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Entries in BP Oil Spill (11)

Monday
Jul092012

Two Years Later, Effects of Dispersants in BP Oil Spill Still a Mystery

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two years ago this week, the wellhead that ruptured on the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico, sending 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water, was capped.  After three months, the end of the largest oil spill in the industry's history was in sight.

With the help of nearly two million gallons of toxic chemicals known as dispersants, BP and government agencies involved in the response managed to prevent most of the oil from reaching the shoreline.  But while the Gulf Coast's seafood and tourism industries are slowly recovering, the effects of those dispersants -- used underwater for the first time ever -- remain murky.

"My stomach churns when I hear people say, 'We dodged a bullet,' because I've heard it so many times, but we shouldn't be so quick to wave this off," said James Cowan, a professor at Louisiana State University's School of the Coast and Environment.  "This notion of 'Come back to the Gulf, eat seafood, it's fine' is a problem."

The health risks of dispersants used in the response to the Deepwater Horizon spill are not yet fully known, said Cheryl Murphy, an environmental toxicologist at Michigan State University, in part because the contamination that began in phytoplankton may take years to rise up the food chain to the seafood eaten by humans.

Scientists are already spotting red flags.  Cowan said the rates of dolphin and sea turtle deaths have risen to highly unusual levels in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is also clear evidence, he said, that contamination has been making strides up the food chain, with 2 to 5 percent of the gulf fish population affected.  His greatest worry now, he said, is for fishermen who handle fish with lesions containing highly concentrated pathogens linked to the dispersants, which accelerate the breakup of oil.

Significant gaps remain in researchers' understanding of the dispersants' environmental consequences, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office earlier this month.  Despite $15.5 million in federal funding for studies on dispersants -- including $8 million since the gulf spill -- scientists have yet to answer basic questions about how the chemicals affect underwater environments and what their potential risks to human health may be as the chemicals and their combinations with oil droplets move up the food chain.

The main dispersant used in the spill response was Corexit, a cocktail of 57 chemicals manufactured by Illinois-based Nalco.  It was neither the most effective nor the least toxic oil dispersant, and it is banned from use in oil spills in the United Kingdom and Canada.  But BP claimed that only Nalco could provide the quantities of dispersant needed the week of the disaster.  By the time the well was capped, about 1.1 million gallons of dispersants were sprayed at the wellhead in addition to the nearly one million gallons poured onto the surface.

On Aug. 2, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency defended the use of dispersants, arguing that the threat they posed to the environment was no greater than that of the oil.  But the picture is much more complicated than that, many scientists say.

When oil combines with the dispersant chemicals, the result is more toxic than either substance individually, and the depth at which dispersants were released raises concerns that currents are carrying their dangers far beyond the wellhead, Cowan said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec292011

Report: Prosecutors Readying Criminal Charges Against BP Workers

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosectors are reportedly working on criminal charges against BP employees over the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in April 2010 that killed 11 people and sent millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports prosecutors are looking at several Houston-based engineers and at least one of their supervisors who they believe may have given regulators false information about the drilling risks associated with the well.

Should the charges be brought against them, the employees may face up to five years in prison and a fine, the Journal says.  The newspaper's sources say the charges may be disclosed early next year.

The Department of Justice has not issued any comments on the matter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

Final Investigative Report Issued on BP Oil Spill

M WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -– The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) along with the U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team (JIT) have finally released their investigative report on the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill.

The report not only blames BP, but also points fingers at its contractors, the drillers and rig operators, including Transocean and Halliburton.

It comes as the result of no fewer than seven public hearings and the testimonies of 80 witnesses and experts. In the report, the bureau has made dozens of recommendations that could significantly change how the offshore oil drilling industry operates in the gulf.

 

The JIT was formed in late April of 2010 by order of the Departments of the Interior and  Homeland security to investigate the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and to make recommendations to ensure safe operations for future oil and gas activities.

The reforms launched by BOEMRE include strengthening requirements for well design, workplace safety and corporate accountability. An additional rule would incorporate additional safety requirements related specifically to the findings of the investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr222011

Transocean Shares Blame for BP Oil Spill, Coast Guard Says

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Coast Guard’s investigation into the BP oil spill has determined that Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, was culpable along with BP for the blowout and subsequent spill that left 11 people dead and devastated wildlife and businesses along parts of the southern coastal states.

