The Beacon

Blog Tags: Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill

Guest Post: The Rush to Drill in the Caribbean

Image courtesy of Jaime Matera

Editor’s note: It’s not just the U.S. government that’s pushing to drill in our oceans. Guest blogger Jaime Matera is a marine anthropologist who is working to stop potential drilling off the coast of his home country, Colombia.

In 2010 the Colombian government opened up pristine coastal ecosystems in the Caribbean Sea to oil exploration. If allowed to continue, two petroleum companies, Repsol-YPF and Ecopetrol, would be drilling for oil on the second largest reef system in the Caribbean.  

The Colombian archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina lies on the southwestern Caribbean Sea, just 125 miles off the coast of Central America. It is home to an exceptional marine ecosystem and a native island population with strong connections to the resources. 

The reef system surrounding the islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina is the second largest in the Caribbean. It covers approximately 255 km² and includes extensive sea grass beds, mangrove forests, and patchy reefs systems. In addition, a number of uninhabited cays and atolls are found in surrounding waters.


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As Profits Surge, BP Plans to Resume Drilling

With the anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill still fresh in our minds, the first quarter of 2011 could turn out to be one of the oil industry’s most profitable ever. BP said yesterday it expects to resume drilling in the gulf in the second half of this year.

And that’s not all. As a result of soaring oil prices, the company also said that its net profits rose 17 percent in the first quarter to $7.1 billion. (In a slight consolation, BP’s profit fell 2 percent when compared with the first quarter of 2010, not counting a surge in the value of the company’s inventory.)

As Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in response to this news:

“When BP makes billions in profits, even after the year they just had, you know it’s time to cap the gusher of tax breaks that have been subsidizing the biggest oil companies for decades.”

We couldn’t agree more. Tell Congress to support clean energy legislation, not more dirty drilling.


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A Year Since the Spill, the Push to Drill Continues

Oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

One year ago today, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and triggering the largest accidental oil spill in history.

When all was said and done in July, it had spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf, threatening sea turtles, whale sharks, spawning bluefin tuna and countless other species of fish and marine life.

 


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What If an Oil Spill Happened Near You?

It’s been one year since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, but the explosion and subsequent months-long spill has largely faded from public consciousness. And if people do think about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, they think about it happening “somewhere else,” to “someone else’s” community, and not really affecting their daily lives. 

To mark the one-year anniversary since the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history, Oceana is asking the question: “What If It Happened Here?” What if the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and spill happened at a well-known and easily recognizable place in America?  Would we still be chanting, “Drill, baby, drill?” 

To try to personalize this message for people we created an ad campaign on display now in the Washington, D.C. Metro system that depicts the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion happening at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., the New York Harbor, and the San Francisco Bay. 

We hope that by asking the question, “What If It Happened Here?” we will get people to think about how they would be affected, and how their communities would be affected, if the BP oil spill happened off their coasts.  We hope these ads will help people realize that we need to stop the drill.


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Studies Begin to Reveal Effects of Gulf Oil Spill

Caesar grunts, damselfish and amberjacks in the Gulf of Mexico. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

A week from today marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and the effects of the spill on the gulf’s ecosystems and wildlife are beginning to come into view, though the full effects won’t be understood for years.

This week the New York Times published an overview of the latest findings. The good news is that although miles of marsh are still oiled and tar balls continue to wash up on beaches, the Gulf of Mexico can thank its oil-eating bacteria for digesting some of the crude oil and the methane gas.

Not all the news is so good, however. Here are some of the latest findings about Gulf wildlife:


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Where Are They Now?: Ocean Hero Jay Holcomb

Jay Holcomb with a pelican patient.

We are now accepting nominations for our third annual Ocean Heroes Contest! Throughout the nomination period, which ends April 27, I’ll be featuring a few of the past winners and finalists to get you inspired. Last week I updated you on last year’s Junior Ocean Heroes, the Shark Finatics. Today we’re catching up with the 2010 Adult Ocean Hero, Jay Holcomb.

