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October 25 2012

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Effects of Corexit on marine life in Gulf, 2.5 years on
Reposted byTheoRettich TheoRettich

May 11 2012

May 04 2012

Gulf of Mexico coast closed to shrimping

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. ['Official' reason is now reported to be smaller than average shrimp.]

All waters in the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay, and some areas of Bon Secour, Wolf Bay and Little Lagoon were closed to shrimpers. Reports of grossly deformed seafood all along the Gulf from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle have been logged with increasing urgency, but Alabama is the first state to actually close waters to the seafood industry.

And it’s not just the shrimp. Commercial fishermen are reporting red snapper and grouper riddled with deep lesions and covered with strange black streaks. Highly underdeveloped blue crabs are being pulled up in traps without eyes and claws…

Commercial fishers Tracy Kuhns and Mike Roberts from Barataria, LA reported to Al Jazeera when showing samples of eyeless shrimp…

“At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these. Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets.”

And there’s no question that the leftover mess from BP’s disaster can affect human health. The dispersants BP used to ‘hide’ the extent of their blow-out contain solvents that are notoriously toxic to people and include known mutagens. Pathways of human exposure include inhalation, skin and eye contact as well as ingestion, and exposure causes headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, chest pain, respiratory system damage, skin sensitization, hypertension, CNS depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage. They also cause fetal deformities and cancer.

The FDA and EPA refused public comment, sending Al Jazeera to NOAA for comment. Which NOAA refused to do because its investigation for a lawsuit against BP concerning the spill is ongoing. BP, however, wasn’t so shy as not to deliver a statement on the presence of deformed and polluted seafood…

“Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.”

So there you have it. State officials in Alabama have taken action, and other states need to take action to keep dangerous seafood from the Gulf off the dinner tables of Americans. While the feds are busy helping British Petroleum cover up the damage they’ve done, even if it means poisoning innocent American citizens, deforming babies, causing cancers, etc.

Once again our government chooses to lie and do great harm to American citizens in order to protect a foreign gigacorp from the consequences of their criminal business practices. Who is surprised?

April 22 2012

Investigation: Two Years After the BP Spill, A Hidden Health Crisis Festers


On March 3 Nicole Maurer learned of the proposed settlement between BP and hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast businesses and residents harmed by its 2010 oil spill, the largest in US history.

In her cramped but immaculate trailer on a muddy back road in the small town of Buras, Louisiana, Nicole tells me that the two years since the tragedy began on April 20, 2010, have been “a total nightmare” for her family. Not only has her husband William’s fishing income all but vanished along with the shrimp he used to catch but the entire family is plagued by persistent health problems.

For months following the onset of the disaster, she says, there was an oil smell outside their home and “a constant cloudiness, like a haze, but it wasn’t fog.” Her 6-year-old daughter Brooklyn’s asthma got worse, and she now has constant upper respiratory infections. “Once it goes away, it comes right back,” Nicole explains.

Before the spill, Elizabeth, 9, was her “well kid.” But now Elizabeth constantly suffers from rashes, allergies, inflamed sinuses, sore throat and an upset stomach.

Nicole stares at me and catches her breath; she apologizes for the tears that flow down her face. “It’s a touchy subject,” she says. “They are just tired. Tired of being sick.”

William worked from June to October 2010 as part of the Vessels of Opportunity program that paid the fishermen BP put out of business to use their boats to clean up its oil. William transported giant bags, called bladders, used to collect oil, to the shore. When he came home at night, says Nicole, his clothes “smelled oily.” Not only were his clothes blackened; so was William.

William’s symptoms began with coughing, then headaches and skin rashes, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. About three to six months later, he started bleeding from his ears and nose and suffering from a heavy cough.

“I ain’t got no money for a doctor,” William quietly tells me, staring down at his hands in his lap. Medicaid covers the kids, but Nicole and William do not have health insurance. “We didn’t know we were gonna get sick. Now I get sick, I stay sick. I don’t sleep. I stay stressed out more than anything. I got bags under my eyes I never had before. I just don’t know if I wanna show people who I am.”

Nicole is fairly confident that the settlement is not going to bring justice. So she wants just one thing: enough money to get her entire family out of the Gulf Coast for good.

Take Action: Help Gulf Residents Reclaim Their Lives

On February 27, US District Court Judge Carl Barbier was to hear opening arguments against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and all the companies involved in the disaster. The case consolidates virtually every civil charge brought against the companies by individuals, business and property owners, and the federal and state governments. It is the most complex and significant environmental litigation in history. As this article goes to press it seems unlikely that the plaintiffs will ever get their day in court. Instead, the judge has issued continuances to allow more time for a series of settlement deals to be negotiated.

As information about the settlement negotiations comes to light, several critical issues are not being adequately addressed—including the human health crisis brought on by the disaster.

Many people whose health was adversely affected by the spill would be excluded. The Medical Benefits Settlement covers about 90,000 people who are qualifying cleanup workers (out of an estimated 140,000) and 110,000 coastal residents living within one-half to one mile of the coast (out of a coastal population of 21 million). Although it would cover “certain respiratory, gastrointestinal, eye, skin and neurophysiological” conditions, it excludes mental health and a host of physical ailments, including cancers, birth defects, developmental disorders and neurological disorders including dementia.

The proposed settlement provides a health outreach program and twenty-one years of health monitoring—but not healthcare. If “nonspecified” ailments occur in this time frame, the patient must sue BP and prove causality to receive a settlement. Accepting the settlement also means forgoing the right to sue BP for punitive damages. BP estimates its total remaining liability for individuals and businesses at $7.8 billion—a lowball figure for many reasons, and much less than would be necessary if large numbers of people do suffer cancers and other chronic diseases as a result of the spill.

Also excluded from any settlement are 194,000 individuals and businesses who accepted one-time final payments from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which was established by BP on June 16, 2010, to comply with the Oil Pollution Act’s mandate that it fully compensate victims of the spill. Unable to afford to wait out a legal process, 95,000 people accepted payments of $5,000, and 45,000 accepted payments averaging $15,000, agreeing to give up their right to sue BP or any of the companies for any reason, including any harmful health effects. GCCF administrator Kenneth Feinberg was “dubious” about health complaints, as he told the Times-Picayune in September. He went on to question whether cleanup workers suffering from respiratory conditions “are going to be able to provide any support medically or occupationally for the proposition that they’re entitled to get paid. We’ll see.” In the end, except for claims from those injured on the Deepwater Horizon, the GCCF did not honor a single request for compensation related to health concerns.

* * *

In August 2011 the Government Accountability Project (GAP) began its investigation of the public health threats associated with the oil spill cleanup, the results of which will be released this summer. “Over twenty-five whistleblowers in our investigation have reported the worst public health tragedies of any investigation in GAP’s thirty-five-year history,” Shanna Devine, GAP legislative campaign coordinator, told me.

Witnesses reported a host of ailments, including eye, nose and throat irritation; respiratory problems; blood in urine, vomit and rectal bleeding; seizures; nausea and violent vomiting episodes that last for hours; skin irritation, burning and lesions; short-term memory loss and confusion; liver and kidney damage; central nervous system effects and nervous system damage; hypertension; and miscarriages.

Cleanup workers reported being threatened with termination when they requested respirators, because it would “look bad in media coverage,” or they were told that respirators were not necessary because the chemical dispersant Corexit was “as safe as Dawn dishwashing soap.” Cleanup workers and residents reported being directly sprayed with Corexit, resulting in skin lesions and blurred eyesight. Many noted that when they left the Gulf, their symptoms subsided, only to recur when they returned.