Investigators said Transocean's "deficiencies" made the disaster worse.  The Coast Guard said the company lacked a culture that emphasizes safety.

“This investigation seeks to prevent an accident similar to the Deepwater Horizon by identifying the factors that led to the tragedy and making recommendations to remove or minimize those factors in the future,” said Capt. David Fish, chief of the Coast Guard's Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis. “While nothing can bring back the 11 people who perished in this disaster, there is much that should be learned for the future.”

The Joint Investigation Team is comprised of representatives of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said that a final report on the matter is expected to be issued no later than July 27.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr212011

Obama Says Work Remains on BP Oil Spill; BP Sues Rig Owner

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Everyone recalls the environmental disaster that resulted when an oil drilling platform exploded 40 miles off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010.

What many have forgotten is that 11 workers died in the blast.

President Obama used the first anniversary of the largest accidental oil spill in the history of the petroleum history to remember the men who died on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, and the resulting damaged well that leaked an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama said, "That catastrophic event deeply affected the lives of millions of Americans, from local fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners and small businesses throughout the region."

While close to 50,000 people were involved in the effort to contain the spill and minimize the contamination of coastal areas and wildlife, Obama admitted, "the job isn't done."

The president added that his administration and state and local governments "continue to hold BP and other responsible parties fully accountable for the damage they've done and the painful losses that they've caused."

As it happens, BP, which has taken the brunt of the criticism for the spill, filed a $40 billion lawsuit Wednesday against Transocean, the company that owned the oil rig that exploded.  BP alleges that Transocean is "the responsible party" for the damages that occurred.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr202011

BP Oil Spill: Worries About Seafood, Water Remain One Year Later

ABC News(EMPIRE, La.) -- One year after a deadly explosion triggered a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, concerns still remain about the safety of the water and the seafood being fished from it.

On April 20, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 people and sending 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf.

The spewing oil wrecked havoc on the marine life, killing and soiling hundreds of birds, stranding dolphins and turtles, and putting a halt to the fishing industry in the area.

Many of the fishermen who were out in the oil-ridden waters still worry today that their produce -- shrimp, oysters and crabs -- are not yet safe to eat.

"I ain't worried about the money.  I'm worried about the people's health," said Rudy Camardelle, a fisherman in Lafitte, Louisiana.  "They can't be sending these boats out out there and catching these shrimp, selling these shrimp to these people.  And these shrimp might be 'taminated or something."

The fear of contaminated seafood is also having still having an effect on local businesses.

Theo Bourgeois, a charter boat captain in Lafitte, says his bookings are down 60 percent because of worries the fish are contaminated.

"The problem is a lot of my business out of state, people from up north.  And they're not interested in coming down, man.  They really feel it's still contaminated with pollutants and stuff.  And it's gonna be hard to convince them that's not so," Bourgeois said.

Yet, others agree with government officials who have deemed seafood from the Gulf safe to eat.

"I'm gonna tell everyone it was great," said Christy Ball, a visitor from St. Louis who ate a crab po' boy at a restaurant in Lafitte on Tuesday.  "I know there's a fear about it.  We've heard it.  And I don't believe it all.  And I think you have to be open minded about it.  You have to read up on what's going on.  And I think we all feel pretty good about it."

Although BP, the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies say the Gulf is oil-free as far as they can tell, several Louisiana officials and wildlife officials disagree.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr182011

Alabama Officials Hold Dinner on Beach to Promote Tourism

Digital Vision/Thinkstock (file photo)(GULF SHORES, Ala.) -- As the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico approaches, officials in Alabama want tourists to know their beaches are open for business.

On Sunday night, hundreds of people turned out for a seafood dinner on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Among those attending was the state's governor, Robert Bentley, who appreciated the influx of traffic in the area.

"In the past I complained about the traffic.  But you know when I saw all that traffic I didn't complain at all," Bentley said.  "And I was glad to see all those cars [that] were coming in because it just showed all the people coming back."

Also in attendance was Congressman Joe Bonner, who wanted vacationers to know that Alabama's beaches are waiting for them.

"This little piece of paradise that we have sometimes taken for granted quite frankly is truly ready for a great season," Bonner said.  "Come on back.  We're ready for you."

Wednesday marks one year since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and sending millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar032011

For BP Oil Spill Claimants in Gulf, Needs Haven't Been Met

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When the money ran out, shrimper Darla Rooks gave up her apartment and moved in with her daughter. One of an unprecedented half a million BP claimants, the Louisiana shrimper and oyster harvester has spent her life on Gulf waters -- she even got married in her fishing boots. Now she's swimming in red tape.

