October 13, 2011
USA Today Your Life
By: Jennifer Portman
In wake of last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study from an environmental watchdog group contends that current federal standards underestimate the risk to pregnant women and children of cancer-causing contaminants that can accumulate in seafood from such spills.
The Natural Resources Defense Council study, published Wednesday in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that because of outdated assessment methods and assumptions, the Food and Drug Administration’s standard for certain carbon compounds in seafood is off by 10,000 times.
The group is requesting that the FDA enact a rule that sets a limit on the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons deemed safe for pregnant women and young children.
“Everybody is using the numbers FDA published, and they are flawed,” said study co-author Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, who added that her analysis did not find any significant concerns for other adults.
However, FDA and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services officials stand by their testing methods. They stress that seafood from the gulf harvested in areas reopened since the spill and those that were never closed, remain safe.
“We’re very confident that the steps that we have put in place to assure the safety of seafood have worked,” FDA spokesman Doug Karas said. “We put in an extensive program of sampling, at that time and since then, and the results have consistently been 100 to 1,000 times below our levels of concern.”
Sterling Ivey, spokesman for Florida’s agriculture department that has been tasked with monitoring seafood safety, agreed.
“We’ve been continuing to test, and we haven’t found any issue with the seafood we are testing,” Ivey said. “We haven’t found any contaminates or high carbonates in the samples we are testing that has showed the seafood is not safe for anyone to eat.”
Between August 2010 and August of this year, the department has screened 358 seafood samples, and all were below the FDA’s levels of concern.
But concerns about seafood safety have continued to be an issue, Ivey said. In response to that concern, Florida has received $20 million from BP to increase the state’s testing capabilities and launch an aggressive marketing campaign to inform the public that gulf seafood is safe to eat.
The Natural Resources Defense Council says federal standards that states rely on are outdated and don’t do enough to protect vulnerable populations that eat a lot of seafood. The study found about 50 percent of the shrimp the FDA tested after the BP spill had harmful carbon levels exceeding the level of risk deemed by the group to be safe for pregnant women.
The FDA said most of the seafood it sampled after the spill had no detectable trace of oil. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals calculated that every day for five years the average person could eat 1,575 jumbo shrimp or 130 oysters without health concerns.
Jeff Stilwell, owner of Barnacle Bill’s restaurant in Tallahassee, Fla., said he supports watchdog groups but wouldn’t mind seeing another study to “validate that (the Natural Resources Defense Council numbers) are even in the ballpark.”
His experience with seafood safety has been in a different area but adds that he’s never seen seafood inspectors more vigilant than they have been following the oil spill.
The agriculture department increased inspections and shortened fishing times. Stilwell said oysters must be into coolers by 2 p.m. and must drop to a certain temperature between 2 and 4 p.m. At 4 p.m., inspectors will come to the oyster house and insert thermometers into oysters at the top, middle and bottom of each batch.
If one of those oysters hasn’t reached the right temperature, Stilwell said the batch can’t be sold.
“I’m more confident than I’ve ever been that nothing’s coming through my door that’s harmful to anyone,” he said.
July 27, 2010
By: Steve Hawkes
BP made the announcement as it plunged into the red for the first time in 18 YEARS after racking up a huge clean-up bill of more than £20BILLION — the cost of TWO Olympic games — for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Under-fire Mr Hayward will be handed a part-time role at the firm’s joint venture in Russia, whose oil and gas fields are nearly all on the vast, bleak Siberian plains.
He will also have a huge pay-off to keep him warm, which BP is set to confirm today is worth up to £15MILLION.
Today Mr Hayward said: “I became the public face of BP, as a consequence of that I was demonised and vilified.
“BP cannot move on in the US with me as its leader.
“Its a practical matter, not a matter of whether life is fair or not. Life isn’t fair, but we all know that.”
The firm has also announced a shake-up of its portfolio including up to £19.3billion in asset sales over the next 18 months.
Meanwhile in London this morning Greenpeace protesters claimed they shut down around 50 service stations in a bid to urge the oil company to adopt greener energy policies.
Greenpeace boss John Sauven said: “Under Tony Hayward the company went backwards, squeezing the last drops of oil from places like the Gulf of Mexico, the tar sands of Canada and even the fragile Arctic wilderness.”
Brit Mr Hayward is carrying the can for the devastating Deepwater Horizon tragedy which has badly damaged BP’s reputation in the States.
He is being replaced by American BP’s director Bob Dudley, who will be the firm’s first non-British boss.
Mr Hayward will stand down on October 1. He is then set to take up his new job at BP’s joint-venture TNK-BP – which ironically was once headed by Mr Dudley. Its fields are mainly in Siberia and the Urals.