According to the health departments of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, from June to September 2010, when they stopped keeping track, more than 700 people sought health services with complaints “believed to be related to exposure to pollutants from the oil spill.” But this is likely an extreme undercount, as most people did not know to report their symptoms as related to the oil spill, nor did their physicians ask. Like virtually everyone I have interviewed on the Gulf Coast over the past two years—including dozens for this article—Nicole Maurer’s doctors did not even inquire about her children’s exposure to oil or Corexit.

It will take years to determine the actual number of affected people. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), with financial support from BP, is conducting several multiyear health impact studies, which are only just getting under way. I spoke with all but one of the studies’ national and Gulf Coast directors. “People were getting misdiagnosed for sure,” says Dr. Edward Trapido, director of two NIEHS studies on women’s and children’s health and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health. “Most doctors simply didn’t know what questions to ask or what to look for.” There are only two board-certified occupational physicians in Louisiana, according to Trapido, and only one also board-certified as a toxicologist: Dr. James Diaz, director of the Environmental and Occupa-tional Health Sciences Program at Louisiana State University.

Diaz calls the BP spill a toxic “gumbo of chemicals” to which the people, places and wildlife of the Gulf continue to be exposed.

BP released one Exxon Valdez–sized oil spill every three to four days for the eighty-seven days it took to cap the well, for an estimated total of 210 million gallons, plus 500,000 tons of natural gas. It applied some 2 million gallons of Corexit from the air and water. It also conducted about 410 “controlled burns” of the oil on the surface of the water. The spill polluted the air with particulate matter and a visible haze, and polluted the water, exposing Gulf seafood to a host of harmful toxins.

The federal government determined that Gulf residents and response workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals, but has tentatively claimed that only response workers were at risk for chronic health problems. One purpose of the NIEHS studies, however, is to monitor Gulf residents for chronic symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control reported in August 2010 that “the samples collected in places where non-response workers would spend time showed none of those substances at levels high enough to cause long-term health effects.” But the CDC didn’t consider the chemical dispersants. There are other problems with the government’s analyses. As the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has noted, the Environmental Protection Agency pronounced Gulf air quality normal without having data from past years to back up its claim; reported daily averages even though pollutants and chemicals typically came in concentrated bursts, often carried by the wind; lacked sufficient monitoring capabilities to cover affected coastal areas; and was not monitoring for all the most harmful chemicals. As microbiologist and toxicologist Wilma Subra explains, although the EPA identified asphaltenes as a cause of health problems, it did not sample for their presence.

* * *

Writing in the American Journal of Disaster Medicine, Dr. Diaz observed that the ailments appearing among Gulf response workers and residents mirrored those reported after previous oil spills, including the Exxon Valdez spill, and warned that chronic adverse health effects, including cancers, liver and kidney disease, mental health disorders, birth defects and developmental disorders—a list that is repeated by several of the NIEHS study physicians—should be anticipated among sensitive populations and those most heavily exposed. In an interview, Diaz added that neurological disorders should also be anticipated.

Moreover, John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, told Congress, “Previous oil spill response efforts have reported acute and chronic health effects in response workers. These studies may underestimate the health effects associated with oil response work since the magnitude and duration of the Deepwater Horizon response is unprecedented.”

All emphasize the need for additional research, as there is a shocking dearth of long-term studies on the impact of oil spills. It is difficult to get funding for this work, while many experts in the field are employed by the oil industry. When data are acquired, they are often “lost” to litigation culminating in settlements with nondisclosure agreements.

It is known, however, that crude oil is toxic to humans, plants and wildlife, capable of causing serious debilitation and even death, depending on the amount and duration of exposure. Crude oil contains high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including known carcinogens and chemicals affecting the central nervous system.

Crude oil contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of more than 100 chemicals that are highly toxic and tend to persist in the environment for long periods. PAHs, some of which are human carcinogens, can bioaccumulate up the food chain (i.e., the toxins stored in the body of an organism are passed along when the body is consumed by a larger organism). Like VOCs, they target the skin, eyes, ears, nose, throat and lungs. But the EPA was not sampling for PAHs in the air until the very end of the spill.

Then there’s Corexit, two types of which were used in the Gulf: Corexit 9527A and 9500. The first type contains 2-BTE (2-butoxyethanol), a toxic solvent that can injure red blood cells (hemolysis), the kidneys and the liver. The CDC has reported chronic and acute health hazards associated with it. Corexit 9500 contains propylene glycol, which can be toxic to people and is a known animal carcinogen. Both can bioaccumulate up the food chain. Toxipedia Consulting Services, a moderated wiki run by the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders, has found “reports among Gulf residents and cleanup workers of breathing problems, coughing, headaches, memory loss, fatigue, rashes, and gastrointestinal problems [that] match the symptoms of blood toxicity, neurotoxicity, adverse effects on the nervous and respiratory system, and skin irritation associated with exposure to the chemicals found in Corexit.”

Gulf residents typically consume more seafood, and in a wider variety, than most Americans do, putting them at greater risk from seafood exposed to oil and Corexit. Children, women who are or may become pregnant, and subsistence fishers who eat much of what they catch are at greatest risk, explains Dr. Cornelis Elferink of the University of Texas Medical Branch, who is conducting the NIEHS study on seafood safety. He tells me that areas of concern include developmental issues for fetuses and children, as well as cellular toxicity and cancer.

The danger posed by all these chemicals depends on three factors: health status, length of exposure and amount of exposure. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and the infirm are the most susceptible. Tourists, coastal residents and response workers were exposed in increasing degrees. Combine these factors—such as children living on the coast, coastal residents with pre-existing health conditions and coastal residents employed as cleanup workers—and you get the most severe effects.

* * *

Charles Taylor, 39, a refrigeration technician, describes living in his Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, home, a half-mile from the beach, as like “living next to a truck stop” for months after the oil spill. There was “an overbearing smell of almost like a diesel smell mixed with a chemical smell.” Charles was prescribed a nebulizer in the wake of the spill, which he began taking to work with him every day until he lost his job of ten years because of his failing health. He’d have bouts of sickness, and was repeatedly diagnosed with pneumonia and treated with antibiotics. It would take three to four weeks to improve, and then he’d get sick again.

Charles believes that his exposure to oil and Corexit inflamed his Crohn’s disease, which had been in remission for more than twenty years. Within a few weeks of the disaster, he began to have bloody diarrhea. “I couldn’t work. The last two years here for me have been something right out of a sci-fi horror movie. Except that it was real and it happened to me,” he says.

“Oh, sorry, I just had a BP moment,” Steve Kolian tells me. He’s trying to recount the events of last year and trails off, forgetting what he’s talking about. Such bouts of memory loss are common among those I interviewed and are reported consistently across the Gulf. Steve and his Ecorigs co-workers conducted several dives to study corals and collect water samples for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after the spill. Collectively, they have experienced “blood in our stool, bleeding from the nose and eyes, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and dizziness and confusion.”

Like Kolian, diver Scott Porter has a persistent dermatitis condition, among other ailments. Scott tells me it has a nickname in the Gulf: “the BP rash.”

Cleaning and caring for the beautiful beaches of South Walton, Florida, was Keith Langner’s dream job. His wife, Andrea, tells me that she can count on one hand the number of times he had missed a day of work in seven years. Her 6-foot-2, 300-pound, 50-year-old husband was always “healthy, independent and vibrant.” After the oil spill, “It was just a total disaster on the beach,” Andrea explains. Without special training, Keith was told to try to avoid the oil and do his job. “He tried, but he said it was next to impossible not to touch the stuff,” Andrea says. “If a chair has oil on it, it’s his job to pick it up. He had to empty hundreds of garbage bags up on the beach, in the bathroom; he couldn’t touch anything without getting exposure to this stuff.”

Keith came home with his work clothes covered with oil. “Everything would be covered in brown pooplike stuff.”

Keith went to the emergency room in January 2011 with a terrible headache he could not shake [**Editor's note: The original story incorrectly stated that Mr. Langner went to the emergency room in January 2010—before the BP oil spill. His visit was in 2011.] . He has since been diagnosed with multi-infarct dementia, which commonly affects people ages 55 to 75. Keith’s dementia began at 49, as his brain was deteriorating. Today, Keith sleeps about three-quarters of the day. The rest of the time he is all but unaware of his surroundings and his behavior. He is physically violent and sexually inappropriate with his wife. His children, ages 7, 9 and 20, are afraid of him. He cannot be trusted in public, with car keys or even to feed himself. His life expectancy is now, according to his wife, about five years.

The most toxic chemicals found in oil are lipid-soluble, which means that they accumulate in organs that contain a lot of fat, like the brain. Consequently, those with the greatest exposure “can get permanent brain damage, dementia, as a result,” Dr. Diaz explains.

Kindra and George Arnesen lived with their three children in Venice, Louisiana. The family has suffered debilitating health effects. When I ask Kindra her ethnicity, she replies, “I’m a Bayou girl!” Nonetheless, the Arnesens decided to leave. “Why am I moving?” Kindra asks me, incredulous. “I don’t want my children to be the energy sacrifice for our nation. How could I? Damn shame on me if I do.”

But Kindra is also not staying silent. As part of Gulf Change, Kindra has helped organize regular protests to raise awareness of the health crisis. On February 29 members hosted a “funeral for the Gulf,” with a procession from BP’s downtown New Orleans offices to Judge Barbier’s courthouse. They are supported by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Gulf Restoration Network, and Louisiana Environmental Action Network, among other groups.

Darla Rooks began captaining her own fishing boat at age 8, “just me, my dog and my gun.” Dressed all in black, she walks at the back of the procession, unable to keep up because of the numbness in her leg. It is among several ailments she has experienced since the disaster. High above her head she holds up a giant green sign that says, We Are the World’s Largest Scientific Experiment and We Demand Justice.

April 19 2012

BP's Corexit Oil Tar Sponged Up by Human Skin

The Surfrider Foundation has released its preliminary "State of the Beach" study for the Gulf of Mexico from BP's ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Sadly, things aren't getting cleaner faster, according to their results. The Corexit that BP used to "disperse" the oil now appears to be making it tougher for microbes to digest the oil. I wrote about this problem in depth in "The BP Cover-Up."

The persistence of Corexit mixed with crude oil has now weathered to tar, yet is traceable to BP's Deepwater Horizon brew through its chemical fingerprint. The mix creates a fluorescent signature visible under UV light. From the report:

The program uses newly developed UV light equipment to detect tar product and reveal where it is buried in many beach areas and also where it still remains on the surface in the shoreline plunge step area. The tar product samples are then analyzed…to determine which toxins may be present and at what concentrations. By returning to locations several times over the past year and analyzing samples, we've been able to determine that PAH concentrations in most locations are not degrading as hoped for and expected.

Worse, the toxins in this unholy mix of Corexit and crude actually penetrate wet skin faster than dry skin (photos above)—the author describes it as the equivalent of a built-in accelerant—though you'd never know it unless you happened to look under fluorescent light in the 370nm spectrum. The stuff can't be wiped off. It's absorbed into the skin.

And it isn't going away. Other findings from monitoring sites between Waveland, Mississippi, and Cape San Blas, Florida over the past two years:
The use of Corexit is inhibiting the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons in the crude oil and has enabled concentrations of the organic pollutants known as PAH to stay above levels considered carcinogenic by the NIH and OSHA.
26 of 32 sampling sites in Florida and Alabama had PAH concentrations exceeding safe limits.
Only three locations were found free of PAH contamination.
Carcinogenic PAH compounds from the toxic tar are concentrating in surface layers of the beach and from there leaching into lower layers of beach sediment. This could potentially lead to contamination of groundwater sources.

The full Surfrider Foundation report by James H. "Rip" Kirby III, of the University of South Florida is open-access online here: http://surfrider.org/images/uploads/publications/Corexit_Connections.pdf

Gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists

New Orleans, LA - "The fishermen have never seen anything like this," Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. "And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I've never seen anything like this either."

Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.

Cowan's findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP's oil and dispersants.

Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP's 2010 oil disaster.

Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp - and interviewees' fingers point towards BP's oil pollution disaster as being the cause.

Eyeless shrimp

Tracy Kuhns and her husband Mike Roberts, commercial fishers from Barataria, Louisiana, are finding eyeless shrimp.

"At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these," Kuhns told Al Jazeera while showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp.

According to Kuhns, at least 50 per cent of the shrimp caught in that period in Barataria Bay, a popular shrimping area that was heavily impacted by BP's oil and dispersants, were eyeless. Kuhns added: "Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets."
Eyeless shrimp, from a catch of 400 pounds of eyeless shrimp, said to be caught September 22, 2011, in Barataria Bay, Louisiana [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


"Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico]," she added, "They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don't have their usual spikes … they look like they've been burned off by chemicals."

On April 20, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded, and began the release of at least 4.9 million barrels of oil. BP then used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants to sink the oil.

Keath Ladner, a third generation seafood processor in Hancock County, Mississippi, is also disturbed by what he is seeing.

"I've seen the brown shrimp catch drop by two-thirds, and so far the white shrimp have been wiped out," Ladner told Al Jazeera. "The shrimp are immune compromised. We are finding shrimp with tumors on their heads, and are seeing this everyday."

While on a shrimp boat in Mobile Bay with Sidney Schwartz, the fourth-generation fisherman said that he had seen shrimp with defects on their gills, and "their shells missing around their gills and head".

"We've fished here all our lives and have never seen anything like this," he added.

Ladner has also seen crates of blue crabs, all of which were lacking at least one of their claws.

Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from Port Sulfur, Louisiana, told Al Jazeera she is finding crabs "with holes in their shells, shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are dying from within … they are still alive, but you open them up and they smell like they've been dead for a week".

Rooks is also finding eyeless shrimp, shrimp with abnormal growths, female shrimp with their babies still attached to them, and shrimp with oiled gills.

"We also seeing eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills."

Rooks, who grew up fishing with her parents, said she had never seen such things in these waters, and her seafood catch last year was "ten per cent what it normally is".

"I've never seen this," he said, a statement Al Jazeera heard from every scientist, fisherman, and seafood processor we spoke with about the seafood deformities.

Given that the Gulf of Mexico provides more than 40 per cent of all the seafood caught in the continental US, this phenomenon does not bode well for the region, or the country.


BP's chemicals?

"The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber," Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist and Exxon Valdez survivor told Al Jazeera. "It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known".

The dispersants are known to be mutagenic, a disturbing fact that could be evidenced in the seafood deformities. Shrimp, for example, have a life-cycle short enough that two to three generations have existed since BP's disaster began, giving the chemicals time to enter the genome.

Pathways of exposure to the dispersants are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts can include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitisation, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage. They are also teratogenic - able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or fetus - and carcinogenic.

Cowan believes chemicals named polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), released from BP's submerged oil, are likely to blame for what he is finding, due to the fact that the fish with lesions he is finding are from "a wide spatial distribution that is spatially coordinated with oil from the Deepwater Horizon, both surface oil and subsurface oil. A lot of the oil that impacted Louisiana was also in subsurface plumes, and we think there is a lot of it remaining on the seafloor".

Marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia published results of her submarine dives around the source area of BP's oil disaster in the Nature Geoscience journal.

Her evidence showed massive swathes of oil covering the seafloor, including photos of oil-covered bottom dwelling sea creatures.

While showing slides at an American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington, Joye said: "This is Macondo oil on the bottom. These are dead organisms because of oil being deposited on their heads."

Dr Wilma Subra, a chemist and Macarthur Fellow, has conducted tests on seafood and sediment samples along the Gulf for chemicals present in BP's crude oil and toxic dispersants.

"Tests have shown significant levels of oil pollution in oysters and crabs along the Louisiana coastline," Subra told Al Jazeera. "We have also found high levels of hydrocarbons in the soil and vegetation."

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, PAHs "are a group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude oil that has spent time in the ocean and eventually reaches shore, and can be formed when oil is burned".

"The fish are being exposed to PAHs, and I was able to find several references that list the same symptoms in fish after the Exxon Valdez spill, as well as other lab experiments," explained Cowan. "There was also a paper published by some LSU scientists that PAH exposure has effects on the genome."

The University of South Florida released the results of a survey whose findings corresponded with Cowan's: a two to five per cent infection rate in the same oil impact areas, and not just with red snapper, but with more than 20 species of fish with lesions. In many locations, 20 per cent of the fish had lesions, and later sampling expeditions found areas where, alarmingly, 50 per cent of the fish had them.

"I asked a NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] sampler what percentage of fish they find with sores prior to 2010, and it's one tenth of one percent," Cowan said. "Which is what we found prior to 2010 as well. But nothing like we've seen with these secondary infections and at this high of rate since the spill."

"What we think is that it's attributable to chronic exposure to PAHs released in the process of weathering of oil on the seafloor," Cowan said. "There's no other thing we can use to explain this phenomenon. We've never seen anything like this before."

Official response

Questions raised by Al Jazeera's investigation remain largely unanswered.

Al Jazeera contacted the office of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who provided a statement that said the state continues to test its waters for oil and dispersants, and that it is testing for PAHs.

"Gulf seafood has consistently tested lower than the safety thresholds established by the FDA for the levels of oil and dispersant contamination that would pose a risk to human health," the statement reads. "Louisiana seafood continues to go through extensive testing to ensure that seafood is safe for human consumption. More than 3,000 composite samples of seafood, sediment and water have been tested in Louisiana since the start of the spill."
Signs of the impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous - and scientists and fishermen point fingers towards BP's oil as being the cause [Keath Ladner]


At the federal government level, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency - both federal agencies which have powers in the this area - insisted Al Jazeera talk with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA won't comment to the media because its involvement in collecting information for an ongoing lawsuit against BP.

BP refused Al Jazeera's request to comment on this issue for a television interview, but provided a statement that read:

"Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident."

BP claims that fish lesions are common, and that prior to the Deepwater Horizon accident there was documented evidence of lesions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by parasites and other agents.

The oil giant added:

"As part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which is led by state and federal trustees, we are investigating the extent of injury to natural resources due to the accident.

"BP is funding multiple lines of scientific investigation to evaluate potential damage to fish, and these include: extensive seafood testing programs by the Gulf states; fish population monitoring conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Auburn University and others; habitat and water quality monitoring by NOAA; and toxicity tests on regional species. The state and federal Trustees will complete an injury assessment and the need for environmental restoration will be determined."

Before and after

But evidence of ongoing contamination continues to mount.

Crustacean biologist Darryl Felder, in the Department of Biology with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is in a unique position.

Felder has been monitoring the vicinity of BP's blowout Macondo well both before and after the oil disaster began, because, as he told Al Jazeera, "the National Science Foundation was interested in these areas that are vulnerable due to all the drilling".

"So we have before and after samples to compare to," he added. "We have found seafood with lesions, missing appendages, and other abnormalities."

Felder also has samples of inshore crabs with lesions. "Right here in Grand Isle we see lesions that are eroding down through their shell. We just got these samples last Thursday and are studying them now, because we have no idea what else to link this to as far as a natural event."

According to Felder, there is an even higher incidence of shell disease with crabs in deeper waters.

"My fear is that these prior incidents of lesions might be traceable to microbes, and my questions are, did we alter microbial populations in the vicinity of the well by introducing this massive amount of petroleum and in so doing cause microbes to attack things other than oil?"

One hypothesis he has is that the waxy coatings around crab shells are being impaired by anthropogenic chemicals or microbes resulting from such chemicals.

"You create a site where a lesion can occur, and microbes attack. We see them with big black lesions, around where their appendages fall off, and all that is left is a big black ring."

Felder added that his team is continuing to document the incidents: "And from what we can tell, there is a far higher incidence we're finding after the spill."

"We are also seeing much lower diversity of crustaceans," he said. "We don't have the same number of species as we did before [the spill]."

Felder has tested his samples for oil, but not found many cases where hydrocarbon traces tested positive. Instead, he believes what he is seeing in the deepwater around BP's well is caused from the "huge amount" of drilling mud used during the effort to stop the gushing well.

"I was collecting deepwater shrimp with lesions on the side of their carapace. Under the lesions, the gills were black. The organ that propels the water through the gills, it too was jet-black. That impairs respiratory ability, and has a negative effect on them. It wasn't hydrocarbons, but is largely manganese precipitates, which is really odd. There was a tremendous amount of drilling mud pumped out with Macondo, so this could be a link."

Some drilling mud and oil well cement slurries used on oil extraction rigs contains up to 90 per cent by weight of manganomanganic (manganese) oxide particles.

Felder is also finding "odd staining" of animals that burrow into the mud that cause stain rings, and said: "It is consistently mineral deposits, possibly from microbial populations in [overly] high concentrations."

A direct link

Dr Andrew Whitehead, an associate professor of biology at Louisiana State University, co-authored the report Genomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2011.

Whitehead's work is of critical importance, as it shows a direct link between BP's oil and the negative impacts on the Gulf's food web evidenced by studies on killifish before, during and after the oil disaster.

"What we found is a very clear, genome-wide signal, a very clear signal of exposure to the toxic components of oil that coincided with the timing and the locations of the oil," Whitehead told Al Jazeera during an interview in his lab.

According to Whitehead, the killifish is an important indicator species because they are the most abundant fish in the marshes, and are known to be the most important forage animal in their communities.

"That means that most of the large fish that we like to eat and that these are important fisheries for, actually feed on the killifish," he explained. "So if there were to be a big impact on those animals, then there would probably be a cascading effect throughout the food web. I can't think of a worse animal to knock out of the food chain than the killifish."

But we may well be witnessing the beginnings of this worst-case scenario.

Whitehead is predicting that there could be reproductive impacts on the fish, and since the killifish is a "keystone" species in the food web of the marsh, "Impacts on those species are more than likely going to propagate out and effect other species. What this shows is a very direct link from exposure to DWH oil and a clear biological effect. And a clear biological effect that could translate to population level long-term consequences."

Back on shore, troubled by what he had been seeing, Keath Ladner met with officials from the US Food and Drug Administration and asked them to promise that the government would protect him from litigation if someone was made sick from eating his seafood.

"They wouldn't do it," he said.

"I'm worried about the entire seafood industry of the Gulf being on the way out," he added grimly.

'Tar balls in their crab traps'

Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer, as well as a marine and oyster biologist, has "great concern" about the hundreds of dolphin deaths he has seen in the region since BP's disaster began, which he feels are likely directly related to the BP oil disaster.

