Five years ago today, BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded
Five years ago today, BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers and dumping millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That tragedy -- the biggest offshore oil disaster in U.S. history -- proved above all that the fossil fuel industry simply cannot be trusted with the fate of our planet's most sensitive ecosystems.
Read more about the impacts of the Gulf disaster online at NRDC.org.
Yet five years later, offshore oil and gas production in the Gulf is little safer, and by some measures, even more dangerous. There may be fewer oil wells in the region than before the blowout, but regulators have counted more accidents, spills and other hazardous incidents per well.
The disaster caused widespread, enduring and continuing damage to one of the richest marine environments in the world. Over 1,000 sea turtles were found dead, with tens of thousands more exposed to oil. Nearly 1,200 dolphins died -- the worst dolphin die-off ever recorded in the Gulf. And one million seabirds were wiped out, including 12 percent of the brown pelican population alone.
And coastal Gulf communities still face far-reaching environmental and economic challenges -- and will for years, even decades, to come.
What's more, the fossil fuel industry continues to put workers, waters and wildlife at grave risk in the Gulf at a time when oil and gas companies want to expand drilling in Arctic and Atlantic waters along the Eastern Seaboard -- and the Obama Administration has proposed allowing them to do so.
Five years ago, within days of the blowout, key NRDC scientists and staff were on the ground along the Louisiana coast -- thanks to the backing of thousands of NRDC supporters like you -- helping to chronicle the devastation and advocate for the local communities who had found themselves trapped in the middle of a massive, unprecedented environmental catastrophe.
Check out NRDC.org to watch hard-hitting videos about the real-life impacts of the BP catastrophe, read first-hand interviews with local residents and learn the truth about how much oil was actually spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.
Today, NRDC is proud to support the members of some of those communities through local grassroots efforts that are continuing to fight for a sustainable future for this iconic region.
If we don't heed the lessons of the Gulf tragedy, we're doomed to repeat them. We need to reduce the risks of producing oil, and we need to reduce our reliance on oil, not expand offshore drilling to feed our fossil fuel dependence. We have an obligation to protect future generations from the mounting dangers of climate change. That means slashing the dangerous carbon pollution that's driving climate chaos.
We inherit our past; we create our future. Five years on, that's the real lesson of the BP disaster. Let's create the kind of future we want to pass onto our children, and let's begin today.
It's hard to believe that 5 years have passed since the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history dumped nearly 134 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico
201,000 Brown pelicans exposed to oil.
800,000 birds lost their lives due to the disaster.
A new study shows that between 20,000 and 60,000 Kemps Ridley Turtles died in 2010.
To this day, nearly 1200 dolphins have been found dead or stranded.
The final stage of the BP trial concluded earlier this year, and we're still waiting for the judge to decide how much BP owes in Clean Water Act and other pollution fines—and the legal process could continue if BP appeals the decision.
There won’t be justice for the Gulf until the case against BP is resolved.
Not only too many but not enough safety precautions for it not to happen again. It quite boggles the mind how corporations think it's fine to pollute our air, water, land, plants, humans, wildlife species - all for the almighty dollar.
When all is said and done, you can't eat, drink or breathe money.
Not only too many but not enough safety precautions for it not to happen again. It quite boggles the mind how corporations think it's fine to pollute our air, water, land, plants, humans, wildlife species - all for the almighty dollar.
When all is said and done, you can't eat, drink or breathe money.
Yet you want to move to where there is 100 times more pollution than here?
The New Santa Barbara Oil Spill Is a Reminder of How Little We’ve Learned
The latest accident highlights the inherent risks of transporting oil through sensitive environments.
An oil slick is seen along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, on May 19. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
MAY 20, 2015Taylor Hill
For Santa Barbara residents, the recurring scene involving blackened beaches, slick-sheened waters, and muck-covered wildlife isn’t a case of déjà vu—it just feels like it.
