BP oil spill

Thu, 2014-04-17 08:00Julie Dermansky
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Insect Population Dwindling in Louisiana Marshlands Four Years After BP Blowout

Louisiana State University entomologist Linda Hooper-Bui has been studying the impact of the BP oil spill on insects and spiders for almost four years. She started her study shortly after the Macondo well blew out on April 20, 2010, before any oil washed up on shore. Her work documents the dwindling of the insect population in areas directly hit with the oil.

On April 9th, she returned to Bay Jimmy and Bay Baptiste, areas that were heavily impacted by the oil spill in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

“Insects are the basis of the food chain. They are like nature's Twinkies,” Hooper-Bui says.

Her studies also monitor fish and birds, since they eat insects. She sweeps areas designated for her study by walking back and forth waving a net, catching whatever insects are present.  She then empties the net into alcohol, preserving the insects for testing. She takes note of the wind speed and temperature at each location and collects a sample of sediment to be tested for hydrocarbons.


Weathered oil found coating the surface of the marsh in Bay Baptiste, Louisiana on April 9, 2014. ©2014 Julie Dermansky

Back in the lab, Hooper-Bui sorts insects by species. She sends some out for testing and stores the rest so other scientists can study them. The results of the test reveal the nutrients found in them, including carbon, nitrogen and sulfur. Knowing what the insects are eating helps her evaluate changes in the environment. She compares the data from sites that were oiled to those that were not.

Wed, 2013-10-23 05:00Julie Dermansky
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Gulf Shrimper Dean Blanchard of Grand Isle Sets the Record Straight About BP's Failed Cleanup

The second phase of hearings in the legal battle over the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico ended on October 17th. Following two weeks of testimony by the U.S. Department of Justice and BP, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier will determine what quantity of oil was spilled into the Gulf. He will also decide whether BP was simply negligent or grossly negligent.

The Justice Department claims 176 million gallons of oil were spilled; BP argues that it only spilled 103 million gallons. Under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Control Act, Judge Barbier can fine BP and its partners $1,100 per barrel should he find they were negligent in their actions leading up to the spill and in the cleanup afterwards. The fine would rise to $4,300 per barrel if he finds the companies were grossly negligent or acted with willful misconduct, as the State Department alleges.

Using the State Department’s numbers, the fine could be $18 billion; if BP’s numbers are accepted, the fine could be $10.5 billion. 

The outcome of the case will play a role in all subsequent litigation around the BP disaster, including the case of Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood, the largest shrimp buyer and wholesaler in the Gulf region. Blanchard's company in Grand Isle, Louisiana is all but shut down now. Blanchard keeps a small fraction of his staff employed – more of them than he needs to keep his dwindling operation going. He doesn't have the heart to make further cuts.

Blanchard estimates his company’s loss at over $100 million. He estimates that his business is now 15 percent of what it was before the spill. He keeps his doors open only because he can't bring himself to close down. He recently moved part of his business to a different area where some shrimpers are still able to harvest product, but he faces an uphill battle against BP, and an uncertain future, along with many other Gulf fishermen.

Dean Blanchard talks about the use of the chemical dispersant Corexit during the BP oil spill:

Wed, 2013-04-03 16:11Steve Horn
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Exxon's Unfriendly Skies: Why Does Exxon Control the No-Fly Zone Over Arkansas Tar Sands Spill?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had a “no fly zone” in place in Mayflower, Arkansas since April 1 at 2:12 PM and will be in place “until further notice,” according to the FAA website and it's being overseen by ExxonMobil itself. In other words, any media or independent observers who want to witness the tar sands spill disaster have to ask Exxon's permission.

Mayflower is the site of the recent major March 29 ExxonMobil Pegagus tar sands pipeline spill, which belched out an estimated 5,000 barrels of tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) into the small town's neighborhoods, causing the evacuation of 22 homes

The rules of engagement for the no fly zone dictate that no aircraft can fly within 1,000 feet of the ground in the five-mile radius surrounding the ExxonMobil Pegasus tar sands pipeline spillThe area located within this radius includes the nearby Pine Village Airport.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette revealed that the FAA site noted earlier today that “only relief aircraft operations under direction of Tom Suhrhoff” were allowed within the designated no fly zone. 

Suhrhoff is not an FAA employee: he works for ExxonMobil as an “Aviation Advisor and formerly worked as a U.S. Army pilot for 24 years, according to his LinkedIn page. 