"Adult dolphins' systems are picking up whatever is in the system out there, and we know the oil is out there and working its way up the food chain through the food web - and dolphins are at the top of that food chain."

Cake explained: "The chemicals then move into their lipids, fat, and then when they are pregnant, their young rely on this fat, and so it's no wonder dolphins are having developmental issues and still births."

Cake, who lives in Mississippi, added: "It has been more than 33 years since the 1979 Ixtoc-1 oil disaster in Mexico's Bay of Campeche, and the oysters, clams, and mangrove forests have still not recovered in their oiled habitats in seaside estuaries of the Yucatan Peninsula. It has been 23 years since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska, and the herring fishery that failed in the wake of that disaster has still not returned."

Cake believes we are still in the short-term impact stage of BP's oil disaster.

"I will not be alive to see the Gulf of Mexico recover," said Cake, who is 72 years old. "Without funding and serious commitment, these things will not come back to pre-April 2010 levels for decades."

The physical signs of the disaster continue.

"We're continuing to pull up oil in our nets," Rooks said. "Think about losing everything that makes you happy, because that is exactly what happens when someone spills oil and sprays dispersants on it. People who live here know better than to swim in or eat what comes out of our waters."

Khuns and her husband told Al Jazeera that fishermen continue to regularly find tar balls in their crab traps, and hundreds of pounds of tar balls continue to be found on beaches across the region on a daily basis.

Meanwhile Cowan continues his work, and remains concerned about what he is finding.

"We've also seen a decrease in biodiversity in fisheries in certain areas. We believe we are now seeing another outbreak of incidence increasing, and this makes sense, since waters are starting to warm again, so bacterial infections are really starting to take off again. We think this is a problem that will persist for as long as the oil is stored on the seafloor."

Felder wants to continue his studies, but now is up against insufficient funding.

Regarding his funding, Cowan told Al Jazeera: "We are up against social and economic challenges that hamper our ability to get our information out, so the politics have been as daunting as the problem [we are studying] itself. But my funding is not coming from a source that requires me to be quiet."

Read more about the scientists in this article, and their findings:

Dr Darryl Felder, Department of Biology, University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Runs a research lab that studies the biology of marine crustaceans. Dr Felder has been monitoring the seafloor in the vicinity of BP's blow-out Macondo oil-well both before and after the oil disaster began. He was studying samples from the seafloor in the Macondo area pre-spill via funding from the National Science Foundation, which provided him a grant to log the effects of all the drilling in the area. His funding now comes from the Gulf Research Initiative (GRI), which is funded by BP. Read his full biography here.

Dr Jim Cowan with Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences has been studying Gulf seafood, specifically red snapper, for more than 20 years. Funding is primarily via LSU, although LSU has also received funding via GRI. Read his full biography here.

Dr Andrew Whitehead, LSU, his lab conducts experiments and studies on Evolutionary and Ecological Genomics. He recently published "Genomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes" in the National Academy of Sciences. Much of his funding also comes from the Gulf Research Initiative. Read his full biography here.

Brief summary of scientists' findings/studies:

Felder: Studies carried out from January 2010 to present in BP's Macondo well area. Found abnormalities in shrimp post-spill, whereas pre-spill found none.

Cowan: Studies carried out from Nov 2010-present, from west Louisiana to west Florida, from coast to 250km out. Found lesions/sores/infections in 20 species of fish, as many as 50 per cent fish in some samples impacted. Pre spill levels were 1/10 of one per cent of fish.

Whitehead: Species such as the Gulf Killifish, in and around the Gulf of Mexico, will continue to be subject to negative effects of the BP oil spill disaster of 2010. The Killifish, which researchers consider a good indicator of water quality in the Gulf of Mexico, is showing signs that the oil spill is having a negative impact on its health. Tracked killifish for the first four months after spill across oil-impacted areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.

March 20 2012

March 18 2012

March 04 2012

Acht-Milliarden-Dollar-Rechnung für BP


Der Ölkonzern BP muss sich neben dem Kampf gegen die Ölkatastrophe vor Amerikas Küste auch auf eine Schlacht vor US-Gerichten einstellen. Deren Ausgang ist ebenso ungewiss, aber vielleicht noch teurer für das Unternehmen.

Er hat sich selbst auf den Weg gemacht. Amerikas Generalstaatsanwalt will sich vor Ort überzeugen, um was für ein Art von Katastrophe es sich handelt. Ausgelöst von der Explosion der Ölbohrinsel Deepwater Horizon vor der Küste Louisianas, die elf Menschen das Leben kostete, 17 weitere verletze und dazu führte, dass aus dem Leck noch immer Öl in nie zuvor da gewesenen Mengen in den Golf von Mexiko fließt. Jetzt soll der Generalstaatsanwalt ob etwaige kriminelle Vergehen im Zusammenhang mit dem Vorfall strafrechtlich zu verfolgen wären. Und das kann für das Unternehmen BP schlecht ausgehen.

Aufgrund des Ausmaßes der Katastrophe und den wahrscheinlich daraus resultierenden Schäden für die lokale Bevölkerung und die Umwelt, ist das Potential für unterschiedliche Verfahren in diesem Fall riesig. Bei dem Gesetz, das über viele der Klagen gegen BP, Betreiber der Bohrinsel, und gegen Transocean, Hersteller der Bohreinheit, entscheiden wird, handelt es sich um das so genannte "Oil Pollution Act" aus dem Jahre 1990. Obwohl dieses Gesetz die legislative Antwort auf das Exxon-Valdez-Unglück von 1989 war, ist es bemerkenswert zu Gunsten der Industrie verfasst worden.

Laut dem Oil Pollution Act können Umweltschäden, Schäden an Real- oder persönlichem Besitz, Verlust der Existenzgrundlage, Einnahmeeinbußen, Verlust der Profit- oder Verdienstbefähigung, sowie die Kosten zur Bereitstellung zusätzlicher öffentlicher Dienstleistungen in Verbindung mit dem Unglück, einschließlich vollständiger Reinigungsarbeiten, geltend gemacht werden. Theoretisch ist BPs Haftung auf 75 Millionen Dollar für Schäden exklusive Umweltsanierungsmaßnahmen beschränkt. Es sei denn, es stellt sich heraus, dass BP fahrlässig gehandelt hat oder gegen nationale Gesetze oder Regularien verstoßen hat. In diesem Fall wäre der Schadenssumme, für die BP verantwortlich gemacht werden könnte, nach oben hin keine Grenze gesetzt. 

Im Falle BP scheint es so, als ob sowohl fahrlässiges Handeln als auch Verstöße gegen Regularien relativ leicht nachzuweisen sein dürften. Zum einen bohrte BP in einer Tiefe von 25.000 Fuß, obwohl es nur eine Lizenz zum Bohren bis zu 18.000 Fuß hatte. Jeden Tag wird eine Fülle an Beweismaterial öffentlich gemacht, das immer neue Beispiele für fahrlässiges Handeln BPs und Transoceans sowie Verstöße der beiden Unternehmen gegen Bundesgesetze offenlegt.

