Long-Term Recovery Plan issued for Gulf after BP Oil Spill

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America’s Gulf Coast; A Long Term Recovery Plan after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 130 pp. Sept.29, 2010. The report does not have a table of contents or an executive summary. The only summary I could find was the press release.

The first 20 pages are the body of the report.  A series of Recovery Planning Checklists are included in the report, which are interesting.  This is more specific guidance than has been offered to state and local officials than provided to date by any federal officials, to my knowledge. The BP Oil Spill disaster is important, since it is the only example we have of all phases of emergency management taking place under the authority of the Oil Pollution Act/National Contingency Plan rather than the  Stafford Act /National Response Framework for major-to-catastrophic size disaster.

I welcome comments and feedback.

Related articles:

Administrative changes needed to improve federal preparedness and response

Oil spill containment boom, shown holding back oil

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In an article titled All Together Now, there is a discussion of the coordination needed at the federal level for disasters generally and for an oil spill in particular.  The article is subtitled: Collaboration-minded feds discover that getting agencies to work together is easier said than done.

Also on Sept. 15th, the Washington Post had a short news item regarding the management consulting study now underway at the new a bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), which formerly was the Minerals Management Service.  In case you forgot, that is the agency that mismanaged the BP Oil Spill.  The article notes that the McKinsey Co. study will not be completed until next year. A few more details are in this Wash Post note.

Let’s try not to have another spill until the results are know and implemented!

Mixed Views from Scientists re Environmental Effects of BP Oil Spill


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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.

The long-view on the Gulf Oil Spill

Scientists Dispute Government Stance on the Lingering Effects of Gulf Oil. ProPublica,  August 17, 2010.

…scientists seemed, on the whole, rather skeptical when a government report said most of the oil from BP’s well was gone from the Gulf of Mexico. [1] Now the pushback against the government’s stance has grown, with several scientific reports released this week.

Restoring the Gulf. editorial in NY Times, August 18.  Note: this author commented more than a  month ago on this blog that the job Mr. Mabus was assigned is not a part-time position.

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….”

BP Oil Disaster–Where is the oil?

Yesterday we reported the official estimate  that almost 5 million barrels of oil have been released into the gulf, yet, everyone seems to be asking the same question: Where did it all go?  A couple of interesting sources are available to address this quandary.

First, a Louisiana based television station took a camera and reporter out to a barrier island to investigate reports of oil beneath the sand. The beaches appeared clean, however, just walking in the sand provided hints to the trouble below as oil oozed up in the footprints, and many dead sand crabs littered the beach.

Secondly, another blog written by the University of Georgia Department of Marine Science, simply entitled “Gulf Oil Blog” also asked the question:  Where has the oil gone?  Their Aug. 1 blog posting attempts to quash rumors that the oil has just magically evaporated and/or been eaten by microorganisms. From that posting:

Should we be relieved?  Is this disaster over?

On the whole, I believe the answer to both questions is no.  It is a relief that the volume of surface oil is reduced, as this lowers the probability of oil-fouling of coastal beaches and marshes.  However, it’s likely that a great deal of oil is still out there in the Gulf of Mexico’s waters, it’s just no longer visible to us.

While some of the oil has most certainly evaporated, much of it was dispersed and this oil is still floating around, invisible to our eyes, within the ocean’s water column.   Some of the oil has probably sedimented to the seafloor, where it is also invisible to our eyes.  The fact that this oil is “invisible” makes it no less of a danger to the Gulf’s fragile ecosystems.  Quite the contrary, the danger is real and the danger is much more difficult to quantify, track and assess.

The Gulf Oil Blog also addresses the question of how to determine the long-term impacts from all of the dispersants used in this response. Although official tests have pointed to no more toxicity than oil alone (per yesterday’s EPA report), some scientists seem to be unconvinced. This Huffington Post article, originally posted on July 29 is entitled: “Scientist Find Evidence that Dispersant Mix are Making Their Way into the Food Chain“. The scientist they quote are from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and Tulane University.

Clearly there is much to learn, and this disaster will be with us for many years to come.

Thanks again to Claire for letting me blog, Kim.