Tue, 2013-03-26 05:30Steve Horn
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State Department's Keystone XL Contractor ERM Green-Lighted BP's Explosive Caspian Pipeline That Failed To Live Up to Jobs Hype

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Almost 11 years ago in June 2002, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group declared the controversial 1,300 mile-long Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline environmentally and socio-economically sound, a tube which brings oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea to the export market.

On March 1, it said the same of the proposed 1,179 mile-long TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline on behalf of an Obama State Department that has the final say on whether the northern segment of the KXL pipeline becomes a reality. KXL would carry diluted bitumen or “dilbit” from the Alberta tar sands down to Port Arthur, Texas, after which it will be exported to the global market

Environmental Resources Management Group, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed, has historical ties to Big Tobacco and its clients include ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Koch IndustriesMother Jones also revealed that ERM - the firm the State Dept. allowed TransCanada to choose on its behalf - has a key personnel tie to TransCanada

Unexamined thus far in the KXL scandal is ERM's past green-light report on the BTC Pipeline - hailed as the “Contract of the Century” - which has yet to be put into proper perspective.

ERM is a key player in what PLATFORM London describes as the “Carbon Web,” shorthand for “the network of relationships between oil and gas companies and the government departments, regulators, cultural institutions, banks and other institutions that surround them.”  

In the short time it has been on-line, the geostrategically important BTC pipeline - coined the “New Silk Road” by The Financial Times - has proven environmentally volatile. A full review of the costs and consequences of ERM's penchant for rubber-stamping troubling oil and gas infrastructure is in order.

Wed, 2012-09-19 11:14Steve Horn
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Petroleum Broadcasting System's "Newshour" and the Merchants of Climate Doubt

There's an old German proverb that goes, “Whose bread I eat his song I sing.”

Enter a recent spate of reportage by the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) ”Newshour.” In a September 17 story titled, “Climate Change Skeptic Says Global Warming Crowd Oversells Its Message” (with a URL titled, “Why the Global Warming Crowd Oversells its Message”) the Newshour “provided an unchecked platform for Anthony Watts, a virulent climate change denier funded by the Heartland Institute,” as described by Forecast the Facts.

Forecast the Facts created a petition demanding that the “PBS ombudsman…immediately investigate how this segment came to be aired,” stating that, “This is the kind of reporting we expect from Fox News, not PBS.”

Very true, this is exactly the type of reporting we've come to expect out of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, a cable “news” network that provides a voice for right-wing propagandists on all policy issues, including climate change denial. But perhaps expectations are too high for PBS' “Newshour” and we should've expected exactly what we got: a friendly platform for the climate change denying merchants of doubt

What's at play here goes above and beyond a single bad story by “Newshour.” Rather, it's a small piece and the result of an aggressive campaign that's been going on for nearly two decades to destroy public television in the public interest.

Based on the shift in how the “Newshour” has funded itself over the years, it's evident that the once-esteemed ”MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” streamed on the Public Broadcasting System has transformed PBS into what investigative reporter Greg Palast calls the “Petroleum Broadcasting System.”

Mon, 2012-05-28 11:53Laurel Whitney
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Toothpaste More Dangerous Than Fracking, "Expert" Says

It's okay, people. We've been blowing this whole fracking thing way out of proportion. Dr. Barry Stevens of TBD America sets the record straight in hopes that we'll re-align our focus and concentrate on the real issues at hand, which, by the way, is not fracking (Spoiler Alert: it's toothpaste).

Over at OilPrice.com, Dr. Stevens has provided an exhaustive retort to some “environmentalist” who posed the question, “if hydraulic fracturing is so safe, why do drilling operators working in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Play dispose the backflow out of state in Ohio?”

Let me summarize some of Dr. Steven's salient points for you:

Earthquakes really aren't that big a deal.

“…injection well seismicity typically ranges from 1 to 4 on the Richter scale and rarely cause damage.”

Sure, Youngstown, Ohio, where the earthquakes happened, may have never had them before, but that doesn't mean anything. The State Representative there is just going way overboard in calling for an indefinite moratorium there. The citizens should really be thinking of it as a free city-wide massage. Besides, the D&L Energy said it will be conducting its own investigation. I’m sure they’ll find it’s nothing to worry about.