Mehr als 40.000 Klagen bis heute

Bis dato wurden bereits über 40.000 Schadenersatzklagen eingereicht, darunter einige Sammelklagen. Eine Sammelklage wurde im Namen von Großhändlern und Verarbeitungsfirmen von Fisch und Meeresfrüchten, Fischern, Boots- und Wohnungsvermietern eingereicht, die Schadenersatz- und Delikthaftung fordern. Zwei kommerzielle Garnelenfangbetriebe haben bereits eine Schadenersatzklage in Höhe von 5 Millionen Dollar im Bundesstaat Mississippi eingereicht, mit der Begründung, dass die Ölpest ihre Lebensgrundlage zerstören könnte. In Louisiana haben Anwälte eine Sammelklage im Namen von Fischereibetrieben vorgeschlagen, die behaupten, dass sie durch die andauernde Ölkatastrophe jetzt und auch in Zukunft finanzielle Verluste erleiden werden.

In den USA ist es sehr schwer, Strafzulagen zusätzlich zum Schadenersatz zu erhalten. Um solch eine Strafzulage zu erhalten, muss ein Kläger außergewöhnlich rücksichtsloses oder böswilliges Verhalten nachweisen, wobei die Entschädigungssumme auf maximal das Dreifache des wirtschaftlichen Schadens beschränkt ist. Zieht man BPs zweifelhafte Sicherheitsstandards in Betracht, darunter die Lecks in seiner Pipeline in Alaska, eine Explosion in einer seiner Ölraffinerien in Texas City, sowie eine Klage resultierend aus der Aufdeckung von Ungereimtheiten durch einen Insider, kann es durchaus sein, dass BP auch Strafzulagen zum Schadensersatz leisten muss.

Eine weitere Klage wurde in Texas eingereicht, in der die Kläger forderten, dass das Gericht BP dazu verurteilt, seine Atlantis-Ölbohrinsel im Golf von Mexiko, die 200.000 Barrel Öl und 190 Millionen Kubikfuß an Gas pro Tag produzieren kann, solange still zu legen, bis das Unternehmen beweisen kann, dass die Anlage, die zu einer der größten im Golf zählt, nach ingenieurszertifizierten Standards gebaut wurde und sicher betrieben wird. Ken Abbott, ein BP-Insider, der für das Atlantis-Projekt verantwortlich war, hat einer Umweltgruppe Unterlagen zugespielt, die beweisen, wie gefährlich die Anlage ist.

Einige dieser Unterlagen waren vom ehemaligen Atlantis-Projektmanager, Barry Duff, in BPs Mutterhaus in Houston erstellt worden, der am 15. August 2008 in einer Nachricht schrieb, dass den Bohrinselbetreibern Bauangaben geliefert wurden, die unvollständig und zum Teil nicht zugelassen waren, und die damit gegen Bundesgesetze und die unternehmenseigenen Sicherheitsbestimmungen verstießen. Duff hatte davor gewarnt, dass diese Verstöße "zu katastrophalen Betriebsfehlern führen könnten, da die Betreiber der Plattform davon ausgingen, dass die Bauzeichnungen richtig seien" und dass "es hunderte oder sogar tausende von Unterwasserdokumenten gäbe, die nie fertig gestellt worden seien, obwohl die Anlagen bereits an die Betreiber übergeben worden seien", die sich auf diese Designspezifikationen verließen, um die Atlantis sicher zu betreiben.

All dies ist nur der Anfang. Es kann sein, dass selbst die bisherigen, ungewöhnlich hoch klingenden Schadenschätzungen von BP noch viel zu niedrig sind. Und die gingen von einer Schadenssumme von acht Milliarden Dollar aus.


February 20 2012

1.5 Million Acres in the Gulf of Mexico Opened for Offshore Drilling

Mexico and the United States have agreed to open over a million acres the span the international boundary in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas exploration, the Hill reports. This, of course, comes not two years after the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history hit the Gulf coast.

Cleanup, restoration efforts, and economic fallout from the BP Gulf Spill have kept the spectre of the catastrophe fresh in the minds of the region's residents (if not anyone else's). But Obama is eager to be seen as "pro-drilling" in election season—especially one in which rising gas prices are likely to offer the GOP its preferred window of attack (never mind that expanding drilling doesn't lower gas prices, which are instead at the whim of global market forces).

Here's the Hill:

Under the agreement, 1.5 million acres of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf will be opened for drilling. The interior department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates there are 172 million barrels of oil in the area. Salazar said the agreement showed the Obama administration's commitment to increasing domestic energy development.

“This agreement makes available promising areas in the resource-rich Gulf of Mexico and establishes a clear process by which both governments can provide the necessary oversight to ensure exploration and development activities are conducted safely,” Salazar said in a statement released by his office Monday.

The House GOP is also seeking to expand offshore drilling in the Gulf even more drastically, in its much-derided transportation bill, but such measures have been met with strong resistance from a bipartisan coalition of representatives in the region, especially in Florida. But you can be certain of this: Gas prices are ticking upwards, it's campaign season, and we're all about to be subjected to a hell of a lot more opportunistic insistance that the nation needs more drill, baby, drilling.

Reposted byFreeminder23paketsupermoney

January 25 2012

Report: White House Pressured Scientists to Underestimate BP Spill Size


Back at the height of the massive Gulf oil spill in 2010, there was quite a bit of controversy about just how much crude was blasting out of the well. According to new documents that a watchdog group released on Monday, there was heated debate among the scientists who evaluated the flow rate as well.

For the first few weeks after the spill began in April 2010, BP misled the public about how big it was, and the government repeated BP's estimate without question. And when the government released its own estimate in late May of up to 25,000 barrels per day, that too was controversial—and proved to be far lower than the actual size, which was more like 53,000 barrels of oil per day.

Now, an email released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) traces efforts to downplay the spill size in the initial weeks back to the White House. The group released a May 29, 2010 email from Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the US Geologic Survey and head of the government's Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG), that was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The email came after scientists on the flow-rate team complained to McNutt about how the spill figures were conveyed to the press, and in response she cited pressure from the White House as the reason the numbers were low-balled. Rather than reporting that the lower-end estimate of the spill was 25,000 barrels per day, officials cited that figure as the higher-end estimate:
I cannot tell you what a nightmare the past two days have been dealing with the communications people at the White House, DOI, and the NIC who seem incapable of understanding the concept of a lower bound. The press release that went out on our results was misleading and was not reviewed by a scientist for accuracy.

McNutt's email reportedly came in response to complaints from scientists on the team about how the flow rate had been handled. PEER also filed a complaint against Dr. William Lehr, a scientist at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who was the team lead for the FRTG's plume analysis team. PEER argues that Lehr "manipulated the scientific results" of the team's experts and understated the spill rate in what it communicated. From PEER's release on the complaint:
Lehr was leader of one of the most important FRTG teams, the “Plume Team” which analyzed videos of the oil leaks to produce the first estimates. Three of the 13 Plume Team experts used a technique called Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) to estimate a leak rate in the range of 25,000 bpd. But three other experts on the Plume Team reported that PIV was underestimating the size of the leak by more than 50%. Those three experts used a different technology to correctly peg the leak rate at 50,000 to 60,000 bpd.
Yet Lehr did not tell the public or key decision makers that there was a deep split on the Plume Team. In the Plume Team’s Final Report, the body of which Lehr wrote, he reported that "most of the Plume Team used PIV" which produced “consistent and accurate” estimates. These underestimates were repeated to the public and media.

The government was also criticized for its handling of an August 2010 report on where the oil went, for which Lehr also served as the lead scientist. (I've requested comment from NOAA and the White House, and will update this post to reflect that when I receive it.) UPDATE: Scott Smullen, a spokesman for NOAA, said it is "not appropriate to comment" on this matter because it is still in litigation.

It's not entirely clear from PEER's release, though, what was real reason for the inaccurate figures—a single scientist giving inaccurate information, the White House pressuring him to do so, or the White House screwing up the reporting of the figures. Whatever it was, it resulted in the public getting a dramatically inaccurate impression about the size of the spill.