BP Oil Spill–New Spill Estimates: almost 5 million barrels

New spill estimates released August 2 suggest that 4.9 million barrels of oil (give or take 10%), or 205,000,000 gallons have been released from the Deepwater Horizon oil well.  Of that, they estimate that about 16%, or 800,000 barrels (33.6 million gallons) has been captured. For comparisons sake, the Exxon Valdez spilled 750,000 barrels (31.5 million gallons), and this spill now exceeds the former-largest spill, the 1979  Ixtoc I, which released 140,000,000 gallons.  How they achieved this new estimate is described on the  Deepwater Horizon Unified Command page:

The installation of a new containment cap and the subsequent well integrity testing procedure provided the opportunity to calculate the flow by measuring the pressure at the top of the well as the choke and kill valves were manipulated after the main containment valve was closed to trap hydrocarbons.

Also of interest on the Deepwater Unified Command page was the EPA’s release of the results from toxicity testing on “mixtures of eight oil dispersants with Louisiana Sweet Crude Oil.” The result: “dispersant-oil mixtures are generally no more toxic to the aquatic test species than oil alone.” A link is provided on their page to the tests results.

On other note, the spill is having an impact as far north as Canada. According to the Ontario Star newspaper, as fall approaches the issue of migratory birds that winter in the Gulf Coast region has come into focus. Of major concern are white pelicans, which just came off the endangered species list, but many other birds could be “flying to their demise”. This is impacting many segments of Canadian society:

Scientists aren’t the only ones concerned about the impact the spill may have on Canada’s migratory birds. Aboriginal groups who have for centuries hunted ducks, geese and other waterfowl to feed their families are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama to get involved.

The article mentions a program established by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service which has set up the “Migratory Bird Habitat Initiate” in an effort to mitigate this problem. They are paying farmers in portions of eight states to flood their fields in order to “enhance habitat for migratory birds”.

The Diva will be back from vacation tomorrow. Claire, thanks for letting me stand in for you!

Guest Blogger, Kim Stephens

Oil Spill Disaster – July 30 – commercial fishing to resume

Two news articles about the resumption of fishing off the LA coast: Commercial fishing east of Mississippi River could reopen this week; and another account in Bloomberg News. The decision to resume fishing was supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Admin. [Thanks to Laura Olson for pointing out these articles.]

On the dark side, today’s NY Times has an article titled Gulf of Mexico Has Long Been a Sink of Pollution, NYT, July 30.  Here are some excerpts:

The gulf is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the hemisphere, a stopping point for migratory birds from South America to the Arctic, home to abundant wildlife and natural resources. But like no other American body of water, the gulf bears the environmental consequences of the country’s economic pursuits and appetites, including oil and corn. There are around 4,000 offshore oil and gas platforms and tens of thousands of miles of pipeline in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, where 90 percent of the country’s offshore drilling takes place. At least half a million barrels of oil and drilling fluids had been spilled offshore before the gusher that began after the April 20 explosion, according to government records.

The article then goes on to discuss the latest addition of oil to the waters, saying the Gulf region has been a “sacrifice zone” for the past 50 years. Some additional quotes:

All along the coast, people speak of a lack of regulatory commitment and investment in scientific research on the gulf by state and federal lawmakers.

Some of the strongest resistance to tough regulation, as well as the most permissive attitude toward industry and property development, has come from the Gulf States themselves.

The last line in this article is as follows: “You can fool people, but you cannot fool the fish.”

Another commentary, this one from the environmental community: Deception by dispersal; the great Gulf oil tragedy.

Trust. That’s a feeling severely lacking in the fishing community here. No one trusts anyone after three months of anxiety and depression, watching wave and wave of oil pour into their fishing grounds. They don’t trust BP, the Louisiana fish and wildlife agencies, the EPA or virtually every politician who parades through these communities with false promises and grandstanding accusations. They’ve seen it before during Katrina. Now they’re seeing it again. Some people who are connected are making good money off the misfortune of others. Most are just trying to get by.

Oil Spill – June 12 – anxiety about effects of spilled oil

BP told to step up containment, WSJ, June 12.

The U.S. has given BP PLC two days to devise a more aggressive plan for containing oil leaking from its damaged deepwater well into the Gulf of Mexico, as tension surrounding the spill grows.

It appears that the Administration and the On Scene Coordinator are applying some pressure to BP to do more and do it faster to deal with effects of the oil spill.

Oil Spill – risk considerations June 11

Additional concerns about the environmental and ecological outcomes.  See Spill May Harbor Unique Hazards , Wall St. Journal, June 11.

“This is a three-dimensional spill,” said Columbia University oceanographer…”The physics, the chemistry and the biology action are very different when you have oil released from below.”

In the NYTimes today: BP’s Mess, and Wall Street’s

The Gulf of Mexico spill, like the financial implosion, was largely the product of people taking risks and knowing they wouldn’t be held accountable if things went wrong.