Sometimes Money Is Not Enough – e.g., Gulf of Mexico After the BP Spill

English: Map entitled "Fishery Closure Bo...An opinion piece in the Wash. Post, June 2, titled The Gulf of Mexico Cannot Wait, makes it clear that receiving money is not enough to move forward on a complicated and delicate project to deal with the harm done by the BP Oil spill to the Gulf of Mexico. Bureaucratic squabbling and lack of vision for dealing with the environmental and ecological issues has prevented progress.

Here are the direct links to two items mentioned in the article:

Science vs. Politics — update

Governor Jindal Tours Sand Berms Protecting Lo...

Image by lagohsep via Flickr

Several weeks ago, we highlighted the issue of politicians wanting a “solution” implemented, when the scientists did not support that solution.  Now that the use of sand berms off the coast of LA has been reviewed by experts on the presidential commission,  the scientists were vidicated. Not a surprise. Tragically, $220 million  were spent/wasted owing to the persistent pressure from Gov. Jindal. The money came from BP, but that amount used elsewhere no doubt could have been applied more productively.  See Sand islands off Louisiana stopped little oil in gulf spill, commission finds; Wash. Post, Dec. 16, 2010.

One of the most controversial tactics used against this summer’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill – the construction of large sand islands off the Louisiana coast – managed to stop only a “minuscule” amount of oil, according to a draft report from a presidential commission.

More on environmental impacts of BP oil spill

Oil Leak from Damaged Well in Gulf of Mexico A...

Image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Flickr

Coral, Marine-Life Devastation Near BP Oil Spill Indicates Much Worse Long-Term Damage Than Feds Had Admitted; HuffPost, Nov. 5.

For the first time, federal scientists have found damage to deep sea coral and other marine life on the ocean floor several miles from the blown-out BP well – a strong indication that damage from the spill could be significantly greater than officials had previously acknowledged.

Tests are needed to verify that the coral died from oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, but the chief scientist who led the government-funded expedition said Friday he was convinced it was related.

See also the special edition of the National Geographic magazine, available online at this location, that is devoted to the environmental and ecological dimensions and ramifications of the oil spill. The hard copy edition, published in October, is also worth saving.  Thanks to Bill Cumming for pointing out this online resource.

BP’s history reveals chronic problems

Orca Inlet from the Coast Guard dock, Cordova,...

Image by B Mully via Flickr

ProPublica has done some digging into BP’s past accident history and the results are both a report and TV special on the findings. See Furious Growth and Cost Cuts Led To BP Accidents Past and Present. A ProPublica and PBS FRONTLINE investigation; October 27. “The Spill,” a PBS FRONTLINE documentary,drawn from the reporting, airs tonight.

Jeanne Pascal turned on her TV April 21 to see a towering spindle of black smoke slithering into the sky from an oil platform on the oceanic expanse of the Gulf of Mexico. For hours she sat, transfixed on an overstuffed couch in her Seattle home, her feelings shifting from shock to anger.

Pascal, a career Environmental Protection Agency attorney only seven weeks into her retirement, knew as much as anyone in the federal government about BP, the company that owned the well. She understood in an instant what it would take others months to grasp: In BP’s 15-year quest to compete with the world’s biggest oil companies, its managers had become deaf to risk and systematically gambled with safety at hundreds of facilities and with thousands of employees’ lives.

“God, they just don’t learn,” she remembers thinking.


Science and Politics — sand berms off LA coast

Progress on Louisiana Sand Berm

Image by lagohsep via Flickr

Once again in LA we see an example of the conflict between objective science and state level politics. Louisiana Builds Barriers Even as Oil Disperses, NYTimes, Oct. 22.

In late May, at the height of the spill, Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard did authorize the berms as an oil-spill countermeasure and directed BP to pay for them. But since then, the Coast Guard and the unified command, charged with responding to the oil spill under federal law, have had virtually no oversight or involvement in the project.

