Five years have passed since BP’s Macondo well exploded leading to the largest offshore spill in U.S. history. The story of the Deepwater Horizon spill no longer draws much media attention, but the problems have not gone away.
What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know about the Gulf Spill is a new article by Mark Hertsgaard, and if you have ever wondered how the largest single, accidental oil spill in the world just vanished, don’t miss this story. It is an absolutely shocking recounting of BP’s massive, reckless use of the highly toxic dispersant, Corexit, which effectively “disappeared” much of the spilled oil and in the process caused untold damage to clean-up workers’ health and the ecosystem.
Three years after the spill, Herstgaard writes, the disaster has been largely forgotten. “Such collective amnesia may seem surprising,” he continues, “but there may be a good explanation for it: BP mounted a cover-up that concealed the full extent of its crimes from public view. This cover-up prevented the media and therefore the public from knowing — and above all, seeing — just how much oil was gushing into the gulf. The disaster appeared much less extensive and destructive than it actually was. BP declined to comment for this article.”
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.
The Guardian reports today that two scientists “have accused BP of an attack on academic freedom after the oil company successfully subpoenaed thousands of confidential emails related to research on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.”
The accusation comes from oceanographers Richard Camilli and Christopher Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
The two year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion is just a days away, and as Bryan Walsh from Time magazine puts it, the “oil spill seems to divide people into two categories: those who can’t forget, and those who refuse to remember. In the first camp are Gulf Coast residents and environmentalists who say the region still hasn’t recovered from the worst oil spill in U.S. history, and who are still waiting to be made whole—as BP once promised. In the second is much of the oil industry and many Republicans, who like to complain that offshore drilling has slowed under President Obama, yet seem to forget the multi-billion dollar damage that the oil spill left, and the months it took to repair the Macondo blowout.”
You can read more in his article, Nearly two years on, did the BP oil spill have to happen to BP?
And while we’re wondering about the inevitability of BP’s spill, Total’s North Sea gas leak appears to be much worse than originally reported:
Sitting on a powder keg of highly flammable natural gas and gas condensate, the French oil major’s rig could be one of the worst oil disasters in the North Sea. A gas cloud, made mostly of methane, has essentially enveloped the rig after attempts to shut a troubled production failed and caused a leak. If this cloud — which is growing by roughly 200,000 cubic meters a day — ignites, it could be catastrophic.
Clearly, the potential for human and environmental tragedy is the paramount concern here, much as it was with BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster.
News from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is supporting what many have been saying for months: Pollution from the Deepwater Horizon spill is ongoing and harming life in the Gulf of Mexico.
Yesterday the NOAA released information on the disturbing results of its dolphin study, which found that bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico are “severely ill.”
The news was reported by the New York Times and elsewhere, but it was buried down in the environment section. The environment, dolphins, pollution — none of this seems as important as rising gas prices and the administration’s efforts to boost drilling both onshore and offshore.
For those who believed that a trial would be the best way to hold BP accountable for the shortcuts and errors that resulted in the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster, the news out of New Orleans last night was not good.
BP has reached an agreement and will settle the case brought against it by companies and individuals whose livelihoods were impacted by the Gulf oil spill.
Judge Carl J. Barbier of Federal District Court in New Orleans issued an order late Friday night stating that the two sides “have reached an agreement on the terms of a proposed class settlement which will be submitted to the court,” and announcing that the first phase of the trial, scheduled to begin on Monday, is adjourned indefinitely while the next steps are worked out.
Tullow Oil and Anadarko have been in the news, both inside and outside Ghana. In Ghana, things are going well for the two companies. Tullow, most notably, appears to be moving towards development of its recent Tweneboa and Enyera discoveries (translation: more commercial oil production on the way).
Outside of Ghana it’s a different story. In Uganda, Tullow is caught up in a political scandal involving corruption allegations. The Ugandan government has blocked Tullow’s sale of some of its Ugandan holdings to Total and CNOOC, pending an investigation. Tullow categorically denies the allegations, but there’s no denying that Uganda’s oil adventure does not look to be off to a good start.
Have you seen this? BP is out to win the hearts and minds of Gulf Coast residents with upbeat videos on YouTube. Everything is great! Based on the comments I’ve read so far, it doesn’t look like their campaign is having much success.
Recent news accounts also paint a more nuanced picture of Gulf Coast “recovery”: BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tar balls washed onto Gulf of Mexico beaches by Tropical Storm Lee earlier this month show that oil left over from last year’s BP spill isn’t breaking down as quickly as some scientists thought it would, university researchers said Tuesday.
The U.S. government has released its report of the federal investigation of the Macondo well blowout. Although the investigators hold BP, the well’s owner, responsible for the accident, Transocean and Halliburton share the blame for many of the mistakes that led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Both Transocean and Halliburton are active in Ghana. Transocean got a bit of (bad) publicity in June when its Marianas rig, operating in Ghana, had to be evacuated after it began taking on water.
BP held its first annual shareholders’ meeting since the Deepwater Horizon disaster yesterday in London. The meeting was marked by protests outside and protest votes inside. Several people who had traveled to London from the Gulf of Mexico to share their stories with BP shareholders were prevented from entering and later arrested.
The protests got the meeting into the news and reminded people for a moment that the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill is ongoing. BP claims it has learned its lessons and the Obama administration is issuing new drilling permits for the Gulf of Mexico. The oil industry has moved on, but what about the Gulf?
Transocean, remember them?
Transocean Ltd. had its “best year in safety performance” despite the explosion of its Deepwater Horizon rig that left 11 dead and oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the world’s largest offshore-rig company said in a securities filing Friday.
Accordingly, Transocean’s executives received two-thirds of their target safety bonus. Safety accounts for 25% of the equation that determines the yearly cash bonuses, along with financial factors including new rig contracts
The payout contrasts with that for 2009, when the company withheld all executive bonuses after incurring four fatalities that year “to underscore the company’s commitment to safety.”
Read this and think.
This excellent article details many of the “externalized” costs of oil production — costs that we pay through the myriad subsidies we provide to the oil companies. And one thing worth noting with this accounting: the costs of damage caused by drilling and spills in many developing countries can only be guesstimated. Standard operating procedure for oil companies working in locales far from prying journalists or vigilant authorities is to simply ignore environmental and economic damage.
Out of sight, out of mind.