The Beacon

Blog Tags: Offshore Drilling

A Parade Of Hopes For Gulf Salvation In Louisiana

Plan for saving the Gulf

Michael Matherne displays his plan for capping the oil leak at a meeting in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Photo: Oceana/Suzannah Evans

In a civic center in St. Bernard Parish last night, BP and government agencies working on the oil spill set up folding chairs and posterboards describing their work in a kind of high school science fair approach to meeting the public. There was NOAA, setting up vials of simulated dispersed oil like a flight of wine; there was the Coast Guard captain in charge of the recovery, Roger Laferriere, giving a heartfelt speech about his dedication to Louisiana with the earnest aplomb of a student body president.

But while the attendees were dominated by a scrum of reporters and camera crews, there were a few hopeful locals mostly interested in meeting one man: Kurt A. Hansen, a project manager with the Coast Guard standing between a table and a sign plainly marked "Alternative Response Technology."

Hansen's job is to take ideas from the public about the fixing the oil spill. He has the inscrutable expression of a man who’s heard it all.

When I approached his table, Hansen was listening patiently to a man complaining that he’d been ignored by BP for weeks.


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A Visit With Jay Holcomb And Some Oily Birds

brown pelicans yearning to be free

Brown pelicans awaiting release after being cleaned. Photo courtesy Suzannah's iphone.

In a cavernous warehouse in Louisiana’s bayou country, hundreds of oiled birds are getting a chance at survival after the BP oil disaster threatened their lives. Most of them are brown pelicans, Louisana’s state bird, along with some gulls, herons, gannets and terns. Until a couple of weeks ago, there weren’t many birds in this makeshift facility backed up against the Mississippi. But with the oil slick’s expansion closer to shore, the number of birds affected exploded – and the rescue center is racing to keep up.

The center is run by Jay Holcomb, and is primarily staffed by his International Bird Rescue Research Center team. Today, I visited Jay along with Oceana’s pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz, and got a firsthand look at the critical work that Jay and his team are doing.

We were also on hand to congratulate Jay on winning Oceana’s 2010 Ocean Heroes Award. He was unable to attend the award ceremony in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago because he was too busy doing the work of an ocean hero – saving birds in the Gulf.

Here’s a video of Jackie talking to Jay about his work and what happens to the birds after they're released. You can hear the helicopters going out to the spill site overhead.


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Campaigners On The Ground in the Gulf

Just received this dispatch from Dave Allison, one of our senior campaign directors, who is on the ground in the Gulf.

"Approaching the airport, small fleet of fishing boats is dropping booms to contain the slick of oil churning just outside the port. As we land, Airforce One sits waiting while the president begins a day of demands and negotiation to force BP to make good on their promise to make amends for the environmental and economic devastation that Oceana warned against years ago in the report Toxic Legacy."


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A 'Category 10' Disaster

Last week I met Cherie Pete, who operates a mom-and-pop style sandwich shop called Maw’s in the marshy lowlands of Boothville, LA – about two hours south of New Orleans.

Normally recreational fishermen stop by her shop to fuel up before deep-sea fishing trips in the Gulf. But with fishing restricted in most federal waters off the coast of southern Louisiana, Pete’s clientele base has disappeared.

“Normally we’d be swamped at this time,” she told me. Instead, the shopfront was nearly empty with only a few customers trickling by to purchase a cool drink in the 100-degree heat (including Brian Williams of NBC News who made a stopover with his camera crew.)


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Tell the Senate To Say No To Big Oil!

Thanks to the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the issue of dependence on oil is more important than ever.

Tell your Senators to Vote NO on the Murkowski Resolution, S.J Res. 26, on June 10th!

While oil spill covers the beaches and marshes of the Gulf of Mexico, Big Oil goes after the Clean Air Act and tries to defeat action on climate change.

The Senate will vote this Thursday, June 10, on legislation that would increase America’s dependence on oil by blocking just-finalized rules that require new cars to use less oil. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is spearheading the effort, backed by Big Oil.

Efforts to block all or part of the Clean Air Act and EPA's ability to use this keystone environmental law to address climate change would seriously undermine the overwhelming science of climate change and further exacerbate impacts to national security and public health and welfare. Additionally, these efforts hold back billions of dollars in job-creating clean energy investments all across the country. America has the ability to lead the world in growing the clean energy economy but our continued dependence on fossil fuels does nothing to drive investments in the clean energy and efficiency programs needed to spur local economic development and job growth.

The Clean Air Act has cost-effectively protected our citizens and the environment for decades. In a 2007 landmark decision the Supreme Court ruled the Clean Air Act covers greenhouse gases and now is the time to put this law to work to fight climate change.