On Tuesday, a report indicated that anywhere from 21,000 gallons to 105,000 gallons of crude oil had gushed onto the beaches just northwest of the famously scenic seaside town—made infamous by a 1969 offshore oil blowout that saw around 3 million gallons of oil blanket its pristine coast—the third-largest oil spill in U.S. history.
This time, the rupture wasn’t offshore. It came from a burst 24-inch pipeline about a quarter mile inland from the coast. Crude oil trickled down a storm drain and spread along Refugio State Beach and into the ocean.
The report came in Tuesday around noon, when a beach-going citizen noticed a stench in the air. By 3 p.m., the Coast Guard had found and neutralized the source—an underground pipeline owned by Plains All American, an oil infrastructure giant with more than 17,000 miles of crude and natural gas lines streaming across the country.
The burst line has resulted in at least a quarter mile of oil-splattered coastline, where the high tide from Tuesday night carried globs of crude into the rocky intertidal zone of Refugio State Beach south toward El Capitan Creek.
Zack Warburg, a local photographer, got to the site around 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
“You can see what it looks like in the photos, but what was really upsetting was the smell,” Warburg said. “It was unbearable. After an hour at the scene I left because I was getting such a bad headache.”
By midmorning Wednesday, the wind had carried two slicks—one a four-mile-long ribbon 50 to 75 feet wide and one a triangular slick—about five miles offshore, both heading south toward Santa Barbara’s coast.
"This is more than an inconvenience, this is a disaster,” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr told the Los Angeles Times.
A boat with the nonprofit collective Clean Seas deploys a boom, with an oil platform seen in the distance, to try to contain an oil spill on May 19, north of Goleta, California. (Photo: David McNew)
Clean Seas, the group contracted to clean up the oil spill, has three vessels on the scene skimming oil from the surface, with five other boats towing booms to trap and corral the oil from spreading further. Coast Guard vessels are assisting in the cleanup as well.
Kyle Hanson, operations manager at Clean Seas, said the offshore cleanup should take around three days but didn’t give a timeline on how long the beach cleanup would take.
Scientists Find Where 84 Million Gallons of Oil From the Deepwater Horizon Disaster Went
“Right now, there are around seven or eight cleanup crews working on the sandy sections of the beach, and once they clean those up, they’ll focus on the high-tide portion where the cobble and boulders were left with a splattering of oil,” Hanson said.
According to state and U.S. Coast Guard officials, no wildlife impacts have been reported yet, but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a fisheries closure effective one mile east and west of the site.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Plains All American district manager Darren Palmer said the ruptured line had undergone an integrity check two weeks ago but the results hadn’t come back before the breach.
Oil surrounds the feet of a local resident on the beach north of Goleta, California. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)
“Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact," the company said in a statement.
This line was part of a larger oil transport network centered in Kern County, where oil is carried from Exxon Mobil’s Las Flores Canyon facility toward Gaviota. The 11-mile pipeline was built in 1991 and can carry 150,000 gallons of crude through the line daily.
For environmental groups, the spill is an opportunity to skewer the “technological advancements” in use that oil companies claim make oil extraction and transportation techniques safe.
“We continue to be vulnerable to big risks from big oil,” said Joel Reynolds, western director and senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council. “If we are going to allow this kind of extraction activity in sensitive areas like Santa Barbara, we can expect to see spills.”
Consumer rights group Food & Water Watch used the spill as a chance to remind everyone of the dangers of fracking.
Local residents patrol the oil-covered beach for distressed wildlife on May 19 north of Goleta, California. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)
“This incident is all the more reason to ban fracking both offshore and onshore to help prevent future spills and protect Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches and coastal environment," the group said in a statement.
The modern environmental movement was born in part from the reaction to the devastating oil spill of 1969 that battered this same coastline and killed more than 3,600 seabirds along with unknown numbers of dolphins, sea lions, elephant seals, and other marine animals.
The spill was also the catalyst for a freeze on any additional offshore oil drilling in California waters—a moratorium that’s been in place for more than 40 years.
Officials stand on the oil-covered beach north of Goleta, California, on May 19. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)
“When you look back, the entire structure of many of today’s environmental laws came in part because of the devastation of the Santa Barbara oil spill and Cuyahoga River fire of 1969,” Reynolds said.
