Apr 20 2011

One Year Later: The BP Oil Spill

Anchor-handling tugboats battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, via wikimedia

Today is the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  On that fateful day, eleven people lost their lives in the explosion on the rig and seventeen more were injured.  This then touched off a disastrous oil leak from the blown wellhead that brought words like “blowout preventer” and “dispersant” into our collective understanding.  Speeches were made and hearings held in Congress as lawmakers attempted to get to the cause.  Meanwhile, attempts to stop the relentless flow of oil continued for months and workers in the Gulf of Mexico were frantically trying to keep the oil offshore and out of the wetlands, with limited success.  When the well was finally capped, the future of the Gulf of Mexico was uncertain.

One year later, the Minerals Management Services is no more, replaced by the unfortunately named Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE).  BOEMRE is setting a breakneck pace trying to balance pressure from the industry to get permits approved and environmentalists worried about another spill.  The oil in the Gulf is still around and recently there has been a rash of mysterious dolphin deaths, with dead baby dolphins washing up on the beaches.  Residents and scientists still worry that large oil plumes may exist underwater, sink to the seafloor, create “dead zones” for fish, and affect crab and shrimp harvests.  If anything, this anniversary is a reminder that the full effects of this disaster have not been fully felt or understood yet and we should not forget that.

National Geographic: “Gulf Oil Spill Anniversary News and Pictures” (compilation of links)

NPR: “One Year After BP, the Coast Isn’t Yet Clear”

One year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Gulf Coast has dropped out of the headlines. As I was walking recently with a reporter along the beach of an eroding island in the vast Gulf of Mexico, the waters were as clear as the skies, leaving little evidence that the nation’s worst accidental oil release had happened nearby.

Treehugger: “Anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill: It’s Time to Demand a National Energy Conversation”

When 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days last spring and summer, we saw that we are coloring outside the lines when it comes to our energy activities – the risky behaviors we are engaging in so as to meet our energy needs. The recent disaster in Japan has again reminded us of the high price (monetarily and otherwise) we are paying to meet our insatiable appetite for energy, to feed our way of life.

NY Times Green: “Frustration and Hope as Oil Drilling Regulator Remakes Itself”

In Sunday’s Times, we assessed the Interior Department’s progress in revamping the Minerals Management Service, the scandal-ridden agency responsible for regulating offshore oil and gas drilling and collecting royalties from oil development on public lands.

The article noted that the agency has a new name (the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement), a new director (Michael R. Bromwich) and a new focus on worker safety and environmental stewardship.

BBC: “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: BP Sues Transocean for $40bn”

BP is suing Transocean, the owner of the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico last year, for $40bn (£24.37bn) in damages.

BP said safety systems on Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig had failed.

Separately, BP also sued the maker of the rig’s blowout preventer, alleging the device failed to stop the huge oil spill that followed the explosion.

Both lawsuits were filed on Wednesday on the first anniversary of the explosion, which killed 11 workers.

Mother Jones: “BP to Oil Spill Victims: Get Off My Stoop!”

Almost one year since creating the worst oil spill in US history, BP is holding steadfastly to its response strategy: Duck and hope for the best. At its annual shareholder meeting in London yesterday, five Gulf residents who flew in to tell investors about their loss of livelihood were denied entry. A few tried to sneak in, among them 62-year-old Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman from Seadrift, Texas, who covered herself in oil to make a statement.

MSNBC: “One Year After the Spill, BP is Looking Strong”

NEW ORLEANS — It’s hard to tell that just a year ago BP was reeling from financial havoc and an American public out for blood.

The oil giant at the center of one of the world’s biggest environmental crises is making strong profits again, its stock has largely rebounded, and it is paying dividends to shareholders once more. It is also pursuing new ventures from the Arctic to India. It is even angling to explore again in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it holds more leases than any competitor.

NY Times: “Answering a Call, Slowly”

The night the BP well blew, Michael R. Bromwich was in St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands minding his own business, which in this case was monitoring compliance with a consent decree between the Department of Justice and the islands’ police force, which had a history of poor training and complaints about excessive use of force.

Time: “The BP Oil Spill: How Healthy is the Gulf One Year Later?”

Carl Safina headed down to the Gulf Coast just days after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010. A veteran of the Exxon Valdez spill — and the head of the Blue Ocean Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on marine health — Safina wanted to see the Gulf oil spill up close, to document something he was sure would be an environmental catastrophe. Researching what would become the book A Sea in Flames — which goes on sale April 19 — Safina spent time with Gulf fishermen and ecologists, toured oiled beaches and spoke to people involved in the cleanup.

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