Jay Holcomb garnered the most votes in the Adult category last year for his quarter-century of work rehabilitating oiled seabirds around the world with the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). In fact, when we announced his big win, Jay was on the Gulf Coast leading the effort to clean up oiled birds from the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Since then, the organization has re-grouped. They are still rescuing birds on a daily basis from their home base in California, but Jay’s role has changed. He has stepped down as executive director and colleague Paul Kelway has stepped up. Jay is now the Director Emeritus, which gives him more time to focus on his passion: saving birds.


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Dead Baby Dolphins Wash Up in the Gulf

Some sad news today -- the bodies of 20 infant and stillborn dolphins have been discovered since Jan. 20, most of them during the past week, on islands and beaches from Gulfport, Mississippi to Gulf Shores, Alabama, in what may be fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

That’s about 10 times the number normally found in the two states during this time of the year, which is calving season in the region. None of the carcasses showed any obvious signs of oil contamination; necropsies are being performed and tissue samples taken to determine if toxic chemicals from the oil spill may have been a factor in the deaths.

We’ll let you know if we hear any more details. In the meantime, you can take action to prevent another oil disaster by asking Congress to stop subsidizing the oil industry and transition to clean energy.


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How BP Can Clear its Name: Invest 30% in Clean Energy

Jackie Savitz is Oceana's Senior Campaign Director for Pollution Programs. This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

In the 7,000-word State of the Union, President Obama seemed to leave out two letters that loomed large in 2010. "B" and "P" -- the initials of the company that destroyed the lives and livelihoods of Gulf of Mexico residents and did immeasurable destruction to Gulf ecosystems.

But BP was there in spirit. Its campaign contributions helped get many members of Congress and Senators elected, it was implicated in the oil industry effort to paper Washington, D.C. metro stations with ads, and just the day before, the halls of Congress were filled with lobbyists and others clamoring for seats at the Oil Spill Commission hearings.

And while the President didn't say those two letters, BP was implicated in his statement that we need to get 80% of our energy from clean sources by 2035. Because who would be better than BP, a company tarred and feathered and now in need of a clean break, to help us build our clean energy portfolio so it can provide 80% of our electricity by 2035?


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Victory! Shell Drops 2011 Arctic Drilling Plans

The Beaufort Sea. [Image credit: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons.]

In a huge triumph for the U.S. Arctic today, Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Peter Voser announced that Shell's 2011 plans to drill exploratory wells offshore in Alaska are canceled due to continued uncertainty over whether it would receive federal permits.

Shell had hoped to drill exploratory wells in 2010 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but its plans were put on hold by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Susan Murray, Oceana’s Pacific Director, said of the announcement, “We hope this decision by Shell will also bring a commitment from them and others in the oil industry to fully review the mistakes that led to the Deepwater Horizon blowout with local communities, the public and the government.  We need a truly open discussion about how to determine if we should move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, and if so, when, where and how.”

Oceana has been instrumental in monitoring the permitting process and holding policymakers accountable for upholding the law. The slew of faulty environmental analyses and permit applications make it clear that we are not ready to move forward with oil and gas activities in the Arctic, especially in light of last summer’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.


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What the Oil Spill Commission Missed

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

Last week, the federal government released a report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. In some ways, the Commission got it exactly right. After extensive study, the Commission concluded that:

•    The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was not an isolated incident, and
•    It was the result of systemic failure in the oil industry and its government regulators.

But where the Commission failed was in its recommendations for the future of the oil industry in America. While acknowledging that offshore drilling can never be safe, the Commission declined to recommend removing the cap on liability for drilling disasters like the Deepwater Horizon. Explaining this decision on national television, Chairman Reilly said that some Commission members worried that removing liability limits for disasters would cause the international oil companies to transfer operations to countries that limited their risks from failures like the one this summer in the Gulf.


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