The movement galvanized the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the establishment of the California Coastal Commission, considered one of the strongest coastal protection bodies in the country, in the same year.
Clean Seas, the nonprofit group in charge of this new cleanup, was created in reaction to the 1969 spill—oil companies operating in the Santa Barbara Channel formed the group to function as a first responder for oil spills. Its vessels docked in Ventura Harbor can be at any oil spill in the channel within 20 minutes.
An unidentified, oil-covered surfer walks along
Hobson Beach, Santa Barbara, California, in February
1969. (Photo: Vernon Merritt III/Life Picture Collection/
It’s a sea change from the old days, when Union Oil’s Platform A erupted offshore and the early cleanup crew response was to throw straw and kitty litter on it, but it doesn’t keep the environment safe from oil’s potential impacts as long as crude continues to be pumped across the ocean and the country.
“They had a safety shutoff valve on the pipe, but it didn’t work,” Reynolds said. “And now we’re seeing oil spread across the ecologically sensitive and unique Southern California coast. Not that we haven’t seen it before, but it’s tragic every time.”
The Western States Petroleum Association said in a statement: “Once the incident is contained and thoroughly cleaned up, they will review the facts surrounding this incident and apply what they learn to prevent future accidents.”
“Safe and responsible oil and gas drilling are myths,” said Friends of the Earth campaign director Marissa Knodel. “Like the 1969 oil spill, let today’s oil disaster be the catalyst for a new movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
See link for photos:
6 Horrible Oil Spills Since Deepwater Horizon That You Probably Didn't Hear About
A look at some major oil spills around the world in the four years since the BP disaster.
APR 15, 2014 Kristine Wong
On April 20, 2010, the giant Deepwater Horizon oil rig, owned by Transocean Inc. and operated by BP, exploded some 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 crew members before sinking into the Gulf of Mexico two days later.
The rig’s underwater well, called Macondo, was 5,000 feet below sea level. The extreme environment—and, critics contend, lax oversight and governmental regulation—made it hard to stanch the flow of oil into the sea.
By the time Macondo was finally capped on July 15, more than 210 million gallons of oil had leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, making it one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history.
First Look at Trailer for 'The Great Invisible'—Plus Interview With Director Margaret Brown
Though environmentalists pounced on the accident as an occasion to push for an end to our oil-dependent lifestyles, BP and its big oil brethren have continued to rake in outsize earnings. In 2013, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell took home $93 billion in profits—that’s $177,000 per minute.
The accidents haven't stopped either. Here are six of the largest oil spills around the world that have occurred since that fateful day nearly four years ago.
Little Buffalo, Alberta
On April 29, 2011, more than 868,000 gallons of crude oil from Plains Midstream Canada’s Rainbow Pipeline spilled into a forest 20 miles from the Lubicon Cree First Nation community of Little Buffalo, Alberta. Three hectares of beaver ponds and swampland were contaminated. Many residents reported experiencing headaches and nausea from the fumes. Two years after the spill, Plains Midstream was fined for violating Canada’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The spill was considered to be Alberta’s worst in 35 years.
Kalamazoo River, Michigan
A pipeline transporting diluted bitumen—aka tar sands oil—from Ontario, Canada, to Indiana ruptured into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, on July 26, 2010. The size of the spill was initially reported to be 877,000 gallons. But in 2012, the EPA said that cleanup crews recovered 1.1 million gallons of oil and 200,000 cubic yards of oil-contaminated sediment and debris. Three years after the spill, an oil sheen remained on the river, according to The New York Times. Enbridge, the Alberta-based energy company that owned the ruptured pipeline, was fined $3.7 million by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for the incident. The cost of the oil spill has been estimated to exceed $1 billion. Enbridge now wants to build a pipeline transporting tar sands oil through a pristine boreal forest in Western Canada.
Bonga Oil Field, Nigeria
On Dec. 21, 2011, Royal Dutch Shell’s Bonga oil field in Nigeria leaked 1.24 million gallons of oil into the Niger Delta. The Guardian reported that satellite watchdog organization Skytruth posted photos indicating that the spill was 43.5 miles long and covered 356 square miles. Nigerian activist organization Environmental Rights Action told the newspaper that it did not believe Shell’s 1.24-million-gallon claim, saying that the “company consistently underreports the amounts.” Every year Shell and other companies spill the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez tanker capacity into the Niger Delta.
A 72-car freight train operated by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway derailed July 6, 2013, in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and spilling 1.5 million gallons of oil. Half the city’s downtown area was destroyed by a subsequent blast. The spill leaked into the Chaudière River, a waterway that flows to the St. Lawrence River. It took crews 36 hours to extinguish the fires. The cleanup has involved siphoning oil from the river and removing more than 25,000 cubic meters of toxic soil. The rebuilding effort will cost an estimated $200 million. A criminal investigation by the Quebec police is ongoing. 2013 was the worst year ever for oil spills from trains in North America.
Guarapiche River, Venezuela
On Feb. 4, 2012, a ruptured pipeline operated by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA spilled crude oil into the Guarapiche River, near Maturin. While government officials said they could not determine how much was spilled, one lawmaker (from an opposition party to the government) told media that 1.86 million gallons were spilled. Environment Minister Alejandro Hitcher said that the country had deployed 1,500 workers to clean up the spill. A PDVSA executive later told the state-run news agency AVN that “a good percentage” had been cleaned up, Reuters reported.
Yellow Sea, China
After a pipeline heading to a port in Dalian, China, ruptured on July 16, 2010, the Chinese government said that 461,790 gallons had spilled into the Yellow Sea. But two weeks after the spill, Rick Steiner, a former academic conservationist with the University of Alaska, said that after touring the area, he estimated the volume spilled to be between 18.47 and 27.70 million gallons. That figure, he told The Associated Press, was “at least as large as the official estimate of the Exxon Valdez disaster." Steiner toured the spill area as a consultant for Greenpeace China, The World Post reported. He calculated his estimates based on his understanding that a 27.7-million-gallon oil storage tanker that reportedly had been filled was destroyed during the incident.
California declares state of emergency over oil spill
An Oil Spill Killed the Gulf's Dolphins—Are Santa Barbara's Marine Mammals Next?
A new study shows the strongest link yet between the Deepwater Horizon spill and the deaths of Gulf dolphins.
MAY 21, 2015 Taylor Hill
For the past five years, dolphins have been dying in the Gulf of Mexico at higher-than-normal rates.
While multiple studies have labeled the 168 million gallons of oil left behind by the Deepwater Horizon spill as a “contributing factor” to the mortalities, a new study appears to leave little doubt: The petroleum that blanketed the Gulf Coast in 2010 is killing the animals.
Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that bottlenose dolphins stranded in the oil spill–affected area had higher rates of lung and adrenal lesions—ailments found in other marine mammals exposed to petroleum products after an oil spill—than dolphins outside the Gulf.
“These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have seen in the 13-plus years that I have examined dead dolphin tissues from throughout the U.S.,” said Kathleen Colegrove, a veterinary diagnostic laboratory professor at the University of Illinois and a coauthor of the study, which was published in the journal PLOS One.
While British Petroleum puts out press releases refuting study after study linking the disaster to animal deaths, another oil spill in Santa Barbara, California—albeit much smaller in scope—could mean petroleum-related animal impacts are coming on the West Coast too.
For Gulf dolphins, the lesions led to higher-than-average adrenal disorders and cases of bacterial pneumonia—factors that contributed to the area’s unusual mortality event, which NOAA is calling the largest-ever die-off of bottlenose dolphins in the area.
Researchers ruled out diseases that have caused dolphin deaths in the past, leading scientists to one conclusion: the BP spill contributed to the high number of dolphin deaths in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
“No feasible alternative causes remain that can reasonably explain the timing, location, and nature of these distinct lesions,” Stephanie Venn-Watson, the lead author of the study and a veterinary epidemiologist, said on the press call Wednesday.