Mr Hayward refused to comment yesterday as he was whisked from BP’s London HQ in a car with darkened windows.
Meanwhile his pay-out, which could include a £583,000-a-year pension the moment he steps down, has caused outrage in the US.
Lawyer Brent Coon, who is acting for workers hit by the Gulf disaster, said: “I think you would find that everybody over here thinks he should cough up every dime he has.”
July 8, 2010
ABC World News
By: Ron Claiborne
Scientists and government officials fired back at Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal today, saying homegrown plans he is backing to protect the state’s delicate coastline could actually do more harm than good.
Jindal flew over Barataria Bay on this 79th day of since BP’s Deepwater Horizon well exploded, sending up to 60,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. He was there to take another look at the environmentally sensitive coastline where oil has been encroaching for weeks. It is in that location that he and other Louisiana officials want to build their latest controversial attempt to stop the oil from reaching their coast — a rock barrier.
Jindal supports a plan to build artificial islands made of tons of rocks and boulders, which he says would slow the flow of oil into the bay, but federal officials have refused the state the necessary permissions to build, and that has triggered an increasingly heated political confrontation.
“We don’t have time for meetings, we don’t have time for red tape,” Jindal has said. “Get in the game to win.”
Jindal has used similar highly critical language to poke at the Obama administration for more than a month.
“No is not a plan,” the governor said at a press conference today.
Privately, federal officials are furious with Jindal’s behavior and say they’re baffled by his plans, but it’s not just federal officials that are opposed to Jindal’s rock jetty proposal.
Scientist Express Opposition to Rock Jetty Plan
Multiple government agencies have weighed in opposing the plan, but an army of scientists has also come forward to express their concerns.
The scientists worry that the rock plan could do more harm than good, fearing that in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, water and oil would rush in the remaining gaps between the natural islands at an even faster rate than now.
When that water inevitably flows back out to sea, they say, it could erode the fragile barrier islands and create new gaps for oil to get in.
The scientists also note that there is currently no funding in place to remove the rocks once they’re in place. However, the Governor has said that local officials have requested BP set up an escrow account to pay for the rock removal.
Jindal: Same Old Bureaucracy
Today, Jindal said he doesn’t buy the scientists’ arguments and promises to push forward.
“This is the same bureaucracy that has turned down every other plan. They don’t have an alternative,” the governor said. “Their resolution is [to] let the oil come into the bay.”
It’s not the first time that a Jindal plan has been blocked by federal authorities. Just last month, the governor made headlines by appealing all the way to President Obama, asking for permission to build sand berms. In fact, the Governor’s office notes that the rock jetty is the third plan they have tried to get approved, all in order to save their coast lines.
For its part today, the White House offered up a new prediction, claiming that they will reach their goal of closing off 90 percent of the oil coming out of BP’s leaking well head by the end of this week.
A new tanker will be in place to collect a lot more oil, though the development comes a week later than initially promised due to the bad weather caused by Hurricane Alex.
June 18, 2010
New York Post
By Ben Lieberman
President Obama has a solution to the Gulf oil spill: $7-a-gallon gas.
That’s a Harvard University study’s estimate of the per-gallon price of the president’s global-warming agenda. And Obama made clear this week that this agenda is a part of his plan for addressing the Gulf mess.
So what does global-warming legislation have to do with the oil spill?
Good question, because such measures wouldn’t do a thing to clean up the oil or fix the problems that led to the leak.
The answer can be found in Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s now-famous words, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste — and what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”
That sure was true of global-warming policy, and especially the cap-and-trade bill. Many observers thought the measure, introduced last year in the House by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), was dead: The American people didn’t seem to think that the so-called global-warming crisis justified a price-hiking, job-killing, economy-crushing redesign of our energy supply amid a fragile recovery. Passing another major piece of legislation, one every bit as unpopular as ObamaCare, appeared unlikely in an election year.
So Obama and congressional proponents of cap-and-trade spent several months rebranding it — downplaying the global-warming rationale and claiming that it was really a jobs bill (the so-called green jobs were supposed to spring from the new clean-energy economy) and an energy-independence bill (that will somehow stick it to OPEC).
June 14, 2010
President Barack Obama likened the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the September 11 attacks in an interview published on the eve of his fourth visit Monday to the stricken region.
“In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11, I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come,” he told Politico.com.
Obama said he would be making a fresh bid to get Congress to pass a major energy and climate bill.
June 9, 2010
By Jay Reeves
A top BP executive says the company expects to be capturing virtually all the oil leaking from the Gulf floor by early next week.