"We're starving to death," she said from her daughter's home in Mississippi, which she and her husband were renovating -- adding a room for themselves. "We're having to move in with our families and rely on our families, it's humiliating, my daughter just got married, six months back," she said. "We count on our living to supply us with what we need. We know no other way."

So far, the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon disaster compensation fund, headed by Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg, has paid about $3.6 billion to 170,000 claimants, the vast majority of which have been emergency payments of a few thousand dollars. But claimants, from shrimpers in Louisiana to hotel owners in Florida, complain the compensation process has been too slow and that their needs have gone unmet. Perhaps not surprisingly, an advertising blitz from BP touts exactly the opposite.

And what Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility has offered is a pittance compared with what many feel they deserve. Of the 8,200 claimants that have been offered final compensation, only 2.5 percent have accepted it.

For those like Rooks, filing for a claim means miles of overwhelming paperwork. "It will never get done," she said. "I can never give them what they want. This can go on for 20 years. What they just gave me... I'm owed more than that."

A fisherwoman from Myrtle Grove, La., Rooks owns a boat named the Cajun Queen. She's one of several BP oil spill victims ABC News has followed after the Macondo well exploded last year. She received three emergency checks -- two for $5,000 and another $12,500 for in September, when our team met her the second time. She couldn't cash the larger check because it wasn't made out exactly in her name. Rooks had her check reissued, and received it two weeks ago -- five months late.

Feinberg says she got nearly all she deserves -- her taxes show an income of less than $25,000 for 2009.

Feinberg, who was appointed by President Obama as an independent third party to oversee the fund, insisted in an interview with ABC News that "overall, the program is working," given its colossal size. No one at the Gulf Coast Claims Facility could have anticipated 500,000 claims, he said.

"I do agree that the program has not been as effective as it should be at the local level in giving all claimants a comfort level that they're being treated fairly, that they can talk with somebody at the local level, that they'll have their concerns answered promptly," Feinberg said. "We're taking steps to deal with that as we speak."

While 400,000 claims have not received final payment, there has been a single final settlement for a business: a $10 million check to a BP associate. "This was simply a request of BP and the claimant to pay out of the GCCF settlement -- that's what we did," Feinberg said, adding there was no review of that particular request.

The Justice Department said Feinberg's payment process has been too slow. On the right and the left, politicians have called it erratic and broken. Now, Feinberg is even being sued by a claimant for reckless negligence.

BP is paying Feinberg's firm $850,000 a month to administer the fund, and now he's renegotiating the contract -- upwards. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Rising Number of Dead Dolphins Washing Up Along the Gulf

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HORN ISLAND, Miss.) -- Marine biologists are working to figure out what caused the deaths of nearly two dozen baby dolphins who have washed up on beaches in Mississippi and Alabama since the year began.

On Tuesday, researchers from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies added to that total when they discovered the dead bodies of four more dolphins on Horn Island, Mississippi, according to ABC News affiliate WLOX-TV in southern Mississippi.

The institute said it is doing necropsies on the mammals, as well as taking tissue samples and running toxicology tests, to determine their cause of death.

There may be a connection between these deaths and last year's BP oil spill, which happened right around the time when dolphins are normally breeding, but it's too early to tell.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb072011

Military Tries to Dispel Fears About Gulf Seafood

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It's been almost ten months since the BP oil spill and consumers remain skittish about eating seafood caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

In an effort to help Americans get over their fears, the Pentagon is promoting various Gulf products at 72 base commissaries along the East Coast.  Currently, the Defense Commissary Agency, or DeCa, sells to military personnel, reservists, retirees and their families.

The Gulf products now sold by DeCa include fish, shrimp, oysters, crab cakes, jambalaya and shrimp etouffee.

Industries operating in the Gulf region are grateful for the government assistance, given the amount of trepidation felt by consumers after the largest accidental oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

While extensive testing has shown that Gulf seafood is safe to eat, many American still believe it's toxic due to the oil emitted from the deepwater well and the chemicals used to clean up the spill.

Sales have dropped off sharply since the April 20 explosion on an offshore rig that led to the spill, with a recent survey finding that 70 percent of people are still nervous about eating Gulf seafood.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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