The Santa Barbara spill has grown from original estimates of 21,000 gallons spilled and a four-mile slick offshore to 105,000 gallons and two nine-mile slicks at sea. An onshore pipe operated by Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline burst Tuesday afternoon, flowing down a storm drain onto beaches and into the ocean.
So far, only 7,700 gallons of crude have been recovered by vessels working offshore, and thousands of gallons are splattered along rocks and sandy shorelines. Early estimates suggest that as many as 100,000 gallons spilled from the pipe before the leak was stopped.
In the two days since the spill, impacts to wildlife have proved minimal: Five oiled pelicans and one sea lion were rescued and are receiving treatment at a nearby rehabilitation facility.
“Just because there’s a lot of oil in the environment doesn’t mean we will have huge numbers of animals,” Mike Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network said in a statement. “Sometimes there are small spills with large numbers of animals and huge spills with just a few animals.”
But it’s still early, and the cleanup efforts are expected to continue for months, officials say. As the Gulf of Mexico’s dolphins show, the effects of an oil spill last long after the cleanup crews are gone.
Toni Frohoff, cetacean researcher with the animal advocacy group In Defense of Animals, studies Santa Barbara’s resident coastal bottlenose dolphins, a population known to migrate as far north as Monterey Bay.
“Dolphins and whales feel the impacts from oil spills internally and externally—they’re exposed in a radically intense and prolonged way,” said Frohoff. “They breathe in the noxious fumes and are stuck in the water, which can cause lesions in their lungs, ulcers in stomachs, and make their adrenal glands stop functioning.”
While there is a large population of offshore bottlenose dolphins in the Pacific Ocean that will likely be unaffected by the spill, the smaller population of California’s coastal bottlenose (a separate ecotype recognized by scientists) could feel the effects.
“This is their home, and they are vulnerable,” Frohoff said.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the dolphin. In the Gulf of Mexico, recent figures from NOAA have shown fewer dolphin strandings in each month of 2015 so far compared with last year. Last year’s strandings totaled 117, nowhere near the high of 335 in 2011—the year following the spill.
At Mississippi’s Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Jonathan Pitchford has been studying the seasonal distributions of bottlenose dolphins along the entire Mississippi Sound for the organization.
“Early on, we saw the jump in strandings, but over the past couple years, the population studies we’re conducting have shown largely a stable population,” Pitchford said. “Not much has changed.”
THU MAY 21, 2015 AT 09:04 AM PDT
Surprise! Company whose pipeline burst in Santa Barbara has extensive record of safety violations
Refugio State Beach oil spill
A section of Refugio State Beach tainted by oil from burst pipe.
Since 2006, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has logged more than 175 maintenance and safety violations by the company whose pipeline burst in Santa Barbara County, California, Tuesday night. That makes its rate of incidents per mile of pipe more than three times the national average, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, which found only four companies with worse records. But those infractions only generated $115,600 in fines against the company, Plains All American Pipeline, even though the incidents caused more than $23 million in damage.
It was initially reported that 500 barrels of oil had leaked from the broken pipe, but authorities later said the total could be in the realm of 2,500 barrels, 105,000 gallons. The leak contaminated a portion of Refugio State Beach and nearby patches of ocean. A crew from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is handling clean-up on land, while the U.S. Coast Guard is handling the job on the water.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state emergency, a move which frees up emergency state money and resources for the cleanup. Authorities shut down both Refugio and El Capitan beaches, but most people camping in the popular area had already fled because of fumes from the leak. Camping reservations have been canceled through May 28.
Julie Cart, Jack Dolan and Doug Smith report:
The company, which transports and stores crude oil, is part of Plains All American Pipeline, which owns and operates nearly 18,000 miles of pipe networks in several states. It reported $43 billion in revenue in 2014 and $878 million in profit.
The company's infractions involved pump failure, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion and operator error. None of the incidents resulted in injuries. According to federal records, since 2006 the company's incidents caused more than $23 million in property damage and spilled more than 688,000 gallons of hazardous liquid. [...]
Plains Pipeline has also been cited for failing to install equipment to prevent pipe corrosion, failing to prove it had completed repairs recommended by inspectors and failing to keep records showing inspections of "breakout tanks," used to ease pressure surges in pipelines.
The area tainted by the leak is popular for camping, fishing, surfing, kayaking and watching seals, sea lions and numerous species of birds. Until 2013, the state was responsible for monitoring and inspecting some 2,000 of the 6,000 miles of pipelines in California, but that task was then turned over the federal Department of Transportation.
The company has expressed its regrets for the leak. Perhaps it would regret the situation more if fines for its repeated violations did more than empty out the petty cash drawer for the weekend.
ORIGINALLY POSTED TO METEOR BLADES ON THU MAY 21, 2015 AT 09:04 AM PDT
How Oil Is Breaking Tuna’s Heart
May 29, 2015
The effects of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are still being felt, and two animal populations are really feeling the pain: tuna and dolphins.
Fish and marine mammals, it turns out, are highly sensitive to the chemicals found in petroleum products, and it’s an especially big problem for longer-lived species. Recent research has examined what happened to both dolphins and tuna after the Deepwater Horizon spill, and the image is grim — especially for tuna, who almost literally experienced broken hearts as a result of the uncontrolled release of nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
In the case of tuna, exposure to compounds found in crude oil can cause heart abnormalities and arrhythmias, causing cardiac arrest in extreme cases. These chemicals effectively slow individual heart cells, which is not desirable in the body’s hardest working and most active organ — especially for athletic organisms like tuna. One of the problems in the case of tuna is that the Gulf is a major spawning area, and the spill occurred at precisely the same moment many fish were gathering to spawn, creating a chain effect through multiple generations as exposure to the harmful chemicals created developmental abnormalities.
Several other fish species have been affected, and many of them are commercially valuable, illustrating that the economic impact of the spill is still a concern. Severe damage to gulf fisheries poses serious problems to struggling local economies that are still trying to recover from the spill. After losing out on tourism revenue and having to reestablish fisheries, some communities are facing a reduction in fish populations that will require careful fisheries management, including, likely, more catch limits to allow the population to recover, even though such limits may create problems for fishermen.
The problem is serious enough that Atlantic bluefin tuna, which base their lives in the Gulf, are being seriously evaluated to determine if they should be listed on threatened and endangered species lists, because their populations have declined so radically. That’s bad news for fish, not just fisheries — shrinking biodiversity can reach a tipping point of no return past which a species cannot recover. The loss of an entire species is always a tragedy, but bluefin tuna in particular are long-lived, and an important part of their environments. If they become threatened or extinct, their shrinking numbers could cause ecological disturbance in their own waters, and that might create a cascade of negative environmental factors.
For dolphins, researchers have long observed that unusually large numbers of the marine mammals washed ashore during the Gulf spill, and they could be linked back to the site. Further research indicates that they had clear signs of lung and adrenal disease linked with chemicals in petroleum, conclusively connecting them with the spill. One of the key components of the research was a rigorous evaluation of the possible causes, as scientists didn’t initially consider the oil spill as a factor; only later did review of samples and the history of dolphin strandings and deaths reveal the oil-dolphin connection.
With another large spill off the coast of Santa Barbara and numerous oil spills on a smaller scale happening on a routine basis, findings like these are a concern. While researchers already understand that spilled oil represents an environmental hazard, this research illustrates the scope of the problem and highlights the fact that it’s a grim picture.
Dolphins 'suffering miscarriage, lung disease, losing teeth after BP oil spill' researchers claim
Scientists say the animals in the Gulf of Mexico have deformities including missing teeth
By KASHMIRA GANDER
Monday 17 February 2014
Bottlenose dolphins with deformities including missing teeth and lung disease have been found in the Gulf of Mexico a year after the BP oil spill, according to US researchers.
The mammals were also suffering from hormonal imbalances, Pneumonia and liver disease, while a pregnant female was found carrying a dead foetus.
The first major study into the health of dolphins comes after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April 2010 and saw the equivalent of 4.9 million barrels of oil gush into the sea.
During the study, researchers briefly captured dolphins off the coast of central Louisiana in 2011 to check their health.
Half of the 32 dolphins studied were judged to be seriously ill or in danger of dying.
The health of the animals was compared with 27 bottlenose dolphins from the Sarasota Bay, Florida, which was unaffected by the oil spill.
These dolphins had significantly lower levels of adrenal hormones, which are critical to an animal's stress response, while moderate to severe lung disease was five times more common in Louisianan dolphins.
“I've never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals,” lead author Lori Schwacke, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and an expert on dolphins in the southern US.
“There is disease in any wild population. We just haven't seen animals that were in such bad shape as what we saw in Barataria Bay,” she added.
Three of the Barataria Bay dolphins had also lost nearly all their teeth, and three others had just half of their normal number of teeth left. Dolphins typically have between 78 and 106 teeth.
Oil firm BP said the report, which appeared in December issue of the ‘Environmental Science and Technology’ journal was “inconclusive as to any causation associated with the spill”.
BP also called on NOAA to release all of its data on the unusual deaths of more than 1000 dolphins off the Gulf Coast, dating back to February 2010, three months before the spill.
Scientists admitted that their study cannot prove that the dolphin's health problems were caused by the Deepwater spill because there were no studies of dolphin health prior to it.
But the Louisiana dolphins had lower levels of pesticides and flame retardant chemicals than the Florida group, suggesting that agricultural runoff and common pollution were not the cause of their diseases, researchers claimed.
BP reaches $18.7 billion settlement over deadly 2010 spill
HOUSTON | Thu Jul 2, 2015 4:09pm EDT
By Terry Wade and Kristen Hays
HOUSTON (Reuters) - BP Plc will pay up to $18.7 billion in penalties to the U.S. government and five states to resolve nearly all claims from its deadly Gulf of Mexico oil spill five years ago in the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.
The agreement comes on top of the $43.8 billion that BP has already set aside for criminal and civil penalties and cleanup costs.
BP shares jumped more than 5 percent in New York trading as investors said the British company, often mentioned as a potential acquisition target, could now turn the page on one of the darkest chapters in its century-long history.
Under the agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the states, BP will pay at least $12.8 billion for Clean Water Act fines and natural resource damages, plus $4.9 billion to states. The payouts will be staggered over as many as 18 years. The preliminary settlement, subject to all sorts of variables, avoids a substantial amount of further litigation.
The rig explosion on April 20, 2010, the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history, killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil onto the shorelines of several states for nearly three months.
The agreement, which still needs to be approved by courts, covers Clean Water Act fines and natural resources damages, along with claims by Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas as well as 400 local government entities.
"This is a realistic outcome which provides clarity and certainty for all parties," BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said in a statement. "For BP, this agreement will resolve the largest liabilities remaining from the tragic accident."
The size of the settlement was slightly more than the $17.6 billion that investors had initially feared BP would be fined for gross negligence under the Clean Water Act alone.
U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, who has overseen the case, was expected to rule on that issue later this year. Even then, BP would have faced years of lawsuits to address claims by states and by the federal government under a natural resource damage assessment.
The settlement announced Thursday closes off those remaining liabilities.
"This agreement will not only restore the damage inflicted on our coastal resources by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it will also allow Louisiana to continue aggressively fighting coastal erosion," said Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, the hardest hit state.
It was not immediately clear how BP will fund the settlement. BP has shed billions in assets to pay for the spill, eroding about one-fifth of the earnings base it had before 2010.
BP's smaller size among the bigger oil majors has made it vulnerable to potential takeovers, especially with the sharp drop in oil prices.
"Companies have been slightly hesitant to make a bid while this has been hanging over it, so I think it does clear the way for a potential bid," said Joe Rundle, head of trading at U.K.-based ETX Capital.
BP said the government and the states could jointly demand an acceleration of payments if the company were acquired.
Previous settlements also included an uncapped fund originally set at $7.8 billion to compensate individuals claiming economic harm from the spill.