Rather, the state is proceeding with the permission of the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates offshore engineering projects yet has little oil-spill expertise.

But as the dredging and construction press on, opposition from federal agencies and environmental groups is growing.

Some conservation groups and scientists assert that the project has not only been ineffective but could also threaten wildlife. They warn that the intensive dredging associated with the berms has already killed at least a half-dozen endangered sea turtles and could kill many more.

They have also repeatedly raised concern that further dredging may squander limited sand resources needed for future coastal restoration projects.

Thanks to Bill Cumming for pointing this out.

Special Report on BP Oil Spill in National Geographic

National Geographic Map Indexes

Image by retro traveler via Flickr

For those of you with an abiding interest in the oil spill and its ramifications, the Oct. issue of National Geographic has an excellent series of articles and a fascinating map insert as part of its Special Report on “The  Spill.” The map offers a unique graphic of The Gulf of Mexico: A Geography of Offshore Oil.

This special report provides great retrospective documentation of the largest oil spill in history.

Post-Mortem for the Gulf Oil (Macondo) Well

Fishery Closure Boundary as of 6pm Eastern Tim...

Image via Wikipedia

With Gulf well almost dead, what lies ahead? Cnn, Sept. 19.

The imminent death of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico is a milestone that likely will draw only momentary celebration. As scientists debate how much oil remains below the surface, years of economic and environmental recovery in the region lie ahead. The federal government will press for answers on what went wrong April 20 and lawsuits — including those brought by the families of the 11 workers who died in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion — will eventually make their way through the courts.

Some additional information from the Huffington Post.The well is dead, but Gulf challenges live on. And one more take on the demise of the “rogue well” and the ramifications comes from the Wall St. Journal.

Mixed Views from Scientists re Environmental Effects of BP Oil Spill


Image by The Latest Slub: via Flickr

Some good news is always welcome. Gulf Spill May Defy Darkest Predictions, NY Times, Sept. 13.

Nevertheless, not everyone is optimistic.  Some additional scientific work indicates significant amounts of oil have settled to the floor of the seabed. Scientists Find Thick Layer Of Oil On Seafloor.

A core sample from the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico shows a 2-inch layer of oily material. Researchers are finding oil on the seafloor miles away from the blown-out BP well.  Though researchers have yet to chemically link the oil deposits to the BP well, “the sheer coverage here is leading us all to come to the conclusion that it has to be sedimented oil from the oil spill because it’s all over the place,” says one scientist.

Oil Spill – focus shifts to long-term effects

Worries about recovery come to the foreground, now that the well has been capped. See As oil spill cleanup shifts gears, gulf residents fear they’ll be forgotten.

The [LA] state government said this week that erosion eats away 29 square miles — more than Arlington County — every year.

What about the gulf’s “dead zone”? This year, it covered 7,722 square miles of the gulf, an area nearly the size of Massachusetts that lacked the oxygen that some fish, crabs and oysters need to breathe. But fixing it would require making changes all the way up the Mississippi River, which brings down the pollutants that feed the algae blooms that suck out the oxygen — making changes at feedlots in Iowa and sewage plants in Illinois. “I can’t see how they could just restore everything that needs restoration. There’s just too many problems,” said Nancy Rabalais, who heads the LA Universities Marine Consortium….

She worries, in essence, that the gulf will simply be returned to its regularly scheduled disaster.  “It doesn’t have the political attention” that the spill commanded, she said.

In an interview over the past weekend, Adm. Allen was asked to assess the job that BP did. His partial reply is as follows: Allen gives BP a mixed grade.

“The technology that was needed to be brought in for other parts of the world, was [brought in]. It took a long time to engineer it. It took a long time to install it. But, ultimately, it helped us put the cap on and control the well. So I give them fairly good marks there.” But Allen added that where the energy giant’s performance has been lacking is in having a human touch. *** “… they’re a large global oil production company. They don’t do retail sales or deal with individuals on a transactional basis. Anything that’s involved, that has been a real struggle for them….”