Blog Tags: Bp Oil Disaster
Four years ago, at approximately 9:56 PM on April 20, 2010, a massive fire and explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig began an 87-day response nightmare that would become the worst environmental catastrophe in our nation’s history. The explosion killed 11 crew members, injuring many others, and caused oil to gush freely into the Gulf of Mexico from a damaged wellhead near the ocean floor.
Yesterday marked the four-year anniversary of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although several years have passed, the people, wildlife, and ecosystems of the Gulf are still struggling to recover from this disaster.
The Gulf coast of Florida is renowned for its soft white beaches, balmy weather and calm, clear waters. It’s also infamous for being a mecca of debris from oil-rig related tragedies, which, until recently, were thought to have mostly finished their attack on Gulf coast beaches. But even after four years, trash from the BP oil disaster is still washing ashore and devastating coastal environments and communities.
A disturbing finding on the effects of oil spill was announced on Monday, as the 4-year commemoration of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill approaches. A recent study found that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—known to be associated with cancers—generated from the oil spill caused heart defects in commercially important tuna and amberjack.
Last Thursday, a natural gas well operating off the coast of Louisiana began leaking methane gas into the air. Given the recent number of large number of spills and leaks taking place on Gulf rigs, it’s hard to believe that the federal government is now considering allowing drilling to take place in the Atlantic Ocean. Clearly, the government is more concerned with increased drilling rather than ensuring safety of our workers and the environment.
This morning NOAA released a report from its dolphin health assessment following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Their investigation shows the effects of the spill on dolphins in Barataria Bay, including a higher prevalence of lung disease and adrenal effects.
A new federal report into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico has found that BP took multiple serious shortcuts in exploratory drilling and that the operation was behind schedule and over budget. This conclusion echoes the results of previous investigations, including the January report by national commission on the oil spill.
The report also reiterated concerns about the use of blowout preventers, which are meant to be a final defense against oil rig disasters. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the blowout preventer mechanism was weakened by a failure in the drill pipe, which connects the surface rig to the well. This pipe, which spanned 5,000 feet, possibly buckled because it was simply too heavy to support itself.
Oceana has released a response calling for an end to new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the new report.
"This report confirms that bad decisions and improper, risky actions were at the root of the accident," said senior campaign director Jackie Savitz. "All deepwater drilling activities would, by their nature, also have thousands of feet of drill pipe, and could be vulnerable to the same danger."
Other fatal shortcuts cited in the report include cement failure at the base of the well, last-minute changes in drilling plans, insufficient emergency planning, and numerous violations of federal regulations governing oil well management.
I am a Californian now, but I was born a child of the desert. My parents raised me in Arizona, where my father worked as an archaeologist, and my mother took me to wander the scrubby ravines near our home. She saw beauty everywhere. As a small boy I just saw great opportunities for hide and seek.
Once a year, for our summer vacation, we would drive to the beach. I still remember the great anticipation I felt as our station wagon crested the last mild incline that would give us a view of the Pacific Ocean. It filled me with an awe I still feel today, and as an adult I’ve always lived a window away from its expanses.
But my appreciation for the ocean is complicated by the knowledge that we risk it every day for oil. Last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was a bellwether tragedy for the oceans. We know less about the deep sea than we do about the surface of Mars – just as we still don’t know the true cost of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history a year later.
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.
A hundred days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, it appears that BP has finally succeeded in controlling the blowout that spewed millions of gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.
Yet to paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is just the end of the beginning. The creatures that live in, and the people that depend on the Gulf of Mexico will be affected by the oil spill for years, and we are just starting to comprehend the scope of this tragedy.
That’s why I am pleased to announce that Oceana is launching an ambitious, eight-week scientific expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. We will assess the effects of the oil spill on the marine environment, and we will trumpet the message that ocean oil drilling is too dangerous to be allowed to wreck any more of our oceans and our beaches.
This expedition team, led by Oceana’s Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield and Oceana’s vice president for Europe, Xavier Pastor, will also include research by Dr. Jeff Short, Oceana’s Pacific science director and one of the world’s leading experts on Exxon Valdez and the effects of oil spills from his years as a government scientist at NOAA. The crew also includes scientists, divers and underwater photographers from our U.S., Chile and Spain offices, as well as academic scientists.
Working from the Latitude, a 167-foot ship capable of sailing in shallow and deep waters, the crew will test for underwater oil and study important seafloor habitats as well as the migratory marine life affected by the spill. This includes endangered sea turtles as well as the rare whale shark.
We are fortunate to have supporters who believe in Oceana’s targeted, science-based work and make this kind of original research possible. The facts uncovered by our on-the-water team will be critical in the fight to end dangerous offshore drilling.
You can give today to help us support the critical work of the expedition. Please help us protect the oceans today!
When the expedition launches in early August, we will post frequent updates on Oceana.org, and I’ll be sure to share the most exciting developments with you.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
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