January 04 2012

What We Didn’t Learn From The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

image/jpeg iconoil-rig.jpg

Almost 20 months have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And to this day, the lessons we should have learned from that disaster remain completely ignored.

In spite of an intense battle involving a moratorium on deep water oil drilling after the explosion, the Obama administration was out-maneuvered on the issue by the powerful oil industry, losing court battles as well as facing three separate bills in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to overturn the drilling moratorium. (An interesting side-note about the court battle is that the judge who overturned the ban, Martin Feldman, actually owned stock in Transocean at the time of his decision.)

With oil still washing ashore at the time of the first proposed moratorium, right wing bloggers helped muddy the waters by claiming that the moratorium was devastating Gulf economies. The conservative website Free Republic even posted a video and story about the “Victims of the Obama Drilling Moratorium,” that turned oil companies into the victims as local fishermen and tourist-centered businesses were struggling to make ends meet. Their analysis of the real “victims” was based on “investigations” by oil-funded groups like The Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research. A commenter on that video had the audacity to claim, “Obama just killed Louisiana more than Katrina.”

But the right wing attacks on the moratorium paid off, and today the deepwater offshore oil industry is once again thriving in the Gulf of Mexico.


From The Associated Press, via Huffington Post:

Across the Gulf, energy companies are probing dozens of new deepwater fields thanks to high oil prices and technological advances that finally make it possible to tap them.

The newfound oil will not do much to lower global oil prices. But together with increased production from onshore U.S. fields and slowing domestic demand for gasoline, it could help reduce U.S. oil imports by more than half over the next decade.

Eighteen months ago, such a flurry of activity in the Gulf seemed unlikely. The Obama administration halted drilling and stopped issuing new permits after the explosion of a BP well killed 11 workers and caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

But the drilling moratorium was eventually lifted and the Obama administration issued the first new drilling permit in March. Now the Gulf is humming again and oil executives describe it as the world's best place to drill.

And the number of oil rigs is only expected to climb in the next few months, even though the oil that is recovered is doing next to nothing to lower energy prices:

By early 2012, there will be 40 deepwater rigs in the Gulf, up from 37 before the BP spill, according to Cinnamon Odell of ODS-Petrodata. BP received its first permit to drill in late October.

The Gulf produces an average of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, according to Wood Mackenzie. That's 27 percent of U.S. output and 8 percent of U.S. demand.

As the BP disaster made clear, drilling in deep water presents difficulties and dangers. Last month a Chevron well in the deep waters off of Brazil ruptured and spilled 2,400 barrels of oil into the Atlantic after Chevron underestimated the pressure of the oil field it was tapping.

So we’ve established that deepwater offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous, and does little to help meet oil demand. But the dirty energy industry has money – lots of it – and they don’t mind throwing their weight around in American politics to achieve their goals.

But there is a small glimmer of hope to kick off the new year: The federal government is finally gearing up to file criminal charges against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Agence France-Presse by way of RawStory laid it out as follows:

US prosecutors are readying criminal charges against British oil giant BP employees over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident that led to the catastrophic Gulf oil spill, The Wall Street Journal reported online.

The charges if brought and prosecuted by the US Justice Department would be the first criminal charges over the disaster.

Citing sources close to the matter, the Journal said the prosecutors are focusing on US-based BP engineers and at least one supervisor who they say may have provided false information to regulators on the risks of deep water drilling in the Gulf.

Felony charges for providing false information in federal documents may be made public early next year, said the Journal.

We have documented in the past the ways in which federal regulators allowed the oil companies to run roughshod over laws, and these potential federal charges are a bit of fresh air for those of us who live on the coast.

While the criminal charges are needed, it is unlikely that they will hinder the expansion of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. As long as the oil industry’s tentacles reach through the corridors of Washington, they will be able to make their own rules when it comes to drilling.

BP will Kosten für US-Ölpest auf Halliburton abwälzen


Der Ölkonzern BP will für den Schaden nicht aufkommen, den seine havarierte Ölplattform «Deepwater Horizon» im Frühjahr 2010 angerichtet hat. Verantwortlich für das Unglück sei die Firma Halliburton, welche Zementarbeiten am Bohrloch ausgeführt hatte, so das Argument vor Gericht.

(sda/dpa) Mehr als anderthalb Jahre nach der verheerenden Ölpest im Golf von Mexiko versucht der Ölkonzern BP mit Nachdruck, die Milliarden-Kosten auf seine Ex-Partner abzuwälzen. Der britische Konzern erneuerte vor einem US-Gericht seine Forderung, dass der Erdöldienstleister Halliburton für den Schaden haften soll.

Halliburton war für die Zementarbeiten am Bohrloch der explodierten Ölplattform «Deepwater Horizon» zuständig. Über Monate strömten riesige Mengen Öl ins Meer und verseuchten grosse Teile der US-Küste.

BP verlangt laut den bei einem Gericht im US-Staat Louisiana eingereichten Unterlagen, dass Halliburton für Kosten und Schäden aufkommt, die dem britischen Konzern im Zusammenhang mit dem Unglück entstanden sind. Der Anwalt von BP führte namentlich die Ausgaben für die Säuberung der Umwelt sowie entgangene Gewinne aus der gestoppten Ölförderung an.
Dutzende von Milliarden

Es ist unklar, wie teuer die Katastrophe für BP wird. Die Briten hatten einen 20 Mrd. Dollar schweren Fonds aufgelegt, mit dessen Mitteln die Umwelt gereinigt und etwa Fischer oder Hoteliers an den betroffenen Küstenabschnitten für ihre Einnahmeausfälle entschädigt werden sollen.

BP rechnet allerdings damit, dass das Unglück den Konzern am Ende mehr als 40 Mrd. Dollar kosten wird. Ein Firmensprecher wollte sich nicht weiter dazu äussern, wieviel Geld nun Halliburton zahlen soll.

Bei der Explosion der Bohrinsel «Deepwater Horizon» im Golf von Mexiko waren elf Arbeiter ums Leben gekommen. Durch das Unglück entstand ein Leck am Bohrloch. Mehrere Versuche, das Leck zu schliessen, schlugen zunächst fehl.

Erst im Juli - drei Monate nach dem Unglück - gelang es den Ingenieuren, das Bohrloch mit einem tonnenschweren Zylinder provisorisch zu verschliessen. Mit einem Schlamm-Zement-Gemisch wurde die Quelle im September endgültig versiegelt.
Streit um den Zement

BP war der Betreiber der Bohrinsel und hatte Halliburton angeheuert, das Bohrloch am Meeresgrund zu zementieren. Die Briten werfen dem US-Unternehmen vor, dass der damals verwendete Zementmix fehlerhaft gewesen sei und dass Halliburton nach der Explosion belastende Testergebnisse vernichtet habe.

Bereits kurz nach dem Unglück gingen die Streitigkeiten los. Im April 2011 reichte BP dann unter anderem Klage gegen Halliburton ein.

Halliburton weist jede Schuld von sich und geht nach eigenem Bekunden davon aus, keine Haftung übernehmen zu müssen. Die US-Firma sagt, dass schlechte Ingenieurs- und Wartungsarbeiten bei BP in die Katastrophe geführt hätten. Im frühen New Yorker Handel fiel die Halliburton-Aktie nach dem Aufwärmen der Klage um 2 Prozent; BP gewannen 3 Prozent. Zuger Transocean verwickelt

Verkompliziert wird der Streit dadurch, dass weitere Firmen in das Unglück involviert sind. So gehörte die Ölplattform der Schweizer Firma Transocean. BP hatte sie nur gemietet und verlangte auch von Transocean Schadenersatz.

