As of today it’s been one month since the April 20th Gulf oil spill explosion. Given the fickle nature of news on the internet, it seems clear that there’s only a narrow window of opportunity in which to harness the global attention being given this catastrophe. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the information that’s been, pardon the pun, floating around.
BP hasn’t yet been able to stop the flow of oil, but it’s been more successful at controlling the information coming out about the Gulf disaster.
McClatchy reported on Tuesday that BP has been withholding the results of “tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning crude over the Gulf.” The data is important to determining whether current conditions are safe for workers in the Gulf, researchers told McClatchy. BP said it’s sharing the data with “legitimate interested parties,” but would not release it publicly. […]
BP has maintained there’s “just no way to measure” the oil flow, even as the company turned down scientists offering to measure it with techniques that could yield a more accurate result. A BP spokesman told The New York Times that calculating the flow is “not relevant to the response effort.”
A startling new image released by NASA today shows a massive column of oil extending out Southeast towards the open ocean. This column has not been visible in any satellite photos taken so far and will no doubt change the estimated extent of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.
When a crew from CBS News tried to film an oil-covered beach in Louisiana, they were stopped and threatened with arrest by a group of BP contractors and members of the Coast Guard. “This is BP’s rules, it’s not ours.”
Besides lying to everyone about the extent of the damage, and the company’s culpability in the spill, BP has started to wield its power over the US government by having the Coast Guard keep prying journalists from seeing the effects on Louisiana’s shoreline. Governor Bobby Jindal had recently visited the site, telling reporters, “This wasn’t just sheen, we were seeing heavy oil out there.” When the CBS News crew arrived to film the area, BP’s muscle showed up, too.
BP’s image is so damaged at this point, more than three weeks into the catastrophe, that it’s hard to think of a company that’s been so universally reviled in the past. Actually, it’s not. There’s Blackwater. The private military company was so despised for its conduct in Iraq—which included killing Iraqi civilians then bribing people to be quiet about it—that it had to change its name to Xe Services. So we called up Xe’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, and asked him if he had any advice for BP. […]
Of course, BP’s first public relations gambit was blaming Transocean, the company they leased the oil rig from. “Nobody’s buying that. It shows that you’re living in this bunker mentality.”
Also, don’t say that the immeasurable environmental, personal and economic catastrophe you’ve created is “tiny,” no matter how besieged you feel by the media and the public. “Don’t go and sell that one,” Corallo said. “You’re already on a life raft with one paddle. This is like saying ‘Hey let’s throw the other oar into the water and make sure we throw chum to the sharks so they come and get us.'”
Gulf oil spill leak now pegged at 95,000 barrels a day
The latest video footage of the leaking Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico show that oil is escaping at the rate of 95,000 barrels — 4 million gallons — a day, nearly 20 times greater than the 5,000 barrel a day estimate BP and government scientists have been citing for nearly three weeks, an engineering professor told a congressional hearing Wednesday.
The figure of 5,000 barrels a day or 210,000 gallons that BP and the federal government have been using for weeks is based on satellite observations of the surface. But NASA’s best satellite-based instruments can’t see deep into the waters of the Gulf, where much of the oil from the gusher 5,000 feet below the surface seems to be floating. […]
He said the calculation could be off by 20 percent — meaning the spill could range from between 76,000 to 104,000 barrels a day. But Wereley said he would need to see videos that were not compressed and showed the flow over a longer period so that it would be possible to get a better calculation of the mix of oil and gas from the wellhead. “The true extent of this spill remains a mystery,” Markey said. He said the BP had said that the flow rate was not relevant to the cleanup effort. “This faulty logic that BP is using is… raising concerns that they are hiding the full extent of the damage of this leak.”
Fishermen have never seen the results from the air-quality monitoring patches some of them wear on their rain gear when they are out booming and skimming the giant oil slick. However, more and more fishermen are suffering from bad headaches, burning eyes, persistent coughs, sore throats, stuffy sinuses, nausea, and dizziness. They are starting to suspect that BP is not telling them the truth.
And based on air monitoring conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a Louisiana coastal community, those workers seem to be correct. The EPA findings show that airborne levels of toxic chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds like benzene, for instance, now far exceed safety standards for human exposure.
BP is using two products from a line of dispersants called Corexit , which EPA data  appear to show is more toxic and less effective  on South Louisiana crude than other available dispersants, according to Greenwire.
The massive spill that has pumped oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly a month has laid bare the need for regulations covering the industry to be tightened, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday. “Do the laws need to be changed?” he asked the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in one of his two Senate committee appearances of the day. “The answer is yes.” […]
Many of the nation’s environmental sensitivity index maps, which summarize what coastal resources are at risk if an oil spill occurs nearby, are outdated, said Jane Lubchenco.”Twenty-one of 50 atlases are more than 10 years old,” said Lubchenco. “Many of them do not reflect current information.” […]
NOAA has suspended fishing in 19 percent of the Gulf over which the federal government has jurisdiction, Lubchenco said. That’s up from 10 percent that NOAA had ordered closed to fishing Monday. The expansion means 45,728 square miles are now closed to fishing.
“Your Haircut is a Life Saver” is the slogan on one of the posters of the national nonprofit ecological organization Matter of Trust, which has called upon the nation’s hair salons, groomers, wool and alpaca farmers and individuals to donate hair clippings and nylons to help make hair mats and hair booms that will soak up the oil still spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.