The Murkowski Resolution would undermine long-overdue action to protect Americans citizens and our oceans from climate change impacts and jeopardize growing a vibrant clean energy economy.

Click here to tell your Senators to Vote NO on the Murkowski Resolution, S.J Res. 26, on June 10th!


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New Orleans Residents Find Solidarity at Oil Spill Teach-in

Emily Peterson, a southern Louisiana native and Foundations Associate here at Oceana, has been in Louisiana witnessing the effects of the oil spill. She sent us this dispatch from a teach-in she attended.

Yesterday evening a crowd of New Orleans residents attended a teach-in to discuss the oil spill tragedy unfolding in our backyard on the Gulf. The event offered residents an opportunity to learn the facts and ask questions in a non-politicized environment, and to build a sense of solidarity to cope with this unprecedented environmental and cultural tragedy.


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Bills, Boat Payments Pile Up for Louisiana Fishermen

Image courtesy Emily Peterson.

We received the following dispatch from Carter Lavin, an Oceana supporter, environmental activist and energy-issue blogger, about his experience volunteering in the gulf. You can read more from him here.

Two weeks ago I had this idea that I would fly down to New Orleans and sign up to help clean up oil from the beaches of southern Louisiana. I would then catch one of the dozens of buses that were going from Jackson Square to the beaches for the clean up along with hundreds of other volunteers. We would spend the whole day there, clean up the beach, rescue a pelican or two and then head home.

I learned a few things about the clean up effort rather quickly. I learned that southern Louisiana does not really have beaches to clean; it’s nearly all marshlands. This means most clean up efforts have to be done from a boat, or the places are only boat accessible. Plus, you need to be certified to clean up hazardous materials, which requires 40 hours of training.


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Join Us for the #oilchat Twitter Chat Tonight

When: Thursday, June 3, 2010 from 9:00 - 10:00pm EST

Where: On Twitter. If you do not have a Twitter account, please register at http://www.twitter.com. Follow the conversation by using the #oilchat Hashtag.

President Barack Obama goes one-on-one with Larry King tonight at 9pm eastern to talk about the oil spill, economic turmoil and war. What are your reactions or impressions to President Obama’s comments?

Jackie Savitz, Oceana’s Senior Campaign Director, Pollution Campaigns [@jackiesavitz] will be joining the conversation to answer your questions and reactions.

New to Twitter? Here’s How to Get Set Up

If you’re not already set up on Twitter, hop on over there and get an account. Here are some tips for setting up your account as well as some key things to know once you jump on.


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Deep-sea Corals Caught in Plume’s Way

Deep-sea coral community of West Flower Garden Bank in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico. (NOAA image.)

The most familiar victims of the oil spill are the ones with faces: birds, sea turtles, dolphins, whales.

But as the New York Times reports today, there are at least three extensive deep-sea coral reefs lying directly beneath the oil slick in the gulf. And coral reefs can’t swim or fly away from the plumes of partly dispersed oil spreading in the deep sea.

Both oil and dispersants are toxic to corals and have been found to impede the ability of corals to grow and reproduce, and the effects are amplified when they are mixed, which may be the case with these plumes.

It’s unknown exactly how sensitive deep-sea corals are to oil and dispersants, though as Oceana’s Pacific science director Jeffrey Short told the Times, “It might be locally catastrophic, particularly if there’s an oxygen-depleted mass that develops.”


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Oceana to Congress: No New Drilling

From left to right: Randall Luthi, President of the National Ocean Industries Association; Jack N. Gerard, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute; Dr. Michael Hirshfield, Senior Vice President for North America and Chief Scientist, Oceana; Dr. Michelle Michot Foss, Head of the Center for Energy Economics and Chief Energy Economist at the University of Texas

Yesterday Oceana Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield testified about the costs of offshore drilling before the House Committee on Natural Resources.  

Here’s an excerpt of his testimony:

“Mr. Chairman, I wish you didn’t have to hold this hearing. For years, the oil industry has told us all that offshore drilling was safe. They repeatedly downplayed the risks and oversold the benefits. They tried to convince us that catastrophes like the Deepwater Drilling Disaster could never happen. I could easily fill my time with embarrassing industry quotes (like these.) I will spare you that.

We now hear calls for action to ensure that “this will never happen again.” We all wish that could be the case. But let’s be honest, we know another offshore oil drilling disaster will happen, caused by another unexpected combination of technological failure and human error. The industry is asking us to play a game of environmental roulette, and they are taking aim at a long list of targets. Will we see oil foul the beaches of the Atlantic seaboard next? The Pacific? The Arctic?


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