BP also settled with Transocean Ltd, which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and Halliburton Co, which worked on the Macondo well.
"Now Gulf Coast restoration can begin in earnest. It's time to heal the wounds that BP tore in Gulf Coast ecosystems and communities," said David Yarnold, CEO of the National Audubon Society.
Another disaster, waiting to happen.....
Shell's Arctic Drilling Hits a Walrus-Shaped Wall
Decision by wildlife officials slashes the scope of the company’s 2015 plans for oil prospecting in the Chukchi Sea.
JUN 30, 2015 Emily J. Gertz
An obscure wildlife protection measure put a dent in Shell’s Arctic dreams on Tuesday, as federal officials told the company it would not be allowed to prospect for oil simultaneously at two sites in nine miles apart in the Chukchi Sea, as it had requested.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service upheld a federal law mandating that wells operating in the area at the same time be at least 15 miles apart, so that Pacific walruses would not be harassed by the activity as they migrate or forage for food. Environmental groups had sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on June 23, urging her to uphold the walrus protection measure.
The Obama administration is considering whether the Pacific walrus warrants federal endangered species protections, as warming temperatures caused by climate change have sharply diminished its Arctic sea ice habitat.
The agency did grant Shell permission for potential "take," or deaths, of small numbers of polar bears and Pacific walruses during its prospecting activities. The activist group Friends of the Earth criticized that decision.
"Today’s authorization takes us one step closer to letting Shell turn the pristine American Arctic Ocean into an oil and gas sacrifice zone," said FOE climate campaigner Marissa Knodel in a statement.
With the FWS authorization in hand, Shell now needs one more document, a drilling permit from the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, in order to begin boring a well.
In the drilling plan approved this spring by the Obama administration, Shell must have two drilling rigs in or near its Arctic lease site. One must be available within days to drill a relief well in case the other has a blowout, akin to BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010.
But until today, Shell probably didn’t intend to let that second rig sit idle, since less drilling extends the time it will take for the company to make back the $7 billion it has spent on Arctic Ocean oil development so far, or even the $1 billion it has slated for this summer’s operations.
So, Why Should You Care? If science had the last word, the Arctic Ocean would be barred to energy companies. Research recently published in Nature found that there is no climate-friendly way to use any of the oil and gas below the Arctic seafloor. To have any chance of keeping global temperature rise below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, all these fossil fuels must remain buried.
Proponents argue that tapping these oil supplies is important to making the United States’ energy supply more secure. They also maintain that successful energy development in the region will help bring jobs and revenue to isolated Arctic Alaskan communities.
Opponents fear that an oil spill or well blowout could cause irreparable harm to Arctic ecosystems and the wildlife they support.
When Shell’s primary drilling platform, the Polar Pioneer left the Port of Seattle recently, it faced protesters in kayaks determined to make a statement even if they could not hope to stop the enormous vessel.
No protests greeted the platform when it arrived at a port in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands early Saturday morning. A local official credited the calm to Alaska’s more extreme ocean conditions—which are also among the reasons that many environmentalists oppose oil drilling in the region.
“You know, down in Seattle, there’s harbor boats and rescue boats and people to pull you out of the water all over the place. You don’t have that here,” Dutch Harbor mayor Shirley Marquardt told NPR. “And the water is tremendously brutally cold even in the summer, and it doesn’t take much.”
Shell’s other leased vessel, the Noble Discoverer, set off for Alaska on Tuesday. According to a number of local news reports, activists in kayaks met the ship, attempting to blockade its path toward the Arctic Ocean as it departed from the Port of Everett, Washington, early in the morning.
The Nobel Discoverer’s likely return to the Arctic is its own controversy within a controversy. The rig’s owner, Noble Drilling LLC, pleaded guilty to eight federal felony offenses, paid $12.2 million in fines, and was put on a four-year probation by the Justice Department for violating federal environmental protection laws with both the Discoverer and the drill rig Kulluk, during Shell’s disastrous Arctic drilling season of 2012.