Monday, May 24, 2010

Major Oil Spill Continues to Damage the Gulf Coast

It's been over a month since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig began shedding its pollutants throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and the onslaught to residents both human and non-human species alike continues unabated. Even the most cynical of activists didn't think this disaster would explode with the magnitude of impact it has brought to the Gulf Coast. Worst case scenarios painted by BP executives state up to 85.3 million gallons of oil may have already been spilled. Compare that to 10.8 that was Valdez!

It's funny to listen to President Obama call into question the leases for off-shore oil drilling expansion he recently allowed before this disaster first struck. Really, why now? Because national and world-wide media are covering what's quickly becoming one of the deadliest ecological disasters in history? Have "we" not learned that it's better to promote long-term, sustainable planning in the beginning rather than be forced to react with conscious thought after disaster strikes? Apparently the forward progression of renewable energy generation and "clean power" policy have not been felt at home enough for Obama to understand the travesty of nuclear power, "clean" coal, or continued exploitation of a finite and non-renewable, dirty source or energy like petroleum.

It's alarms me to find hope in this continued disaster, to an area of the US still economically, socially, and environmentally distraught from Hurricane Katrina. Couple this catastrophe with the failure of the US Government to rightfully aid and assist the ecosystems and community members devastated by that Hurricane, and you have to wonder how Louisiana will bounce back, again. Yet I can only hope that somehow, the continuous volume of pollutants that reach the US shoreline (never mind the greater oceanic health concerns) send a lasting message that, that's right, WE NEED CHANGE. And change does not equal business as usual, but rather the forward, progressive thinking many hoped Obama would (and perhaps still can?) bring to US politics, aka, the definition of business as usual.

I'll throw a "Yes We Can" to that, and offer a few current resources to read about what's happening in the Gulf.

From Democracy Now!

BP Rejects EPA Demand to Use Less-Toxic Dispersants
The British oil company BP has rejected demands from the Obama administration to use less-toxic chemical dispersants to break up the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the past month, BP has used about 715,000 gallons of the chemical Corexit, made by the Illinois-based company Nalco. The chemical is banned in Britain, and scientists have questioned its safety as well as effectiveness compared to other dispersants. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency ordered BP to switch chemical, but BP is now fighting that order. The dispute between the EPA and BP highlights the power the oil company has been granted in controlling the cleanup of the spill. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen was questioned on CNN about BP.

Candy Crowley: "And they say, why is BP in control now? They don’t trust BP, so why is BP in control of this?"

Thad Allen: "I don’t think it’s an issue of control. What makes this an unprecedented, anomalous event is access to the discharge site is controlled by the technology that was used for the drilling, which is owned by the private sector. They have the eyes and ears that are down there. They are necessarily the modality by which this is going to get solved. Our responsibility is to conduct proper oversight to make sure they do that."

On Sunday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited the Houston command center where scientists for BP and the government have been working to plug the blown-out well.

Ken Salazar: "I am angry and I am frustrated that BP has been unable to stop this well from leaking and to stop this pollution from spreading. We are thirty-three days into this effort, and deadline after deadline has been missed."

Bipartisan Commission to Probe BP Oil Spill
President Obama has created a bipartisan commission to investigate the oil spill disaster. Heading the probe will be Democrat Bob Graham, a former US senator, and Florida governor and Republican William Reilly, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

President Obama: “If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such an oil spill, or if we didn’t enforce those laws, I want to know it. I want to know what worked and what didn’t work in our response to the disaster and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down. We know, for example, that a cozy relationship between oil and gas companies and the agencies that regulate them has long been a source of concern.”

Despite Moratorium, New Offshore Drilling Permits OKed
The New York Times reports that in the days since President Obama announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted.

Other sources of information: