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Reflections on an Oil Spill: A New Orleans Native Speaks Out

Gisele Perez, Civil Eats
BP announced last week that it will never again try to produce oil from the well where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred. “The right thing to do is permanently plug this well, and that’s what we will do,” said Doug Suttles, BP chief operating officer. Apparently, the right thing doesn’t include the cessation of drilling elsewhere in the same reservoir, which they have stated they plan to continue.

Have they, and we as a nation, learned nothing from this disaster? Here are some questions to ask ourselves now. Can we be assured that an oil spill of this magnitude will never happen again? Is there a fail-proof method way of extracting oil from deep water wells?

I was born in New Orleans. My family moved, along with much of their community, to Los Angeles when I was a child, but New Orleans and Louisiana stays in your blood; once it gets hold of you, it never lets go. My father made almost yearly visits there throughout his life. One of my grandmother’s last requests before she died, was to visit New Orleans. Now my mother, who is in her 80’s, is for asking the same thing.

On a summer trip to New Orleans, when I was a teenager, and old enough to begin noticing these things, I marveled at the low price of shrimp in the local grocery stores. My Uncle JuJune (yes, we have colorful names) responded “hell, they’ll just give ‘em away if you drive a pick up truck down to the Gulf, they got so much of it.” Unfortunately, they are not quite so plentiful now.

While over a third of all the seafood consumed in this country comes from the Gulf, there have been problems. Residual chemical fertilizers, used in the corn and wheat fields of the heartland, wash down the Mississippi River causing algae blooms resulting in huge dead zones in the Gulf. Still, the commercial fishing industry in the state accounts for over 300 million dollars of the state’s economy. In the past couple of years, Gulf Coast oysters have picked up the slack in the oyster market, as there have been problems with Chesapeake Bay oysters. And, as most any Southerner will tell you, Gulf shrimp and oysters have a sweet, delicate flavor unique to the area, because of the microorganisms in the Gulf they eat.

The coastline of Louisiana makes up 40-45% of all wetlands in the lower 48 states, and they have historically offered a natural buffer to the hurricanes that hit the region. They are also home to a vast array of wildlife…
(25 May 2010)

Fishgrease: DKos Booming School

Fishgrease, DailyKos

…I’ve been in Oil and Gas Production (all upstream) and Exploration for over 30 years. My salary is a little bigger than God’s, which is okay because I’m more useful than he is. I’m a better cook than God is too, but lets get back on subject here. Booming School. Not only is Oil Spill Booming a large industry in the USA, teaching Oil Spill Booming is a large industry in the USA. Most of BP’s production and pipeline employees in the USA have attended at least one booming school. Many have attended two or three. Most oil and gas production employees in the USA have attended booming school. Some of us have attended really good, really extensive, week or two-week booming schools. BP’s production employees have attended the best booming schools. I know this. I’ve seen them there.

BP’s drilling folks have mostly not attended booming school. They’re sometimes sent to booming school, but they fuck off in the bar and their bosses sign off on that being okay. Because for Drilling Hands, booming is for pussies. This is a generalization. Not all drilling hands think that, but most of them do and I guarantee BP’s drilling executives think that booming is for pussies — and that’s if they think about booming at all or even know what it is. That’s not so shocking. In the major oil companies, there are likely a few drilling executives that don’t even know what drilling is. I’m not kidding. There’s good BP drilling people who would, in private, back me up on that….
(10 May, 2010)

Human Health Tragedy in the Making: Gulf Response Failing to Protect People

Riki Ott, Huffington Post
The federal agencies delegated with protecting the environment, worker safety, and public health are in hot water in the small coastal communities across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Fishermen responders who are working BP’s giant uncontrolled slick in the Gulf are reporting bad headaches, hacking coughs, stuffy sinuses, sore throats, and other symptoms. The Material Safety Data Sheets for crude oil and the chemical products being used to disperse and break up the slick — underwater and on the surface — list these very illnesses as symptoms of overexposure to volatile organic carbons (VOCs), hydrogen sulfide, and other chemicals boiling off the slick.

When the fishermen come home, they find their families hacking, snuffling, and complaining of sore throats and headaches, too. There is a good reason for the outbreak of illnesses sweeping across this area.

Last weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted its air quality monitoring data from the greater Venice, Louisiana, area. The data showed federal standards were being exceeded by 100- to 1,000-fold for VOCs, and hydrogen sulfide, among others–and that was on shore. These high levels could certainly explain the illnesses and were certainly a cause for alarm in the coastal communities.

I wrote an article based on EPA’s information. So did chemist Wilma Subra with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). Baton Rouge-based LEAN is an advocate of public health and worker safety, and a trusted source of information on chemicals, exposure, and safety monitoring throughout this region…
(19 May 2010)

Screw the Environment: BP and the Audacity of Corporate Greed

Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening
Even as BP’s blown well a mile beneath the surface in the Gulf of Mexico continues to gush forth an estimated 70,000 barrels of oil a day into the sea, and the fragile wetlands along the Gulf begin to get coated with crude, which is also headed into the Gulf Stream for a trip past the Everglades and on up the East Coast, the company is demanding that Canada lift its tight rules for drilling in the icy Beaufort Sea portion of the Arctic Ocean.

In an incredible display of corporate arrogance, BP is claiming that a current safety requirement that undersea wells drilled during the newly ice-free summer must also include a side relief well, so as to have a preventive measure in place that could shut down a blown well, is “too expensive” and should be eliminated.

Yet clearly, if the US had had such a provision in place, the Deepwater Horizon blowout could have been shut down right almost immediately after it blew out, just by turning of a valve or two, and then sealing off the blown wellhead.

A relief well is ”too expensive”?

The current Gulf blowout has already cost BP over half a billion dollars, according to the company’s own information. That doesn’t count the cost of mobilizing the Coast Guard, the Navy, and untold state and county resources, and it sure doesn’t count the cost of the damage to the Gulf Coast economy, or the cost of restoration of damaged wetlands. We’re talking at least $10s of billions, and maybe eventually $100s of billions. Weigh that against the cost of drilling a relief well, which BP claims will run about $100 million. The cost of such a well in the Arctic, where the sea is much shallower, would likely be a good deal less.

An oil spill under the ice would be impossible to stop or clean up.

Such is the calculus of corruption. BP has paid $1.8 billion for drilling rights in Canada’s sector of the Beaufort Sea, about 150 miles north of the Northwest Territories coastline, an area which global warming has freed of ice in summer months. and it wants to drill there as cheaply as possible. The problem is that a blowout like the one that struck the Deepwater Horizon, if it occurred near the middle or end of summer, would mean it would be impossible for the oil company to drill a relief well until the following summer, because the return of ice floes would make drilling impossible all winter. That would mean an undersea wild well would be left to spew its contents out under the ice for perhaps eight or nine months, where its ecological havoc would be incalculable…
(23 May 2010)