristine ecosystem on April 19, 2010.  The coastal wetlands of the Mississippi River delta were in a crisis state, losing a football field worth of wetlands every hour due to our mismanagement of the river for flood control and dependable shipping lanes.  This crisis has been greatly exacerbated by the oil industry being allowed to dredge 10,000 miles of canals through our coastal zone, removing marsh and increasing subsidence.

Louisiana’s coastal wetlands system is among the fastest disappearing landmasses on earth, diminishing at the rate of 18 square miles every year.  The coastal zone is vast however, making up 30 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands but is experiencing 90% of the nation’s wetlands loss, a total of over 1,800 square miles since 1932.

These wetlands are absolutely critical to our nation.  Supplying $3 trillion annually to the U.S. economy, the Mississippi River and the Gulf coast create an international gateway for products like coffee, grain, seafood, oil, and gas. The Gulf coast has historically been the cradle of nearly one-third of the commercial fish and shellfish harvest of the lower 48 states. Critical for migratory birds, the coast is used by up to 40 percent of North America’s duck, geese, and eagle populations. Jazz, Funk, Zydeco, and Fats Domino were all born in southern Louisiana. Read the rest of this entry →

White House Hid the Truth on Spill: The Truth and the Oil is Still Out There

7:57 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

The President’s National Oil Spill Commission released preliminary findings today from its investigation into BP’s oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

And its initial findings will cause at least two major headaches, I mean headlines, for the White House.

First, the report finds that the White House blocked efforts by federal scientists to publicly reveal how high the oil spill rate was based on modeling they had to estimate the worse case scenario.

Visiting the Gulf of Mexico

In section 2 called The Fate of the Oil Released, there are two major issues. First says that the numbers that the Administration used to base its announcement that most of the oil had just disappeared was in fact not meant to be rigorous accounting. And second, in a section called The Fate of all Hydrocarbons, a study done in late September concluded that "most of the initial biodegradation in the plumes involved gaseous hydrocarbons (propane and ethane), rather than oil". Meaning that what happened to most of the oil remains a mystery.

Let’s take the first piece. The Obama White House, for whatever reason and we can make a fair guess, did not want to disclose to the public how bad the oil spill could really be. Much like BP, the government instead chose to paint rosy scenarios about the size and impact of the spill. Who was the White House protecting? Certainly not the good people of the Gulf Coast. Certainly not the American public. And certainly not the Gulf of Mexico.

Now part 2, the White House continues to shakily stand by their initial assertions that 75% of the oil has disappeared. They based that on an "Oil Budget" estimate meant to help responders with their efforts, not as a definitive estimate. However, the commission report states that the Oil Budget was simply not designed to explain, or capable of explaining, the “fate of the oil”. It was not robust enough scientifically for that. Much like BP who wants to down play the presence of oil in the ecosystem and it’s effects because of legal liability, the White House is joining the industry chorus perhaps to down play it’s political liability.

There’s much in this report that’s revealing but one last piece perfectly states why the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise is in the Gulf conducting independent science and why we’re thankful others are as well. In the study mentioned above, much of the bio-degradation the Administration hoped was eating the oil was not. It is eating gaseous hydrocarbons like propane and ethane. The oil is still out there and instead of ‘fessing up to the extent that remains and the damage it will do likely for decades, the government joins with industry to keep us in the dark.

Now the White House hopes we will take their word that we can indeed go forward with more offshore drilling and that it can be done safely. How many more fossil fuel disasters will it take for our politicians to lead us out of this rut and into the secure and environmentally friendly renewable energy future we need? Instead the White House and Congress are all pushing for Drill Baby Drill as per the President’s statement back in March.

[Philip D. Radford is the Executive Director of Greenpeace US.]