Wed, 2012-04-25 13:58Steve Horn
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2008 Shell Nigeria Oil Spill 60 Times Larger Than Originally Claimed

Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) dropped a bombshell early this week, unveiling documents pertaining to the Royal Dutch Shell Oil 2008 Bodo oil pipeline spill.

The documents indicate that the Shell spill released 60 times the amount of oil Shell had originally reported in the ravaged Niger Delta coastal town with a population of 60,000 people.

In a press release, Amnesty explained its findings:

The previously unpublished assessment, carried out by US firm Accufacts, found that between 1,440 and 4,320 barrels of oil were flooding the Bodo area each day following the leak. The Nigerian regulators have confirmed that the spill lasted for 72 days.

Shell’s official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total. But based on the independent assessment the total amount of oil spilt over the 72 day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels.

Adding insult to injury, Shell has yet to begin to clean up what it has destroyed. “More than three years after the Bodo oil spill, Shell has yet to conduct a proper clean up or to pay any official compensation to the affected communities,” wrote Amnesty.

Fri, 2011-01-14 08:38Farron Cousins
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What Was Missing From the Oil Spill Commission's Report

Earlier this week, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released their final report on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. For those of us who had been following the story, there was nothing new in the report – BP, Halliburton, and Transocean cut corners on safety measures; They received warnings from crew that there were numerous problems, and that the whole disaster should make us take a good hard look at offshore drilling. I’m a little sensitive about this subject because I am a lifelong Gulf Coast resident. While most people only read about the disaster or saw clips on the news, I was living through it, watching tar balls roll up on the beaches I’ve played on since I was an infant.

The report does point some fingers, but the pointing ends with companies like BP, Halliburton, and Transocean. That is the equivalent of blaming Ford if a drunk driver gets into a wreck. In that situation, you have a driver at fault, a bartender who didn’t take away someone’s keys – a collective group making poor decisions. In the Gulf oil disaster, the driver was Dick Cheney, and the bartender was Chris Oynes. Yet strangely enough, neither one of those people were mentioned once in the Oil Spill Commission’s 382-page report.

Thu, 2010-06-10 19:00Morgan Goodwin
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Exercise in Denial: BP Still Claims No Oil Plumes

BP Executives Tony Hayward and Doug Suttles have repeatedly denied the existence of underwater oil plumes in recent weeks.  They cite expert evidence and studies, even as multiple other studies have shown the existence of plumes.  Just how deep is the culture of denial in this large oil company?

Energy Boom reported on May 31st that “Hayward said samples taken by the company show no evidence of large masses of underwater oil.  He said that oil’s natural tendency is to rise to rise to the surface, and any oil underwater is currently making its way to the top.”

Days earlier, on May 28th, the Wall Street Journal reported a University of South Florida research vessel discovered an oil plume 1300 feet below the surface.  Then on June 9th, a two-week research expedition on the Walton Smith (pictured above) found overwhelming amounts of evidence for plumes and large clouds of oil below the surface.  The samples, pulled from depths of up to 1200 meters “stank to high heaven,” researcher Smanatha Joye said. “They smelled like creosote, asphalt and diesel.”

Yet on June 9th BP COO of Exploration and Production told NBC’s Today show still defended Hayward’s statement, saying “we haven’t found any large concentrations of oil under the sea” and that it “may be down to how you define what a plume is here.” Watch the whole chilling interview:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tue, 2010-06-08 17:32Brendan DeMelle
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Sen. Lindsey Graham, Former Friend of Climate Legislation, Now Foe, and Acting Denier-ish

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has told reporters that he will vote against the climate bill that he helped to craft along with remaining co-sponsors Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).  According to CongressDaily (sub. req’d), Graham says he doesn’t like “new changes [to the bill] that further restrict offshore oil and gas drilling and the bill’s impact on the transportation sector.”

As David Roberts at Grist writes:
“Yes, you read that right: He says he’s bailing from the bill because, in the wake of one of the greatest offshore oil drilling disasters of all time, a bill devoted to reducing climate pollution does not expand offshore oil drilling enough. Such is the Bizarro World of the U.S. Senate.”

Graham previously yanked his name off the bill out of anger surrounding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to prioritize immigration reform over climate and energy.  While some still hoped that Graham would suck it up and vote for whatever eventually became of the bill he helped create, he dashed all hopes of that happening today.

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