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.

Administrative changes needed to improve federal preparedness and response

Oil spill containment boom, shown holding back oil

Image via Wikipedia

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

BP OIL SPILL Disaster

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.

BP’s Oil Spill Disaster Study is Criticized

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Image by DigitalGlobe-Imagery via Flickr

It is not surprising that BP’s credibility regarding its own analysis of the causes of the disastrous oil spill has been criticized.  Soon the independent panel, created by President Obama, should be issuing their report, which hopefully will be more highly regarded. Credibility of BP Oil Spill Study is Challenged, Wash. Post, Sept. 12.

The BP report spreads much of the responsibility  for the catastrophic blowout to other companies involved in the well operation, and it concludes that some of BP’s most widely criticized decisions in the construction of the well probably did not contribute to the disaster.

Other companies involved in the operation have challenged the report’s credibility, saying it is flawed and self-serving.

New Report – Urgent Recommendations re Gulf Coast Resilience

States that border the Gulf of Mexico are show...

Image via Wikipedia

Before the Next Katrina: Urgent Recommendations for the President & Congress on Gulf  Coast Resilience; Center for National Policy, August 27. In a compelling new report, authors Steve Flynn and Sean Burke address a few new problems, namely, the likelihood of a major hurricane affecting the same Gulf Coast area impacted by the B.P. Oil Spill and how to clarify, coordinate, and reconcile the two federal response systems that pertain.  The Oil Spill response and now the recovery process are proceeding under the authority of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, but a major hurricane is likely to get a Presidential declaration under the Stafford Act.  The authors do an excellent job identifying problem areas and issues that should be address before another big hurricane reaches the Gulf Coast this season, which could be quite soon. See this C-SPAN interview.