Did U.S. government downplay B.P. spill impact on wildlife?

Photo: NOAA

Greenpeace has obtained a cache of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) documents and photographs that suggest U.S. government officials kept information from the public in an attempt to downplay the environmental damage of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

On June 15, 2010, NOAA crew aboard the research vessel, Pisces, spotted a dead sperm whale floating in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Guardian, “NOAA did put out a press release about the dead whale. However, the release was edited and shortened in a way which appeared to minimise the effects of oil on whales.”  The press coverage of the whale spotting was limited and it appears now that may have been the objective of U.S. officials.

Greenpeace used FOIA requests to obtain the NOAA emails, the Guardian continues, that indicate “repeated instructions from NOAA officials to crew aboard the Pisces not to release information or photographs.”

Read the full article, U.S. downplayed effect of Deepwater spill on whales, emails reveal, on the Guardian website.

Greenpeace filed the Freedom of Information Act request in August of 2010 and did not get any response from the NOAA until May 2012. At that time Greepeace obtained over 100 photos, including a number of images of dead sea turtles, their bodies covered in thick oil. Mother Jones wrote about the censored NOAA photos on May 7th:

Most photos are missing dates and descriptions, though the FOIA request covered the period of April 20, 2010, to July 30, 2010. But they’re pretty shocking—which is probably why they weren’t made public at the height of the spill. “It just makes me furious,” said John Hocevar, a marine biologist who works for Greenpeace. “I had so many conversations with people in various government agencies working on the Gulf spill, and I feel like they were hiding things from all of us.”

“The White House was sitting on this stuff for over two years, at the same time they were saying everything was fine, that the oil was gone, and while they were rushing ahead with plans for new drilling in the Gulf, the Arctic, elsewhere,” Hocevar continued. “It’s just not okay. This is not an acceptable type of collateral damage.”

BP continues to run its ad campaign on U.S. television, extolling its clean-up efforts and once-again booming tourism industry along the Gulf Coast. Romney and Obama are competing for the label of most drilling-friendly presidential candidate. And two and a half years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the American people are still waiting for unbiased information on environmental damage and the actual state of the Gulf today.
 
The Macondo well site is leaking now and has been since at least September 16th. That’s right — oil, at least 100 gallons per day — is seeping from the same well that blew back in April 2010 and no one knows why. Read more here.
BP says it is not the well that is leaking, but a container near the well. Can we believe that? Stories of ongoing leakage at the site are not new — already in 2011 there were numerous reports of oil leaking at or near the Macondo well site.
Al Jazeera English did a feature story and video report on the chronic leak issue back in March. You can read and watch that here.
 
Money triumphs, as always.

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