Chief operating officer Doug Suttles told The Associated Press on Tuesday in Gulf Shores, Ala., that the flow should decrease “to a relative trickle” by Monday or Tuesday.
President Barack Obama plans to visit the region the same days.
Suttles says a second pumping ship should improve the process. And he says a new containment cap being built will seal better and reduce leakage.
He says BP believes the oil now washing up on the coast was spilled soon after a rig exploded about 50 days ago and sank.
Suttles says oil will probably continue to wash up for about the same period after the well fully shuts down.
A relief well expected to stop the flow is expected to be done in August.
June 2, 2010
By Melissa Nelson
A Florida beach might get hit with oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident for the first time Wednesday as sheen likely caused by the accident was reported less than 10 miles off Pensacola Beach.
A charter boat captain reported the oil Tuesday afternoon and state and local environmental officials confirmed that it was about 9.5 miles offshore. Winds are forecast to blow from the south and west, pushing the outer edges of massive slick from the spill closer to western Panhandle beaches.
Emergency crews began Tuesday scouring the beaches for oil and shoring up miles of boom. Escambia County will use it to block oil from reaching inland waterways, but plans to leave beaches unprotected because they are too difficult to protect and easier to clean up.
The spill’s arrival coincides with the beginning of the Panhandle’s summer tourism season, which normally brings millions of dollars to the region.
“It’s inevitable that we will see it on the beaches,” said Keith Wilkins, Escambia’s deputy chief of neighborhood and community services.
The oil has been creeping toward Florida since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and eventually collapsing into the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 20 million to 40 million gallons of oil has spewed into the Gulf, eclipsing the 11 million that leaked from the Exxon Valdez disaster. The rig was being operated for petroleum giant BP, which has tried unsuccessfully for six week to stanch the oil.
The Florida report followed an orange and oily mess washing up on Alabama’s beaches earlier Tuesday. Crews cleaned up the oil that they described as having the consistency of a “tarry mousse,” but health officials closed the beaches to swimming.
Pensacola Beach officials said their request for about $150,000 from BP to buy sifting machines and a tractor to help remove oil from the beach’s famous white sands has lingered unanswered for more than three weeks. BP has promised it will pay any expenses, but Panhandle officials say the bureaucracy has been slow. Some think the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be running the cleanup operation, not BP.
“We need the sifters and we haven’t gotten them approved yet,” said W.A. “Buck” Lee, Santa Rosa Island Authority’s executive director. “It’s been three weeks and the oil is coming. In my opinion, this entire thing should have been a FEMA project all along. If a hurricane blows the roof off your jail, you shouldn’t have to wait and send a letter to BP to replace the roof on your jail.”
Lee said BP has spent money on public relations, but not on preparations for beach cleanup. The company has provided the sate with $25 million to promote tourism. Escambia approved $700,000 in emergency funding for tourism promotion Tuesday, with another $700,000 to be allocated in 45 days.
Lee said the bureaucratic process set up at the federal staging centers in Alabama and Louisiana have also made it difficult to get information about his pending request.
Coast Guard Chief Peter Capelotti, spokesman for the Mobile, Ala.-based command center, did not have an immediate answer late Tuesday about the delay in approving Escambia county’s request for the tractor and other equipment.
Capelotti said command center officials expect more oil to make landfall in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle through Friday.
On Pensacola Beach, emergency crews are prepared for a long summer of oil clean up. They plan to remove oil in cycles after it is pushed onshore and the winds shift. Removing oil while it’s moving onshore doesn’t make sense, Wilkins said.
“It would be like trying to go out and clean up in the middle of a hurricane,” he said. “We will wait until after the bands make their way onshore and the weather shifts and then we will clean up before the next band hits.”
May 18, 2010
By Matthew Daly
WASHINGTON (AP) – Last week, it was oil executives who faced the wrath of lawmakers eager to find blame for the massive oil spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other federal officials will come under questioning for what the government did – or did not do – to prevent the oil spill, and how they have responded since oil started streaming into the Gulf last month.
Salazar, who oversees the federal agency that monitors offshore drilling, will testify before two Senate committees. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen also will testify at separate hearings, and oil company executives are back for a second round of questions.
The hearings come amid the first high-level resignation related to the oil spill and a decision by President Barack Obama to name a presidential commission to investigate the cause of the rig explosion that unleashed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, where engineers are struggling after three weeks to stop the flow.
The presidential panel will be similar to ones that examined the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident, said a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been formally announced.
The commission would be one of nearly a dozen investigations and reviews launched since the April 20 explosion, although it probably would be the most comprehensive.
