Blog Tags: Oil Spill
There’s no question that drilling for oil in Arctic waters is risky business. Twenty five years after the Exxon Valdez tanker hit a reef in 1989, causing the second largest oil spill in U.S. history, wildlife and economies in Alaska’s Prince William Sound are still recovering. And in 2012, as part of an attempt at offshore oil exploration activity in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas, Shell’s Kulluk oil drilling rig ran aground near Kodiak Island.
When the Obama Administration came out in support oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic Coast last Friday, they caused quite the reaction among lawmakers, environmentalists, and citizens along the East Coast. Immediately after releasing their Record of Decision (ROD) approving seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic, all Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation, including Senator Bill Nelson, submitted a letter to President Obama expressing their disapproval of his decision and reiterating their opposition to any blasting for oil and gas off their coast.
Ocean News: Green Sea Turtle Makes Longest Migration Ever Recorded, Small Oil Spill Found off of Italy, and More
- In areas where overfishing is common and observers are few and far between, drones could be a significant resource in helping to tackle illegal fishing. This June, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Belize Drones, and Belize’s fisheries department launched a program that may soon have drones flying over Belize’s Glover Reef. National Geographic
We all know that drilling for oil is risky business. But the potential for catastrophe does not stop once crude oil is brought to the surface. Yesterday, a freight train owned by CSX derailed in downtown Lynchburg, VA and spilled crude oil into the James River, causing major environmental damage.
The aftermath of the March 22, 2014 oil spill in Galveston, Texas has revealed some shocking truths about the oil and gas industry and how it can devastate communities. For starters, Galveston averages nearly one spill each day. Additionally, the bay has lost more than 35,000 acres of coastal marshes from groundwater pumping. It is a wonder that coastal citizens allow such destruction to take place, especially when considering that Galveston is in the heart of Texas’s fishing industry.
This story appeared as an editorial on the Huffington Post, authored by Susan Murray, Oceana VP for the Pacific, and Dr. Jeffrey Short.
25 Years Later: Why Alaska Can’t Afford another Exxon Valdez
By Jeffrey Short and Susan Murray
Oceana’s climate and energy campaign had an eventful April. In our ongoing effort to stop East Coast offshore drilling before it starts, we’ve been working hard to prevent the oil industry from taking the first step toward drilling: seismic airguns to explore for oil.
The specifics of seismic airgun testing are worth understanding if only because the oil industry seems to be counting on Americans’ lack of knowledge about this highly specific technology in order to get a foothold in some ocean areas that have been protected from drilling since the Reagan administration.
Kenai, one of the last two plucky sea otters who survived the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, died on Tuesday at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. When the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound off of Alaska it unloaded 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the sensitive ecosystem, blanketing 1,300 miles of coastline in viscous sludge. The results were catastrophic. 2,800 sea otters were killed by the spill, including Kenai’s mother. But Kenai, who fit in the palm of her rescuer’s hand at the time, survived more than just an oil spill. As the Associated Press article about her notes, the animal’s longevity offered a window into otter biology:
"In her later years, she provided much information to scientists about geriatric sea otters. Kenai suffered a stroke, underwent ovarian cyst surgery and needed a root canal. She lived to age 23 1/2, while the typical life span of a sea otter is between 15 and 18 years."
That leaves 24 year-old Homer, of the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington as the lone surviving otter from the disaster.
Apart from otters, the spill killed 300 harbor seals, 900 bald eagles and 250,000 seabirds. Three species of cormorant, the common loon, the harbor seal, the harlequin duck, the pacific herring and the pigeon guillemot have still not fully recovered. But the spill had consequences for more than just Alaskan wildlife. Four humans died during cleanup efforts and the spill cost more than $300 million to Alaska’s commercial fishing industry.
While the Valdez disaster was more than 20 years ago the Deepwater Horizon spill reminds us even with all the advantages of modern 21st century technology, whether during drilling or shipping, oil spills are unavoidable. But as Kenai reminds us, if given a chance, nature is amazingly tenacious and resilient.
After a disastrous few weeks that saw drilling shut down in the Arctic due to unpredictable ice floes, and then the failure of its oil containment dome during testing, Shell has decided to scale back plans for drilling in the Chukchi Sea North of Alaska this season. Instead it will drill only “top holes” rather than all the way down into oil-bearing zones.
Oceana is relieved by the development which only points to the inherent difficulty, and danger, of drilling for oil in such an inhospitable environment:
“Today Shell announced yet another last minute change of plans for this summer’s drilling season due to new problems with its oil spill containment equipment,” said Oceana Senior Pacific Director Susan Murray. “Oceana is just glad this didn’t happen during a real oil spill. This series of blunders inspires anything but confidence in the oil industry’s ability to safely drill in the Arctic. Shell’s repeated backtracking, last minute requests for permit and plan changes, and their inability to successfully complete preparations has resulted in mishaps that brings to mind the keystone cops rather than a company that is prepared and ready to work safely . . . If Shell has proved one thing this summer it is that the oil industry is not ready to drill in the Arctic.”
Besides failing tests on its oil containment dome and its ability to contain an oil spill, Shell also has had trouble this summer anchoring its drillship, the Noble Discoverer, and has been unable to upgrade its oil spill recovery barge, a formerly derelict ship called the Arctic Challenger, to Coast Guard standards.
We’re pleased to announce that the Spanish government has put an end to proposed oil industry development that would have threatened the Doñana National Park, a World Heritage Site, after campaigning by Oceana and our allies.
Plans to build an oil refinery in the Gulf of Cadiz, not far from Doñana, would have led to higher ship traffic in the area and a higher risk of oil spills or accidents during the tankers’ unloading operations. Oceana is currently working to create a Marine Protected Area in this section of the Gulf of Cadiz, which would be linked to the National Park.
Doñana National Park was established in 1993 and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its marshes, streams, and sand dunes are home to plants and animals found almost nowhere else in the world.
Many migratory birds spend their winters in the park lands, and endangered species like the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx (one of the world’s most endangered cat species) call this area home. In the marshes of Doñana National Park, you can also find birds like the Avocet and the Purple Heron, both of which depend on the sensitive estuary habitats.
Increased oil tanker traffic could have potentially damaged the already vulnerable habitats of these animals.
Oceana identified the threats posed by the construction of this oil refinery in 2005, and has been campaigning against it with other conservationist groups. Oceana Europe is now calling on the Spanish government to enact similar protections for other marine protected areas.
- Ocean Roundup: Leatherback Coloration May Play Important Role, UK Sees New Voluntary Seafood Labeling Scheme, and More Posted Wed, September 17, 2014
- Photos: On International Coastal Cleanup Day, Five Ways to Help the Oceans Posted Fri, September 19, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Australia Releases Great Barrier Reef Management Plan, West Coast Starfish See Hope for Recovery, and More Posted Mon, September 22, 2014
- Oceana Provides Common Hake Recovery Plan to Chilean Government Posted Wed, September 17, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Gulf of Mexico Sharks are Shrinking, Caribbean Reefs Capable of Being Saved, and More Posted Fri, September 19, 2014