gulf of mexico oil spill
Jackie Savitz is Oceana's Senior Campaign Director for Pollution Programs. This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.
Remember that evil offshore oil deposit that went out of control last summer, blew up a drilling rig and then spewed oil and gas into the gulf of Mexico for months until the government forced the oil companies to finally stop it? Well, surprise! It turns out it wasn't the oil deposit that was out of control, it was the drilling companies. And the National Oil Spill Commission report puts it all on the table.
Unfortunately, the Commission's recommendations don't fit its findings. Why after documenting gory detail of corporate mismanagement, missteps, miscalculations and mistakes that paint a picture reminiscent of a Three Stooges episode, would your recommendations look like they were made after a run of the mill oil leak?
Almost nine months after the oil gusher began in the Gulf of Mexico, this morning the presidential commission investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster released its final report.
The commission concludes that the oil industry was plagued by systemic problems that could lead to another accident unless major reforms are enacted by the government and the drilling companies. The panel placed blame on all three companies responsible for the well – BP, Transocean and Halliburton – and the government regulators responsible for overseeing them.
The panel also outlined its recommendations for regulations and practices to prevent another spill, including an increase in the budget and manpower at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, lifting the current $75 million cap on corporate liability for damages from an oil spill, and significantly strengthening the oil-spill-response capabilities in the Arctic before any new major drilling is allowed there.
Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless had this to say about the report, (you can read his full statement here):
“The Commission…correctly concluded that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was not an isolated incident; but was indicative of a systemic failure of the oil industry and the federal regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing it.
Some call the U.S. Senate "the place good ideas go to die." Those of us that live and breathe energy policy have already witnessed the death of the climate bill this year. Now, we are sitting at the bedside of the Senate's oil spill response bill. And in spite of what the President called the worst environmental disaster in US history, the "Spill Bill" is on life support as Congress winds to a close.
In the wake of BP's unparalleled Gulf of Mexico disaster some lawmakers recognized the urgent need to overhaul offshore drilling regulations. In July, the House of Representatives passed a bill to tighten safety requirements and make companies pay for damages. Since then, all eyes have been on the Senate to reciprocate. Yet seven months after the blowout, with just a few weeks left in this Congress, we are still waiting.
There is no shortage of facts about the perils of offshore drilling.
Today marks the six month anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Around 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. More than 6,000 birds, more than 600 sea turtles, and almost 100 marine mammals have died, and news surfaced this week that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the vicinity of the spill. And the long-term effects remain to be seen.
It was the nation’s largest environmental disaster in history, and yet, there’s a pervading sense that the disaster is behind us, that the majority of the country has taken a deep breath and moved on. Congress hasn’t passed climate legislation, and the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned.
What’s wrong with this picture?
We’re frustrated. If you are too, here are some ways to channel that frustration into action:
1. Tell your Senators to support the development of offshore wind power. We have a new report out that shows how offshore wind would be cost-effective, more beneficial to job creation, and better for the environment and ocean in a variety of ways than offshore drilling.
The second issue of our spiffy multimedia magazine is now available!
This issue, which opens with a video intro by Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless, features the following videos and stories:
*The Gulf of Mexico oil spill and our scientific expedition in the gulf
*Oceana's 2010 Ocean Hero, Jay Holcomb of International Bird Rescue Research Center
*Our huge victory over a coal-fired power plant in Chile’s Punta de Choros
*Ted Danson talks offshore drilling on CNN’s Larry King Live
Unfortunately, the news from the boat can’t always be good. After spotting quite a bit of wildlife in the Alabama Alps, the crew hit a snag with the ROV. Here’s the lowdown from Dustin:
Monday and Tuesday, September 13 and 14
In an unexpected turn of events, the generator used to power Oceana’s ROV was hit by a large rogue wave Monday afternoon near the edge of DeSoto Canyon. While the ROV technicians spent the rest of the day trying to repair the damaged system, the Oceana Latitude began to adjust course and head towards Mobile in hopes of getting replacement parts.
Today’s expedition update, which comes to you from scientist-in-charge Dr. Michael Hirshfield, contains some good news about the Alabama Alps:
Sunday, September 12
After making several transects of the Alabama Alps today and comparing Oceana’s observations with those from previous scientific investigations, we believe to have a fairly good snapshot of the area.
Based on what we saw from the ROV footage and CTD scans, there are no obvious signs that this area was harmed by the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Here’s Oceana conducting a CTD scan:
In today’s update from the Latitude, the crew tests the ROV for its journey into the depths of the Gulf. (Big thanks to Nautica for making our use of the ROV possible!)
Here’s Oceana’s senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor:
Friday, September 10
From the surface of the water, it’s hard to imagine that a small underwater mountain range with pinnacles reaching as high as 100 feet above the seafloor is below us.
With the help of an echo sounder and Olex seafloor mapping software, Oceana’s experts were able to create a visual image of a section of “The Pinnacles” off the coast of Alabama, which some people call the “The Alabama Alps.”
As is standard procedure on the first day of a new research operation, the Oceana crew spent time testing the ROV equipment after its long trip from Spain. The reason the Spanish ROV can be used to investigate deepwater areas is because it’s tethered to a weighted line that gives it greater stability and control. A crew of at least six is needed to operate the ROV, including the winch, crane, cable and controls.
The Oceana crew has officially become used to the life aquatic. After a hard day yesterday and having worked on this leg of the journey for a little over a week, our heads hit the pillows hard last night.
We thought we had seen everything, but this morning we awoke to yet another surprise: silence. No waves, no wind and no clouds. The crew began work today under a clear sky – it’s the first time in this part of the expedition that the seas have been favorable.
Our first task was to seek out a mooring. With the given GPS coordinates in hand the crew took to the deck, eyes on all levels of the ship. We scanned the horizon but saw nothing; the first buoy of the day was missing. The story was the same at the second mooring site. Some of the crew suspected foul play and others thought it may have been run over by another ship, but only Poseidon will know for certain.
The Oceana Latitude is making its final preparations for eight weeks on the water. We got this dispatch from our trusty senior campaigns communications manager, Dustin Cranor:
Good news. The satellite internet and phone system is back up and running.
The crew took advantage of the day by spending time testing a majority of the equipment onboard the Oceana Latitude.
Matthias Gorny, from Oceana’s Chilean office, launched the ROV from the vessel to assess its standard operating procedures, including ensuring that its seals were working properly. The Longitude, a 42 foot boat adapted for Oceana’s research needs, was also deployed for at sea testing.
I’m happy to report that everything worked as planned.
Click here to see a slideshow of photos from the preparations, including a visit from Spanish model Almudena Fernandez.