BP verklagte im April 2011 ebenfalls die texanische Firma Cameron International, einen Hersteller von Notabdichtungen für Ölquellen, deren «Blowout Preventer» in diesem Fall versagt hatte. Für BP dürfte es aber schwer werden, ihre Forderungen komplett durchzusetzen.

Im September 2011 hatten US-Behörden in einem Bericht die Hauptschuld für die Katastrophe bei den Briten gesehen. Transocean und Halliburton seien mitverantwortlich, hiess es. Der Untersuchungsbericht lastete BP eine Reihe von Entscheidungen an, die das Zementieren komplizierter und riskanter gemacht und möglicherweise zu dem Entstehen des Lecks beigetragen haben sollen.

December 22 2011

Shell hat mal 40.000 Barrel Rohöl

in Niger-Delta auslaufen lassen. Das ist selbst für Shell- und Nigeria-Verhältnisse eine richtig fette Sauerei.
Shell has said the recent oil spill is likely to be worst in a decade.
Das lief aus, als sie von einem Ölfeld in einen Tanker verladen wollten; das Ölfeld produziert überhaupt nur 200.000 Barrel pro Tag. Soviel also zu den Notfallprozeduren vor Ort.
Satellite pictures obtained by independent monitors Skytruth suggested that the spill was 70km-long and was spread over 923 square kilometers (356 sq miles).

Menschenrechtsorganisationen vor Ort weisen darauf hin, dass Shell bisher noch nie durch ehrliches Einräumen von Fehlern aufgefallen ist, und meinen, man solle die Zahlenangabe mal als untere Schranke nehmen.

Quelle: http://blog.fefe.de/?ts=b00da0a5

Reposted byFreeminder23paket

November 24 2011

Brazil: Maximum Fine After Silence on Chevron's Oil Spill

On 7 November, the Frade field oil platform, operated by the American drilling company Chevron-Texaco, began leaking crude oil. It is located in Bacia de Campos, 350km North from Rio de Janeiro. Last Monday, 21 November, Chevron was fined the maximum amount allowed by IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), $R50 million (approximately $28 million USD).

Though the oil spill is now believed to have been brought under control, further explanations from Chevron are expected in the next few days. Meanwhile, what began as scarce coverage by mainstream media has lead many bloggers to criticize the lack of journalistic depth on the intricacies of the environmental disaster.

Chevron's oil spill in Bacia de Campos, November 18, 2011. Photo by Rogério Santana, Government of Rio, for release

Chevron's oil spill in Bacia de Campos, November 18, 2011. Photo by Rogério Santana, Government of Rio, for release

“Silence is criminal”

Journalist Fernando Brito, on the blog of the federal deputy Brizola Neto Tijolaço [pt], decided to “swim against the media tide” that he had considered to be mere re-publication of corporate press releases. He embarked on a thorough and tireless work of investigative journalism trying to shine a light on the case, with 25 posts with denouncements in just two weeks. What he saw as signs that something was wrong with the mainstream coverage was later explained in an interview [pt] for the blog Vi O mundo:

Primeira: a Chevron-Texaco  demorou para admitir o problema e, quando o fez, foi por uma nota marota, dizendo que havia sido detectado vazamento “entre o campo de Frade e o de Roncador – que é operado pela Petrobras -  quando, na verdade, ele se deu bem próximo de uma de suas plataformas de perfuração, a Sedco706 (…).

Segunda: a história de que falha geológica seria a causa.  É improvável que falhas geológicas capazes de provocar um derramamento no mar não tivessem sido detectadas nos estudos sísmicos que precedem a perfuração.

Terceira: mesmo depois de a presidenta Dilma Rousseff ter determinado em 11 de novembro a investigação rigorosa do caso, a nossa imprensa (…) continuou a dar quase nenhuma importância ao caso da Chevron-Texaco, uma multinacional com boas relações com o senhor José Serra.

First, Chevron-Texaco was slow to admit the problem and when it did, it was with a naughty note, saying that a leakage had been detected “between the Frade field and Roncador - which is operated by Petrobras - when, in fact, it happened very close to one of its drilling rigs, the Sedco706 (…).

Second, the story that a geological fault could be the cause. It is unlikely that faults capable of causing a spill at sea had not been detected in seismic surveys prior to drilling.

Third, even after the President Rousseff determined on 11 November a rigorous investigation of the case, our press (…) continued to give little or no importance to the case of Chevron-Texaco, a multinational company with good relations with Mr. José Serra. [Governor and Mayor of Sao Paulo, former Brazilian Presidency candidate ].

Giving further background to the third point above, economist Pedro Migão, from the blog Ouro de Tolo, recalls a post he wrote last year on “revelations by Wikileaks“:

sobre o lobby que as petrolíferas americanas estavam fazendo junto a setores da imprensa e a políticos do PSDB para terem o controle do pré sal - que é a última fronteira petrolífera mundial.

about the lobbying of the media and politicians from the PSDB [Social Democracy Party] by American oil companies to take control of the pre-salt [layer which holds significant oil resources] - which is the world's last oil frontier.

As public debate [pt] about the environmental dangers of offshore oil drilling had been sparked, Greenpeace Brazil started spreading the hashtag #VazaChevron (Spill Chevron, a play with words meaning Go Away Chevron), and took the opportunity to promote a petition [pt] against oil exploitation by Chevron planned for the Abrolhos region, a protected area in the state of Bahia.

Greenpeace Brazil's action urges transparency by Chevron on the causes and effects of the spill

Valéria Müller (@valeria47), tweeting from Porto Alegre, said [pt]:

Quando se tem dinheiro, dá até pra derramar petróleo no mar que não vira notícia. Taí a Chevron-Texaco pra provar isso. #VazaChevron

When you have money, you can even spill oil in the sea but it won't become news #VazaChevron

On Twitter, many have also commented on the amount of the fine, which is just about “half a day's profit” for Chevron, such as Mirinho Braga (@mirinhobraga), Mayor of Buzios, who asks:

A Chevron polui nosso mar…o IBAMA multa em milhoes a empresa. Os pescadores q são prejudicados recebem o que?

Chevron pollutes our sea… IBAMA fines the company millions. The fishermen who are harmed receive what? Chevron's logo with an oil spill. Shared on the blog Tijolaço.

Chevron's logo with an oil spill. Shared on the blog Tijolaço.

Given Chevron's “track record of fraud related to an even larger oil disaster in neighboring Ecuador”, solidarity and awareness have come from activists in that country, where rainforests have also been contaminated by the company's spills, as Global Voices reported earlier this year.

On Wednesday, November 23, Chevron is expected to give further explanations about the disaster in a public hearing of the Environmental Committee of the Senate, along with Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao and representatives of the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) and IBAMA.

At the time this article was published, Fernando Brito's last post concerning Chevron's “bet on taking risks”, leaves a question in the air:

Um carro não bate por estar em  velocidade imprudente, mas esta é o contexto que facilita a ocorrência do acidente.

No caso do autmóvel, porém, isso é motivo para ter a habilitação cassada. A Chevron-Texaco vai perder a carteira?

A car does not hit to be at reckless speed, but this is the context that facilitates the accident.

Concerning driving, however, this is a reason to have one's license revoked.  Will Chevron-Texaco lose its license?

João Miguel Lima, Raphael Tsavkko and Thiana Biondo have collaborated on the research for this post.

Written by Sara Moreira · comments (0)
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November 12 2011

Das Bischen Öl im Golf

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