May 17, 2010
By Justin Pritchard, AP
The federal agency responsible for ensuring that the Deepwater Horizon was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that the rig be inspected at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows.
In fact, the agency’s inspection frequency on the Deepwater Horizon fell dramatically over the past five years, according to federal Minerals Management Service records. The rig blew up April 20, killing 11 people before sinking and triggering a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since January 2005, inspectors issued just one minor infraction for the rig. That strong track record led the agency last year to herald the Deepwater Horizon as an industry model for safety.
The inspection gaps are the latest in a series of questions raised about the agency’s oversight of the oil drilling industry. Members of Congress and President Barack Obama have criticized what they call the cozy relationship between regulators and oil companies and vowed to reform MMS, which both regulates the industry and collects billions in royalties from it.
Earlier AP investigations have shown that the doomed rig was allowed to operate without safety documentation required by MMS regulations for the exact disaster scenario that occurred; that the cutoff valve which failed has repeatedly broken down at other wells in the years since regulators weakened testing requirements; and that regulation is so lax that some key safety aspects on rigs are decided almost entirely by the companies doing the work.
The AP sought to find out how many times government safety inspectors visited the Deepwater Horizon, and what they found. In response, MMS officials offered a changing series of numbers. The MMS has had long-standing issues with its data management.
At first, officials said 83 inspections had been performed since the rig arrived in the Gulf 104 months ago, in September 2001. While being questioned about the once-per-month claim, the officials subsequently revised the total up to 88 inspections. The number of more recent inspections also changed — from 26 to 48 in the 64 months since January 2005.
No explanation was given for the upward revisions. AP granted the officials anonymity because without that condition, communications staff at the Interior Department, which oversees MMS, would not have let them talk.
Based on the last set of numbers provided, the Deepwater Horizon was inspected 40 times during its first 40 months in the Gulf — in line with agency policy for offshore drilling rigs.
Even using the more favorable numbers for the most recent 64 months, 25 percent of monthly inspections were not performed. The first set of data supplied to AP represented a 59 percent shortfall in the number of inspections.
Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff would not comment on the inspection numbers. Instead, she offered a general statement: “We are looking at all the questions that are coming out of the Deepwater Horizon incident.”
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by AP, the agency has released copies of only three inspection reports — those conducted in January, February and April. According to the documents, inspectors spent two hours or less each time they visited the massive rig. Some information appeared to be “whited out,” without explanation.
Since the explosion, the agency has reiterated several times the inspection-once-per-month assertion, which appeared on its website at least as early as 1999.
In an e-mail to AP, an Interior Department official emphasized with italics that the MMS inspects rigs “at least once a month” when drilling is under way. Monthly inspections of offshore drilling rigs are an agency policy, though not required by regulation, said David Dykes, chief of the agency’s office of safety management for the Gulf region.
Last week, at a joint Coast Guard-MMS investigatory hearing in Kenner, La., MMS official Jason Mathews asked Michael Saucier, MMS’s regional supervisor for field operations in the Gulf, “And how often do we perform drilling inspections in the Gulf of Mexico?”
“We perform them at a minimum once a month, but we can do more if need be,” Saucier said.
The job falls to the 55 inspectors in the Gulf who are supposed to visit the 90 drilling rigs once per month and the approximately 3,500 oil production platforms once per year.
April 1, 2010
By: Suzanne Goldenberg
Barack Obama took the Republican slogan “drill, baby, drill” as his own today, opening up over 500,000 square miles of US coastal waters to oil and gas exploitation for the first time in over 20 years.
The move, a reversal of Obama’s early campaign promise to retain a ban on offshore exploration, appeared aimed at winning support from Republicans in Congress for new laws to tackle global warming. Sarah Palin’s “Drill, baby, drill” slogan was a prominent battle cry in the 2008 elections.
The areas opened up are off the Atlantic coast, the northern coast of Alaska and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. However, in a concession to his environmentalist base, Obama did retain protection for Alaska’s Bristol Bay, the single largest source of seafood in America and home to endangered species of whale. The Pacific Coast from Mexico to Canada is also off-limits.
Obama said the decision to allow oil rigs off the Atlantic coast was a painful one, but that it would help reduce US dependence on imported oil.
“This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly,” the president said. “But the bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we’re going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.”
He said the administration would take steps to protect the environment and areas important to tourism off the Atlantic, as well as sensitive areas in the Arctic, and added: “Drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and for the sake of the planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.”
Interior department officials said the areas opened up today are thought to contain the equivalent of three years’ annual US useage of recoverable oil and two years’ worth of natural gas.